Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Inspiration

Art is Spiritually Born

drawing-smlIn my recent two-way journaling with Father, we discussed the idea that all art is spiritually born. All art comes from a person’s relationship with whatever it is they place their faith in and worship. It may be the world’s values of ego, fame, and fortune. It may be in one’s political inklings, or socially meaningful pursuits. It may be one’s religion. Whatever it is we value and worship, there too is the dwelling place of our heart/art.

Father showed me that, in the same way that our tongue (what comes out of our mouths) reveals what’s in our hearts, so too does the art we make. No matter the medium, the art itself reveals what and where our treasure is. He has shown me that all art is born out of how we use the gift of creation and creativity, which He has endowed into the spiritual DNA of every human being from before His laying the foundations of this World. It is this sharing of the creative gift what makes human beings unique among all of His creatures. He went on to say that, in the arts, the use of the creative gifts has far reaching effects on history, on societies, on cultures.

Back in 2012, I was invited to a wonderful gathering of faith-driven artists. Some worked in music as a composer and a singer/songwriter. One was a recording studio producer. Several of us were visual artists. One created movement inspired works, and another shared views of the Earth and the Cosmos in breathtaking beauty. One was a director / producer of theatre. A few days before this wondrous gathering, we were all was asked to prepare a 15-minute presentation about where we had come from creatively, where we were at now, and where we saw ourselves going in the future of our art practices. The most startling thing for me was the process of preparing that presentation.

Father and I worked together to gather what I really believed about making art as a faith-driven artist. The single point I want to focus on here is that Father God revealed to me that faith-driven artists are sanctified in Christ, consecrated to His work, and are of the priestly tribe of Levi. Why the tribe of Levi? Because art is the second voice of the Church. We artists, through what we create and express, are able to connect and communicate in ways that no tract, no preacher, no teacher can. Through personal permission, the works are invited into the lives of those who choose to engage them. In that engagement, it is hoped that they find something special and of personal significance.

In these ways; the creative design of our spiritual DNA, the sanctification of our life’s work, and the consecration of our Destiny, all come together in the realization that all art is spiritually born.


From The Table of Making: A New Series

Peter by Rembrandt
Peter by Rembrandt

Peter Denies Christ – Rembrandt

I’m going to begin a new series of posts relating to my creative journey, From the Table of Making. These last few years have seen huge breakthroughs in my art practice as I’ve been growing ever closer to Father God. That closeness has come as a direct result of my relationship with Father, of getting to know Him, and of falling ever more deeply in love with Him.

Some time back, maybe two years ago now, I was in my silent time with Him, I was meditating in His Presence, and suddenly I found myself standing in a huge room way out in the Cosmos. The floor and walls were clear and I beheld the stars and galaxies of His Creation. There in the middle of “the room” was a very large, clear, boardroom table. Jesus sat at the other end.

Welcome … this is the place from which you and I will commune in the process of your making art. This is The Table of Making.”

I was jaw dropped, and I remember having a few questions, not many, because my spirit trusted in whatever was going to develop in our creative relationship from this place.

These days I go there often, and after just a few visits, when I showed up, there sat Michelangelo, VanGogh, Rembrandt, DaVinci, and many others. I then understood that I was among some very creative company, not because they’re famous in this world, but because, in some way, at some point, their own art-making was faith-driven. What they made, what they “saw” in the midst of their creativity, was driven by the relational faith they had with Father God, and now here I was, enjoying close, intimate, creative pursuits in the Presence of my Creator.

This creative relationship with Father and the journey we share is the stuff of this series of posts.


Inherent Hope

Fujimura - refractions cover - smlArt is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator.”

Mako Fujimura / refractions / pg 69

I don’t seem, as yet to share that hope, although I do / am / will produce works which point to the foot of the Cross. That’s certainly hope-filled. But what is hope anyway? Is it a deep spiritual straining? Is it a kind of, sort of wishing that something would happen in the midst of our prayers, whatever those may be?

I’d like to believe that this hopeful (hope-filled) act is like faith; “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) I want to focus on those two words substance and evidence.

Substance means the being or nature of a thing; the essential nature of something hoped for; it’s essence. Evidence means the proof, being obvious or apparent. Hoped for … is to wait for something in full faith and confidence; in essence waiting in full joy and confidence for the manifestation of what is hoped for. This hoped for is not a mere wishing. It’s a fully confident “done deal”, kind of new reality that has yet to become a manifest reality.

In the manner Fujimura uses hopeful, as in hopeful act, it seems to me to mean that the making of art is an act filled with hope; filled with the full confidence of a new manifestation of a positive, creative reality. “Art is an inherently hope[filled] act, one that echoes the creativity of the Creator.” I see this act of making as filled with hope (waiting in confidence for a manifestation), which does, indeed, echo the creativity of the Creator. Our God is in His very essence positive, loving, and certainly creative. We artists are privileged to “imitate” Him through the use of the gift of creativity which He gave us at our Genesis (birth / conception). Being made by Him in His image, we’re the one and only species on the planet to be so endowed.

We most often use the word hope to mean awaiting the manifestation of a better tomorrow. We so often merely wish for a better tomorrow. But both the passage in Hebrews 11, and the statement from Fujimura indicate a confident waiting for the manifestation of that better tomorrow. Art, Mako says, has that inherent power in its DNA as it were, and it is the privilege of the artist to point the way, to suggest what that better tomorrow might look like.


Process as Transformation

Detail: Mary Magdelaine & Christ / Sinai Monastery / 7th Cent.

Detail: Mary Magdelaine & Christ / Sinai Monastery / 7th Cent.

     NOTE: I apologize for the lack of open space between the paragraphs.  WordPress is having problems just now.  Thank you for your patience.

     The new goals I’ve set for myself this year is to [try and] read a new book every two-weeks; so far so good. The latest I’ve finished is by musician, worship leader, and author Manuel Luz called Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist (2009/Moody). This is not a book review but more of a sharing of a couple of his most nourishing points.

     I love how Luz reminds us that the life of an artist, and the daily act of art-making has a transformative effect on those artists for whom Christ is Lord. “In my own life, I have found that my music – and art in general – is a means by which I am drawn more closely in communion with God. God has formed me through the discipline of music. The discipline of worshiping while rehearsing… the discipline of songwriting and song journaling.

     “And this should make sense if one understands that to grow as artists is, in part, to increase in our Christlikeness.” Luz / 127

     To my mind this is another example of the purest essence of the convergence of faith and art; it not only affects those who engage the work but the artist as well. I love the Presence of God wherever I am. I love knowing that He’s not far off, up on heaven listening at a distance, but through His Spirit is literally with me 24/7. I love our discoveries in the process of making art, at whatever stage of the work. I love those discoveries which enrich my relationship with my Lord God.

     I don’t usually talk about art work that I’ve not finished, let alone haven’t even begun. A powerful thing happened to me a while back as I was reading Matthew 9:20 / Mark 5:25, the story of Mary Magdalene being healed by merely touching the edge of Christ’s shawl.

     There I was in the middle of my daily Bible readings and up came this story, with it’s beginning, its middle, and end; complete in every way. Heck, it even fits the 5-sentence story structure of a good Western world tale.

     So, there I was reading and as I savored each word, something built up in my heart. Here was a woman who’d made mistakes (don’t we all) and who was seeking full healing. Mark’s verse 27 tells us that she’d heard Jesus was near. She resolved to merely touch His shawl or tunic – that’s all, just touch his clothing. That’s all, the merest gesture, and she knew that she’d be healed. To my mind she got more than she hoped for. She got salvation, redemption, a whole new life in that single experience. What a powerful story. Then I heard it, I call it the silver bell. “Dinggggggg”; there it was, that resonance of recognition that this was an important story. My heart quickened, as itProcess as Transformation always does when that “bell” rings. I know I’m in the Presence of His Spirit and being offered a gift if I’ll just listen and receive it.

     As I began journaling about the encounter, something I often do in preparation of making a work, God was right there, revealing one level of meaning after another; a simple story, a single, brief encounter but layer upon layer of relational / spiritual significance. The practice of even preparing to make art was transforming me. I was growing and being nourished in the experience. I was savoring the Divine Presence of the living God whom I follow and serve. I was enjoying a deeply personal, intimate, private relationship with Him.

     It’s this self same experience Manuel Luz was on about in his book. Art making, for the artist who is a follower of Christ, can (if we’re willing, open, and receptive) have a transformative effect on us – it ought to. Then the work itself goes on to affect the lives of those who engage it elsewhere, as long as they too are willing, open, and receptive. And I know I’m repeating myself, but I assure you that it’s deliberate repetition – process is an art-maker’s transformative journey. There is no destination, only journey, ever changing, ever growing.

     Amen~


Holistic Creative Readiness

Four Gospels

Four Gospels in process; acrylic on paper

Recently I was re-reading my notes from the Kindling’s Hearth I attended (Oct 2012). I came across something Dick Staub, our host brought up – Holistic Readiness. We were asked; What does it mean to be holistically ready creatively? How do we remain ready? What happens when we don’t remain ready?

I’m reminded of a story from a now famous TED Talk given by author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). She was talking about a poet friend who could feel the approach of a poem from far away over the landscape. Her friend, because she was hanging laundry that day, had to run to the house to get paper and pencil so she could write down the poem as it passed by. For me however, it’s that word holistic (emphasizing the whole and all of its parts and their interdependence) that implies something larger than having paper and pencil at hand.

As an artist whose art-making is literally driven by my relationship with God, holistic readiness begins with the health and depth of that relationship. For me, that relationship is far more than just going to church, doing daily devo’s, and attending a weekly Bible study. Holistic readiness, in terms of faith, has everything to do with remaining fully surrendered to God, with constant prayer, daily journaling, and literally seeking His presence. It’s a 24/7 kind of relationship, not a, “Let’s see when I can carve out 15-minutes for God.” kind of thing

In the studio I know He’s there partially because I invite Him in. He’s directly involved, often in a dialogue, as I’m in the process of making. He’s always reminding me that there’s no such thing as a mistake, and that I’m not bold enough in the creative risks I take. He’s my comforter, my counselor, and my Lord. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the wonder of what we’re making that I just have to raise my hands, and looking up, pray the Doxology; Praise God from whom all blessings flow / Praise Him all creatures here below / Praise Him above the Heavenly host / Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost / Amen. My holistic readiness is founded upon my walk with God, without which I have nothing creatively to say.

Holistic also implies other life areas as well; diet, exercise, leisure, rest, and ArtJournaling. Like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages from her groundbreaking book The Artist’s Way, art journaling has become something akin to scrapbooking or doodling. It’s an artform all by itself. For more on the value and power of doodling, look up Sunni Brown on TED. But my art journaling (Lessons From My Art Journal) has become a vital tool in remaining holistically ready.

In that journal I make messes and “waste” time and materials. I find out what various media* are able to do. I discover, play, and experiment. I take creative risks, and develop my skills with various media to use them well when making art. Mostly I find ideas that work and develop them toward becoming finished works.

I’ve learned that when I neglect my relationship with God, my health, or my exploration time, I’m not ready; I’m not creatively primed to work on making art.

Oh… and one last thing. I also need my coffee, and great music so we have an espresso machine and a boombox in the studio as inspiration.

Thanks for listening.

*Please help stamp out the misuse of the word mediums. I’m serious. This misuse has become an embarrassing epidemic in the art community. It’s bad enough how few people take us seriously anyway that we don’t need to empower their disdain by this simple mistake. Medium = single art medium (paint or ink or etc.) Media = many art media (paint and ink and etc.) BTW: Mediums are not art supplies, they’re people who predict the future or tell fortunes. Thanks!


That’s Why I Make Art

WBible & Laptophile I am fast approaching my 60th birthday, I still feel as though I am as naive as ever; that I just don’t get it, and that I really don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I must try however. I must still struggle, though I may look the old fool.  I must still share the good, share the right, and share the solid things I actually do know about. Pastor John Piper once said, “The older I get the less I trust myself to know the answers.” While that’s a paraphrase, it conveys what he meant.  It conveys my own sense of self. I too trust my own answers far less and God’s own wisdom far, far more than in the days of my youth.

Who am I that I have answers for others? At best I can only point toward the truth of a matter realizing that anything I convey may be accepted or not. It’s a free-will thing, as it ought to be. Who am I that I have answers for others? That’s God’s job. At best I am merely a devoted messenger, who, even then, may not fully comprehend the message I carry to whomever it is to be given.

That’s why I make art. That’s why I cling incessantly to the presence of the living God, for if I have no real answers for others, where are my own answers for me? It’s a matter of realizing that I’m a servant of God, and not God Himself. It’s a matter of letting go of the belief that anything I could do might remedy the need(s) in the life of another. It’s the realization that the Earth and all its people are God’s project, not mine. It’s a matter of fully surrendering to the task of dealing with the beam in my own eye, instead of the dust in another’s.

That is why I make art. That is why I cling to God in my inmost being, that I might grow into someone whose use, value, purpose, and worth rest in living out God’s divine plan for my life; surrendered, yet ever alert for His instruction(s), counsel, and guidance. He is the one and only reason I swing my feet out of bed in the morning, and in an act of faith and serendipity, rising to meet the purpose(s) of the day.

Who am I that I should have plans or schemes for “success”, or ambitions for “advancement”, when my Lord has already laid these out for me before the world was even made? I’ve come to accept that the best laid plans, plans to prosper, to fulfill my best purpose(s), to become all He has designed me to be in His service, come not from me and my own mind, but from Him who made me. That is why I write (pray) in my journals.

I have considered my ways,” it says in Psalm 119, “and have turned my steps to Your statutes. I am a friend to all who fear You, to all who follow Your precepts. The Earth if filled with Your love, O Lord; teach me Your decrees.”

Thank you for listening.


Prayer & Worship in the Studio

Lew's Art TableI’ve read a lot of blog posts, essays, and a few books which talk about art as worship and art as prayer.  Personally I find the subject fascinating, and it brings with it as many variations (which I love) as it does commentators.

Last Thursday evening I’d been invited to a gathering of faith-driven creatives and after a good meal together, catching up with one another, and some Show ‘n’ Tell, we got down to the discussion; (and I paraphrase here), Does prayer and worship show up in your work (if it does at all), and how does prayer and worship affect your art practice?  Juicy question, huhhh?

I want to share a few notes I took, which are reactions to comments made by others, and then I’ll talk about my own reaction to the question(s).

We talked about whether or not our artwork is prayer and if the act of making is an act of worship.  Some folks saw quite specific distinctions between prayer and worship, saying that for them prayer is a deliberate, intentional conversation with God.  Others felt absolutely no distinction between prayer and worship, feeling that they were so closely related as to be almost one experience.

What about following a formal structure or formula in prayer and can we offer prayer in any context?  To the latter half, we shared a resounding “Yes, we can pray any time, any where.”  But for some there is a need for some kind of structure to prayer, while others saw prayer differently, informally; perhaps more immediate and responsive.

One person said that for her prayer was intentional, serving a deliberate purpose, while worship is more responsive (perhaps more emotional). And, yes, she felt worshipful in the act of creativity.

For me, at this time, most of my prayer life, in any context, is done through my journal writing.  Sure, I do pray elsewhere at other times.  But my processing of the life-stuff that’s the “bread and butter” of my arts practice is done in my journal.  I learned this from author Julia Cameron from her book The Artist’s Way.  I unload my spirit and listen to God in my journal writing.  It’s a  luscious outpouring of often random bits and pieces which He and I look at and make sense of.  A whole lot of self-discovery has happened in our “sessions” together.

Often, in my writing time, I will break into worship, usually because He’s given me a discovery or revelation.  I may stop right then and there, raise my hands and pray the doxology, or simply proclaim His awesomeness in the form of a Psalm, just how great and wondrous He really, truly is.

For me, worship is part and parcel of my art-making process and experience.  Sometimes I’ll be so overwhelmed at what we’re making together I’ll start crying with release and joy – our time together is that intimate.  All-ways though, the making is an alchemy of an intimate faith relationship and is my worship of Him.  I mean, the very idea that I get to share in one of His most awesome attributes, creativity; I’m often overwhelmed by the privilege.

Let me close with this thought; To my mind we Faith-Driven artists are (or should be) powered by the ever-deepening intimacy and the ever-growing maturity of our relation with God through Christ.  That’s what Faith-Driven means – literally driven to action by our faith (relationship) in God.