Archive for April, 2006

life lessons through humilty and art

March was so busy. I didn’t even see it coming. The busyness was for many happy and fulfilling things, but none-the-less stressful. One of these stressful projects was helping to coordinate and set-up our office’s annual Art Festival. Along with the set-up, I wanted to finish my big oil painting that I’ve been working on. Many people (including myself) had high hopes and expectations of seeing this painting hanging in the office several days after the set-up of the Art Fest. So my first afternoon back in the office after my mom’s visit, I had 5 people ask where the painting was. I was frustrated to say the least. Didn’t they understand that I’d been working my tail off – giving up my “painting time” to set-up the Art Festival for them, hosting friends & family at my house, and then in the few spare moments of “free time” I HAD been working on my painting….but it still wasn’t finished. It’s not an overnight process! Geez! Their expectation and excitment was overwhelming to me. It brought out personal boundry issues that I have been working on in myself but, obviously, still need to continue working on. They didn’t know how busy I had been and were only excited about seeing my painting – it should have been a compliment, right?! The pressure was getting in the way of that perspective.

So, last Monday, I worked on my piece. I felt loose and motivated to paint…making sure I wasn’t painting because of other’s expectation of me. I painted almost all day, and at the end, I was crushed. I had wrecked my painting. A tree that was to be subtle, yet intersting, had turned into a gigantic, dark, looming, flat, coloring-book-like tree. It was no small mistake or something that could be looked over or go unnoticed. I felt sick. The day had started out sunny and hopeful but along with my emotions had turned gloomy. I tried to brush off the complete disappointment – the be-littling “self-talk” that kept creeping into my mind…”You call yourself and artist?!”…”You failed!”…”That $40 canvas was a waste of money. Nathan should have known better than to let you waste the money on something you were just going to screw-up.” It was the most suicidal I had ever felt. My identity had been wrapped up in my artistic ability. Art is deep running root in my life. I have young childhood memories of drawing and designing and playing with clay with my dad. It was/is this piece of me that connects all my life experiences. Now, this painting that I had so much hope for, that I had invested so much of myself and soul into was completely ruined because of one bad afternoon. Nathan came home when I was making dinner. I told him, “I messed up my painting today.” He understood how I was hurting. He said, “Kelli, you are still learning to oil paint. This is only like your 4th piece to work on”. It was true and he was right. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate.

A year ago, when I began working part-time to invest in my art, I had made the decision to be intentional about my art and the artist that I have been created to be. It was a calling that I had to “fight” for. The world isn’t going to encourage art for art’s sake but I knew that God had created me for just this purpose. I had to be willing to take this as a journey and not an end product. I had/have to be able to push out all pre-defined ideas about “who an artist is”. Are you only considered an artist when you sell a piece? When you do it as a way of income? When you worship it and it becomes first priority above all else? Are you second class if you’re a hobbiest? If no one actually knows that you paint/draw/sculpt/write/sing, etc? Can it remain that silent piece that connects you with God?….like Mary who “pondered these things in her heart”. These are all questions that I’ve asked myself over the last year and before. I’m finding that my art and creative process is most sweet when it is silent and does not get attention. That’s when it is able and free to be art for art’s sake (or for my sake or for God’s sake).

This last week, I’ve become aware of “where I was” last Monday – when the painting went awry. Able to see that my subconscious focus had been on the end product and a looming deadline. Now, it will be impossible for my painting to be finished for the Art Fest. There is hope in fixing it but it will take a while. It’s amazing how all the stress and expectation just melted away when these two things were realized. When the piece is finished – after a lot of hard work and rehab – I will get to enjoy it. Maybe no one else will get to see it – only those who visit our home – but I’m very ok with that.

I’ve had to explain to some co-workers around the office that I messed up my painting. That is an extremely humbling situation. They were so understanding, encouraging, and gracious – echoing what I had begun to realize – a lesson to learn and put to good use next time, and a realization that my heart wasn’t fully connected that day to listen to God’s input and peace in the process. It had been for my glory – for me to “save face” in people’s expectations. Oh the irony! As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a mini gospel lesson…taking control of my God given gift and living according to mine & other’s expectations, pride trying to uphold my self-worth and falling short, finding grace in humility and realization that I can’t do it by myself, and having hope at the end of it all.

Today, I’ve begun to paint “white” over my ugly tree so that I can begin again. I recognize the symbolizm of it all. The purity of white, covering what is ugly in order to redeem it.

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