Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Winter's Last Breath
Winter seems interminable. I suppose that there must be some out there who were born for cold weather, and gray skies and winter slop...but not me. I hang on by my fingernails through it, and as I get older and more mature, I try very hard not to whine after November hits. But it seems like a very (did I say very?) long time until I feel the warmth of the sun on my head again, and until the days don't feel like they have closed in from both ends in darkness. Because I have chosen not to whine on the outside does not mean that I don't feel it on the inside.
I do know that amazing things are happening during this period that feels so heavy and bleak. I know it, intellectually. While the trees seem to be dead, I know that tree roots are active under the surface- continuing to draw water and nutrients from the soil below, and even growing if conditions are favorable. And bugs, birds and other critters all have their winter stories too.
I think my art has winter periods. There are sometimes long stretches of time where I have not produced a single thing. Sometimes those are discouraging times- I don't feel the proverbial warmth of the sun in my work- I feel brittle, cold and dried up like last years leaf. But I am old enough and have seen enough of those "winters" to know that spring comes. Every time. And with it comes the fruit of the dormancy and rest that are sometimes necessary to become productive again. With each new "spring", I find that I am responding to color a little differently, or working my brush with added confidence, or have "unearthed" a new insight that I didn't know I had until it appeared on my canvas.
Sometimes winters are longer than others. But as with the actual seasons, we don't get to mandate when the the leaves will fall, or the snow will start or the buds will pop. Patience wins here. And we can be assured that everything will eventually cycle back to growth.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Art as Discipline

A view from Rip Van Winkle Bridge
I have been reading this very cool book. It's called The Disciplined Life. I know. It sounds enthralling. I know you secretly can't wait to pick it up and read it too.
I found it in the church library when I was looking for something else. I thought maybe it would have some practical advice for one such as myself. It's not that I am completely undisciplined. In the workplace, I am able to pull it off. At home...well,  I am just disciplined about the things I want to be, and on the timetable that suits me.
I have been convicted lately that that really won't cut it. I think that God expects more from me. And for some time, I have had a desire to be a better steward of my time and attention. So when I grabbed this book, I thought it would be a nice little nudge to get me thinking. It is a small book after all. And it has a lot of white space on the pages. And a cool black and white photo of a plumb bob on the cover. Yup, think I'll zip right through it, grab my gold nuggets of inspiration and away we go.
That was a good thought. Until page 19.(chapter 1 starts on page 17). The author makes the point that
it starts with a disciplined mind. "In the battle of ideas, the disciplined mind has the advantage over the scatterbrain...the man whose mind is undisciplined will soon be outclassed and outdistanced by others in whatever field he enters.
No where in my life has it been more true than in the pursuit of becoming a competent painter. Sometimes, buckling down and focusing on the work feels like trying to catch the wind in a jar. There are so many "problems" to solve in starting and completing a piece of art- technical, material, spatial, etc. The only way to come to the finish line is by tackling those "problems" one at a time. Sometimes it is laborious, and occasionally I find myself in a zone where the problems seem to figure themselves out. Sometimes I am happy with the outcome, and sometimes I am not. But the point is this...unless I become the master of those feelings...unless I subject them to the directives of my will...unless I (gulp) discipline myself, I will remain at the same level of skill and never progress in my ability to fluently speak the language of the medium.  If I choose the discipline, then the reward will be the expression of the joy and intrigue and awe that I experience as I look around me at the stuff that God has put here to impress us with His glory.
Bridge or no bridge named after him, I think that poor old Rip missed the boat on this one. I hope he enjoyed his nap, because that will be the reward in itself.