Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015 - No comments

Bristles and Dirt

“The artist must be obedient to the work...  Each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am.  Enflesh me.  Give birth to me.’  And the artist either says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses.”

- Madeline L’Engel

This summer, I went through a workbook entitled “The Creative Call:  An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit.”  It challenged me to see the making of art as a holy calling - to attend to the work of writing an article or crafting a photograph or preparing a lavish meal with the same zeal and sense of purpose as the craftsmen who were “filled with the Spirit” to produce articles of gold and stonework and beautifully designed curtains and carvings for the tabernacle.  It pushed me to recognize the lies and the distractions that suck the creative life out of me and keep me from rising up and stewarding the creative gifts I’ve been given.  And it spoke to me of connecting with the Creator Himself and allowing Him to inspire me and live His life through me as I bring to form the things I see in my mind’s eye.

During the course of my season of going through this book (which I highly recommend, by the way) I had the chance to get glimpses into the creative lives of two artists who are also good friends of mine:  Mike, who is a painter, and Brooke, who is a potter.  My time with each of them sparked a whole host of things in my heart as I watched them pursue their individual crafts.  Both are courageously prioritizing their art in the midst of busy work and family lives.  Both came alive as they talked of their current projects - the ones they’ve been commissioned to do as well as the ones they are working on for the pure joy of putting brush to canvas and fingers to clay.  And both spoke of that incomparable feeling of co-operating with their Creator as He created something beautiful through them.  With them.  In them.

Mike is my best friend’s husband, and I’ve loved seeing the way his talent adds colour to his world, be it purposeful paint “splatters” on the tablecloths at their wedding or the fantastic sketches he’s done of their baby girl.   I’ve seen plenty of his professional airbrush work (it used to form a border three canvases deep around their living room...) and have watched his eyes light up as he flips through pictures on his phone of sculptures and murals he’s been doing for water parks and climbing gyms.  (The guy can take you all the way to the bottom of a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee explaining the nuances of shading and palette brush definition.  He’s passionate about his stuff!)  This summer, I got to see him in action at the Painters’ Circle in Stanley Park as well as at the Grand Prix of Art in Ladner and was amazed at the way he can bring a scene to life with a brush.  

Brooke and his wife Dana are friends from my days as a Tennesseean, and when I made the rounds down South this summer, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with their family in their dining-room-cum-pottery-studio.  On Facebook during the previous months, I’d been watching their pottery business come back to life after a long hiatus, and it had stirred something in my heart.  Here was a man with six kids and a whole lot of work responsibilities making time and space in his life to do what he loved:  create.  Over supper, Brooke (and his faithful firer/glazer Dana) talked about their passion for making something out of nothing, and the communion they experience with their own Potter in the process.  They’re rearranging their lives to incorporate an art form that will be a source of income but also, and more importantly, a source of life.  They’ve got a workshop in the dining room and a kiln in the backyard and a “Gehman Pottery Works” sign out back to make it official.  And I respect them so much for it.

After the meal, Brooke sat there at the table and spun a lump of clay that soon took shape as a deep dish.  I watched him coax it from nothing into something, and then painstakingly add two tiny holes on one side and a little groove on the other -  a resting place for a pair of chopsticks.  The perfect noodle bowl.  And I marveled at this reflection of the One who dreamed up humans and then made us out of dirt.  That feeling of breathing life into something that, just an hour before, only existed in your imagination - an incomparable taste of what it means to partake of the Divine nature alive inside of us, to co-create with our Creator.

I bought a mug from the Gehmans that night, carefully selected from the dozens of earthen masterpieces on their dining room rack.  Brown and teal with the faintest streak of glitter.  I wanted to take home a piece of the magic, I guess.  To hold something in my hands that says, “Art is worth your time.  Don’t neglect the gifts within you.  Make space for them, take time for them, fight for them.”  To have something to remind me my creative pursuits - whether for profit or for play - are about so much more than making money or entertaining myself or even bringing joy to others.  They’re about connecting with the One in whom creativity itself originated.  

Check out these talented guys and their work online:

Mike the Painter:

Moser Creative 

Brooke the Potter: