Flash Fiction February 2020 – “To the Maxx”

I continue with my illustrations for Flash Fiction February 2020, twenty-nine days of flash fiction stories at Fictive Dream,  an online fiction magazine featuring short stories.

For the event I created a small abstract painting for each selection – in fact, I did more than one painting per story. I am showing you all the images, day by day, throughout February. I’m also including a short write-up as to how I went about turning the authors’ words into pictorial representations.

I hope you’ll take a look at my art, then go to Fictive Dream, see which image editor Laura Black chose for the magazine, and read the story!

Thank you to Laura for her faith in my work and to the authors for such wonderful material to work with.

Today’s story is:

To the Maxx by Thaddeus Rutkowski. Read it here at Fictive Dream.

Here are the artworks on their own:


and here they are with the banner.



In contrast to the title, this story depicts two people living small lives (the narrator is still squeezing his grown-up self into his childhood furniture) and display no emotion as they go about what seems to be almost a robotic life. Their interaction in this story focuses on a shopping trip to a discount store in which the purchase is made of leather. Since this is the point of commonality between the characters, leather prompted the imagery and colors in these illustrations.

Image 31 – The narrator spoke about the leather outfit the woman was modeling and imagined an outfit in the same material for himself. I used different colors and textures that suggest leather in this picture, adding a zipper and stitching that were mentioned as part of the clothing.

Image 32 – The narrator describes the woman modeling the outfit in front of mirrors in the store, her dress matching her pointed toe shoes, while he sat watching her. I used shapes suggesting the two characters in a stark setting in front of gray mirrors standing on a carpet reminiscent of leather. I showed only a portion of the two people, to represent my feeling that they don’t seem to have distinct identities or personalities enough to make a full person.

Read the story at Fictive Dream.

5 thoughts on “Flash Fiction February 2020 – “To the Maxx”

  1. tierneycreates

    Abstract paintings are amazing. They, especially the first one, evokes me me a feeling/sense of worn wood, of wear. You mentioned your textures are inspired by leather – okay then worn leather to me (but I still seeing worn wood, ha!)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I think your interpretation is perfect, as I think worn wood/leather/stone/brick, that kind of thing, they all have similar connotations of being organic and (I think) getting better with age. I felt the leather aspect of this story had a lot of connotations and my challenge was trying to get across a feeling of what you picked up on, something kind of organic, not plasticky or metal. I found this aspect of the story interesting since to me, the story was very detached, with a smooth surface to it (if this makes any sense).

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    I found the story quite unsettling or disquieting so I like your use of the more sombre hues and the dark shapes. It makes it more ominous. The thing I like most about the image that was ultimately chosen is that incomplete figure. That speaks to the disconnect between the two characters, the way they don’t seem to see each other as fully formed people, and also has echos of a store mannequin. I think in this case I like the first image best. I like the claustrophobia of it and what it suggests about being limited. The zipper and stitching details also communicate an idea of being hemmed in and suppressed.

  3. Laura Black

    I was intrigued by Thaddeus Rutkowski’s flash fiction To The Maxx. It left you wanting to know so much more about the two detached individuals in the story. This is another case in which either of the images would have supported the story perfectly. However, image 32 with its truncated figures in black captured my imagination. Just wonderful, Claudia. Thank you.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you, and I think the word “truncated” is perfect for the characters in this story. It was a challenge to dig into the text and figure out how to portray the story – oddly enough, though the characters were distinct, they were quite abstract to me as people…and then I realized, that was their quality to illustrate. I also focused on the leather aspect and the description of the clothing in each one in different ways.

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