Finding Inspiration

“Inspiration exists, but is has to find you working.” Pablo Picasso

One of my first-year instructors at the American Academy of Art, was Mr. Krajecki, and he used to tell me, “Michael, you’ll find plenty of inspiration when you get hungry enough!” I remember sitting at a little wooden desk that had probably been used by art students in downtown Chicago for for more than fifty years before my rear end found its way to it. I had been given a design assignment and want to do something no one had every thought of before. Something that would cause Mr. Krajecki to take notice of my substantial talents. But the great ideas seemed to be living very far from where I was searching.

It was at that point that he came up beside me, and with a hand on my shoulder told me where to to find the inspiration I longed for. Mr. Krajecki wasn’t the first person to say someone like this, and he surely won’t be the last. And I have discovered that what these quotes espouse is absolutely true.

Simply put, as I give myself to working each and every day, sketching, drawing and painting everything and everyone around me, noticing and drawing and watching and painting day after day after day—as I give myself to this work I have never ever run dry of real inspiring inspiration.

The banana paintings I shared on an earlier post were a day just like this. I was at the studio and it was time to work. I didn’t have anything that had to be done that day and I didn’t want a day to go by when I was not painting. So I set them up on a table and set easels all around. And as I was waiting for one painting to dry I would start another from another point of view. I was a whole lot more fun that it probably looks!

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.” Chuck Close

This has been true in my life as an artist and it has been equally true in my walk of faith, following Jesus in my daily life. As I set aside the time each day to read the scriptures, to pray and interact personally with God, to reach out to others sharing my faith and praying for other’s needs—as I do this consistently day after day I have opportunities, I’ve place myself in a position to experience God’s presence in powerful ways.

And just like with my art, if I waited around to experience God’s presence before I went out, or if I waited to paint until I felt particularly artistic, there’s a whole lot of work that would never get accomplished. There’s a whole lot of what God is doing all around me that I would never get to join in on.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. Thomas Edison

Becoming Human… Again

 “Christ did not die simply to make men Christians. That is not enough; his work too great. He died so that we might be human, living and acting in a human way, as God originally made us to live, in love and freedom.” H.R. Rookmaaker *

One of the unspoken things I felt when I began to follow Jesus, way back in 1976, was that I needed to give up, to walk away from some of the artistic activities I had enjoyed previously. That somehow playing the drums was inconsistent with being a Christian. And this was especially true if I was playing the music I really liked! I tended to feel the same way about drawing and painting. Looking back I can now realize how silly that is. But at the time it felt very serious. That somehow, to really follow Jesus, I was to leave all creativity behind.

During those years there were several things that kept me wondering how true it really was, did I really need to walk away from the art and music that I enjoyed making and listening to? One of those thought provoking songs was sung by Larry Norman entitled, “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music.” Great title, huh?

larry-norman-only-visitingI want the people to know that He saved my soul,
But I still like to listen to the radio,

They say Rock ‘n Roll is wrong, They’ll give me one more chance. I feel so good I want to get up & dance.

I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, I don’t confuse it. All I’m really trying to say Is , Why should the devil have all the good music?

I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat,
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that moves my feet,
I don’t like any of them funeral marches, I ain’t dead yet.

I discovered along the way that many of us have felt this way. Some of us were told this outright. Others, like me, just felt it. But many of us have experienced this struggle. And personally, I think this struggle is a good one. Really? Yes.

As I heard and began to understand the message of Jesus from the New Testament and from the lives of those I knew who were trying to follow him; as I began to understood the implications of the gospel, I rightly realized that this message, this new way of life, if it was true it was going to effect every single area of my life. Nothing would remain unscathed. Nothing would be untouched. Nothing would be left unhealed.

Rightly so, this leads to a thorough examination of every part of our lives. An overreaction at this point could easily cause us to jettison even good things from our lives. I am so thankful for discovering the writings of Hans Rookmaaker and Francis Schaeffer, and a couple of relationships with really good friends. These writers and friends kept me from the knee-jerk overreactions and helped me to see how God had been shaping my life long before I had become aware there even was a God.

Self Portrait : 300dpiOne of many things I’ve learned along the way is how God blesses and encourages the human part of my life. My spiritual life and my bodily life are not at odds with one another. Rather as I follow Jesus he is inviting me to become more human, more the way he intended me to be. More able to appreciate and enjoy everything and everyone he’s created. More in love with him in all the depth and breadth of his character. And so much more free to be the person he created me to be.


*H.R. Rookmaaker, “The Creative Gift, Essays On Art And The Christian Life”, Crossway Books, 1981, p. 25