Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Posts tagged “journals

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!


Books & Bindings

Coptic Journal - by Lewis M. Curtiss jr~What is it about a book – the book – that so many find so absolutely captivating? I mean, the thing doesn’t even need to be filled with words and pictures to be an almost sacred object in the hands of an admirer. I love them. I love making them.

I make books in my art practice. I bind pages together with thread and string and sell them or give them to a select few. Mine are simple creations following centuries old methods developed by those early peoples who saw a desperate need to organize and offer knowledge to their fellow mankind.

Today handmade books are considered optional in the face of our digital technologies. My books are considered a quaint little contemporary craft, and I’m certainly not the only one making them. There’s a whole industry of amateur crafters, craftsmen, artists, and artisans who make books by hand; people who just put together a few pages of fun or who create archival wonders of breath-taking beauty; a gift to future generations.

I find myself drawn to the book, as an object, for several reasons. It is used to gather and store information and knowledge; it’s a vessel. It’s a transmitter used to broadcast ideas, knowledge, and information across time and space. Do you know that we’d know nothing of Biblical events if there were no Bible, or of the mind of Caesar were it not for his campaign journals?

The book, or the pamphlet, was the first human end-run used by the masses to get around the stifling control of their oppressive contemporary gatekeepers. Today we use the internet, but there was a time when hand copies, and later the printing press, was the fastest means of “broadcasting” information into the hands of “the people”.

I like the book because it needs no batteries, it is, itself a random-access memory device, it’s beautiful (when well made), and portable.Handstitching a Coptic binding. I like the book because it represents humankind’s first, best, means of long-term remembering, and I won’t even venture into the utterly fascinating history of its development. Let me just say that the book is one of humanity’s greatest inventions.

We accumulate, don’t we. We add knowledge upon knowledge, generation to generation in the hopes of passing along whatever wisdom we seem to have discovered in our own lives. I am reminded of the scene in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf consulted ancient dust-covered texts.

Writing a book is like tossing a lifeline into the future. We still read the “classics”; To Kill a Mockingbord, Moby Dick, A Christmas Carol, Wuthering Heights, and legion upon legions of others. We still glean these works for the wisdom, or life-lessons we value. The vessel is still needed.

I loved books long before I ever thought about making my own. Like most people I love them for their content. But in making books, in actually folding paper, gluing up and covering the boards, in sewing the signatures (page sections) together I become intimately aware of the technological marvel they are.

Books so simple – a pile of pages with protective boards on both sides. Without the binding the pages would be loose-leaf, a mere stack, and could be lost or damaged. Because they’re sewn together, they stay together and retain what they have to tell us.

Without cover boards, this stack of pages would eventually wear away with handling and storage, and so slightly over-sized boards, sometimes of wood even, are incorporated into the binding, and this highly organized, information gathering tool becomes a book.

What I like about the simple utilitarian journals I make is the gift they are to the lives of the people who buy them. It’s like making a dream-catcher, or a memory box for others. People can fill the blank pages with whatever suits their fancy, and I made the vessel which they fill, embellish, and personalize. I got to give them a place to think, remember, and share their life experiences.

Punching stitching holes for a Coptic binding.When one journal is full, they buy another, and continue their collecting, exploring, grieving, celebrating, and thinking. With the books I make by hand, people cast their own life line into the future of their own families and friends.

And it never runs out of power; never looses its readable format. One day it may be opened by a grandchild and in their hands become a window into the life of someone they love.