Medium: Acrylic paint on canvas
This wasn’t one of my stronger pieces. I remember being a little low on inspiration. But what inspired this painting was a conversation I had with someone who decided to keep track of the good vs bad things he did in one day. He was tallying his deeds up in a notebook. I don’t remember the exact details but he recounted how by the time he go to school, he had some fifteen marks under “bad” and one tally under “good”. The “bad” included swearing, being impatient with his roommate, not saying sorry for bumping someone while running for the bus, not holding the door, etc. And the one good thing was letting an elderly lady take his seat. And that was just in the first two hours of his day. It wasn’t looking very good for him he said.
I thought this was a very good exercise to go through. We consider ourselves “good” people but I know, if I actually stop to count, the “bad” would far outweigh the good. It’s easy to do NOTHING than to do good. But it’s easier still to be selfish and do/say/think “bad”. That would be a LOT of tallies against me every day. Month. Year. Life. I could ignore it….as I think most people do…and choose to believe the idea that I’m a “good” person. But to be really honest with myself…I know it’s pretty dark inside.
So I am immensely THANKFUL for the work of Christ in that ALL the tallies of my past/present/future can be washed away. By grace, for I know I’m undeserving. Though, I’m not sure that sentiment came across very well in the painting. As can be imagined in a secular and liberal painting class, it’s hard to find other artistic people of faith to bounce ideas off of. Ah well….
Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
– Jesus Paid It All | Elvina M. Hall
It was one of those “outside the box” type projects that my brain resisted in the beginning. I like to plan. I like knowing what my end result is going to be like. I like knowing what midpoints look like. This project was to write a list of different instructions on slips of paper, put those slips into a jar, sporadically pull a slip out and then follow the instructions. As we went along, the professor would call out and we’d also have to cover up parts of our work with newsprint, which got layered more and more, until the final reveal and class critique at the end.
You just wouldn’t know what it would look like until that moment.
It was such a frustrating process for me.
Some of the instructions and layers include:
- draw something with conte….I drew ferns (I think….green leaves anyways)
- apply glossy varnish somewhere
- include a self portrait
- draw something with pastels…I drew large cupping hands
- and then I mostly filled each layer with lots and lots of dragonfly wings
The painting was done on a 4’x4′ board and I was so happy to part with it when my god-daughter’s mom wanted to buy it. It doesn’t look too bad at the end does it?
Assignment: Photocopy your face, then paint it
That’s what we had to do one year in a painting course at university. I waited as late in the day as I could before heading over to the copy center. There was one other person there…but maybe if I stayed in the far corner I won’t be seen. I prepared some glass cleaner and wiped down the copier surface. Threw in a bunch of quarters and went to town.
||This was painted to scale on a letter size board. I used oils. I love the mysterious dream like quality to the end result. It also looks like my face floated up in a pool of dark water. Which is kind of creepy now that I think about it…..
||This was enlarged and painted onto a 2’x3′ board. Started in acrylic and finished with oils. It was selected to hang in a downtown office as part of an “Emerging Artist” program and at the end of the term, the executive who had my face hanging in his office all this time bought it because he loved the peaceful look of it. He told me he and his wife are going to hang it in their bedroom. I didn’t need to know….but ok. I guess if it makes you sleep better? I personally wouldn’t want any large faces hanging in my bedroom…my face or anyone else’s. =)
It was a fun project…though, I had far more copies of my face that were hugely unflattering than I would like to admit. As an Asian, I already have fleshier and flatter features. When pressed against the glass….omg. I could see my pores. I could see hairs on my face where I didn’t think I had hair. I know. Vain.
I think I would like to try this again one day though!
Consider God as the Master Artist…Master Sculptor. When he requests a block of marble to be cut from the quarry, he can see into that blank/flat/rough form the masterpiece has in mind to create. “Normal” people looking at the raw stone might not even realize its value as marble. We just see a block of raw, rough useless stone.
In the studio, the Master takes a large mallet and chisel and knocks large pieces of stone to the ground. Again, to the onlooker, it still doesn’t look like much. Nothing is recognizable. After a time, he takes a smaller mallet and smaller chisels to remove smaller bits of stone. Bit by bit a figure starts to emerge. A hand. An elbow. The bend of a knee. The Master exchanges his tools for an even finer set. The details start to become apparent. Fingers. Nostrils. Hair tendrils. The fold of a garment. The tools become smaller and smaller and then he reaches for some rough material to sand the stone to smoothness. He reaches finally for other materials to polish the stone. It’s complete. A masterpiece!
In a similar fashion, we’re being sculpted by God. At the start we can’t tell from our raw form what our purpose or design will be. Often we feel useless. But God has lovingly selected us to complete His good work in. He starts with chiseling away what seems to be large significant parts of our lives. It hurts a lot to have so much broken off or taken away. But it’s not needed. He continuously chisels the smaller pieces off. It still hurts, but wait, we’re starting to take shape and it’s kind of exciting to see how God might shape us. The pieces chipped off grow smaller and smaller…and then the sander is applied to smooth out our roughness. The most irritating sander. Like people or situations that really get under your skin or rub you the wrong way. By the end, it’s just some polishing and a few touch ups here and there. His good work will be complete. A masterpiece!
What’s also amazing is that each slab of stone usually has flaws in it. There might be a weak spot or a hole or a crack. But the Master Sculptor works with and despite those imperfections to create a masterpiece regardless! I believe this is God’s specialty, taking the broken and flawed and turning us into masterpieces. With different purposes for certain. But GOOD purposes every time. What’s hard is that *this* walking piece of stone doesn’t enjoy being under a chisel. And I squirm. I am challenged to be still, hear the Master’s voice and surrender to His vision for my life. Whether He breaks off large chunks and it really hurts, or whether He’s sanding me and I’m feeling irritated. I pray I will always choose to surrender to the work He is doing and allow grace, compassion, mercy and patience to form in my life. Smoothing the roughness away.
Haven’t done an art post in a while….
So, this assignment started with any normal object we chose. I selected a combination lock because, well, it was already in my back pack for the times I went to the gym. We then had to produce a series of paintings inspired by the object we brought. Getting inspired by a combo lock proved to be a little harder. What would’ve been some ideas you would have?
After staring at it for a while, I thought about how you can have countless combinations of numbers, but only one set will open the lock. Which led me to wonder what in life has many combinations or ways but only one way out? This question lead me to think about my faith. The world claims there are many ways to reach a number of desired destinations: Nirvana, Heaven, Enlightenment, God. But Jesus made the hugely audacious claim that He was THE way, THE truth and THE life…and that no one goes to the Father except through Him. Well. What can one say to that? I certainly can’t say that Nirvana, Heaven, Enlightment, God, etc are all talking about the same thing. The methods by which you can get to these places as prescribed by the various teachers are also all different. So what if Jesus really IS the true way….the only way? As the popular saying goes, “Where there’s a copy, there must be a real thing.”
Turning back to the painting series…I reflected on how life is a bit of a maze…we all have a start, and entry point…and then we’re set loose in a giant maze. We’re all looking for that way out into a life that is free and purposeful…but some believe the wandering and the search is all there is to life. Certainly the journey is important, but the destination is much more important in this case! Others looking for the way out will encounter wrong turns, dead ends and forks in the roads. What is the right combination? There is a way out. One way out.
So, I painted a maze. It’s reminicent of the maze in Harry Potter isn’t it? I painted mine first though! And it was sold at the end of the semester. Woohoo!