Tag Archives: artist

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

 

Advertisements

Excerpts from a Paint-Spattered Journal

NYC Journal at the Waterfront

NYC Journal at the Waterfront DS

Wednesday July 1, 2015

My plan is forming as I take an early morning walk at the waterfront. Painting at the waterfront takes a lot of stamina and a different kind of creativity that can be interrupted with questions. I take steps to be ready for Saturday when I will paint for the first time this year. I have chosen my spot and made a list of the size of canvas and brushes, paint tubes etc. I will need. I will do a little prep each day and leave early Saturday so I can get parking. I know that when I am there painting and looking up at the waves and people, the words always come to me: “This is what I was born for. I am being the real me”.

Monday July 6, 2015

I went painting Saturday after much indecision and inner dialogue (why bother you can paint more easily in the studio). The day was perfect – sunny and windy. I arrived early to get parking close to the lawn. I slowly unpacked the car then sat and wrote in my journal. I got my paints and brushes out, and then I rested with my thoughts.

The results of the day were that several people came to admire my work and to engage me in conversations about inspiration and exhibitions etc. I was able to begin a painting that I really like. I usually paint in layers so I can work on it over the next few times I go there. I hope to go once a week for 3 hours but with this smoke from wildfires near the city I am wearing a mask outside so it may not work out. Anyway, I am so happy I made the effort. Painting in the studio – great. Painting at the waterfront – priceless.

Tuesday July 7, 2015

The act of painting is very physical for me but much of the work is visual and art history research. When I am ready I lay another layer of paint on the canvas. This week I am hibernating because of the smoke. I keep my painting where I can see it every day so when I get ideas for the next step I am ready ahead of time.

I hope to paint at the waterfront once a week over the summer. I do not go on the crowded days. Next time, in order to lower the impact on my body I will take fewer supplies to carry.

Saturday August 8, 2015

The artists arrive one by one jostling for space in the shade. Some have the requisite red umbrellas, although most have bitten the dust seasons ago. The painters of the “Painters Landing” program are each permitted 12 feet of space. Some take more, some less. It is 9:30 A.M. on a Saturday morning.

I have honed down what I bring to essentials: 2 easels, a chair, a small table, a paint box, a water jug, and a carry bag. I also bring a couple of small, framed paintings to exhibit on one easel and a blank canvas to work on for the other today. The printed brochures say we are: “demystifying the art-making process”.

After set-up which takes about 10 minutes now, I settle to record the view in my journal: 10 tankers, a sailboat, a tugboat, 3 fishing boats and a motorboat fill the scene. Sounds pierce the tranquil place: a yellow pile driver of magnificent proportions from the construction site in the next block, beloved seagulls call, and the snatched conversations of late joggers intermittently fill the air close by. The smell, of course, is of the sea.

Photos are next. I travel light.   Phone photos will do. A couple of umbrellas stuck into the sand ahead, one green and white, the other solid pink, are only the beginning of a day of colour. I have made it again here – for the sixth time now. I am instantly happy. This is my working holiday: my staycation. It is sunny with a slight breeze: perfect. The day will be good with or without sales.

Monday August 10, 2015

It must be seen as arrogance – this attitude of joy I have. One woman says to me: “I have to make sales. I am not a hobbyist”. A sharp retort comes to mind. Then, humbled, I pray for sales for all of us – especially for her who is alone. Perhaps I am arrogant in my freedom of other income streams. Admitted or not, sales are the main form of validation for the successful artist, the beginner, and for those of us who are perpetually ‘emerging’. So far this month, I am just salt in their midst.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Book of Ephesians

 

New Year Blooming Amaryllis

 

Image

“New Year Blooming Amaryllis” 2014, photocollage, DS

This amaryllis is a symbol of all that is good about a fresh year starting.  However, I was having guests and was disappointed the plant did not bloom by Christmas.  Instead it broke forth today.

I was reminded of our own growth in Christ.  As I put the Christmas decorations away this week, Jesus, Emmanuel, is still with us.  He is resurrected.

A woman in one of my workshops before Christmas said with passion that Easter should be celebrated by everyone as more important than that of Christmas. The comment took me by surprise.  I gave her a hurried reply but pondered her words later.  I rushed to give her an answer where there was no need.  Her struggle with theological questions is a sign of her being in an environment conducive to wholeness.  She has made a choice that will give her life.  In her way, she sits at the feet of Jesus.  I had not recognized this before.

Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God” writes refreshingly about the journey of the soul being the cultivation of our unique relationship with God.  We need to learn how to renew our spirituality when it has grown lukewarm or dormant.

 Rather than another discipline to add to our new year it might be fun to explore the “Nine Sacred Pathways” explained by Thomas: “[God] created you with a certain personality and a certain temperament.”  Just as the biblical Martha and Mary expressed their devotion to Jesus in different ways, we each have unique ways to contribute to the Body of Christ.

The flower bulb looked mundane yet it had its own way and it’s own timing to bloom.  It was not going to look like a gorgeous poinsettia with red leaf-like flowers, or a Christmas cactus decked out in hot pink.  It would be a spectacular salmon pink and white amaryllis showing as a surprise gift on this first day of a new year in our journey with God.

Whether we are extroverts or introverts, orderly or spontaneous, intellectuals or worship best with our 5 senses or imagination, we can find exciting ways to relate to God.  Here are some ideas from Thomas:

–       Pray to God beside a river

–       Worship with the senses: incense, intricate architecture, classical music

–       Study historical writings of Christians in earlier centuries

–       Spend time at a silent retreat center with pastors and artists

–       Work for societal change

–       Love your neighbor in some practical way

–       Show enthusiasm for your journey with God

–       In stillness, listen to God’s voice

–       Engage in theological discussions