Art School Confidential. Bella finds her artistic muse and total embarrassment in life model Edward. How can she get him to model for her when he thinks she is a sex-crazed flake? AU-AH, M for nudity, language, lemons. Canon pairings.
A/N: Welcome and thank you for trying out my new story. Writers are often told to write what they know. All I really know are art school and Los Angeles. Many of the events in the story are based on events that actually happened to me or to people I know, though I have put them together in a way that is uniquely mine. This story is a little different for me, a little funnier, a little lighter, more true. This story will be told entirely in Bella's point of view.
All things which relate to Twilight are not mine. The title, Art School Confidential comes from the Daniel Clowes comic by the same name. The plot and events related are mine. I lived them, I keep them.
Chapter 1 Michelangelo
Tuesday afternoon advanced painting class was nearly ready to begin. I was early so I could get my favorite spot, just to the left of the model's stand in the back half of the room. This week was to be our first long pose – two class periods with one model in the same pose. Professor Berty had already set up the ancient and saggy velour chaise with a long white sheet and two heaters nearby, so necessary for the cool Los Angeles February. I set up my newly gessoed board on the easel and dumped my paint tubes on the little metal cart I had borrowed from the class next door.
Jessica came in and stood glaring at me for a minute, her shiny black art box in one hand and her new canvas in the other. I ignored her and after a last huff, she trudged to an easel slightly farther to my left. I smirked to myself. I had shown up early to get a prime location. To hell with Jessica and her little attitude. I got stuck in a dark corner last week when I was running late. I wouldn't make that mistake again.
I squeezed out the paints I expected to use – Alizarin, Cobalt, Pthalo, Cadmium, Zinc White, and Bone Black. I put out only a tiny bit of white. Prof Berty despised paintings with too much white, preferring we painted our lights as colors. I set out my four favorite brushes and fetched two cans of water. I was using acrylics, like most of my classmates. I liked oils just fine, but acrylics dried quickly and were less likely to be messed up in the student racks by some random beginner asshat. I had two oils ruined that way before critique last year.
I was set up to my satisfaction and still had five minutes to kill before the class started. I grabbed my cigs and trotted down the stairs to the lounge.
"The Lounge" is what the studio art students called the little gravel corner of the garden, just out of sight of the painting building's side doors. I found Jasper Whitlock out there, smoking an unfiltered Camel. This was lucky. I wouldn't have to track him down later.
"Those things will kill you," I told him, sticking my clove between my lips. He flicked open his Zippo and grinned at me as he lit my cigarette. I took a long drag and watched the ash glow.
"You should know," he said.
"Hey, Jasper, what are you doing Saturday night?"
"Nothing much. Is there an opening?" Gallery openings meant free wine and cheese, things no self-respecting starving art student would ever pass up. I could understand why he would ask.
"No, Alice is having a party. Want to come?"
My roommate Alice was in the fashion design department, a tiny ball of energy with spiked black hair and high-heeled designer shoes. She threw great themed parties. Since I'd moved in with her six months earlier I helped with the parties by staying out of her way and cleaning up after.
Alice had asked me over the weekend if I would make sure to invite Jasper to the party. She was trying to act cool, but I knew she was hot for him. Jasper was sweet and cute and all the usual guy-hotness but I had a hard time picturing prim little Alice in her heeled Mary Janes dating Jasper in his scorched motorcycle boots.
"I wouldn't miss it, Bella. Same place?" Jasper had a sly smile. I wondered if he knew she had a crush on him. He'd been to her Orphans Thanksgiving Dinner last year, and I thought surely they had made a connection but nothing seemed to have come of it.
"Yah, you know the deal." Meaning, bring booze or snacks. "Eight o clock," I informed him, which is art-speak for a fashionable nine.
Jasper examined a scuff on his boot thoughtfully. "Is this a Valentine's Party?"
"Not exactly. It's Alice's annual Un-Lover's Valentine's Day Party," I snorted. Jasper laughed. "Yeah, I know. It makes sense in her crazy pixie brain."
"So are couples allowed?"
"Yeah, why? Are you dating someone?" I tried not to be alarmed. Alice would be impossible if Jasper showed up with a date.
"No, but Emmett is, and I thought I'd bring him, if you all don't mind."
I relaxed. "No, I don't mind. I'm sure Alice would like the opportunity to vet the Em's new squeeze." It would give me an opportunity to see the new girl too. Jasper nodded and stubbed out his cig.
"See ya Saturday, Bella." He waved to me as he headed back into the building.
I waved back, finished my smoke and went back to the painting studio. The model had arrived and was standing by the podium in the departments old blue robe. Prof Berty was twittering about, gesturing to the model as to how he wanted the pose to go. All I could see of our model as I walked past was that he was male, tall, and had a shock of bronze-colored hair. He was fiddling nervously with the tie on the robe and shifting his weight from foot to foot. I wondered idly if he was new to modeling.
I settled onto my stool and waited, amusing myself with ignoring Jessica and making faces back and forth across the room with Seth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the model slowly disrobe and settle on the chaise. Prof Berty cleared his throat and began talking in his squeaky voice.
"As you all know, today we have a new model. Edward is here for a long pose: today and Thursday we'll be working on the one pose. Show our model respect and remember -- no complaining for movement. We'll paint until 2:15 and take a short break, and then continue until 4. Okay? Okay? Okay, phones off and get to work all." Berty meandered off and turned on the stereo. The soothing sounds of Debussy filled the air.
I angled my easel a little further to the right, peeked around the edge and just stopped cold.
I'm used to painting from nude models. You don't get through two and a half years of art school as a painting major without seeing a fuck-load of naked people. You get used to it. After a while you think of everyone as being naked under everything, which I suppose is the point, but what most non-art people don't realize is that art models are not beautiful, mostly. You get used to the fat, the hairy, the old, and the ugly. And fucking-straight you get to like them. As long as they don't fucking bat an eye or shift a pinkie you don't care. They can look like Jabba the Hutt and no one would give a crap. Move a muscle and the art students will be after your ass like a mafia hit squad. I saw one class nearly mutiny when a new model came back from her break and put the wrong arm over the back of the chair. Come to think of it, I may have led that mutiny.
This was a different problem. The model could have been doing a cha-cha and I wouldn't have complained. He was beautiful. Lounging on the chaise, one arm thrown gracefully back, the other laying languidly across his hip with his hand resting lightly on his thigh, he seemed more sculpture than flesh and blood. His lean hips were angled towards me.
Every bit of him looked perfectly chiseled, from his angular face to his sculpted torso and long muscular limbs. His face alone was reason to pause. Even with a vacant expression, staring off into space, he looked intense. His vivid green eyes looked off to my left, over my head. His bone structure looked perfect, all hard angles and planes, with dark heavy brows and sensuous lips.
And his body! His gorgeous body had not a trace of fat or marks. In the diffused studio light, his skin was pale and cool-looking as marble. His chest was muscular, but sleek rather than bulked up, with only a faint curl of dark hair between his nipples, leading down like an arrow past his navel to his groin. Even his penis, lying long and flaccid across his thigh, looked like it had been sculpted by Michelangelo, that well-known lover of men. It was an amazing sight actually, since in the chill of the art studio under the scrutiny of twenty pairs of student's eyes, most models parts shrank to the size of a mini marshmallow. Not this guy. If that was shrunken, well, damn.
I got a little ochre on my brush and quickly sketched out his form on my canvas in quick strokes, capturing the easy gesture. I looked back at him and quailed in the presence of so much prettiness. There was no way I could capture that perfection. I started painting the negative space, deep mossy green with the sheet over the chaise a cool gray. It wasn't helping. All I had was a lovely man-shaped hole in my canvas and a dull throb between my thighs.
I tore my eyes off the man on the chaise and glanced around to see how others were faring. I noticed that others were having trouble too. Seth was trying to paint without actually looking at the model, just glancing up furtively from time to time. Jessica, on the other hand, wasn't even pretending to paint. She was just sitting with her mouth open, her paintbrush raised. I turned around on my seat and saw a repeat of those two almost everywhere I looked. Only a few students seemed to be actively painting, Lauren among them. She was measuring for all she was worth. By now she could probably tell you if the model's penis was as long as one of his graceful feet.
I sighed and turned back to my own canvas. Berty came and looked over my shoulder.
"Nice start, Swan," he said, holding out his thumb from my painting to the model and then back. "The way this is going, you'll have a nice painting of the background. Are you planning on painting our Edward in there sometime or just leaving it blank?"
I heard a snicker behind me and shot a nasty look over my shoulder at Lauren. I hoped I wasn't blushing but I was sure I must be. I blush so easily. Berty was talking again.
"See, it's simple, Swan," he said, in a voice that was low but surely carried to the whole class over the Debussy. "Use the position of the nipples and the groin to make a triangle, the front plane of the torso …" and then Berty walked over to the model, and, taking a pen from his shirt pocket he pointed to the stunning Edward's nipples and then to the root of his massive penis. I felt the heat growing from my neck to my hairline. I nearly fell off my stool in shock. I'd seen Berty gesture to models' parts before, but did he always get so close to a nipple? Or a cock? If the pen's cap were off, it might have left a mark.
The heavenly Edward, on the other hand, didn't move. His eyes flicked down to the pen, up to me for an instant, then away. That one instant when his beautiful green eyes locked with mine made my heart stutter. Although his expression didn't change – not a tensed muscle, not a smile, nothing – that look was filled with an intensity and emotion I couldn't name. Perhaps anger or embarrassment?
I shifted on my stool to hide as much of myself from the model as possible and dropped my head so my long hair fell like a curtain around my face. Berty was still gesturing to Edward's body with his pen. I nodded vigorously that I did indeed see what he was talking about. Gah.
Berty went off and tortured Jessica while I stared at my painting and tried to put a few marks in pleasing locations but it wasn't working. With a last glance at Edward I rummaged around in my hand-me-down tackle box filled with paint tubes until I found the big tube of Ivory Black. Good thing I was using acrylics. The paint that I'd already laid down was dry, so it wouldn't bleed.
I squeezed black paint directly from the tube onto the canvas, and used my largest brush to spread it around. When the canvas was entirely coated I used Alizarin Crimson with a touch of green for depth and began to paint, wet into wet. I pushed back the stool and stood at the easel. Using my whole arm to propel the brush across the canvas, I made broad strokes to give me that gesture. Nipple to nipple to groin and back to nipple, hip to shoulder, armpit to ass, hand in relation to head. The black began to dry and I stepped back. It was a start. With a mix of alizarin and yellow I painted the warm upper surfaces of the lovely Edward's skin, gleaming like pearl under the lamps Berty had set up. I worked white into it, with yellows and a faint touch of pthalo green.
I worked with only glances at the model from time to time. Honestly, I wasn't painting him at this point; I was painting what I felt like looking at him. All the confusion, lust, and most of all -- awe -- came through. The marks were loose and broad, but hugged the tender curves of his hip and thigh, the delicate line of his throat leading down to his chest. I traced the shadows of his graceful fingers. I used some medium to give the lights a transparent highlight. I could feel the blood singing in my ears and between my thighs. I wasn't painting a man, I was painting my fantasy.
Suddenly Berty was telling the model to take a break and placing masking tape outlines of the lovely Edward's hands and feet on the chaise. I snickered to see Jessica was off her stool and out the door in an instant. Maybe she was going to masturbate in the bathroom.
I put my brush in the tin of water on my cart and stretched my arms up. My back cracked. I wiggled the stiffness out of my shoulders, patted my pocket to be sure I had some money, and headed down to the vending machines downstairs.
Lauren was just getting a diet Pepsi out of the drink machine when I walked in. She sneered at me as she made room for me to get a drink. Just to rub her nose in it I selected a regular Pepsi. I'm skinnier than she is, yet I do nothing to work for it.
As I was scooping my soda out of the slot in the machine, Lauren said "I saw you scoping out Berty's latest eye candy. There was a puddle of drool under your easel."
I shrugged. "It wasn't me; it must have been the puddle from Jessica trickling over." I do not drool, bitchface. Lauren gave me a catty smile.
"Right. Did you check out his appendage?" she asked in a stage whisper. "I thought the guys were going to hide out from that monster. Except for Eric. He looked like he was enjoying the view as much as Berty."
"I don't pay attention to things like that," I lied through my teeth, trying to focus on the candy machine choices. Snickers or Pop-tarts …
She gave me a pointed look and I started to feel angry. I knew where this was leading. "How could I forget! You're probably unimpressed since you did Enormous Emmett."
Ugh. I rolled my eyes and turned to Lauren. "That's right," I said with sarcastic cheerfulness. "Ever since Emmett I haven't found a man with a big enough dong! I've moved on to donkeys! Get a life Lauren. Who cares about a life model with a big dick?"
She gave me a smirk and a shrug, and I had a sinking feeling. I turned around slowly to see our model, the lovely Edward, standing in the doorway of the vending area. The tatty robe was loosely belted around him, showing a sliver of his chest, and his feet were bare. His face was nearly expressionless but for his raised eyebrows as he looked steadily at me. I felt the burning blush spread from my neck up over my cheeks.
It was really too much to hope he hadn't heard that. Open mouth, insert foot. I muttered excuse me and dashed past him.
I ran out to the lounge and found Seth already there, reclining on the wood bench with his feet out in front of him. I patted my jeans pockets and realized I had left my cloves back in the classroom, in my bag. I sighed. Seth smiled at me and shook a Camel out of his pack towards me.
"Thanks," I said, taking the proffered cigarette. Seth lit it for me and watched me inhale and slowly exhale.
"I don't think I can go back in there," he said, launching directly into the middle of the conversation. Sadly, I know Seth too well, and knew exactly what he meant.
"He's way too pretty for a man. It's making me feel all gay just to look at him. Do you think Berty will notice if I just don't put in his junk?"
"Definitely. He knows you're too good to just forget that kind of thing." Seth's too good by half for that. I'm not threatened, but Seth is a prodigy.
"Hey, why are you avoiding? I'd think you'd be in there…" I sat on a chair beside Seth.
"I developed a serious case of athlete's mouth." Seth thought about that. I knew, bright boy that he is, he'd figure that out.
"Yeah." Seth turned his head and squinted at me with a smile.
"So spill, Bells, what did you say to Mister Big and Pretty that was so awful?"
"I didn't say anything to him. Lauren brought up me and Emmett and he overheard me telling her that since Em I've been doing livestock. Oh, and that I don't care about a model with a big dick." Seth's mouth fell open and after a shocked silence, he began bellowing with laughter.
"You're not really doing livestock, are you?"
"Ugh, no! Gross! As if I could find any donkeys in the middle of Los Angeles anyway!" Seth laughed harder. I considered kicking his skinny butt off the bench. He wiped his eyes and smiled up into my scowl.
"Glad you find it so funny. I was mortified."
"As you should be. How is Emmett the Elephant, anyway?"
"I wouldn't know. I haven't seen him much lately. He may be coming to the party on Saturday," I said nonchalantly. It wasn't as if Emmett and I had been dating.
"Oh, yeah, about the party … I may have a date."
"Oh. Well, you can bring him anyway, you know." Seth shoved at me.
"My date is a girl, bull-rider Bella." Seth was easy to tease about his heterosexuality. He was probably the only flagrantly straight guy in the painting department.
"Fine, fine, bring a girl, see if I care. Just no making out at the Un-Lover's Party, got it?"
"Got it. Well, c'mon, let's get back in there. You can hide behind me." Seth was scrawny but tall and that seemed like a good idea. I could sneak back to my easel.
Walking back to class I gave myself a mental pep-talk. Maybe he's deaf and didn't hear any of it. Maybe he only heard part of it. What difference did it make if a model overheard me? It isn't like I was going to be seeing him outside of class or anything. It's not as if I would be talking to him again after Thursday's pose was over.
Back in the classroom the Mr. Big and Pretty hadn't yet returned to his place on the chaise. I felt relief for a moment, but then I noticed he was wandering through the easels, looking at the paintings. Just as he was reaching my painting, Berty called him and he went back to the models stand to get into position. I was still standing by the door and I saw as he took off the robe.
I was completely distracted from my self-consciousness by the sight of him. From here I was looking at his back. Lovely Edward was lovely all over, as far as I could tell. He had a patch of skin on his shoulder that looked odd, and after a moment I realized it was make-up. How strange. I wondered what it was covering. I paused to admire him as he settled back into the pose.
Seth hadn't noticed me stopping by the door and had already made his way past my easel to his own set-up. I took a deep breath and walked stiffly to my easel and hid behind it. I slouched on my stool and covered my face with my hands. I wasn't sure how I would manage to get through the rest of the class.
What difference does it make? I reminded myself. He's just a body, a bowl of fruit for me to paint. I peeked around my painting at him and that thought crumbled. My body was telling me he was not a bowl of fruit. I had never felt so turned on just by looking at a person. Just looking.
I looked back at the painting and began to really see what I had begun. I was painting desire. I mixed a little paint and just paused, looking at Edward. As I was considering, Berty came up behind me.
"Ah, this is lovely, really lovely. I like how richly you have painted the darks. You have done a beautiful job capturing the translucency of the model's skin. Oh, and that curve of the hip and the muscular way you have painted his … yes, it's really lovely, very sensual, you have a wonderful skill with flesh when you are motivated, it seems. I think you may have something we can put in the hall for our class' week in March, maybe something to enter in the Student Show. Keep it up."
By the time he had finished, I was blushing again, but I wanted nothing more than to turn and stick my tongue out at Lauren's rat-face. Hear that? Berty likes how this painting is going.
Buck up, Bella. I peered around the easel and let my eyes drink in the sight of the model. So … ungh. I bit my lip and got back to painting.
A/N: Thank you to Irritable Grizzzly and MrsDazzled for the beta duties, and making suggestions that kept me going. Thanks to my mother, who will now really know what I was up to.
Please review, let me know what you think. It really makes my day to get little messages.