Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why this blog???

Some years ago, I pushed for and then succeeding, moderated a forum on a virtual artist’s community called, “Inspirational Art”.  I moderated quite a few forums as is, but it was coming to a point that if an artist in any forum pointed to the importance of their faith connecting to their art…albeit lending purpose and meaning, or directing subject of interest, just simply crediting or praising God for a time painting…it led to controversy and debate.  Suffice it to so some literally looked for artists making references to God to start debate knowing they would in turn take the thread over, and eventually cause the necessity of its being closed by that forum’s moderator.  So a separate forum was hard won where artists could simply share, think out loud…without fear of reprisal.

It had been suggested often, and often enough to me, that one’s faith or religion has absolutely nothing to do with making art.  A ludicrous suggestion as far as I am concerned where art at its core involves the passion of the individual’s heart and soul, and where one’s soul longs for that relationship with God above, recognizing the ability to even make art, the desire alone to make art…comes from God.

Folks also do not seem to acknowledge that their thinking is related to their own particular upbringing, their enculturation, molding…shaping and leading ultimately their held worldview.  Influences from home, church, schools, universities and professors, the media, on and on.

A worldview can be thought to be like a pair of colored glasses for which you look thru and see your world.  Coloring your understanding, how you interpret, extrapolate, and thereby come to express.  There are some wonderful resources for studying worldview thinking, one is  “Understanding the Times” by Dr. David A. Noebel

…and in his treatment…he breaks it down to four main worldview thinking types…Secular Humanism, Cosmic Humanism, Lenin/Marxist, and the Biblical Worldview.  What is eye opening is that the ‘isms and sciences do not belong to any one domain.  They are simply the stuff for which truth is drawn…assumptions and presumptions made.  Secular Humanists have their view on politics, biology, sociology, history, psychology, religion, science on and on…and because our society is by and large secular, we’ve fallen to believe they as a worldview hold copyright to such views, but this simply is not the case.  In the arena and marketplace of ideas such dogmatic ownership has to be seriously questioned and resisted.

The reason I have started this blog is that I might have one place I can express my ideas apart from what feels like constant efforts to toe tap around folks without offending.  This simply, is who I am as a painter. 

A believer/painter simply cannot and must refuse to compartmentalize for the sake of appeasing others, at least in one’s own understanding and self-acknowledgment.  I’m not saying one is obligated to argue, debate…though should be prepared to.  Civility, picking your moment, being cautious to win the right to be heard, and representing the gentlemanliness of Christ is tantamount.

I grew up with religion…but it wasn’t until I experienced entering into a relationship with the living God at 21 years of age, that I understood my previous religious experience or “education” had been a preparation at best.  I recognize that while I am growing as a painter, I am also growing as a spiritual person.  The two often intertwined.  What I put into painting, what I get out of it.  What comes of my work when completed.  How I will conduct my business practices.

So, this blog recognizes one place I may think aloud without apology.  I am, who I am…and those that follow along in agreement or no, understand I credit what I do as an artist, credit my work ethic, my drive for excellence to my relationship with God…His intervening into my life. 

A Dream's Tutorial...

I had this crazy dream last was a scriptural metaphorical instructional!  It compared religion, its rules, works to earn salvation, denominations tele-evangelists willing to hook and take you in to establish their financial requirements and goals soaking their followers...versus salvation by faith and grace alone...(get this) the eagerness of book stores and instructors selling tons of how to art books, step by step "this is what you must do" raked in from such instruction, creating workshop the joy of simply seeing shapes, color and value and trusting your eyes (which is a type of faith...that doing so the work will turn out). 

Thinking aloud, if folks want a workshop...I would think no more really than two are necessary...the first is foundational (materials, setup, how to approach, options), the second workshop on what it takes perhaps to step it up a level or notch, to fine tune...developing your own style, etc.,  after that...I would think the individual believing they need more and more risk becoming co-dependent.  I suppose a third might be useful if time down the road comes to a genuine road block...but
Thing is, I think the first and foremost aim of an instructor is to equip the student such that any longer dependency upon him/her is ultimately eliminated.  A teacher's to work to rid the further need of their expertise, freeing the student, empowering them to engage their own journey.

My instruction I'm told often enough is packed with much stuff...but IMO is more broad, equipping...foundational.  I enjoy those second return/repeat workshop opportunities, working with former students ready to step it up, eager to employ hard work and take painting to greater heights.  A tune up so-to-speak...but so many artists go from one workshop, to another, to another.

Observing other instruction available...even online, I can't help but shake my head and think the fuller underlying purpose for such instruction is to build a "following" ...a co-dependency for one's instruction..."Foundations of Painting Trees"...or "Foundations of Painting Water"....  "Foundation of Painting Faces" or "Flesh Tones" ...on and on...

I mean...there's not much difference between religious pharisees developing a dependency on the unaware, for which they can build a comfortable life for themselves...and this promulgation that you will need me for every piece of advice on how to paint something.  Heck...I can see it now, Larry Seiler will teach you..."Foundations of Painting Shadows Beneath People Making their Welcome Longer Than You Wish"...or "Foundations of Painting Barn Owl Scat on Barn Beams"... seems in this age, that people can't get enough feeling good about themselves, and doing so seeking to voluntarily chain themselves to some teacher, surrendering their freedom or individual vision.

In the short and long of it, it would seem we have a description...a recipe for success as follows-

Marketing-   i.e.  Create and make it available. Convince others they need it.  Encourage the belief life would now be the worse to abandon it.  Build up your base of slaves and worshippers. 

Opportunity abounds because so many today have itching ears and believe the venture is riskier than it is.  Sadly...they are lost to the joy that comes from embracing the journey itself, with all its bumps and bruises, to arrive at a good place.

But for me, the purpose of this blog will be to put down thoughts, as a Christian, a believer in God the Creator...and that close connection between what it means to be a painter as God has called, commissioned me to be.

For those that are believers...and for any number of years, you would understand...but we have seen many power hungry souls in the church, many denominations...the tenets of perhaps the religion itself that seek to "lord over" its flock.  Ask many staunchly religious persons if they believe they are going to heaven when they die? ...and you often get, "I hope so..." or.."I'd like to think so..."  and considering.  Sadly...following rules, adhering to ritual and patterns all leading to acceptance with God.

The simple truth of the gospel, is that without Christ, none of us have hope.  But God, sending His Son to die for us, has imputed to us His righteousness, not of our own...but by His Grace.  Resurrected with faith, not of works.  Trusting in the finished work of the Christ, the salvation given by the Lord alone.

In my dream...I saw that one can become a painter...taking risks, learning the simple truth that squinting the eyes, seeing shapes, color, values of their subject and putting them down as you see it...that in faith when done, the viewer will see.  In that simple truth, I will have artists inquire of me..."how do you paint water?"  and I often respond what seems in jest..."the same way I paint someone's nose!"

It is a simple freeing up proposition.  There are basic rules and founding principles of good design and composition...such as knowing the Character of God, the nature of the fall and sin leading to the need for salvation...that which would serve to see our inability to save ourselves, the fruitlessness of trying to earn worthiness of our own...and see our hope in Christ.  Founding good design.  After that...comes the living, the embracing of the Truth...and not again returning to the former things of doubt, of being lost and without hope.

Once the understanding of the foundational principles have been learns to come to trust their intuition, the gut hunches by experience, from the journeying of painting.  One can believe their hope lies in ritualistic lifelong practices trying to earn God's acceptance, or by faith, believe salvation in Christ alone.  As the metaphor thus carries out...I believe faith alone, hope alone in a bit like the difference then between an artist and draftsman, and being a painter.

Not saying there aren't very good art works to be seen from such commitment of draftsmanship, but too often it appears labored, lifeless, and stagnant.  The life of the artist failing to be felt.  Just as with religion.  Sure, educates you on the story of God, the history of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection.  But the true life is relationship...encountering God, walking with Him day by day, moment by moment. 

The painter...takes risks, leaps into the unknowns with expectation to overcome new and fresh obstacles, not content to always repeat what has been done and already conquered.  Painting more by faith...