Since this story of Phoenix is being blogged, as it happens, and B sent such a kind post, I wanted to share the excerpt from Michelangelo’s Mouse, that’s being chipped away at, at the moment. It’s for younger children, but the spirit is that artistic fight to believe in work, beyond even making money, though that would be nice too! Had a wonderful illustration on Saturday of our hero mouse, and the artist is now at work too.
“Oh, no, please, you can’t give up,” came a little voice, from somewhere below. “It’s not fair.”
“Who’s that?” cried Michelangelo, jumping to his feet.
“What about me?” came the sad voice. “If you give up, Michelangelo, then how will I ever learn to be an artist? How will I ever become famouse?”
“Who’s there, I say?” cried Michelangelo angrily, looking left and right.
“I’m down here,” came the tiny voice.
So Maestro Michelangelo, the greatest artist in all the world, looked down and saw a little waist-coated mouse, poking his head through the finger hole in his painting palette.
Michelangelo was always looking at things, but he had never seen any-thing so amazing in his life before. His huge, brooding eyes opened wide. His great stubbly chin dropped open, and he placed his giant hands on his sides, and stared down in astonishment at the little mouse.
“And who are you?” he asked softly.
“I’m Jotto,” squeaked Jotto nervously. “I’m a mouse.”
“I can see that,” said Michelangelo, “and why can’t I give up, little mouse? I’m Michelangelo. I can do what I like.”
“You can’t do what you like,” said Jotto boldly.
“And WHY NOT?” said Michelangelo, beginning to get angry.
“Because…because I need your help. Because I left my family, and my village of Popolo, and the painting of St Francis, to be a real artist. Because if I don’t become an artist, the fresco in the stone church will never be finished, and I’ll never be famouse. And because, because without you, what will the others do?”
“OTHERS?!” said Michelangelo.
“The school of mice, under your studio.”
“Under my studio!” cried Michelangelo, looking even more amazed.
“Dante and Caravajeo, and Tintorettito and the others. They’re mice, but artists, too, and they haven’t got any paints, or food, or spirit left. So they left. Except Caterina.”
“Oh,” said Michelangelo, a little guiltily.
“So, you see, we need your help. All of us.”
“I never knew I was so needed,” said Michelangelo, shaking his strong head.
“Oh, yes,” said Jotto, “now more than ever. Besides, we love what you do. ”
“Oh, you do, do you?”
“Oh, yes,” said Jotto.
“But I can’t go on, Jotto,” said Michelangelo more kindly, sitting down wearily next to the tiny mouse.
“Why not?” asked Jotto.
“Because they’re always telling me what to do. I’m fed up with it.”
“I don’t understand. You can do what you like. You’re famous,” said Jotto, “the most famous artist in all Italy.”
“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” said Michelangelo, with a sad smile. “I still have to please other people. I have to earn a living. I have to buy brushes and paint and canvas, Jotto, so I have to listen to my patrons. And, they’re always so patronising. Do this, do that. Palaces and portraits. Sometimes I forget what it’s like to be an artist, and just do what I want. Just for the fun of it.”
“Would you teach me?” asked Jotto suddenly. “What it’s like to be an artist, I mean.”
Michelangelo looked carefully at the little mouse. “What do you want to learn?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I think I want to paint. But sometimes I want to make sculptures, and sometimes I want to make buildings, and sometimes I just want to think.”
“Do it all then,” said Michelangelo, shrugging.
“What do you mean, Maestro?”
“With the Renaissance going on, everybody’s trying everything. Some-times art is agony, sometimes ecstasy. But be a Renaissance Mouse.”
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
The right of David Clement-Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988