Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Posts tagged “courage

Freedom: Journal Post 04.27.16

Rejection-Identity-COVER - sml

I had quite a powerful experience last night, not a big deal, but some kind of breakthrough nonetheless.

I woke up in the middle of the night, as is my custom. I went to the restroom and returned to bed in a kind of funk. I’ve been working over the course of a number of months to be free of negative, hideous, thoughts. From my decades of both a rough upbringing and my war studies (40+ years), I know that they’re a spiritual thing

So I crawl back into bed and the filthy scenarios going through my head were just driving me nuts. I thought I’d already gotten rid of this stuff. Why has this filth returned?

Then I remembered something written by Faith Rockrimmon about rejection, and I paraphrase; Rejection is not how we rid ourselves of what ails our spirit. Rejection doesn’t remove it. We need to refocus our attention deeply into the reality of our relationship with Father God. We need to go and get ourselves buried in Him and His love.

My head was full of filth, I wanted desperately to be free of it and so I began not to run from this enemy, but to affirm my identity in Father God. I don’t know how long I laid there, but I offered a constant stream of short declarations of Truth, all in Jesus’ name; I am priceless, in Jesus’ name. I am built and birthed by Father God, in Jesus’ name. I have a divine, heavenly destiny, in Jesus’ name. He loves me, and sent His one and only Son to save me, in Jesus’ name.; simple, short declarations, one after another.

Eventually, I felt something in my body, a lightness, a total numbness, I don’t know what, but in the midst of it I couldn’t feel my body. I couldn’t feel the bed. Something lifted from me, or from out of me … I really don’t know. Amidst my on-going declarations, this lifting sensation happened strongly three times, and lightly, twice. Something happened, and in the midst of these experiences, I declared; Father I am unafraid. Father I will go wherever You are taking me.

Now, this morning, I believe what I felt was the spirits of those filthy things leaving. They were utterly unable to stand in the Presence of the declarations I was making in Jesus’ name.  That’s the important thing; In Jesus’ name.

Faith Rockrimmon’s book Rejection and Identity is a landmark work in my life because of the premise. She says that rejection and shame are spirits. They’re not mental conditions, or the result of abuse, etc. They’re spirits, and ignoring them, rejecting them, rebuking them is not how we can be free of them. The key is found within our relational identity with Father God, and none other. In short, if we simply disengage from our battle with them, and immerse ourselves in the Truth(s) of our relationship with Father God, we cut off the root source of their power to remain. They cannot stand in the Presence and fact(s) of our relationship with and in Father – period.

This is not an external, psychological battle with our thoughts, or behavior modification. This isn’t a battle at all. This liberty is something we already possess if we will simply engage in it and dwell there. There is a complete and total absence of conflict because this transformation is about engaging in the Truth(s) of our relationship in Father, and not about any form or sort of conflict whatsoever.

I’m free … I feel different … the voice(s) of gloom and doom are gone. I am declaring my belief that they never return … in fact that in itself is non-existent. I declare that I am, in Jesus’ name – period.

Amen ~

05.09.16

Since that morning’s episode I have been revisited by what I call spirits of filth, but only lightly and briefly.  Each time I once again state the emphatic Truth(s) of my relationship with and in Father God.  The spirits flee immediately.  I praise God and thank Faith Rockrimmon for this tool I can apply from a seat of rest, with complete and total confidence that I Am free!

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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.


Our Talents and The Good Life ReImagined

Rowboat

Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been to Orcas Island. I’ve walked and talked, and broken bread with other thoughtful creatives. I’ve been loved back to my senses and out of my own self-inflicted doldrums. I’ve been quickened among other friends at KindlingsFest 2013. Last night, I listened to a podcast and took notes from Dick Staub’s talk on day one, The Good Life as the Godward Life. Let me share a particularly powerful gift I was given while there.

Matthew 25:14-30

The “terrible” parable of the talents… it pierces me through the heart time and time again. I drift away in some form of self-inflicted confusion or misery like a skiff that has somehow come untied from the cleat on the pier. With the slightest breeze, the briefest lapping of the waves, I slowly and inexplicably drift away from my purposeful place at the dock where I await my next commission.

I say terrible not because it’s a bad story, or because it’s a tale of retribution. I say terrible in the sense that Madeleine L’Engle calls human freewill a terrible gift. Like fire that warms and feeds, human freewill can also destroy the very thing it was meant to nourish and support. One’s home can be either warmed and brightened, or burned to the ground by that self-same power.

Talent is like that. Oh, I know the parable is dealing with a measure of material wealth, but that’s just a metaphor for any gift God, in His infinite wisdom, has designed us to bear; and they’re terrible gifts too. These same gifts woven into the very fibre and nature of our being can either bring great abundance and prosperity, and glory to God, or they can reveal what we’re made of through our cowardice of their neglect.

God doesn’t “gift” us just so we can run away in fear and trepidation and bury that thing He’s graciously made us to be. He’s not a malicious God of tricks, but a God of love, and yes, even of tough love; the kind of love that kicks us in the butt when we really need it. His is the love that restores our self-respect, gets us out of the ditches of our own digging, re-equips us, and sends us on our way, refreshed, restored, and a little wiser.

Love is restorative; we the prodigal child and He the Divine Father, embrace with the sudden realization that we’re off course and the brutality of some aspect of life was needed to bring us back to our senses. All He waits for is our own realization that we’ve somehow gone astray and need His help. He awaits our return with open arms, a ring for our finger, and yet another cloak to cover our nakedness. And with these gifts of restoration, He embraces us, kisses us on the cheek and says, “All is well now. What have you learned? Let’s go celebrate the new depth of our relationship together.”

Inconsistencies

I’ve neglected to regularly post on my blog, to show up every single work day in my studio, and to get an artist’s website up showing what I’ve been doing.

KindlingFest-Day One: I was at lunch and got to talking with some friends about our creative lives in general, and that embarrassing question came up again, “Do you have a website?” My friend asked in genuine curiosity. She wanted to see my latest work, and in the context of our conversation, I wanted to show her and the other friends round the table what I’d been working on. I couldn’t though.

Then it hit me; How long have I been asked that question? How many years have I been asked about a website of my own? How much longer am I going to keep my talents buried in mere conversation? I mean how tough is FREE for Pete’s sake?

“I don’t have one yet, but I promise you here and now, that I will before the year is out.”, and I shook hands with everyone at the table.  I was “safe”, it was late July and that gave me about 4-months to undertake the huge, complex, website project.

Well, it’s been just two weeks since KindlingsFest, and like so many other attendees, I’ve been processing the tremendous wisdom and counsel we received. I’ve also been getting my website together. And today I can tell you that I kept my promise to my friends; more importantly I’ve finally done what I ought to have done years ago. Now I can share the work that God and I do together in the home studio we have. Now I can deposit the talents my Lord has given me and return them unto Him with interest. Now I don’t have to stand around trying to describe with words what I ought to be sharing with pictures. Oh, and one more thing, I now keep a portfolio of my work on my Smartphone as well. I don’t ever want to be asked again, with enthusiasm and interest “if” I have a website, what my work is like, what kind of art I make. I want to show and share the gifts God has built into my very being on my way to becoming fully human and living the good life to His glory.

Here’s the link: http://lcurtiss.weebly.com/index.html


Lessons From My Art Journal

ArtJournal Bishop - Sm

The Bishop / (c) 2013 Lewis M. Curtiss jr~
Acrylics & Color Pencil on Paper, 8.5×11 approx.

If you’ve been reading any of my blogs, you’ll soon come to know what a fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way I am. Several of her books are permanent additions to my Artist’s Bookshelf.

I mention her because of journals, and the process of journaling. One of the three basics (you’re going to have to read the book) of the practice she advocates is journaling, specifically what she calls Morning Pages. This is the first-thing, daily-habit, of handwriting 3-full pages in a journal of your choice to clear the creative baffles, prime the creative pump, and get the creative blood flowing. Words help us to externalize and objectify personal issues and to move on.

As I previously posted (My Artist’s Journal), words are often a priceless means for me to do all of the above, but I am developing a visual vocabulary in my collage / mixed-media art-making and I need to be using a visual journal, an Artist’s Journal. This journaling experience has been teaching me a few things I wanted to share with you.

First, I’ve come to understand just how much of a mechanical designer I currently am. That translates into a left-brain, function-oriented creative (and we need them too) I really am at present. What I’m striving to break out into is much more of a right-brain, heartfelt, emotional creative.

Why? Simply because faith in God and life on earth is all about relationships. It’s all about risking one’s heart in the investment of human relationships. Besides, it is the landscape of the human condition which most interests me in my art-making. I may be influenced and inspired by stained-glass, quilts, and mosaics, but those are physical, material, and stylistic influences. They’re simply a means to an end, and not the end itself.

It’s vital that I breakout into the emotional, relational, and human side of storytelling if I am going to succeed, and the journaling is showing the way.

The second lesson I’m grasping is that I’m far too timid in my creative choices. An Artist’s Journal is a safe, creative laboratory. Messes are de rigueur. I didn’t realize just how deeply in-grained this “fear of failure” really runs in me but apparently it’s going to take a lot of mess making to erode it away. I want the creative liberation afforded by the constant – don’t think about it – non-planned creativity of the Artist’s Journal.

So, it’s working. I’m being released, empowered, liberated, enlarged, and enabled to freely and fully express what’s on my heart and discarding much of what’s merely in my head. The tool; my ArtJournals.


My Artist’s Journal

"Esther" - Mixed-Media  / 8.5 x 11 / Acrilycs, Color Pencil on Cardstock / (c)2013 Lewis M. Curtiss jr~

“Esther” – Mixed-Media / 8.5 x 11
Acrylics & Color Pencil on Cardstock
(c)2013 Lewis M. Curtiss jr~

As most of my friends will tell you, I am not a man of few words. Nope, I ruminate through ideas with thorough discussion. I’m getting better though. I work very hard at speaking less and listening more. I think it’s my global thinking and my philomathy that usually get me into trouble. When I get excited about something I could discuss it all day long. Discovery and learning are passions with me.

My art however, is visual, not verbal or written. I’m a visual storyteller. I got my start in theatre way, way back in the late (19)60’s (Middle School). I went on in college to add film and video work to that. Telling stories in linear, visual media is my background. Today, however I’m a static story-teller, similar to a photographer, and the Artist’s Journal has now become my new lab.

I no longer keep an Artist’s Journal simply to capture and store ideas. In the Artist’s Journal I hone my ability to visually portray what I’m ticked off about, what I’m passionate about, or what I’m excited about. Step by step, I’m leaving planning and preconception behind.

These days I’m simply trying to begin to make art with little or no notion of what I’m even going to say, and I’ve got to tell you, that takes a great deal of courage. My training in theatre and film both required a ton of preproduction planning. Most visual art doesn’t. It’s not like I’m Michaelangelo doing the David or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Sure, if I had a public commission, I’d thoroughly plan it out, but I don’t do public commissions.

These days my Artist’s Journal is a lab or a playground where I can experiment, and “waste” materials to learn what I can do with them. Working in my Artist’s Journal allows me to develop and hone a deepening connection with life, story, and visual expression.

When it comes to self-expression, most of us don’t think a lot about what’s on our minds. We simply put it into words and speak our minds. That’s exactly what an Artist’s Journal is helping me to get better at; to portray with few words and very meaning-filled picture(s) what’s on my heart and mind.

For inspiration I’ve been visiting loads of other artist’s websites who work in Collage, Mixed-Media, Assemblage, Altered Books, Art Books, and Artist’s Journals (I love these media!). What I’ve found, especially among the Artist’s Journals, is the cathartic, therapeutic, release of laying out what’s on the artist’s mind in pictures and words. Much of it is really wonderful because it speaks clearly and powerfully, “I’m hurting,” or “I’m totally filled with joy,” or “That really ticks me off!”

My left-brain has been the root source of the disconnection. I’ve been better able to talk about what’s on my mind rather than to simply portray it visually. If I did beautiful compositions only, then I’d be producing a great deal of work without story; for me, nice but devoid of meaning.

My storytelling arts practice demands the presence of the human condition. I don’t care if it’s a gently smoking pipe in an ashtray, or a footprint in the sand. Someone passed this way. Someone with a life has been here. In fact I really love artifacts; the merest suggestion of human presence. I love the mystery of who they were, why they were “here”. That’s probably why I love Archaeology so much – but I digress.

This idea is similar to what I’d tell my casts when I directed theatre productions; out there, backstage, beyond the set is the rest of the story-world. It’s called back-story. It’s our responsibility to give our audience a sense of a full-scale world beyond the walls of the set. They need that full-scale context beyond the scenes of our play, right here on-stage. I want the same sense of back-story in my work; the art is merely a window into a larger world “beyond the looking glass”.

It’s what we, as viewers/readers bring to the theatre when we watch a good play, read a good novel, or see a good film; we see something of ourselves in these story-telling media. I want my art to suggest something larger, a back-story that the viewer brings with them to their own personal engagement of the work.

It doesn’t matter what they bring to the experience, because in reality, it’s their story. They hopefully see/experience something for and of themselves. And I’m finding that the best place to hone my skills to express story in my artworks, is through the safe, never a mistake, don’t think, don’t “fix it” sheets of my Artist’s Journal.


Mother’s Day 2013

Curtiss Kids

“Don’t mess with our Mom!”

Mother’s Day is a kind of broad experience for me because in effect I have had three mothers bring me into the world and raise me. My “mother” is a person of collaboration; three people who have done their part and handed me off to the next to continue the process. This went on from my birthday right up to mere days before my 18th-birthday.

For eighteen years these three women, my birth-mother, her sister (a maternal aunt), and their mother (my maternal grandmother) all worked hand in hand to provide a home, protection, and life-guidance. All three of them have passed on now; my mother when I was 7-years old, my grandmother when I was 17, and my aunt when I was an adult and married to the love of my life, and a father to our three children. Only my aunt got to see her “grandchildren”.

It’s on mother’s day that I miss them most because I know that my mother and grandmother would have fallen in love with my bride, Emily. If there was ever any truth to the saying that a man marries his mother(s), it’s right on the money for me. I married a wonderful woman who characterizes much of what I valued in both my aunt and my grandmother. It’s uncanny, but Em will often make gestures, stand, or make facial expressions just like my aunt. Em’s sense of generosity, hospitality and elegance all remind me of my dear grandmother. They’d have gotten along like family.

The best way I can repay them all is to heed their counsel well, deeply honor my own covenant of marriage, and to raise our children the very best way we can. These three mothers have all invested their lives into mine, as do all good mothers into the well-being of their own children.

I hope that in some way this will be a special day of gratitude from you toward your mother(s). Mums everywhere, I hope you will be blessed by the families, yours or surrogate, in whom you’ve invested so much of your own lives.

Thank you and bless you all.


My Favorite TED Speakers

Artist's BookshelfLike my Artist’s Bookshelf sitting on my desk, I though I’d share my own list of personal favorite TED Talk speakers. I got this idea by jumping onto the bandwagon along with the likes of Bill Gates, Peter Gabriel, Barbara Streisand, Glenn Close, etc. Like the books on my Artist’s Bookshelf, I view and re-view these videos gleaning them for the uplifting wisdom and change being shared.

Never having put this list together per se, other than my Firefox Bookmarks for Inspiration & Creativity, I came to realize that my list is entirely about creativity and the contexts and environments in which it flourishes. It really shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. For me there is something about positive, selfless human potential which is exciting. In a world of “the self as everything” these liberating ideas shared for the common good are often life changing.

For almost 15 years now, I’ve been deeply concerned about and involved with creativity in the arts. More especially, with artistic creativity driven by the Judeo-Christian worldview. I call it faith-driven art, not Christian art – something I won’t go into right now.

I have also personally experienced the deliberate suppression of my own creativity by often well meaning persons concerned with my future well-being; “You’ll never make any money. You’ll be broke all your life. You can’t make it on art alone.”, etc. And like many, many other faith-driven artists I know, even fellow Christians and the Church have, at times, been personal adversaries. So my own lusty thirst for the nurture and nourishment of artistic creativity has grown into a powerful force in my life. I glean log-jam breakthroughs whenever, and wherever I can find them.

So, here’s my own list of 9 people whose ideas and work are a constant on-going nourishment and nurture to me in my own faith-driven arts practice. I’ve provided a link to the Profile Page of each speaker because many have appeared on TED more than once, and there are links to additional resources, and lastly you don’t want to miss anything they have to offer.

Here they are in alphabetical order;

Brene’ Brown / Shame & Vulnerability

Sunni Brown / The Power of Doodling

Susan Cain / The Power of Introversion

Tracy Chevalier / Finding the Story in the Painting

Elizabeth Gilbert / The Burden of Creative Genius

Malcolm Gladwell / Spaghetti Sauce & Bombsights

Seth Godin / The Obsolescence of Gatekeepers

Amy Tan / Elusive Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson / Education & Creativity

I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your thoughts? What are your personal favorites?

Enjoy!