08 October 2008

Painting and God

So, painting and spirituality, huh? I can do that.

Honestly, there aren't many paintings that move me, let alone grab my attention for more than 15 seconds as I walk by. The Mona Lisa was pretty much a disappointment, though that may have had more to do with the number of French schoolchildren surrounding her at the very moment I was trying to gaze into her elusive eyes than with my disposition toward the work. The Uffizi overwhelmed, and that National Gallery was nice, but honestly I'd rather look at the bits they stole from the Parthenon than color on canvas. I did see one painting, once, at the Getty Museum, that enthralled me, but I'd never seen it before, I've never seen it again, and I'm too ADD to remember the name and the artist without writing it down.

On the other hand, I find the act of painting entirely enthralling. There aren't many things I do where I lose track of the world around me (see abovementioned ADD tendencies). It just doesn't happen. But when I paint, it almost always happens. I forget about time and place and hunger and focus on what's before me, what it's becoming, and how I can help it get there.

When I paint, I give voice to the intuitive. Writing is similar, except that when I write, it has to at least break down into sentences and paragraphs with some kind of flow. Painting isn't like that. Color, line, form, symmetry, they're all a language that I can speak, though I couldn't tell you how. And my whole process is intuitive. Sometimes a painting will sit on my easel for months, until one day I look at it or I think about it just as I'm falling to sleep and suddenly I know what needs to be done next.

I don't know if this process connects me to God. A lot of artists say that it does, that when they're in that intuitive, idea-flowing zone, they feel close to him. I don't necessarily feel that way. Most of what I paint comes from me, from my eyes and my heart and my hands. On the other hand, I am giving voice to things that I don't usually say, that I might not even be able to say in words, and I think that honesty like that almost always brings us closer to him. I know that I learn more about myself, how I work and what I like and what lives inside, and that process is also true and brings me closer to knowing fully how he made me. I also learn that I can make mistakes, that they aren't the end of the world, that I can fix them and incorporate them and that they're not as scary as they seem, and I can't help but think that God wanted me to know that.

When I walk away from painting, it's almost always with an incredible sense of peace. It's not necessarily external, like something coming from God. I think it has more to do with having rested my usually-multitasking brain by focusing on one thing, and having somehow gotten put back into alignment with myself. I can't help but think that this is how he made us to function, doing things that bring us to ourselves, because those are the things that will ultimately lead us to him.


heather said...

I love this, how creating is so connected to your spirituality. I loved a post you did not too long ago about a particular painting and how you knew it wasn't finished for a while, but you didn't know what it needed. Then one day it hit you.
It was beautiful--the post and the painting.

Christianne said...

Sarah, this is a really beautiful post. There is a peace flowing through your words even as I read them, which is cool because I feel like it mirrored the peace you spoke about in the actual post. I also loved the very gentle doses of humor toward the beginning. :)

The line that sticks with me most right now is, "I forget about time and place and hunger and focus on what's before me, what it's becoming, and how I can help it get there." The what-is, the in-flux process of becoming, and the what-will-be are all present in this statement, and this is something I've been thinking on lately, too, but from a spiritual perspective: that God is with us in each one of these places of our own becoming process.

kirsten said...

mmm ... i love this too, how creating (or perhaps co-creating) brings us to parts of ourselves of which we might not be immediately conscious. i love how it gives us access to those things that might lie hidden or uncovered inside of us. i find this happen in my writing sometimes, or even in photography. somehow it allows us to access truth from its depths.

makes me think of keats:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty ...

Sarah said...

Heather--you know, that's how I do my best work, writing, painting, and otherwise. I futz around for a while, then it comes on, all of a sudden, like Colorado thunderstorm ;)

Christianne--thanks. As I wrote, I mostly felt tired, like I was pulling words out of mud, but I'm glad they sound peaceful. I think I feel peacefully about it all, but tired on top of that.

I like what you said about the process and God being with us there, too. Gosh, I hope he is, because the rest of this isn't worth much if he isn't.

Kirsten--Keats was a genius, no doubt. Isn't it weird how the act of making makes things real? Weird, and kind of cool.

L.L. Barkat said...

A beautiful description of the inner workings while you paint. I should probably paint more. It's something I left behind with my school days.

(Oh, and I smiled to see you had mentioned multi-tasking, since that was part of the discussion at Green Inventions. : )

Joelle said...

A work of art, Sarah!

Terri said...

this is really yummy sarah. i read it several days ago and i've been sitting with it, turning it over and over in my mind. it resonates with my own experience with art, except your experience seems much freer. anyway, i just wanted to thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

Hey you
How are ya? Two thoughts on this blog, (well maybe one blended thought.) "I look at it or I think about it just as I'm falling to sleep and suddenly I know what needs to be done next." This happens to me a lot when i am writing.

At times i will get up in the middle of the night and out of nowhere comes a flow of words. I have slept with a pen and paper beside my bed before.

This blog also made me think of decorating cakes. When i start a cake, (certain types) I get totally lost in that. It is wonderful therapy as long as you are not doing it as a job, then it becomes a stress headache in the making.

You have some pretty intense thoughts there in relating your painting to God.

I think in every sense of the word, God is a painter. We are His workmanship, or translated His craftsmanship. I think we see traces of that metaphor throughout the whole Bible, and i am sure you have heard that analogy over and over.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder i wonder what God thinks or sees when He looks into our eyes.

Sarah said...

LL-Thanks. And I've been thinking a lot about multi-tasking lately.

Joelle-Thank you. Your words refresh me!

Terri-You're very welcome. And you're right...making art is very freeing for me.

Tammy-Sounds like you have an awesome writing process there, girl. I love what you said about God as a painter...I think it's definitely true!

gabi dickinson said...

I'm Gabi and am new to the world of blogging. I've just come across your blog. Your writing is beautiful and has blessed me! I hope you don't mind me reading?