Admittedly, I don’t know much about art. I’m a novice (and that’s being kind). But I know what I like. I can’t explain why I like it; I just know that I do. There are sculptures and paintings, and graffiti on bridges, that speak to me. Maybe seeing them calms me. Maybe it inspires or challenges me. Or reminds me of something.
When I was finishing my book and looking ahead to publishing it, I had a notion of what I wanted to use for the cover. It was an image, however vague and blurry, in my mind. I couldn’t put the image into words, but suspected I would know it when I saw it.
I checked Facebook one morning (I think it was a Sunday morning). A friend had posted a link to a painting she had finished—or almost finished (many of the drawings she’s posted online are works in progress). I followed the link to her website, then looked at her other paintings. That’s when I saw it. It was the image in my mind, or very close to it:
If I like a song, it’s because I enjoy singing it in my car. I will often replay the song once it’s finished, just to relive the experience. If I enjoy a movie, it’s because the characters interest me, or because the movie deals with a theme I find inspiring. If I like a painting, it’s because it invites me in—into the artist’s mind, the space he or she occupied while creating it.
Which is why, when I saw that painting, it stood alone. There was something honest about it. Subtle; it didn’t hit you over the head trying to make a point. Had to use your imagination, and dig a few feet beneath the surface.
There was also mystery to it. I wasn’t quite sure what it represented, and that made me want to explore it more. I think that’s why I don’t enjoy hearing musicians talk about their songs and explain the meanings behind them. I want to preserve the mystery behind the songs. The beauty of art is that a song or sculpture can have different meanings to different people.
I believe God speaks through art. More specifically, I believe the holy spirit speaks through art. When I spoke to Deborah about the painting, she told me she had worked a long time on it, and prayed throughout the process. She wanted the holy spirit to shine through the work. That made sense to me, as I believe the holy spirit speaks in hushed tones, rather than raised voices. Her painting was more of a whisper than a scream.
There are times, when I’m playing music, doing a play or writing a story, that something happens. I can’t explain it. Words and notes simply pour out. Phrases come in bunches; I hit high notes I otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. Sometimes what comes out is dangerous; sometimes it’s comforting and safe. I often look back and exclaim, “Where did that come from?” It’s one of the most satisfying, invigorating experiences imaginable. And the reason I’ve never been able to give up artistic pursuits.
But it’s also unpredictable. It comes with a loss of control, and we often resist not being in control.
Nowhere did I see it more clearly than in acting. Acting is all about emotion, and emotion can’t be controlled. This scares an actor. What if he steps onstage and the emotion doesn’t come? For fear of that, he gives himself a safeguard. He determines exactly how he will speak his lines—the certain inflections he will use, the moments he will raise his voice and perhaps shake his fist. Instead of allowing for the uncertainty and exploration, to see where his instincts take him, he says the lines exactly the way he has chosen, putting the emotive pauses, highs and lows into the spots where he feels they are needed.
It might be good enough to convince an audience or get the part. But he will never be completely satisfied because he knows he played it safe, and never experienced that moment of surrender, when something extraordinary could have happened.
I never thought I could be a writer because I didn’t outline. I had always heard that to write a book you needed to outline it first, and I wasn’t able to do that. I usually write with a general framework in mind, but not much else. I start writing and, more often that not, words come pouring out—ones I didn’t plan. A friend of mine calls it “following the story.” But to follow something (or someone) means you don’t know where you’re going. You’re not the one in charge. That’s a frightening notion.
The courage to just be—to sit in the moment, without planning, and allow ourselves the freedom to explore and discover. The words we’ve always wanted to say, the choruses we’ve always wanted to sing, the images we’ve always wanted to put to canvas or paper (or bridges), but didn’t know how to do so. These are the moments the artist lives for. If something is done honestly, its genuineness will shine through.
(*Visit http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/2290102 for more of the artist’s works.)