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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Inspiration

Something to inspire your day

Face Your Artistic Fears, Artistically

Hello everyone!

It’s that time of year for us where we begin to discuss what our Easter services are going to look like. We’ve spent time narrowing down our themes and aesthetics and are looking at how we want to portray the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a heavy, yet jubilant season, and we want to do it well.

But in the past couple of weeks, I was challenged like I haven’t been since I took the role of Drama Ministry Coordinator. One of my dear colleagues (and good friend) suggested a presentation that would take the entire team’s input and direction throughout the process to pull off. I wouldn’t be able to go and create my part and put it together with everyone else’s later. We would be breaking new ground with what we’ve done artistically, technically, and organizationally.

My initial thoughts included: “Yes! That’s so cool!”

My subsequent thoughts included: “Can we even do that? I really don’t know if we can.”

This is a terrifying and exhilarating place to be. If we move forward with this idea (which I’m not going to spell out. You’ll have to come and see the service if you want to see), it will challenge me and the team to step into ground that is out of my comfort zone. Which, I believe, is exactly where we need to be.

SistineChapel.jpg

Can you imagine Michelangelo, suspended under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, brush in hand, about to place his first stroke? That could not have been an easy project to start. So much empty canvas in one of the most important churches in the world. And HE had to fill it. Failure would be unacceptable. Mediocrity would be disaster. Michelangelo HAD to step up.

And he did. With, quite literally, flying colours.

It can become easy, especially when have a stable, creative job on staff somewhere, to stick with what works and what you know. Often the drive to create comes from someone else: a boss, a co-worker, a ministry partner. I get to stretch my creative muscles, but I am not creating something from the depths of my own soul with the frequency that many artists keep. My own projects get built slowly in my spare time (or occasionally get matched up with the needs of the church…those are wonderful days!) while I work on what the church needs.

It’s a wonderful place to be, but it doesn’t push me artistically very frequently. Yet, it is in the pushing that we grow. There is a place for repetition and practice. There is another place for stepping outside what we’re know to see what’s on the other side.

This is one of the big points Ed Catmull makes in the book Creativity, Inc., which uses the story of Pixar to teach about creating creative cultures. We need to balance one foot in the known while stepping out into the unknown if we are going to tap into our best creativity. If you haven’t read this book, I suggest it.

So, this project may fall flat on its face. We may realize it’s too big for us right now and pull the plug. Or, we may realize a dream and step into a new era of creativity at RockPointe.

I like that last option.

So, when you are faced with challenges that seem beyond you, remember that each one gives us the opportunity to lean into God, who is FAR bigger and FAR more capable than we will ever be. He who created the cosmos lives within us. If we can tap into what He is doing, we will be able to create FAR beyond what would otherwise be possible.

I challenge you to look at what you are doing with your work this week. Does it challenge you? Are you keeping both feet firmly planted where it is safe and secure? Or are you ready to step out, in faith, to push back the boundaries of the new and the safe? See what happens. Maybe God will step into those moments alongside you, and what you are left with will be a legacy that can be placed alongside the Sistine Chapel.

Who knows?

Blessings

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NaNoWriMo 2015

Writing
St Augustine, probably catching up his daily word count for NaNoWriMo 415AD.

Hello everyone,

I’ve read several times that the greatest tool for getting a project finished is to have a hard and fast deadline. I’ve had several writing projects that I’ve either just started or been sitting on for a while, and I figured that having a nice deadline would help me actually finish one.

To that end, I’ve joined National Novel Writing Month this year. For those who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it is an international event held each November, where aspiring (and established) writers put aside all of their writing inhibitions and aim to write a 50 000 word novel in 30 days. That’s 1667 words, every day, for a month. There is a well-established community of writers who love to help people on their way, pep talks by professional authors, and games and events throughout the month. It is a caffeine-driven month of madness that can end with the jubilation of a finished novel, or the bitter taste of failure.

I tried last year, and ended up with the latter of those two outcomes. Unfortunately, November is rather a busy time for students, and my commitments for drama ministry, paper writing, and projects to finish meant that I only got about 6500 words or so written before I had to pack it in. I still have that draft, and plan to go back and finish it some day, but not just now.

This year, I’ve started a new project. An adventure novel. I’m telling all of you this because having other people know about my commitment to writing 50 000 words this month ups the stakes. It may be what I need to push through to finish by the end of November. So, I’m hereby giving all of you permission to bug me, berate me, and cheer me on as I take on the Herculean task of writing a novel (in addition to writing a blog and several drama pieces for Christmas church drama…I’m a little crazy, I know).

I’ve spoken before about the value of ritual and discipline in the lives of Christians and artists. This is me putting that into practice. If any one wants to join me, it’s not too late. You’ve just missed 2.5 days of writing, leaving you 27.5 left to get out that masterpiece. And if you aren’t a writer, and don’t want to be, I hope you can find some time each day to work on your craft. I will be writing over my lunch hour this month, with another couple-hour session another day each week. I’m hoping this will cement a discipline for writing that I can carry over into my other work and projects in the future.

Here’s to a crazy month of creative surges and manic productivity!

Blessings

Fall Inspiration

I sit looking out my window at the sunshine washing over rapidly changing leaves. The crabapple tree outside my townhouse is loaded with red apples, yellow and orange leaves, and a few patches of green foliage that steadfastly refuse to change colour. It can mean only one thing: fall is here!

I love when the seasons change. Usually at that point, I have become a little tired of whatever season we are coming out of and am ready for something new. Each year, Fall brings a vibrancy of colour, warm drinks, and long coats.

For those seeking to create art these days, the season change can bring a plethora of inspiration. I thought I would give you a few jumpstarts to get you moving:

Autumn in Paris
Source: Valerii Tkachenko via Wikicommons

“Great art picks up where nature ends.”
-Marc Chagall

“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye…it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.”
-Edvard Munch

“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”
-Oscar Wilde

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
-Scott Adams

So this week, go out and paint! Sit in a coffee shop with a pumpkin spice latte and write. Put on some leg warmers and dance. Just Go! Do! Art!

Blessings,

Quotes Revisited

Earlier this week, I posted 10 quotes to help inspire your artistic endeavors. Today, I want to look at a few and expand on them. It is my aim to interpret what these thoughts can mean for the faithful artists of today as they seek to find God and maintain artistic integrity. We will explore what art can offer the world one small bit at a time.

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“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.”
– Stella Adler

I don’t know of anyone who can claim that life is always easy and care-free. Life is hard for everyone. It is harder for some than others, but we all face pain, suffering, and adversity throughout our years. Unfortunately, the unstoppable wearing of life can, as Adler so eloquently puts it, “[beat] down and [crush] the soul.”

Yet, life is not a long, dreary march toward oblivion. It is a struggle, to be sure, but it is a struggle that is full of beauty, hope, love, and joy. These are the things that feed our souls, allowing us to continue on our journey through this life. And art, fortunately, has the opportunity to remind us of these moments of glory. It can remind us of the times when we were full of joy, or fill us with awe at the majesty of the Creator. It can be a light-filled respite from the darkness that threatens to encroach on our lives.

If for this reason alone, I would argue for art’s value in our lives. Yet it has many other amazing qualities.

“Sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God.”
   – Catechism of the Catholic Church

For those who have been reading with me since the summer, you know that my aim is to seek God through the avenue of art. I acknowledge that there are other ways to connect with the Creator, but as one called to create art, it is the path I know best. In this quote, the Catholic Church affirms art’s capability to draw us to a place to meet with God.

As we enjoy the beauty of a created object, we can be lifted up to look at the Creator of all objects. A beautiful landscape, a symphonic masterpiece, or a delicately folded piece of origami each show part of God’s majesty. If we keep our eyes, ears, and minds open, we will soon see God’s fingerprints in the works of all great artists. If the aim of art is to portray truth, then all great art should, in some way, point back to the Greatest Truth.

In this way, art is an invaluable tool to help us along the greatest journey we ever undertake: the search for God.

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
   – Henry David Thoreau

This one was probably my favourite of the bunch. My imagination is one of my favourite qualities about myself. I am easily swept into stories of swashbuckling pirates or fearful runaways or dashing knights that occur nowhere except my mind. I often fall asleep immersed in a world I have created. It may be part escapism, but these worlds are also places to explore greater meanings of life without the danger of actual conflict or injury.

Yet none of these imagination-led wanderings would be capable without an exploration of the real world. Many are based on the question “What if…” as I look around me each day. I see a person at my work and wonder “What if that girl was a spy escaping from an evil plot?” Or I read a novel and think “What if the character had done something else?” I often wonder what our world would have been like if certain changes in technology had never occurred, or if extra technology was at our fingertips. These additions to reality are the jumping off points for a plethora of stories I have that are waiting to be written or staged.

The ability of art to express the imagination and its relation to the real world is the real reason I call myself an artist. I can, like my Father before me, create worlds for His glory. I can mimic God as I create stories and images, beginnings and endings. This is how I relate to God.

But what do you think? What quotes inspire you to create? And how do you use your inspiration and art to seek after God? Or, if you prefer, what do you think about the quotes I delved into today? Do you see something else in them that I missed, or do you see something completely different? Join the conversation!

Blessings

10 Quotes to Inspire Your Art

I want to start off this week with some quotes that I’ve found to inspire your art. No matter what your discipline is, spend some time this week making art. Make good art, make bad art, just make it with all you’ve got.

I haven’t been able to confirm that all of the quotes are attributed to the correct people, but the research so far seems pretty good. I hope you enjoy!

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“None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands.”
Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.”
C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
Andy Warhol 

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
Aristotle

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.”
Stella Adler

“Sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God”
Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”
Neil Gaiman

“Dancers are the athletes of God.”
Albert Einstein

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
Henry David Thoreau

Do any of these quotes inspire you? If so, go and be artistic for the week. Come back on Thursday, when I will discuss my top three favourite quotes from this list.

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