Michael Ray Solomon dropped out of Royal Parsons Academy of Art at the age of 19. His family had fallen on hard times and he needed to help make ends meet. Ironically, he took a job as a bus driver for the academy. He figured if he was unable to attend the prestigious school himself, to at least be in the same vicinity as its students was the next best thing.
Michael spent the next 25 years driving the bus, and every day as the students piled in, he caught a first glimpse at their art pieces. He even chatted with them about the techniques they employed to create such beautiful works. Just being in their presence was inspiring. Every night after work Michael would go home and practice the methods he had discussed with the students earlier that day.
But he longed to do more with his life and often dreamed of being recognized as an artist and perhaps even having his own show one day. But how could he? He knew no one in the art world, other than students, besides he hadn’t even gone to art school.
One afternoon while making his rounds on his regular bus route, Michael overheard two students talking about the annual Royal Parsons Academy of Art Contest. The first place winner would be awarded $5,000 and a two-year scholarship to the prestigious school. When Michael heard the news he knew he had to enter the contest; it could be his big break, his chance to finally attend the school of his dreams. All these years driving the bus and he never knew such a wonderful opportunity was so close by.
However there was just one issue; the contest closed on May 11, meaning Michael only had 30 days to create a masterpiece. He rushed home after work and took stock of his art supplies only to find he had run out of paint. Unfortunately the only art supply store was on the other side of town and would be closed by the time he got there.
The very next day Michael made his way over to the paint store and when he arrived all the lights were off and the door was locked. The owners had gone on vacation and would not be back for another week. Desperate and impatient, Michael could not wait for a week; after all he now only had 29 days to complete his greatest work, and the other entrants had significantly more time to prepare.
Michael began to wonder if he was meant to enter the contest. Maybe this is a sign, he thought.
Feeling defeated, he returned home and phoned his mother telling her all about his situation, “Oh Michael, that’s terrible! Why don’t you come over and I’ll cook you a nice meal.” He arrived within the hour and his mother made his favourite dish, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and apple pie for dessert.
Before he left that evening, his mother asked him to carry her dress form down from the attic so she could get some sewing done.
In the attic, Michael soon spotted the dress form and as he was about to make his way back down the ladder with it, he stumbled upon a box marked “Aunt Helen.” Michael’s late aunt Helen was a well-known artist back in her day and she had lived just a few towns over from where he grew up. Michael opened the box and found a plethora of paints inside, ranging from acrylic to oil to watercolour; it was an artist’s dream.
As he continued to rummage through the box, a manila envelope with the word “confidential” written on the front fell to the ground. Michael paused for a moment and pondered whether to peek inside. What if it’s something important, he thought.
Michael brought the envelope downstairs and asked his mother about it. But she hadn’t the slightest idea of its contents. With his mother’s blessing he decided to open the envelope. Inside was a letter:
My dearest Michael,
I purchased these paints many years ago while vacationing in Tahiti. Each paint is handcrafted by local artisans from the Tepati village. Legend has it these paints possess the power to unleash one’s creative forces and awaken the artist within. To access this power I created an affirmation, ‘These paints are Divinely blessed and with them I create my very best’. You will be amazed by the results!
Much love, as always …
Michael’s heart filled with gratitude, for he knew the universe had conspired in his favour. “This is perfect, it’s exactly what I need! Thank you, Aunt Helen.”
Michael kissed his mother goodbye on the cheek and raced home with the paints. Inspired, he pushed all the living room furniture to one side, laid down some tarp and quickly got to work. As the weeks passed, Michael worked ceaselessly on his art piece.
He took heed of the legend’s powerful message and whenever his belief in himself began to waver Michael thought of his dear Aunt Helen’s words and recited the affirmation with each and every use: “These paints are Divinely blessed and with them I create my very best.”
Soon it was May 11, the final day for entry into the Annual Royal Parsons Academy of Art Contest. Despite his nerves, Michael drove down to the academy’s headquarters and submitted his artwork. The winners were to be announced two weeks later on May 25 in the local newspaper. These were the most agonizing two weeks of Michael’s life.
In the wee hours of the morning on May 25, Michael walked to the nearest convenience store, for he was far too nervous to drive. He picked up the local newspaper and went straight to section A3, his eyes scrolled down the page and there it was… his name in big bold letters “First place winner Michael Solomon creates a masterpiece”. Overjoyed, Michael’s eyes welled with happy tears. For the first time in his life he felt like he had a purpose, he felt sure of himself….
The professor shuffled her lecture notes on the podium. “Several decades have passed since Michael Ray Solomon won the Royal Parsons Academy of Art Contest,” she continued. “To this very day the late Michael Solomon and his artwork are revered by many all over the world, touching the hearts and lives of everyone who gaze on them.”
Luisa Reyes began her writing journey as a young girl, spending countless hours with her journal. Recently, while studying at Sheridan College, she re-discovered her gift for the written form. Luisa has studied the healing arts, her affinity for esoteric principles can be found in her writings.
Paintings are by the late Helen Purvis of Brampton.
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