Excerpt 3

You might think a sketch is something quickly done. The very word suggests it. But Henry was nothing if not thorough. He had an eye for detail. It was a virtue his father often proudly remarked on - though it's doubtful he would have been so proud to see the thoroughness his son was putting into this picture. It took Henry the best part of that week to complete the sketch, to get it to the point where he could stand back and say: 'That's the way I want it to look.'

But by the weekend he was ready.

He took one of the palettes in his hand, and squeezed out the colours he wanted for the background.

Blue for the sky and the lake. Green and yellow for the grassy plains and the bushes. Brown for other bits and pieces. And white for mixing. This is where he would start.

Getting the surroundings right was important. My dinosaurs have got to look comfortable in it, Henry said to himself. Otherwise they won't be happy. It's a bit like decorating a bedroom, really.

Henry didn't want a pair of disgruntled dinosaurs on his hands. So he devoted as much care (and even more time) to making sure the beasts would be comfortable as he had done to sketching the outline.

And all the while he was working on this his first masterpiece, his parents kept a very discreet distance. They did not once come into the winter garden when he was at work. His father, of course, preferred not to know what was going on anyway, so it was only natural that he didn't show his face.

His mother, though, would have dearly loved to take a peek once in a while. But Henry made it plain from the outset that he didn't want anyone to set eyes on his painting until it was finished. Whenever he left the winter garden, he even made sure that he covered up the work in progress with a sheet.

But in all the weeks he was working on his masterpiece, he never once forgot the promise he had made to his father. So every evening, before going to bed, he would always do half an hour of arithmetic. And the results of this practice came as a very pleasant surprise to his teacher. She had been rather distressed by that peculiar day of Henry's in the classroom. So she was especially relieved now to see that he was not only back to normal, but was actually doing even better arithmetic than he had ever done before.

It took a full three weeks of painstaking detail before Henry felt the background was just right, and he could start work on the first of his two dinosaurs, the triceratops. He was not certain what colours he should give these creatures. The illustrations in the book his mother had given him showed them both in an insipid green that made them look more like kindly newts or lizards than ferocious monsters.

Henry wanted something much more powerful for his beasts - colours that would make them stand out from the yellowy greens of the wide sweeping plains he'd already painted.

After all, he thought, no one really knows what colour they were.

So he settled on a plum-coloured purple for the tyrannosaurus and a darker greyish green for the triceratops. This called for some careful mixing to get the right tones. But after a lot of experimenting with yellows and blues, and dashes of black and white, he got just what he was looking for.

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