Scratching at his still-spattered knuckles, that indelible Tokyo pink, reaching for the glass of cold rosé, he looks up, up at the long limbs across the restaurant’s groined ceiling, a giant pink and ink-blue body furred and eared like an animal’s, while the face wears a totally human smile. When the interior lights are low, like now, that animal’s smile glows, wide and white and loony, full of teeth, but with lights turned high, it disappears behind blue lips.
And “It’s just fantastic,” says the restaurant owner again, red Fendi blazer and her own glass of whatever. “The customers are just loving it.”
Robbie loves it too, Robbie said it was A reverse Cheshire Cat, that’s fucking genius. Robbie likes to call him a genius; Robbie came to him as an acolyte, It would be a fucking honor to shadow you, been following your stuff since Motley Boyz—Motley Boyz his first commission after he left Yale, he painted their warehouse space in Bushwick full of sexy one-eyed aliens and everybody went bananas, those aliens were a Beat Buzzer avatar for almost two weeks, they launched his career like a rocket.
Robbie at first was just that shadow, extra hands and extra brain to keep on top of the commissions, get the supplies, help deal with the travel and the sites. But when he saw that art mattered more to Robbie than career, saw that Robbie aspired to do what he does, he sat Robbie down over sticky pints in a Shoreditch pub, and said You’re my work partner now: changing the tag from his slashing dff, Derek Fucking Ferris, to the dripping green STO LAT, so they could paint the world, indelibly, historically, like Sulawesi, Chauvet, Herculaneum, paint that will last for as long as that world does.
And it will. Not just because his process is so tight, bulletproof, or because his skills are refined by experience, hard weather, hard work: but because of his vision. To view a potential site, outside or inside, walls or ceiling or roof, just that look and he knows exactly what needs to be painted there, translated by physical energy into indelible art, with a little room left for onsite energy—people like to call it “the muse” but really there is no such thing, no bolt from the blue, only the chemical reaction between his eye and the paint, his finger on the can like Michelangelo’s God aiming for Adam—
“—so have you ever?”
“Ever,” leaning back from the mezzanine rail. “Sorry, ever what?”
“Put yourself into one of your murals. Like a self-portrait?”
He smiles again, shakes his head, a double denial, not ever and no, never. And when the rosé and the owner are both gone, he takes a last pair of photos of the looming, lounging, ravenous animal, his animal, then messages Robbie to say time to pack up, to go, to head for the next client, a high-end destination spa. And in that same city they have a quick sidebar commission, a live job at some club called Fraktur—Robbie knows it, Robbie used to go there—the new owner sent him photos and he sent back sketches, he already knows exactly what he plans to do.