Bananas

A while back I had what you could call a “banana” day. It’s kind of like a “banner” day, but different. I set up three of four easels in my studio around a bunch of bananas. That’s it. Really. Of course I painted quite a bit until about 2 pm. After that I ate them. All in all it was a very good day.

At the end of the day a friend came in and asked if I was disappointed that some of the paint had run or dripped. I explained that the drips were all a part of what I was trying to accomplish. They are there to remind the viewer that this is, after all, a painting. They are a draw back into the two-dimensional aspect of the work. At least that sounded good at the time.

Here they are… the bananas in all their glory!

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Cleaning up the Studio

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Yep. That’s what I’ve been up to the past few days. Ever since I last moved my office, about three and a half years ago, all of my art supplies, a whole host of prints and original paintings and drawings, and more miscellaneous stuff than you can imagine—all of this has been piled floor-to-ceiling in one of our extra bedrooms. This week I decided to dive into that mess and see what I could find. And I found a whole lot. I found lots of dust, a few cobwebs, boxes of my favorite pencils, original work that I had forgotten I had created, and boxes upon boxes of prints of some of my work.

Many years ago a couple of fellows tried to start a 20121227-225049.jpgfine art print business. And one of the artists they wanted to publish was yours truly. I had never wanted to go into the print market myself. I loved the idea of the original work I had worked so hard to create being purchased and passed down through the years. Prints, to me, seemed like such a cheap and throw-away commodity. But as the prices of myoriginal work continued to increase, many of my friends were unable to afford the work. And well, I did need to make a living.

 

 

20121227-225102.jpgSomething else happened along the way as well. At one of my yearly openings, I set the sketchbooks I had used that year around the gallery for folks to look at. In my sketchbooks werenot only the initial drawings I had used to create the larger work, I also had various thoughts, ideas, quotes and even prayers that were meaningful as I was working on those paintings. Person after person came up to me that night to tell me how powerful it was for them to read what I had written alongside of seeing the work itself.

The prints that were eventually made reflected those sketchbook pages. A quicker watercolor sketch with one of the meaningful, at least to me, quotes or thoughts or prayers hand-written in pencil right with it.

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This is one of those paintings—of my favorite watercolor brush. This one holds so much water and pigment and just flows so nicely across the paper. And my prayer almost every time i use it is simply this, “Paint in my life a portrait of Jesus.” I just want to look more and more like him.

Art Needs No Justification

skf9F-688x1024One of the first writers I encountered along the way who encouraged me to pursue this gift of creativity was a man named Hans Rookmaaker. I never met Hans. In fact he died just a few months after I began to follow the ways of Jesus. But his writings and his life made a profound impact on my own.

I had always loved art and drawing and creativity. My mother reminds me that as a youngster I didn’t like coloring books with pictures already in them. Rather I wanted “blank coloring books” so that I could make my own pictures. And just a bit later in life I also didn’t appreciate the school art classes with all the various projects we were required to work on. All I wanted was a pencil and some paper and a good dose of quite, undisturbed time to draw. Apparently that was asking too much for more than a few of my art teachers!

After becoming a follower of Jesus things began to be a little more complicated. I was consistently encouraged to use my drawing ability to help “win” people over. And that the drawings were only useful as a way to communicate or preach about why following Jesus was better than all the other options for how to approach life. This is where the writings of Hans Rookmaaker came into play.

I discovered a small booklet in the basement bookstore of the bible college I was attending. The title “Art Needs No Justification,” was completely intriguing to me and I bought it immediately. Hans helped me to see that even just the possibility of creating art, creating something beautiful and well-designed, was in itself an act of worship to our creator. And then to be able to share that creativity with others, to help add beauty to their lives, was another powerful way to love our neighbors as ourselves. Hans writes:

“To be a Christian artist means that ones particular calling is to use ones talents to the glory of God, as an act of love toward God and as a loving service to our fellows. It means to be on the way, preparing ourselves as well as we can, learning the trade techniques and principles, learning from the work of others and from their mistakes, finding our direction, experimenting, achieving what we set out to do or failing. To work in such a way, with all our heart and mind and spirit, with all our potential talents, in openness and freedom, praying for wisdom and guidance, thinking before we work, is to accept our responsibility.” (Rookmaaker, Art Needs No Justification; you can download a copy here)

It’s difficult to express the freedom I felt as I first read his words. But this freedom has impacted me deeply ever since. It has colored the way I approach art or design. It has colored the way I approach being a pastor of a pretty cool church. It has influenced the way I worship God and follow his son. It has colored pretty much everything I do or say or the way I think about life. In this simple way of looking at the world I have found a freedom to pursue and express the creativity God has invited us to be a part of.

I would encourage you to read this little booklet, if you haven’t, and tell me what you find.