Chapter 350: Alien
Translator: Min_Lee Editor: Tennesh
Will had indeed struggled to read Fang Zhao, but he had been able to capture the complexity of his inner turmoil-not entirely, but at least a part of it. That was already a big success. To capture the full extent of Fang Zhao's complexity would require further refinement of his painting skills.
So for Will, the painting was a form of incremental progress, the equivalent of a draft. He hadn't taken it too seriously.
Will had attained his short-term goal of tackling a portrait of Fang Zhao. At least Fang Zhao was within his grasp. He could produce some semblance of a portrait of Fang Zhao. But Curly Hair fell outside his comfort zone.
Others might not be able to detect that complexity. More often than not, Will only sensed that the dog was a bit special, but when he picked up his paintbrush, he realized that he had no idea where to start. The more he pondered the matter, the more confused he got. This was a challenge unlike any other he had faced before. No one had taught him how to handle a problem like this; it was something he had never thought about. After considering the matter some more, he had decided to start with the dog's owner.
And this was an idea that had come from his cousin, a dog owner himself. Will remembered that his cousin had once said that a dog's personality, to some extent, came from its master. That was why Will had painted Fang Zhao. Now it was time to study the dog again.
Yet he was still clueless as to where to begin.
After another round of brainstorming, Will decided to borrow Curly Hair for a brief time. He might get more insight after a period of close contact with the dog.
But Will knew he wasn't a dog lover. He had never wanted a dog before. He thought they were too much trouble. He had even been bitten by a dog once. He had not harbored any affection for a dog since he'd been a kid. Now that he decided to have a dog, he made a rare call home.
The person who answered was Will's father, Will Sr.
Will's new piece had caught the attention of masters in the art world, and word had traveled to Will Sr. He was quite proud and had just bragged about the news to a few old friends. He was still wearing a broad smile when he got the call from his son.
"What is it? Have you run into a problem?" said Will Sr. in an unusually pleasant tone.
"There is indeed a problem," Will said.
Will Sr. was intrigued. "Tell me."
"I want to have a dog."
Will's comment caught his father completely off guard. Will Sr. nearly dropped the teacup he was holding. Incredulous, he was scared more than surprised.
"You're going to scoop dog poop with your drawing hand?"
Will kept his cool. "I won't have to clean up myself. I did some research. Now, there are AI robots that can do the job and other related equipment that can ease the owner's burden. I won't have to do stuff like clean up poop myself."
"Don't you remember that you were bitten by a dog?" Will Sr. said.
"I don't have amnesia." Will maintained his composure, speaking as if he were bringing up a mundane matter. "There's no law that says you can't have a dog after you've been bitten by one."
"Tell me the truth. Why exactly do you want to have a dog?" Will Sr. asked.
"For inspiration. I can't draw a dog, so I want to try close contact with one."
"You've been enrolled in the Twelve Tones program for some time now and you can't even draw a dog?" Will Sr. scolded.
Even though he struck a hostile tone, Will Sr. knew his son well. He knew that Will had to have his reasons. Maybe he did genuinely need to borrow a dog to find inspiration and resolve his impasse.
"How long are you going to keep your dog for?" Will Sr. asked.
"I don't know. Probably until I can paint the dog." Will sounded unusually troubled. It felt horrible being stuck. Why would he bother taking care of a dog if he could already draw one? It was too much hassle. But Will wasn't sure when he would be able to produce a painting.
Will Sr. dropped his objections but voiced other concerns. "What kind of dog do you want to have? Don't pick a big dog. When big dogs bite, they kill."
"A small dog."
"That's good." Will Sr. breathed a sigh of relief. "Bring it over some time."
"I haven't gotten the dog yet."
"Who are you borrowing it from?"
When the latest class of the Twelve Tones program had been announced, Will Sr. had looked into Fang Zhao, who struck him as being exceptionally young. Plus, Fang Zhao and Will were neighbors. Will Sr. had done some research online, and he knew that Fang Zhao had a very expensive dog.
Will Sr. pondered for another few seconds. "I'm going to send over another servant. You also need a nutritionist."
"For the dog?"
"For you!" Will Sr. wanted to hang up on his son.
Will was mentally exhausted from holing up all this time for his Fang Zhao portrait. He struck everyone as being in poor health. He needed someone to look after him, and he needed to rest.
Father and son discussed the matter of the dog some more. Will accepted his father's suggestion to call one of their relatives to ask for advice on having a dog. The relative recommended a popular web channel dedicated to dog rearing. The host broadcast his dog training sessions live and offered tips to novice dog owners.
When Will clicked on the link, the host was disciplining a dog and launching into a spiel at the same time:
"I like smart dogs but not cunning dogs. What's the difference? Smart dogs do what you ask. Cunning dogs ignore your instructions. Smart dogs are of the cuddly and adorable variety, while cunning dogs are little demons."
Will thought about the dog next door. Based on his current understanding, Curly Hair belonged to the cuddly and adorable category.
To prepare for his upcoming dog ownership, Will pulled out a notebook and started taking notes.
[Curly Hair type: cuddly and adorable]
The host continued in his live webcast: "Most dogs are afraid of heights."
Will jotted a reminder in his notebook not to walk Curly Hair on high ground.
"Dogs like to be fondled, but don't fondle the butt or tail of a dog whose personality you don't know well."
No touching! Definitely not! Will jotted down this point with force. He was still haunted by the memory of being bitten by a dog as a child.
"Dogs like to chew and bite."
Gotta hide all my pens.
And they like to tear stuff?
Gotta hide my most important documents, especially my paintings. As for the rest, so be it.
"There's a saying from the Old Era that dogs can't help eating shit..."
Gotta lock my bathroom door too!
While Will was preparing for dog ownership, an online news item sparked heated discussion.
Will's HuangArt professor posted Will's painting on the school's website and made it available for auction.
After the portrait was posted online, it began drawing the attention of fellow artists. The number of bids rose quickly. Within a day, the portrait was going for 30 million dollars.
Paintings that were posted by HuangArt as one of its featured pieces were the works of either masters or very talented students. It was not unheard of for a painting to go for as much as 30 million, but when pieces attracted such bids in the past, it was typically from other artists, collectors, or investors. Other folks wouldn't pay attention, nor would they express interest.
There were two reasons this particular painting was able to draw attention from every continent in a short period: the style was unusual and, more importantly, the subject was Fang Zhao.
"'My Neighbor'? Whose neighbor looks like that? His facial features are leaping from the canvas! It's gonna scare children."
"Hahahaha, who is Will's neighbor? Poor thing being depicted this way."
"According to my auntie who works at HuangArt, Will's neighbor is Fang Zhao."
"According to credible sources, the neighbor is indeed Fang Zhao."
"F*ck! That looks nothing like Fang Zhao!"
"This is worth 30 million? My niece in primary school can paint like that."
"Not to brag, but I could produce 10 paintings like this in a day!"
"Then why don't you paint one?"
"So this is what they call an abstract painting?"
"Isn't Will Sr. a surrealist painter? I remember him saying that he wanted Will to take after him. Even if Will doesn't become a surrealist, he's not an abstract painter. This is a major detour."
"Nowadays, painters just follow the money. What you hate, others like. Surrealism was indeed popular in Will Sr.'s time, but now the elite prefer abstract paintings. That's why Will switched gears. Look, the bids for his portrait broke 30 million in a day. The bids are going to keep going up."
"I don't really get the aesthetic standards of you artists."
"A regular Joe like me can't understand abstract paintings. They're no fun. I prefer surreal paintings. Who was it that painted a portrait of Fang Zhao last time? I thought he did a good job."
"A year-one student at my art academy just drew a sketch of Fang Zhao. [picture]"
"That sketch wouldn't pass muster in our class. It's so superficial and empty. Other than the fact that it looks like Fang Zhao, there's nothing there."
Some of the onlookers were confused. "So... apart from resemblance, what other elements are we looking for?"
"Of course something deeper, something philosophical. There's a reason why Will's painting got so expensive. The more I study it, the more of a heart-thumping, dazzling effect it has.
"I'm bedazzled too. Even a painting like this is worth 30 million? I feel dizzy, my eyes are blurry, and my heart is racing. I want to have a painting auctioned too!"
"Even if it's a decent painting, the pricing is a bit high."
"Hype! It's definitely hype!"
There were the naysayers-and defenders as well.
"That's actually not the case. My uncle put in a bid too. He's not a painter and he doesn't really understand the painting, but he's a businessman. He is quite rosy about the painting's commercial prospects."
"True. The painter is a rising star and the subject is likewise a genius artist. Fang Zhao is a trending topic."
"But the way Will portrays Fang Zhao is really spooky. He looks like an alien."
"Hahahaha, there you go. My question has been answered-the reason why Fang Zhao kicks ass at everything is because he's an alien!"
"Will, does Fang Zhao know you painted him like this?"
"Paging 'Alien' Fang Zhao!"
The focus of the discussion shifted again, this time from the pricing of the painting to Fang Zhao's new nickname. But amid all the playful banter, no one took things seriously. This was simply a form of entertainment.
In addition, the matter died down quickly, replaced by the latest headlines from the entertainment industry and news about new celebrity ventures and projects.
Oblivious of the online chatter, Will pressed the doorbell to Fang Zhao's dorm room after taking dozens of pages of notes on dog rearing.