Paint by Numbers?

The artist regards the canvas for a long moment, then takes up his brush.  He touches it lightly to the palette, then to the painting, just a single stroke.

“Why did you put the brush stroke there?” the apprentice asked, watching from his shoulder.

“Do you see the way the shadow falls just there, on the model’s cheek?” the master said.

“Yes.”  The apprentice nods vigorously.  “The principle of attention to detail.  They drilled that into us in art school.”

“Do you see the way it changes the color of the blush on her cheek?” the master continued.

Again, the apprentice nodded vigorously.  “Sure.  The principle that light level changes the way that the colors look.  I’ve read all about it.”

The master looked back at his painting, frowning.  “So now you understand?”

“Completely, sir.  All the principles are in the textbooks we used at school.”

A grin tugged at one corner of the master’s mouth.  “Excellent.  Since it’s all in the principles you already know…where will I place the next stroke?  Will it be heavy or light?  Which brush will I use, and which color?”

The apprentice opened his mouth to speak, his finger reaching for a spot on the painting.  Halfway extended, his arm faltered, and his expression slowly changed until it was an open-mouthed gape.

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