Monday, March 06, 2006

Where Does Creativity Come From?


I wish I could play a musical instrument. It would be so cool to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano and have music flow out of me. I have a huge audio collection. I love to sing in worship on Sundays. Unfortunately those around me probably don’t have the same enthusiasm to listen to my singing. But it would be wonderful to have such skills.

Ah well. I have other talents.

One of them is art. I took a couple of years of art design and art history in college, and I grew up around it (my mother is an artist). I tried to make a living at it (read: “starving artist”).

It’s been a while since I was serious about doing art on a regular basis. I think the purpose of art comes from within. I needed something to express. I needed something to say.

A couple years ago our church took the Lenten season seriously. We dedicated a room for prayer. It was stocked with candles, a CD player, soft lighting, and interestingly, some Sharpie pens to write prayers and thoughts on the walls.


This place of prayer has been a tremendous refuge for me.


Writing on the wall was weird at first. But as others did it I felt more comfortable. We wrote passages of scripture, favorite verses, psalms and such... little prayers. Everything anonymous. It was exciting seeing how other people thought, how they prayed, what was important to them.


Slowly pictures began to appear. A broken loaf of bread with a goblet of red wine. Pictures of the cross. I reproduced a Gustave Dore’ depiction of the crucifixion in crayons.

And that is where it began. I was looking at other pictures of Dore’s and a sketch of Jesus’ face. It stayed in my mind. And one day, while in a prayer session, I went to the spot behind the door and sketched that face in pencil. The eyes were level with mine. I came back another day and sketched it in with a fine point black Sharpie.

I came back again and penciled in His body. And all the while I thought about the movie The Passion and His great sacrifice. I started writing the words of the prayers I was thinking in the folds of His clothing in various colored Sharpies, working around other prayers that had been written on the wall.

Soon I was praying there a lot of the time. Praying and writing and drawing. I bought every color of Sharpie there is and brought in many colored pencils and acrylic paints.

I did the Lord’s Prayer, twisting around the figure of Jesus and over the door and around other scriptures written on the walls. I did a grape vine climbing up the corner and twisting out, using passages about Jesus as the vine to give the bark texture. One branch was the list of Jesus' heritage. I put sparrows in the vines, flying in to settle near grapes with passages about how He loves the sparrows and how much more He loves us.

Before long a year had passed and Easter was coming again.

I was uncomfortable at how some folks would talk so much about the pictures, as if they were something of worth in themselves. They aren’t. Their only value, for me anyway, was in the prayer I was praying when they went on the walls. So as Easter approached I convinced a reluctant pastor to let me paint over the walls for Easter.

What a shock for folks.

But then I began again. This time I planned the life-size image of Jesus from the start. He is the Good Shepherd, a lamb across his shoulders. He is wearing a crown of thorns, but there are no holes in His hands. He is looking purposefully outward, and a careful eye may notice that a shadow in the shape of a cross is falling across him. He has begun his final mortal walk, carrying His sheep, and resolutely moving onward. The entire thing is done in fine point colored sharpies, the lettering so small in places for shadow that I could not see the letter myself, I just knew the shape I had made formed them.




I did another version of the Lord’s Prayer. A large circle: a never ending prayer.



I painted a golden sword on one wall in acrylics, a reminder of a dream I had received when things had gotten a little rough this past year (post:November 12, 2005).

The prayer room is a place for prayers, and that is all that these are.

And in a couple of weeks it will get painted over again.

There are folks who are dismayed that it is going to get painted. I’m glad they will be gone. They were done for the moment, not for anything else.

I suppose some people see art where all I see is a time of meditation and prayer that marked a passage for me. I will be glad for new canvas.

But I have an idea. If folks want these images so much (some have even talked about cutting out the sheet rock to preserve them), I have a plan.

This year I will do most of my prayers on canvas and wood and hang those on the walls (I'm excited about redoing the Lord's Prayer!). Then the following Easter we can have a silent auction and folks who want them can have them. The money can go to the fund the rebuilding of our church from the fire.

I’ve said all this for two reasons. First, I would like to promote the idea of churches having a place where people can go to pray; let them express themselves in anyway that seems fit to them at the time they are praying.

The second reason is a little trickier to articulate.

It is the idea of creative prayer. I’m not sure what to say about it, but when I approach a creative project something organic happens. I’m not exactly sure what is coming when I start, I am simply a tool for Him to use.

Have you prayed earnestly and for a long period of time and have felt the prayer take over? It becomes something outside of yourself.

I did a writing experiment once where I let a character in a short story begin to respond to what I was writing as I wrote it. I soon found myself arguing with a character I was making up as I went along. It was unsettling, especially since he got in the last word.

Art can be like that. Last Christmas morning I stepped up to a blank canvas on the stage of our church while the congregation sat to hear our pastor speak.

This is what I was thinking:

Uh oh! I don’t know what I am doing!!! What color should I use?! Everyone is watching! I better get started... Now. NOW!! NOW!!! Uhhhh... what color? What color? Uh, WHAT COLOR?!!! Come on... pick a color!!!! OK.... Uh.... BLUE!!!!!!

I didn't know what I was going to do. I had set myself up to let the Lord lead me at the last possible moment.

"If you know exactly what you are going to do, then what is the point of doing it?"
-- Pablo Picasso

Then I stopped and thought about Tim’s sermon. It was on Mary’s song. the Magnificat.

Here is a woman, no one special, a girl really, and of all the people on the Earth, among all the mighty cities, this girl in a tiny town was going to be the tool the Lord used to step into mortal existence. She sang a song of praise.

So I painted a picture of a tiny figure among enormous buildings, bathed in the light of grace and love and divine selection.

Suddenly I find myself drawing and painting. And with each stroke of the pen, or brush of acrylic paint, or rubbing of chalk, I think about the prayer in my heart that is finding expression outside of myself.

And there is so much going on in my heart. I ache to be nearer my Lord, whispering prayers that are spontaneous and liturgical, rote and creative.

That is the second point I wish to make, aside from encouraging others to create prayer rooms. I want to encourage others to find new ways to communicate with our Lord. If He has given you a talent, can you use it to express a prayer? Can you write? Can you sing or play an instrument?

We fill our lives with nonsense: TV, movies, silly human politics. I believe we too often overlook the things within all of us that are divine; where else could creativity come from than from The Creator?


41 comments:

jel said...

Great Post CS.
I like the thought of the prayer room, I think my prayer room is the outdoors, when I go for walks in the woods with my camera!

thanks CS! :)

curious servant said...

Note: You can click on the pictures for a larger view

jel said...

had to come back and look at the
pictures, glad that I did, clicking to make them larger, I wish I had the words to say,
blow me away, powerful!

Ame said...

Yes, I understand. I posted one I drew on Dec 31, 2005 titled Psalm 91. I had been studying the Psalm, and God gave me this picture. So I spent the next few nights after my girls were in bed drawing it out.

God gifts us with amazing gifts, and when we use them as an expression of our intimacy and love and devotion to Him, I believe it brings Him glory and praise and honor! I love how you're doing that.

Perhaps, if they want to take the dry wall down to preserve the prayer wall, you could seam the ends and silent auction them off this year, too, with the funds going toward the new building. I think that would be really cool!

Vicki said...

I love the idea of a prayer room. You have incredible art talent. Thanks for blessing us.

curious servant said...

I think selling the pictures is an interesting idea... but I have mixxed feelings about it.

The point of the pictures was a prayer. Once they are done I don't care what happens to them.

Actually u do care... I don't want them hanging around. They start meaning more than they should. It was the act itself that is important to me, not the object.

But... if it helps the church, or helps others, I'm fine with that.

I don't sign them with my real name either. I sign them...

CS

Ame said...

Hummm . . . if the people do end up selling them and/or keeping them, that will greatly inhibit future use of the prayer walls. I can see that knowing they will be painted over each year frees one to be real, transparent, honest. If I knew a prayer or picture I was painting/writing/drawing would eventually be sold in an auction, it would greatly affect what I expresses. With more thought, I agree with you that they should be painted over every year; otherwise the purpose would be lost in their posterity.

Pia said...

i love the way you drew Jesus' face.

Bad Alice said...

What beautiful images! I love the idea of folks writing on the wall. There's an exhibit in the Met in NYC of the interior of a room in an Islamic house. What struck me was that there were prayers painted on the wall in Arabic. Gorgeous. But I think prayers written with a Sharpie are beautiful, too.

jel said...

Morning CS,
how did Jeremiah ever get?
is he feeling better :)


have great day

curious servant said...

He slowly got better. The bloody noses stopped early last week, about Tuesday. They were not as bad after the trip to the emergency room.

He is still a little sick. It is taking him a long time to really shake it.

This is probably because he is so frail due to the sever malnutrition as a little one.

Brenda has been struggling with anger again. The stress over the rebuilding wears on her. But she is bettr today than she was on Saturday.

Life is strange.

Yesterday I spent much of the day with my brother. He has had a second operation on his back. (The first was in Decemeber.)

We talked a little about faith. Odd that it should be more awkward to speak to family about such things than it is to acquantainces (hmmmm... I sense a post there).

My brother Mike is a good guy. And I think he might be saved, but he lives in a gray area of faith. no a church goer, doesn't pray or read the Bible... but he believes.

I didn't get home until 10:00 last night. Jeremiah was with me. I think it was good for him to hear his Dad tell his uncle: "I love you, let me know how I can help."

I've had some Christian spam bots leaving notes selling various Christian stuff lately. I'm reluctant to use the word verification feature, but I might to trim that back a bit.


I would love to see more churches set aside places for prayer. Let the rooms be filled with what flows fdrom folks' hearts.

God bless all of you!

David said...

Your talents never fail to amaze me. Now don't let that go to your head as I know you will not. Maybe what they see as art reaches out and touches their souls in ways that are unknown to you.

jel said...

What david, just worte, is true! the artwork something in it touched deep in my soul, I havn't cry that much in a very long time!

Judas Hate said...

:-)

Now that's talent!!

Have you ever thought of compiling your work into a motivational / inspirational coffee table book? You should.

In between the pages of your beautiful art could be passages, hymns, stories and encouraging examples of how people can worship creatively through their gifts.

Just a thought.

Just I. Ce? ;-)

Justin

Vicki said...

Meant to tell you that I'm praying for your family.

ukok said...

God has gifted you so greatly. Such a gift gives great pleasure to all who view it. I just fell in love with the circular Lord's Prayer...spectacular.

God Bless.

Michael Pendleton said...

Now are you sure your not proud of your creativity? ...just kidding! Thanks for stopping by Deeper Truth and thanks for you comments. I'm getting ready for work now and I see you have much to read....
"so many blogs, so little time"
Not sure where I read that but I certianly was creative enough to come up with it. =)

Felisol said...

Dear Curious Servant. I'm happy for you. The Lord has equipped you with great talents both for writing and painting. You use abilities not to make a carrier for yourself, but to honour God, intensify your prayers and making a sacred room for worship for the rest of the congregation as well.
It's impressing how you combine words and drawing to emphasis the message. Thus you're far beyound the clever or ethic stage.
You commute direct to the soul or spirit of the readers,spectators, seeking prayers.
Of course you are well aware of this and don't really need anyone to tell you the quality of your efforts and works.
I would think it a shame to destroy work that was made to honour God or to worship God.
I've visited churches all over Europe, small chapels and huge cathedrals. What grip me are the sanctity and spirit from the places where people ernest have searched and met God. For sure the architects, stone masons, painters, carvers, masters of the stained glass windows were being payed, but their work reach further than money and honour,- towards God.
And I've seen destroyed churches in Ireland, abandoned churches in city centers, the mischiefs of the iconoclasts in Hagia Sofia. One can still sence the spirit of God and the spirit of the makers there.
You say that once you've said a prayer, you're finished with it. (Or so I've interpreted you're blogg) But the moment it's said, the prayer gets it's own life to God. Prayers don't expire on date. He gathers them in his baskets, says the Bible.
That's why I dislike the thought of the paintings being destroyed.
They are a product of pure adroration and hunger for being heard, reaching out for God.
As such they are bound to be a blessing to the ones who come to be near them, wether it be in a church, a hospital, a homeless shelter, an orphan's home, a missonary station or an office of any kind.
I'm not familiar with the term "silent" auction, but auction sounds to be a great idea.
Then it would bring some money to the church as well.
I feel sure God will show which way to go and He'll bless you and shine his light upon you all.
From Elise

curious servant said...

Thank you for your sweet words.

Today we have awoken to an unusual sight. Snow in March!

It is so Beautiful.

Two hour late start for school. I'll be able to get some extra work done.

As for the art... I'm not sure what I feel about it all. I understand the varying views ewxpressed in these comments.

Perhaps I won't think about it overly much. I'll just do as seems fit at the time I do it.

But I have bought some canvasses. I can put them up for silent auction, or give them away, ot paint over them.

We shall see.

Lorna said...

creative prayer is great.
and u have a great talent and are using both for God.

be blessed

Internet Street Philosopher said...

Wow. I think that is an excellent concept. As for me, I sometimes write out letters to God on sheets of college ruled notebook paper.

van.diesel said...

NICE. And I have to admit, I have always wanted to be proficient in music too. I picked up the guitar in college... i just wish i knew what to do with it. ;-)

Ame said...

I love what Felise wrote. That your art is expressed through your deep intimacy with Almighty God . . . that is what draws one so deeply into your work.

In the same way one's music draws us to God, your art draws us to God. Yes, they are personal and intimate; but that is why they draw so much emotion from others.

Would it not be beautiful if God took your love for Him expressed through your art and used it to bless others? And then if He used it to raise money for the new church?

I like that you bought canvasas. The God I know would not give such a beautiful gift to be hidden inside your mind and heart. Express yourself through your art, and then allow God to take your art where He desires.

Live, Love, Laugh said...

wow I love this whole idea and the new idea is wonderful too. Thanks so much for sharing this.

MMM said...

I love the circular Lord's Prayer.

And the spotlight painting. :)

Way to hit the GodSpot.

Pirate said...

most excellent my brother.

***Double_Oh_No*** said...

This is great. It's amazing how cathartic art can be. Your illustration of Christ (with the sharpies) is exceptional! I tend to mess up even a stick figure, so it never ceases to amaze me when I see such a detailed wonder.

Great quote by Picasso, too.

Lillee said...

I love the idea of creative prayer. Thanks for showing us!

JeffGeorgia said...

Makes me want to just sit here and look at this pictures all day long. What a wonderful idea. Maybe, that is what my kids are trying to do when they write on the walls or other places. I should ask.

Blessings to you forevermore.

Coco said...

I haven't painted in some years...
The last painting I did was in "honor" of my father- he had just passed away.
Painting for me was prayer and meditation...each time I went to class and painted- I prayed...
Each painting that I painted- I gave away, but it was always full of blessings and love and I would mention this to the person to whom I wass giving it to- my dad's family, friends, and caretakers at the hospital.
Prayer comes from within...
Again, I find your paintings/art BEAUTIIFUL!

Blessings.

wilsonian said...

Just keep going. Regardless of the final outcome. You give others the courage and freedom to explore their love for God in new ways. That's powerful.

Judas Hate said...

Not at all my friend. I appreciate the link. I'm more concerned on your behalf. My writing doesn't exactly fit in with most of your readers, I wouldn't think. But hey, if you ain't skeered, neither am I:-)

Also, please don't missunderstand about the comment thing. I like having the comments on my site and don't care who reads my comments on other sites. I was more or less just relating to your comments on your art in a smart-ass sort of way. That's just me.

Yes indeed, if you ever make your way to Virginia / North Carolina, I'd love to show you the store and take you up on that beer.

Or perhaps I'll make my way to Oregon(?) and you can show me around.

Thanks.

Be well.

J.

curious servant said...

Yup, Oregon.

North end of the Willamette Valley. About the best place in the country to live.

Snow every third year or so in the valley floor, and it is green, green, green.

It doesn't rain as much as many folks believe, except for this year, which has been a touch moist.

--------------------------------------

I'm planning on posting this afternoon, after I figure out what is wrong with the toilet (I've already pulled it and it's in the backyard), and feed the kids lunch and grade some essays. I have a topic in mind.

Later!

4evergapeach said...

Beautiful drawings CS. You can certainly tell they are from your heart. I love the Magnificat! I wish I could put in a bid for that one! :) You have truly been blessed, thank you for sharing.

curious servant said...

Perhaps I should offer a painting or two on my blog. Wouldn't that be wild... that one of these pictures should end up traveling through the internet nto someone's home.

I could then give that money to the church for the building project.

4evergapeach said...

I think that is a wonderful idea!! Pray about it and see where the Holy Spirit leads you.

p.s. If you do and the Magnificat is one of them I want 1st dibs at it! ;)

Julana said...

That prayer room is a great idea. I like what you have done with it.

TNChick said...

What a wonderful thing. Great artwork... the Lord Prayer circle looks fantastic.

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M. C. Pearson said...

You've said so much wonderful things here that I find myself at a loss to comment.

Let's see...the character taking over...that happens so much in my writing that I do not plan out exactly what will happen in the story because I realize that the character just wants freedom. It is so strange!

The painting...I know this will sound vain, but do you ever paint something, stand back and go, "Wow! Did I paint that? How wonderful!" Yes, I agree that it is a gift form God and I am constantly amazed by it. I'll look back at a painting and won't believe that I did it. I guess that was where His gift came in and took over. How marvelous that you donate the money to the church. Glorious!

Well, I guess I found something to say? LOL. I am so glad I found your site! God bless you.

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