Monday, June 13, 2016

In Weakness

It has, once again, been some time since I posted here. There has been a great deal happening, and so my art has been pushed to the side for a little while. But now that I am getting into the swing of things, I am hoping to push ahead with more designs.

This has been a dabbling year. I have started dabbing in embroidery-painting threads on fabric, a more rhythmic craft that pen and ink. I enjoy the steady repeated stitches, the hum of my own pace with needle and thread.

I have dabbled alongside my sister in block printing. This, too, has a rhythm, and I am find that the repeats offer chances to improve, to flourish, and to make sense of things. We have done both paper and fabric, and are finding our way to where this art might lead.

The main fabric, printed with black tulips, is an original design by my sister Karly and I, hand printed on cotton. The bindings are made from purchased quilting fabrics. 

Of course, I have continued with my fraktur designs. The feel of watercolor is still my favorite. The pooling colors swirling, the uneven ink rambling over rough paper.

A few pieces sold at From Our Hands Creative 2016. The show was lovely, and I so enjoyed meeting everyone! 
Finding the time for all of this has been a challenge. I have three jobs, if you include my art, and so balance has been difficult. Where does it all fit, I wonder? Am I enough for this? I certainly do not feel it. I do not feel that I am enough for all of this, nor that my life has enough room for all of this. 

But perhaps this is the very best place to be. A place of emptiness, of unworthiness. Because if things go well, I will know that it is not I who did it all on my own, but that it is the power of Christ in me. When I empty myself, I am filled beyond my expectations. He brings us low so that He can do His great work.

So I try to stay low, and pray simply that the work of the Lord be done.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Beauty in its Time

 It is easy to feel like a small person in a big world, isn’t it?

I am an artist, and sometimes I feel that way about my work. Why does it matter that I draw and paint and sell it and draw and paint some more? What difference does it make when the world is full of tragedy, people without homes and food, people dying and in need? In a world like this, why does art matter?

That is a big question. Academics have written and rewritten over and over why they think art matters. They look for some kind of answer in art that makes them feel bigger than themselves, something that makes a political statement, comments on social issues, or even makes change. It is not enough to simply make something beautiful—you have to say something for it to really be important.

Well, holding my art up next to that is humbling. My art makes no political statements that I’m aware of; it makes no comment on social issues. It is an act of tradition and of beauty. Can this hold up next to what the world of art deems to be “art”? What if it can’t?  

Maybe you are not an artist, but I am sure that you have asked the very same question: “Is my work superfluous?”

Solomon asked the very same question. “What gain has the worker for his toil?” he asked in Ecclesiastes. He was a mighty king, a man of great wisdom and power. And yet still, even this man asked why his work mattered. I feel that question hang heavy some days. So why do I keep at it?

For one simple reason:  my art is an act of obedience.

You see, I believe in a God who changes hearts, who changes me—and works His changes through those who cling to Him. I believe in a God who gives us gifts to use for His work in the world. We are given our gifts by the Lord to use them for His purpose. That purpose is not always clear to us, like it is not for me right now, but we can’t see the big picture. We only see the fragments in our range of vision. He sees it all, and makes it all beautiful.  I do not say this lightly, for I have seen Him work in and through people in this way. I can only pray He uses me this way, too.

So how does this change things for me?

It means two things. One, that my art flows from my love for the Lord. It also means the outcome of my work is not in my hands. For Solomon answered his own question: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

I cannot see the big picture here. I desperately want to, but Solomon also pointed out that “he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  What does it mean to have eternity set in my heart? It means that I can feel the big picture. I know there is a God who is bigger than I know and yet I cannot know His entire plan and self. I know Him and yet what I know only scratches the surface. The eternity is our hearts is like an awareness that there is something bigger going on.

So do not fear, dear one. Your work matters to the Lord, no matter how small it seems to you. Whether you are a plumber, a bank teller, a CEO or just a friendly face at your local fast food place, the work you do matters to God. He is working a plan so much wider than the scope of our view that we can only sense it, not see it. One day we will see how every transaction, every phone call, every email plays a part in the steps towards the last day. This is the gift he gives to us: to be His hands making beauty in His time. Will you trust your work to Him? 

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 ESV