Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Posts tagged “Opportunity

Floating But Safe

tiffany-ceiling-smlI am floating and feeling somewhat disconnected. I am not lost. The floating is perhaps a number of things. I know that part of it is Father’s liberation from the strict laws & rules of theologist / institutional religion. That kind of floating is awesome and wondrous. I love that. I also know that some of the floating is Father’s liberation of my art. That too is free of the legalism & marketing forces of the gallery / museum / so-called art-world system. Father God has liberated both sides of my destiny, those of my faith, and of my art.

I sense that this disconnection I feel, this floating, is also a huge time of opportunity for me. Father has lead me to believe that stuff like loss, dislocation, change, adversity, etc., are in fact opportunities. They are difficult, maybe painful openings in life which allow for something new to be planted.

We plough the Earth, literally rip it open, in order to prepare it for new seed. I’ve come to grasp that my life is sometimes ripped open by situations and circumstance of loss, change, or adversity, and yet, even as I grieve in those times, I know that I’ve been ploughed open so that my loving Father God can plant new seeds of opportunity in me.

So often I’ve found myself tight fisted against these painful events and forces. In my youth tumult was a daily visitor and I wanted no more of it. But in my new life of relational faith, I’ve found at first a comfort, and now a joyful desire for the new seeds Father wants to bless me with. I’m not afraid anymore. When the plough of change comes roaring through, I now reel far less in the pain of adversity, loss, and change. Yes, it still hurts, I still grieve, but no where’s near as much as it used to. I think that’s because I know a new planting of opportunity is coming, and Father is making preparation(s) for it. I embrace my Father God and His plans for me and my destiny. I want them because in them I become more of who and what He has designed me to become, and in this way I bring Him glory, my life brings Him glory.

For me, feeling a sense of floating and disconnection is far less about the absence of safe ground beneath my feet. It has become more of a life-posture of being available to being drawn by Father into whatever He has written into my destiny. I need to say that a destiny is not a carved in stone mandatory program. We are not biological robots that Father plays around with. That’s Greco-Roman pantheon thinking. No, we are masters of our own lives because while Father has written a destiny for each of us, we are entirely free to go our own way. We have freewill, and that’s another subject for another time (see the teachings of Steve Harmon).

I willingly take up this posture of availability to Father’s will and ways, of desiring with all my heart to step into my identity and destiny. I willingly embrace the plough of adversity, of change, of loss, and of grief because my joy is in my Father God. He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to hurt me (Jeremiah 29:11-13). My Father loves me and I can trust Him to surgically alter my life, just as we see in the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan cuts Eustice from his dragon self, setting him free.

I love feeling as if I’m floating with the only certainty being my relationship with and in my Father God. I am safe. I am blessed. I am lavishly cherished, as Graham Cooke might say. I am being brought into infinite prosperity. I am led to lay up all of my treasures in Father’s Heaven where they’re available forever (Matthew 6:19-21). My sense of feeling as if my life is floating is grounded in my complete trust in Father, in His infinite, divine, and lavish love for me, and in my relational faith with Him.

The grieving of change and of adversity are all opportunities just waiting to be planted in my ploughed up life where, under the care of my Father God, they will blossom and bear fruit of unknown consequence forever and ever.

Amen ~


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.


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!


ReOrdered Loss?

Lew's Art TableA few weeks ago (Feb 17) my laptop crashed, and it did so pretty hard.  That’s why I’ve been rather scarce in the social media conversations. For the last month I’ve been popping onto the internet to check FB and Gmail, and that’s about it.  No more searches for articles involving the conversation of Faith & Art.  No more researching reference images for projects I’m developing.  Just FaceBook and Gmail, and that’s all, period.
This experience has been far less difficult a digital downsize than I ever imagined.  I mean, this laptop is a very important tool to my arts practice.  I use it, in addition to Gmail and FB, to manage my blog, manage my ETSY site “Fingerprints”, and need I so I can develop my own website this year.  But it can also become a brain-sucking monster for me, especially when I’m fresh out of ideas and should be taking a refreshing walk, sketching, or taking photographs rather than trolling the internet.

However, this experience has been a great example for me of less truly becoming more.  In the last few weeks I’ve come to an enlarged understanding of the mixed-media/collage art I’ve been making.  I’ve turned a few creative corners and am incredibly excited about what’s cooking.

This choice has opened an entire universe of creative possibilities to me; new materials, new methods, and how I can use them.  Why I didn’t make this decision to explore assemblage before now, I’ll never know.  I even put out a call for unwanted/free cigar boxes.  Sure enough, an artist friend was looking for a new home for her abundant collection and graciously supplied me with a wonderful variety.  Thrift Store searches have changed because I’m looking at the materials available to me in a whole new light.  Collage/mixed-media is usually 2-dimensional.  Assemblage incorporates a broad variety of found objects and 3-dimensional elements.

I am sincerely hoping that new habits, productive habits, continue to develop and stick even as I repair the damage to my laptop.  Oh, by the way, it appears that I wasn’t the victim of a virus getting past my Norton 360.  It’s seems to be a matter of a failed hard-drive instead.

Right now I’m running my laptop on a CD loaded with Ubuntu, a “flavor” of Linux.  All’s well except that I cannot upload Ubuntu (nowhere to put it without a C:/ drive) nor can I regain any of the other software I use; LibreOffice, Gimp, NitroPDF, etc.  But that’ll all return when I get a new hard-drive installed and formatted.  Right now I’m grateful for my Google Drive and being able to post and store everything on the web.

In the meantime I am actually enjoying these “limitations” by getting a boatload of new journals made, and developing new works in collage/mixed-media.  I’ll keep you posted as best I can, but right now, I’m really very (happily) busy!


Digital Withdrawal

Open LaptopHave you ever had a major virus attack on your PC or laptop?  Last week, even though I have Norton 360, I got attacked and it took out my entire C-drive.  Up came a screen – which looked a bit different from the usual – asking for my activation code.  I figured it was nothing more than an update.  Wrong!

Over the next two-hours the virus erased my entire hard-drive literally bit by bit.  Nothing’s wrong with the machine except that it’s had a lobotomy.  It’s quite literally brain-dead. Eventually I’ll be looking for help at reloading all that’s needed to restore it to full working order.

At first, like any normal human being, I was furious.  I couldn’t figure out what was happening.  I couldn’t “fix” it.  There was absolutely nothing that could be done.  After about an hour of fiddling with it I pieced the events together and realized what had happened.  Then I was at peace about it all.  I wasn’t losing anything that couldn’t be replaced.  Any really important stuff is saved in other media, so no harm done.  Here’s the gift in it though, since I lost nothing except the convenience of a portable “use it anywhere” laptop, I was having all the symptoms of digital-addiction withdrawal.  Addiction is something I know about.

Many years ago I tried to quit smoking “cold turkey” and it took three attempts over several years to actually breakthrough to where I didn’t want another cigarette.  I was absolutely free of any pangs of desire screaming at me to be satiated.  It was bliss.

Right now I do have use of a couple of other computers.  That’s why I can continue writing, but – and this is significant for me – this entire fiasco has brought about a serious evaluation of why I use my laptop, how I use it, and what I use it for.

Confession: I’ve been pretty lax about getting to my art-making lately.  It’s a Resistance thing (read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art).  I was putting off working because I was, well, “working”.  No, I wasn’t wasting time playing videos, or watching movies.  I was doing idea/inspiration searches.  With me – because I’m a philomathic global learner – it’s not very focused searching.  I wander from one thing to another in an aimless meandering of utter, total, immersive fascination.  Once I’ve got the “big-picture” the connections all fall into place.  It’s awesome, and addictive; way better than video games!

I love learning so much that I actually hoard bookmarks.  If it interests me it gets filed in my – three-levels-deep – bookmarks in Firefox.  I may actually have more bookmarks than the Lord has angels, although I wouldn’t bet on it.  Anyway, that’s what I was having withdrawals over – wandering searches all across the web, anytime, anywhere.  I was so entranced that my latest batch of handmade coptic journals on my ETSY site had expired.  Much to my embarrassment, it took an email from an interested friend to tell me about it.

So here I am using computers from other family members, but in a highly limited way.  Maybe this is a Lenten thing the Lord’s leading me through, I don’t really know.  What I do know is that my Lord and Master is lovingly correcting me.  After all, I work for Him and I’ve been off “playing” and neglecting my work.  It took a PC virus to bring it all to a halt and refocus me, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:22-23 NIV

This year I am in prayer that God will call me to deeper waters, in life, in faith, and in my art.  I have asked Him for this kind of revelation and here He is delivering what I need.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t lose anything important from the crash, and the laptop is repairable, the single most significant gift in the midst of that wretched frustration is that Father God restored me to my original commission.  He set my feet back on course so that I can grow, dwell in these slightly deeper spiritual waters, and create works of art from a far richer relationship with Him.


Running On Inertia

Vintage Brass Compass & MapI have no idea whatsoever to write this week. I write this blog to participate and fulfill God’s mission for me in the conversation of Faith & Art: To help faith-driven creatives to discover, develop, and use their gifts to God’s glory. But maybe a specific mission for the conversation is unnecessary.

Maybe all I need do is share what I discover, or how I am growing, and leave it at that.

I also have a specific, and very relevant, mission for my art practice: That my art-making results in lives changed for God’s glory. In other words that it produces invitations to the foot of the cross of Christ.  And maybe this is enough.

Perhaps I’ve found any transition away from the first mission statement difficult, as if it was a betrayal or an abandonment of some important call from the Lord. Perhaps it’s taken these five years to realize that I’ve been given a new mission and that it is enough. That it’s all I need focus on.

My transition from problem-solver / helper-guide to producing artist has been, not difficult, but rather unclear. Maybe this year, 2013, is the year I get all of that cleared up and simply focus on doing the main thing really well – making art, showing art, and selling art. And as it may be wanted or needed, the help to others will happen along the way all by itself.

In other words, my former role as creative problem-solver / pied-piper is past; done. It’s not God’s mission for me anymore. Oh, I’m still deeply passionate about faith, art, and faith & art. I’m still deeply passionate about adding value to the lives of those with whom I come in contact. I’m still deeply interested in being encouraging, but that’s no longer my primary role. God has other plans for me this year, and I need to follow them.

These last two or three years I’ve bumped into, stumbled across, or just plain become aware of many subtle movements and transitions which God has drawn me toward. They hadn’t coalesced into a new life chapter until just now, as I’m writing this post. The Lord is definitely calling me out into far deeper waters of creativity and faith. Perhaps I’ve been running on inertia for five years and didn’t really realize it. Maybe that’s why I’ve felt a little lost, because a number of my life-roles have closed recently, simply because they’re finished.

In the last three years my final Homeschool student graduated. Both my father and father-in-law have passed away. We played major roles in their elder care (a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything). We moved to our present domicile. We’ve had one of our kids move out on her own and put herself through an arts college. We have two others on the threshold of making lives for themselves. In that time, I’ve been able to cement myself into a career of visual art-making. Lots of things have happened and have come to closure, and it’s only now, at the top of this year, that I have just enough distance to sense those roles finally winding down. The turbines of effort have stopped.

These changes are having a powerful effect on my art practice, which is why I’m thinking out loud here in my blog. That must also be why 2013 feels like a major course change for me, and I like it. In the last three years I’ve met more friends in the arts community than ever. I’ve found what I believe to be my medium, even though I’m still searching for my own voice in it. I’ve moved from an art table set up in the dining room to occupying the entire basement with all the amenities needed to really be productive year round; studio, workshop, washroom.

These are all gifts. They’re all blessings. They bring tears of gratitude to my eyes. Instead of feeling useless or confused, God has given me vital, vibrant, new roles in faith-driven creativity, and for that I am eternally grateful.

This must be why 2013 feels so expansive, and filled with great potential and possibilities. It’s as if I’ve stepped out into an open meadow surrounded by forest. Now I can look up and finally see the stars. This must also be why I feel so much focused purpose and joy. I’m not lost at all because, while I don’t know my next destination, God has made my course crystal clear. In childlike faith, all I have to do is follow His spiritual compass.

I don’t have to run on the inertia of former roles anymore. They’re all done. It’s time to embrace new life-roles and for God and I to see what wonders we can make of them.


Beauty Will Save the World: Initial Thoughts

Book - Beauty Will Save the WorldMaybe it’s because I’m a Philomath – I love learning, but I do love a good book. I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction dealing with faith, art, faith & art, and creativity. The latest I’m doing a deep-reading on is Gregory Wolfe’s Beauty Will Save The World.

This culturally engaging, faith-driven, affirmation of creativity has got me by the ear-lobes and I’m so excited that I want to share just a few brief thoughts.

“My own vocation, as I have come to understand it, is to explore the relationship between religion, art, and culture in order to discover how the imagination may ‘redeem the time’.” Gregory Wolfe /pg-2.

Last October as the guest of Dick Staub, Nigel Goodwin, and Jeff Johnson, I attended a special gathering of thoughtful creatives and, like everybody else, was asked to give a 10-minute talk about my art practice; who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going. As I prepared my talk it occurred to me that; “What essentially interests me is the power of art, in all media, to alter the course of culture to the glory of God. I am searching for how art can communicate God’s love to the world without the trappings of mere religion, either to the Body of Christ (His Church) and to the world.” Lew Curtiss / Oct-2012

I was not many pages into Gregory’s book and realized that, here in my hands, lay much good instruction to that very process. This is why I couldn’t wait to write about this book even before finishing it.

“Just as Christians believe that God became man so that He could reach into, and atone for, the pain and isolation of sin, so the artist descends into disorder so that he might discover a redemptive path toward order.” GW / pg-6.

Further; “If art cannot save our souls, it can do much to redeem the time, to give us a true image of ourselves, both in the horror and the boredom to which we can descend, and in the glory which we may, in rare moments, be privileged to glimpse.” GW / pg-8

More and more do I encounter affirmations regarding the very high calling of faith-driven creatives of all media. More and more do I read and am further convinced that faith-driven art is the second voice of the Church (the Body of Christ), right alongside ordained clergy; that faith-driven artists – serious artists – share the same heritage in the tribe of Levi, and that we are sanctified and consecrated as God’s scribes and messengers in this world. More and more urgently – and Gregory emphasizes this in his book – is the need for serious, deeply rooted, faith-driven creatives to get to the work God calls each of us to do within His giftings and missions to each of us.

When I am finished with this first reading, this book will be annotated, highlighted, underlined, tabbed and tagged as it takes its place alongside the other reference works on my Artist’s Bookshelf; Walking On Water / L’Engle; Culturally Savvy Christian / Staub; Purpose Driven Life / Warren; The Artist’s Way / Cameron; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain / Edwards; The Creative Habit / Tharp.