Tara put aside the almost finished Miss Kitty painting and started work on smaller pieces that she planned to bring to Houston as part of the course requirements. She had a few others in her portfolio already but wanted to bring more recent work.
She did not have a lot of time, but had plenty of inspiration. Within 2 days she had a series of charcoal sketches, with her subject in different poses, some close-up, some with a wider perspective, some capturing the innate stillness while others seemed to be bursting with energy. She laid them out on the floor of her apartment and tried to appraise them with a critical eye.
The charcoal really don't do your red hair justice.
At first she blanched at the 1 1/2 day bus ride, but realized it was her only choice. The train took just as long and was more or less the same price. Flying was of course the quickest but was almost $200 more expensive, so she decided to brave the buses. There was a lot she could do with $200.
She did research on the different schedules, aware that there were transfer stops between Sunnydale and Houston, and studied the different options carefully. Her aim was to find a schedule that did not involve transfers in the middle of the night, and that brought her to her destination at a reasonable hour, she had to find her way to the college once she arrived at Houston and did not want to be wandering the streets in the early hours of the morning. It was a Sunnydale habit.
She smiled at her thoroughness and planning. I'm becoming like Willow, who probably would have written a modeling program to find the optimum mode of transportation taking into account price, reliability, accident risk, travel time, number of interchanges, time of the interchange, number of layovers, departure and arrival times. She's so adorable, I have to tell her this when I get a chance.
She dragged her backpack in through the door of the dorm room which would be her home for the next 2 weeks, she was so tired from hours on the bus that she dropped the backpack as soon as she made enough room to step in and close the door.
Her nose wrinkled at the stale smell of the room, the furniture the wrong side of worn, and noted the broken mirror and cracked sink. She crossed over and opened the windows, hoping to alleviate some of the unlived-in smells, finding the cold air a welcome refreshment.
Despite the general ickiness of the furniture, she was literally falling asleep on her feet, so she quickly retrieved her toiletry kit, brushed her teeth, splashed water over her face, took off her shoes and jacket and was fast asleep on the bed within minutes.
Course literature in one hand, her portfolio in the other and supplies in her backpack, she wandered around the campus looking for the right room. She squinted in the morning light, still feeling tired, but resolutely headed toward what appeared to be lecture buildings.
The class she was attending was called Life Drawing: The Cornerstone of Art. She pushed the door to the classroom carefully and was pleased to see there were only a few people there. She found a seat by the side, greeted the other occupants but without eye contact and watched while the room filled up.
This was the first time, apart from high school class, that she had been in a specialized art class. At first she was a little puzzled at the terminology when the instructor started talking about the course content, that it combined observational activities with creative elements. In the first week students were to learn through repetitive practice of rendering and painting the object. During the second week, students would learn aspects of lighting, composition, observation and imagination, with emphasis on "rhythm and movement".
As long as she had painted, which was longer than she had been practicing witchcraft, she never actively thought about the process of visualizing and painting, she just painted. Now was her chance to learn about the disciplined and systematic approach to painting.
She knew this was an excellent opportunity and should be taking advantage of the course to absorb knowledge, learn from others and may be even network a little.
She just wished she was not missing Willow so much.
She planned on writing to Willow throughout the next 2 weeks so when she returned to Sunnydale Willow could read an account of what she got up to while at Houston. What she did not expect was how often and how much she had written already, that she felt her hands reaching for her pen and notebook at all hours, and when she was not writing, she would be composing letters in her head.
She wrote for Willow, and drew for Willow. The sketches she did the week before, the drafts she produced during the classes, the quick gesture outlines versus the slow contour outlines, they were all of Willow. She knew it was an impossible situation, all too aware that she was the one who in 3 years' time, did not meet the appointment. That something must have happened to cause such an about turn in her feelings towards the other girl. But right now, a hint of a thought about Willow and she found herself hopelessly caught up in the Willowcentric universe she had created for herself.
The voice of the instructor snapped her back into her current universe.
"This exercise will loosen you hands and minds and help you create energy. Don't overthink, don't get bogged down with details, don't do anything except let the charcoal flow onto the paper. Use your stick, not just the tip, use the side, the whole width, ok? I'm going to give you 30 seconds to sketch our model here, get as many outlines as you can. 30 seconds only, everyone ready? Go!"
It was exhilarating, and oddly liberating, not to have to think about what she was drawing, she felt herself relax and pictured the model with stunning red hair and pale, freckled skin. When the instructor shouted "Stop!" she had 3 very rough sketches already, she was surprised how quickly she had worked.
"That one on the left, it's very good. There's a lot of dynamic movement in that pose that you can use as basis for more detailed work," the instructor commented as he reviewed Tara's sketch.
The rest of the fortnight went by quicker than she expected, she had a whole stack of drawings, sketches, detailed portraits, even a few with Miss Kitty, that she was quite happy about. Especially most were of Willow, although there was a real life model in class, she could not get the redhead out of her mind. It was surprising how much she recalled of Willow's features even though she only saw her fleetingly, in the dark indoors of the Bronze and always briefly at the Espresso Pump.
Just a few quick glances, but you reached inside me so deep.
The instructor taught them more methods to build up their technical skills.
She had always painted by intuition, now that she was a bit more technical, she could see the improvement, how much tighter her drawings were, how much more energy they contained.
She could not wait to go home, to Miss Kitty, to Willow.