Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Heart of the Artist

What is the difference between an artist and the person who just does a job? It’s in the creation of a moment. That’s really as simple as it gets—the artist looks for opportunities to create moments for the viewer or receiver of the art.

My daughter is an artist. Her tools are paints, brushes, and canvases, as well as fabric, needles, and thread. Whether she’s painting a picture or making a dress, she creates art by adding her own special touch. Those touches move people, and the extra effort is very much appreciated. Those special touches are “moments”.

Just before Giana completed her time at rehab, she did a large oil painting for me. It’s a gorgeous rendering of the back of an androgynous figure with butterfly wings growing out of the shoulder blades. The painting is done in vibrant shades of reds, purples, and blues. She could have stopped there and the painting would have been wonderful. But, she added one heart inspired detail. In the head of the figure she painted the small hand of a child, holding a larger adult hand. The painting told the story of the little girl wanting to fly, but needing to know (or to let me know), that she would need support. Further, she was becoming a young woman who wanted to take her child-like joy into adulthood. The gentleness with which the hands are clasped tells a story. The painting is more than just a picture. Viewing the painting literally stirs the heart to experience a moment. It is art.

It is NOT easy to create a moment and it doesn’t just magically happen. It takes thought, planning, a sifting of ideas, and the willingness to get to know your audience. The artist does those things. He’s not content to just do a job, but he desires to create.

In the fall of 2008, the creative team I was a part of was working on putting together the Christmas pageant for our church. We had chosen several songs that would be a part of the production, and we had written the beginnings of the script. We still needed a “hook” song—the song with lyrics that would stir the heart and bring the production to its dramatic climax. The moment I heard it, I knew it was the song we were looking for. It wasn’t a Christmas song at all, but the lyrics created a visual in my mind that I could not shake. The song was called, “Bow The Knee”.

The lyrics of the song included these words; “when you don’t understand the purpose of his plan, bow the knee”. I wrote a short script in which (I hoped) the audience would see that Mary and Joseph weren’t unlike us today. They were a young couple with plans for their future. But an unexpected turn of events rocked their world. In my script, Joseph tells Mary that he loved her, and though he didn’t understand or have all the answers, he’d stand by her. The actors sang the song as a duet—Mary coming from her place of strong faith, and Joseph working through his doubt because of his love for Mary. It went from a nice song, to a moment.

This past Christmas my daughter gave me another original painting. The picture shows three butterflies leaving a woman’s hands. The hands are mine and the butterflies are my children. I’ve given them the wings to fly, but I’ll be close by when they need me. The backdrop for the featured players is a beautiful rendering of the plains of Africa. The vivid reds, yellows, and greens make the butterflies pop. It’s the African visual that lifts the painting to “art” status. Giana has been to Africa three times, including the 2008 trip when I was privileged to share that experience with her. She definitely knows how to paint a moment.

You don’t have to be a painter or a writer to be an artist. My mechanic is an artist. When he has the task of repairing one of our cars, he takes the extra time to really care. He checks the hoses and fluids. Once, when one of his mechanics made a mistake that led to a transmission failure, he took responsibility. He paid for a rental car, and since we were on our way out of town for a 10-day vacation, he paid for the full ten days of rental. His work is more than his job—it’s his craft, and each vehicle is a piece of art.

Whether I’m teaching, acting, writing, cooking, or vacuuming, I desire to create art. Do I always reach my goal? No way! I fall WAY short, but my daughter and my mechanic inspire me to create moments.


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