Creativity Contained

Last Summer

“Last Summer” Acrylic on Panel, DS

The painting would not come together. The idea was clear. The execution was not. Colours, shapes, glazes were painted over again and left for more inspiration. Small but mighty this painting lived on. Layers added here and there. A figure, in fact only a woman’s head low on the picture plane, viewed a waterfront landscape. There was a lamppost, a bridge, and several easel shapes on the tiny 8” x 8” birch panel.

Some ideas cannot be enfleshed. They are delicate, fleeting, yet so powerful. This work now has a layered landscape of knitting attached removing all evidence of the woman. Yet she remains. The waterfront and her image in it live on, hidden under the knitting. There is something about it – an atmosphere, a choice of colour, which draws me to prayer. Is this a contemporary icon?

 

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.   Book of I Corinthians

 

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Paradox: Self-Promotion and Humility

If artists do not promote themselves no one else will. In fact no one else will even know that his or her work exists. Yet for a follower of Jesus, the example is humility, and oh yes, Jesus always promoted himself. What? Or did he?

Jesus often told people who he was and why he had come. He taught people about his Father. In fact his main focus was on the Father’s love for people.

Jesus did not promote himself for selfish reasons. I have to admit that Jesus revealed whom he was in ways that made him unpopular. Where am I going with this? I am not sure.

As an artist I need to sell my work. My work is often not easily accessible and needs to be explained. To explain I need a platform. To get a platform I need to promote myself and my work.

I find myself wondering what Jesus would have been like in his decade or so of working in the carpenter shop. I know the workmanship would have been superb. His dealing would have been honest. The work would have been on time and under budget. But, how would he make sales?

Perhaps the world as he knew it then has changed dramatically. (He continues to know it as he is still with us through his resurrection.) In the village, there may have been a carpenter’s guild. People would have known him and his work well because of word of mouth and the reputation of Joseph’s work. The work probably came to him. Jesus, I imagine, would have worked humbly without promoting his work or himself. In fact, his work, by its nature may have been self-effacing, yet he is the Creator of the whole world.

As a carpenter in a village he would have created functional items from time-tested designs. He did not work then as a wood artist or sculptor. What is the difference between making functional items and creating original work that is experimental, ephemeral, conceptual, thought provoking or just plain beautiful? I do not know the answer.

My work is more like the latter. In a tough economy people buy what they need to function in daily life: plates, cups, and bowls. Their focus is on survival. In these days of fake news, and especially real news, paying the bills is paramount.

Galleries suffer in down times yet art is deep and creative in a culture under duress. I think of the Dada movement of WWII. Art was made that deliberately made no sense – and it helped the artists to keep their sanity when their work was declared an affront to the state and they were deported or left.

Actually it was an affront to the state. That is why it was created. The state had gone wild. Artists had the courage to reflect this.

Anyway, that art did not sell then but now is literally worth millions. The German artist Kurt Schwitters, known as the father of modern collage, created small collages out of whatever crossed his path as he lived in a prisoner of war camp in Scotland. Work that would now be worth millions was thrown in the garbage by the guards. I saw a small collage he made one year in the Vancouver Art Gallery, 8 x 10, browned with age, bits of ordinary paper. I ask, how could this be worth millions?

It brings me back to the big questions, what is art, what is the artist, who is the viewer, what makes someone buy art? Is art worth dying for? I ask here for your answers, tell me.

 

LifeStrife

“Life/Strife” Mixed Media Collage DS

 

Life of a Princess

We think of our own floods and fires and family challenges yet even the life of a princess can be difficult. Perhaps loved leaders have the most difficult lives of all.

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a tragic car accident in Paris. Uncertainty and intrigue were woven through her life and continue about her untimely death.

She was photogenic and articulate, perhaps an introvert thrown into the limelight. She chose to be a princess but had no idea of what it would cost: everything. Yet her sons and her humanitarian work remain.

Diana lives on also in our minds. She became a part of our daily lives. We both celebrated and swooned with her through the ups and downs of her life. We vicariously joined in her courageous work and in her painful break up. Her dresses, jewelry and latest hairstyle formed an opinion in us. We remember where we were when we watched her wedding on TV and where we were when we saw that infamous Paris tunnel over and over again.

We have lived high and low along with her. We cried and prayed for the boys. We are as proud as Diana would have been at how they have turned out.

Blessings to you dear William and Harry as you remember your beloved mother.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/tributes-laid-at-kensington-palace-for-diana-anniversary-1.3569664

 

John 16:33 

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 

 

The Way to Publication

First publication is calming; my work has finally paid off, literally. As always, God leads me but in a zigzag line.

A child at breakfast reads every word on the cereal box. That was me (not so much the French).

In my twenties I worked in a bank. One day I came out and tried to start my car. I looked and instead of the key I had attempted to put my pen in the ignition. Today my brain thinks a pen is an essential part of the body.

At meetings I have now disciplined myself to take notes on my iPhone. (My pen is ever ready in my bag for backup.) This summer my precious spare time has been spent shredding five years of note-taking files.

So, the other large percentage of effort this year has been about submitting work for publication: prose and poetry. Some had fees and some graciously accepted submissions gratis. After a ‘couple’ of rejections of my writing I decided to submit one of my painting images to Understorey Magazine, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. After a few weeks I was advised that “Taffeta Apron” was to be published paired with another woman’s story.

It took me a moment to review exactly what I had achieved. An editor, so personable, had praised my image. I would be paid by a university and had to phone them with my SIN.

The magazine is published online and my work is in the current issue together with a story called ‘Island Girl’. Although I had asked to read the story before my work was paired with it, I felt strange. I felt confused. Usually I self-publish my images with my own stories on a blog. This was an anomaly.

Issue 11 of Understorey Magazine is now published on the website! Look for “Taffeta Apron” (Acrylic on Linen, 36” x 24”) alongside the prose poem Island Girl by Susan Brigham. If you scroll to the end of the poem you can read our bios.

http://understoreymagazine.ca/

Mixed feelings are still with me. I am excited to have my visual work published. It is not the same as being juried into an art exhibition, which is a bit more ephemeral. A published work is always there for people to see. I am disappointed that it is not my writing to be published.

I have a resume for art and a CV for writing. Which is this then – a painting in a writing magazine? It is truly a mash-up, a crossover of genres – and a delight.

How did I do it?

  1. I prayed for help.
  2. I made work.
  3. I submitted work to any call that seemed to fit.
  4. I researched as a regular practice and kept making work.
  5. I accepted that not all of my work would be paid for and perhaps not even my most important work.
  6. I experimented a lot. Creative work is about process over product first.
  7. I calmly waited for some response from somewhere. Then celebrated.

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“Taffeta Apron” 36″ x 24″, Acrylic on Linen, Deborah Stephan

 

 

 

Wisdom of the Rose Trellis

 

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“Rose Trellis” iPhoto DS 2017

There was a time when the family bloomed full red roses with green leaves. Yes, there were thorns but they were hidden (albeit sharply felt here and there). The scent of the rose trellis sparked instant praise. It was never as perfect as envisioned but it was good, very good.

At some point a deconstruction process took over. Deaths devastated, divorces divided, misunderstandings abounded and confusion set in. Thorns were easily visible tearing all who went too near. Even surface beauty was interrupted with too many dead branches and dry leaves. Blight had attacked with its polka dots of black and aphids crawled in white. Drought had yellowed the surrounding landscape.

Gee it was ugly.

It was thought that the deaths should be forgotten, pruned out for new growth to form – but they held the live branches tall, and gave them strength to hold to the trellis. It was decided to leave these wild elders – ignored yes, but not forgotten memories. The fertilizer of counseling was applied here and there to undisciplined stems.

Soon buds appeared of cranberry, crimson and carmine, attached to vivid green shoots. A tall vine shot up beyond the highest part of the trellis arch. Graduations and new births graced the family. Forgiveness had been planted. Rains came.

Through it all the trellis made of prayer held it all together – dead, alive and bedraggled parts. Tangles are still there. Somewhere it was written that confusion precedes change. A construction site can look chaotic yet the site supervisor knows and implements the building plan. By faith I say that it must also be so with the family. Perhaps again others will enjoy its innate beauty and be stilled by its scent.  Selah.

“After you have suffered a little while … then the promise…” Book of First Peter

“A trellis is a support system for a vine or plant that enables it to grow upward and bear fruit… a vine must have a trellis to support and guide its growth or it will slump to the ground.” God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu

Lanterns and a List Poem

Harmony Arts Festival

“Harmony Arts Festival 2017” iPhoto, DS

 

Things that Give me Peace

A poem of early morning prayers complete

A bedside exercise remembered

Opening the door for a cool breath

Coffee strong with microwaved milk

Viewing email over the forested mountains

Cedars with cones swaying

Multi-layered birdsong

The first kiss

Caesar salad with prawns

Forbidden reading while eating

A painted idea

An invitation to meet

Coloured lanterns by the sea

A talk with just you and me

Watching Crown on TV

Local gallery hopping

Purging abundant art files

Divesting the studio of heaps

A gathering of thinkers

A party of prayers

A class expected

A sleeping child

Research in progress

Writing as process

Words on a page

Violet celadon crimson

Poems published

Paintings juried in

Music rising inside and

Escaping as joy.

 

DS August 2017

https://harmonyarts.ca/

 

 

 

Experiences of Art Series – Sheryl M.

Bio:

Raised in a Christian home and on a spiritual journey since then

Psychotherapist and spiritual accompanist

Working on PhD in new field of Theopoetics

Caribbean-Canadian ethnicity

Moved from Toronto

Lives in lakefront home in remote B.C. wildfire country

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“Wise Elder” by Len Butcher

The Art: in Sheryl’s own words:

This oil painting by Len Butcher is about 30+ years old, the Toronto artist an old acquaintance of my youngest brother. I am not sure if he is still living, but our family made his acquaintance many years ago when he married my brother’s elementary school teacher. I always liked the painting. After my father passed away, I reclaimed it from my parents’ home basement, brought it back to B.C. with me, and had it mounted and framed to complement my antique oak dining furniture. Since marrying, my husband has also claimed it as his favourite, and we enjoy it daily as it is positioned, suspended above our current dining space, above our lakefront window.

The painting reminds us of a posture of humble gratitude to God for our daily sustenance. No matter how simple it may seem to us during times of our life when what we possess represents a categorical contrast to the things that are often proclaimed as the necessities for living. This wise elder signifies one who takes time to sit down and carefully prepare his bread and butter, and to ground himself in the living bread which comes from the Divine.

 

This is the view from Sheryl’s remote ‘café’ – her own dining room where she has the painting hanging. She and her husband of 8 years are reminded of their blessings especially during their Friday afternoon coffee dates.

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“View from ‘Lakefront Cafe'” by Sheryl M.

This interview was done on Skype, though I wish I had actually visited the ‘Lakefront café’.