Here am I, Lord
Recently I had put my Story Painting efforts on hold. I told myself that it was God’s will because I was spinning too many plates, and I was probably right. I was trying to produce too many types of artworks at once. I’m at my best when I focus on one or two things when I’m working to get things up and running.
I don’t know if it was outright permission, or entirely what it was, but in the last month or so I just could not shake the powerful desire to get back to my storytelling work and develop it more fully. I miss making art of meaning.
I truly enjoy my current work of making journals and collage, but that work is more decorative than meaningful. They’re fun to make. They’re beautiful. They contain nothing of story or meaning, and storytelling is the heart of all the forms of art-making I’ve worked in.
This nagging desire to share work of meaning and story simply wouldn’t go away. It wouldn’t “shut up”. That nagging persistence is, to me, a confirmation that I need to deal with this, face it, and confront whatever it is that caused me to set it aside.
It was about 3AM, after reading a fabulous article about the By/For Project on the Transpositions blog, that my head just wouldn’t leave it and go to sleep. I read about how By/For is an extant model for church patronage of the arts and that it’s a win – win – win – win model.
The Church wins because it’s making possible the creation of faith-driven art of excellence. The artists win because of the residency which gives them unfettered time and space to freely work. The public wins because the work is sent on tour for hundreds to see and engage. Art collectors win because they’re buying works of excellence and faith-filled meaning. The gap between faith and art is narrowed and Church, artist, public, and collectors all stand better informed about what this closure can look like.
I’ve been very passionate about the faith and arts movement for more than a decade now. I became intimately aware of the rift between the faith-driven artist, the church, and the secular world while in leadership with a major theatre company in South Seattle. The intelligent closure of these rifts is at the heart of my own art-making, and of course, I’m not alone.
It was late, and while still savoring the promise of the By/For model, I went to bed asking if one day I might be a good enough artist to be considered for a residency in such a program. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Laying there allowing sleep to overcome me I began with a seminal idea. Forms, shapes came to mind. I had an idea, and like young Samuel (I’ve learned to take these things seriously) I asked, “I am here Lord, do you want me to get up and make note of this?” Silence. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then.”
I love callings like this. In my mid-life years, I’ve come to rejoice when He calls me to accept a gift of inspiration. I see it as a sacred trust when the Lord gives one of His faith-driven creatives something He wants shared with the world.
At my drawing table again, I began with forms. The relationship of those forms, in the context of His theme, was significant. I began to draw. The names of these forms was significant. I began to gather thoughts about their characteristics, aspects, and traits. Before long I had the gist of an exciting and worthwhile idea.
In this process of being gifted with an “assignment”, I realized that my stopping the work on story paintings, while “practical”, was actually motivated by fear. Even though I know better, I read about this all the time, and I help other artists move past their own creativity blocks, the immobility of fear had stricken me. I am not immune and I’d allowed it to choke off a valuable part of my own creativity.
In faith, I promised the Lord that, come what may, I will make this piece. Further, I promised not to judge it. I promised not to ask if I’m good enough, or if the work is good enough. I simply promised to make the piece, and in that context, I found a new creative peace. I mean, if the Lord is going to entrust something to me to make, He must’ve already thought about whether I’m “good enough” to do the work. Further, He will provide all I need to carry it through.
In prayer I confessed my faithlessness, sought forgiveness, restated my promises, and slept well knowing that a worthy commission awaited me on my art table.