Painting From Life by Anne Brooke

Painting From Life by Anne Brooke

Love is never what you think. When a painter goes beyond the degree of intimacy that provides the connection between him and his newly-discovered muse, he is forced to undergo a re-evaluation of the true meaning of love. In a strange wist on the Dorian Gray theme, perhaps the artist steals the subject’s essence as love and art meld into one.


This short story is haunting, intense, and unlikely. At just about 15 pages, the author has delivered a stunningly gripping story about an artist and his obsessions. From the hints of the past such as the history between the artist and his wife and the wife’s caustic comments, the author suggests that the unnamed artist may often find these unlikely muses and devote more time than is healthy to them. Similarly, the artist slowly and inevitably becomes the sole caretaker of an older man, Peter, while using the man as a model for his work that is only now gaining success.

The author manages to use just a few words and descriptive phrases to convey intensity and emotion that is clearly felt. The impact of the artist’s need for Peter is surprising yet chilling in phrases such as "There’s no need for him to see or speak to anyone else but me." The artist realizes that Peter fatigues easily while sitting for him, but the rush the artist feels is too addictive, too much to let go. He counters this by taking care of Peter yet knows he will paint the older man to his death.

This is not a love story or a romance. I would hesitate to even call a GLBT story as both men are heterosexual and the emotion between the men is not romantic love. There is something between the artist and Peter but it goes much deeper than love, it’s aptly named need or obsession. Peter needs the artist in a myriad of ways, depending upon the artist for his survival and independence. Whereas the artist needs Peter for his future, financial and artistic as only now are his paintings being sold. The selfish desire of the artist to see to his needs first and foremost is offset by his guilt in helping the older man but does not erase the motives behind such actions. Without a doubt, the artist will move on to his next obsession once Peter has died. He may mourn the older man, but likely not for long.

The implications and subtle meaning go far beyond the obvious and continue to resonate well after the short story is done. Crisp, vivid prose works incredibly well with vibrant characters all uninhibited by the short length. For those that enjoy a fabulous short story that truly makes you think and leaves you wondering well after it’s done, I highly suggest this tale. The themes of death, obsession, love, selfishness, art, and need are all played out beautifully in this complex and complicated story. 

Get it HERE!


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6 thoughts on “Painting From Life by Anne Brooke

  1. Hi, Kassa! Great review. You and I aren’t so different after all — we saw this unusual story in the same way. You even picked the line that disturbed me the most: “There’s no need for him to see or speak to anyone else but me.”
    I read another review somewhere else that refered to the artist finding the love of his life and being able to escape his stifling marriage, and I remember thinking, “Did we read the same story?” I mean, did that other reviewer not see the sinister stuff that I was seeing?
    I thought about this story quite a bit off and on after I read it, and I even imagined the artist getting obsessed with someone while Peter was still alive and then just ditching Peter like he ditched his wife Amanda. This artist really seemed like a destroyer to me though in a way it was better for Peter to enter a relationship with him than to let the son put him in a nursing home.
    Speaking of relationship, I too saw them as heterosexual men who didn’t have a romantic relationship, not even a platonic one. I think the author made that clear. Very interesting, haunting story!

    • I’ll admit on this one, we’re in perfect agreement. I thought this was a fascinating story but in no way a love story. This was a sick obsession of the artist who is willing to leave his current obsession when a new one comes along. There wasn’t any GLBT content in it (IMO) nor was this a way to true love. This was simply the artist using the old man (Peter) for his art until the old man died. If he became unusual before his death, I think the artist would leave him then as well.
      It works for Peter because as you said, it’s better than being in a home but I thought the creepy overtones were weird and fascinating.

  2. Hello, Kassa – and Val! So glad you enjoyed Painting from Life – I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. The artist (I never did decide on a name so I left it …) and Peter certainly took me over for a while, and I suppose obsession is my middle name – in a fairly healthy way, I hope!
    Many thanks again.

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