Monsters paint their toenails red

Oil on canvas, 2017, 35.5 x 47 x 4cm

I once heard of a land where monsters paint their toenails red.

It was not always this way.

For many hundreds of years the monster's toenails had gone unpainted. 

Until one day something happened that could change their ways.

We’ll get to that later. First I must tell you of their land.

To you and I the monster’s land world seem a bit of a backwards place (in an inside-out-kind- of way).

There were large craggy rocks that floated in the space that we would call the sky. The monsters were born from these rocks and they shimmered multitudinous colours.

After a monster had been born from one of the rocks it would continue to float around, eventually breaking up and scattering across the land.

As a result of this there were many rock storms in monster land. Much like hail storms but of crumbling rock instead.

All of the monsters were unaffected by these storms, only an unwanted visitor to the land of the monsters could be hit by the rocks.

One day a monster was born, in the same way as every other monster before.

However this monster was different from the rest. It was quite clear from the very beginning. Where all the other monsters communicated in

hushed tones, this young monster was always making the loudest racket. Growing up, the young monster was forever asking questions about

what was past the horizon.

No other monster had ever questioned what lay outside the periphery of standing stones that marked the edge of the monster’s land.

As the day came for Young Curious (the name the young monster had been given) to be initiated into the adult circle the elders met to discuss what should be done.

Young Curious was causing all kinds of disturbances within an otherwise placid land.

The elders decided that they must allow Young Curious to venture past the standing stones and on towards the horizon.

So the very next morning Young Curious begun the 5 miles towards the standing stones that lay on the outskirts of monster land.

On passing through the standing stones, the young monster expected to find the world much changed. At first it wasn’t. Then slowly as Young Curious walked on it was as though the sky was crushing down and all the air being sucked out of the monster and the atmosphere.

Then suddenly the world seemed to pop.

The young monster was hit by an extremely green light and became aware that the land around was full of rushes and reeds and abundant natural forms.

Above Young Curious sat a creature with an extremely long neck.

Young Curious asked the creature what it was, to which it replied:

I’m a snake bird.

On further inspection of this curious creature the monster asked why its talons were painted red.

To which the bird retorted, rather indignantly, that he’s been feeling out of sorts and ugly recently. Everyone paints their toenails when they’re feeling this way, didn’t you know.

Young Curious had absolutely no idea what the bird was talking about. ‘Feeling out of sorts’ and ‘ugly’ were concepts the monster had never been exposed to.

The snake bird tried his best to explain what ugliness was, but he could only really talk about it in relation to its opposite; beauty.

The young monster was still really very confused so the bird tried another tact.

Have you ever felt a warm feeling in your tummy on looking upon something, the snake bird asked the monster.

The young monster said he thinks he might have felt something like that once or twice  since entering this land of green, but he couldn’t be sure.

That feeling is what you get when you experience beauty the snake bird went on.

Have you ever felt a shudder or a sick feeling in your tummy when looking at something.

Young Curious wasn’t so sure about this one.

Well, that, the snake bird said, is the feeling you get when you look at something ugly. 

No one wants to be ugly. Painted toenails always make you beautiful and give you the warm tummy feeling.

Young Curious though that he might need some more experience travelling to other lands and meeting other creatures like the snake bird, in order to begin to properly understand these concepts.

The young monster travelled for many years, past many horizons, until he was no longer young.

Even after all these years, remembering the words of the snake bird, the monster's toenails were forever painted.

Young Curious knew that painted toenails brought the warm tummy feeling.

One day the air began to get thinner, yet heavier at the same time. Young Curious remembered this feeling hazily, from many moons ago. A pop

brought the monster face to face with a standing stone.

Suddenly the monster had the warmest tummy feeling experienced in all those years. Young curious thought that he had found beauty on all of

his adventures, but nothing seemed as beautiful as this marker of home.

Quick marching past the standing stone heading for home, Young Curious could not wait to see monster land again.

Not much had changed, other than the elders had been replaced by younger elders and younger monsters had sprung from the colourful,

craggy rocks.  

All the monsters of the land gathered around Young Curious to hear all about what happened past the horizon. It soon became apparent to Young Curious that all the other monsters were looking at the ground.


Young Curious shifted from foot to foot, suddenly feeling very aware of the painted toenails. Under the eyes of the other monsters, the painted

toenails did not give the warm tummy feeling.

Why have you got painted toenails? One (curious) young monster asked.

Young Curious tried to tell them about the warm tummy feeling as opposed to the sick one. Everything that had seemed to make sense whilst t

ravelling didn’t make sense at all back in monster land.

Young curious was left staring down at painted red toenails. 

Wondering if everyone else would one day understand.

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