Monday, May 16, 2011

Where Faith Meets Story Meets Art

I had a strange (and mildly hilarious, if not frustrating) conversation yesterday, with an oldish man at the edge of the Lacrosse field, waiting for the game to start:

Him: What's that you're reading?

Me: (not too keen on striking up conversations with strangers, buried in my book) It's a book by Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water.

Him: Oh, is it a fantasy?

Me: (still buried in the book) No, she's written some fantasy, but this is actually non-fiction. (I point to the subtitle: Reflections on Faith and Art.)

Him: Faith and Art? What do those things have to do with each other?

Me: (wanting to laugh) Everything.

Him: Huh? Are you being serious?

Me: Creation. Everything. Think about it: The world was created by faith. All genuine creation is connected to faith.

Him: Oh, I guess when you put it that way, it kinda makes sense. she an artist?

Me: In a way. She's a writer. Her writing is her art.

Him: Then is that a romance novel you're reading?

I kid you not. That was his exact final question. AAARRRGGGHHHH! 

I grew up in a home where the gospel, the arts, and creativity were seamlessly woven together. Sometimes I forget that the rest of the world didn't grow up like that, doesn't think and feel like that.

* * * * *

I had been planning to attend a writers' conference this year...until I realized it fell on the exact same dates as a watercolor workshop I signed up for clear back in October! It was the strangest thing...our watercolor society was flying this amazing internationally-recognized painter here from Uruguay. I was over the moon at the prospect of studying with him. And yet, as I contemplated the opportunity cost, I was also grieving the fact that I couldn't attend the writers' conference. I grappled with these mixed emotions right up until the workshop started, a little over a week ago.

BUT. As soon as Alvaro started talking, I realized I was at a writers' conference after all. This guy was talking about Creation with a Capital C. And everything he said about painting also applied directly to writing. I was learning about both painting and writing at the exact same favorite, most exhilarating way to learn!

Consider these opening lines: (This is verbatim, as fast as I could copy them down)
Decide what you want to say.
Tell a story.
Establish a mood.
Exploit the main elements to tell a better story--make it more dramatic.
Cut through the light with a dramatic dark.
It's all about spontaneity--less control.
Be unpredictable.
Embrace absurdity.
Don't be too obvious; capture the essence.
Your work should be enigmatic and mysterious.
And then here is a series of quotes I jotted down over the next few days:

A work of art is gut feelings. The depth of the painting resides in the philosophy of the artist. We have to be sensitive and succumb to the truth around us. If you are more perceptive and can withdraw from the analytic, mechanical to access passion, you have a chance to make it. Don't try to show me your intelligence. I'm looking for a higher intelligence, which is intuitive, spiritual.
Everything has an opposite: ying/yang; light/dark; cool/warm; hard/soft edges; lost/found. We need to be aware of them, use them, love them.

Subject doesn't matter--what matters is how you address the subject. Don't choose a postcard (obvious subject--too pretty, too perfect). If you do it, you have to do it in a way that moves my soul.
You could have the best technique in the world but if you paint without passion, you are worthless, you are nothing. You have to paint with LOVE.

Don't destroy the unity of the painting with disjointed darks. One of the best ways to have unity in your painting is by connecting a pattern of darks. 

What is the mission of the artist on earth? Create the most powerful emotional impact. Exceed what happens in nature, exaggerate. Capture the essence, the abstract, the inaccessible.

Imitating reality is just matching up; we are intelligent beings. We can imagine things. The only chance we have of rising above is by capturing the essence, not manipulating by intellect but by incorporating a combination of innocence, purity, and mystery. Become like a child.
The brain has the ability to project. Whenever I make a mark on the paper to paint a figure, I see it so clearly in my mind I can already see it on the paper. I see every stroke before I paint it.

I'm here to deliver a message, but you have to be ready to receive that message. At some point our thoughts will meet in the ether. After much experience painting, years of practice, there will come a time where my words ring true, where you realize that I'm right. Not just now, where you believe me, but once you get to that point, through your experience, you will know.

* * * * *

See what I mean? Faith. Story. Art.  Inseparable.
Or, as Keats said, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

--Oh, and you also need to know that we have a winner of the buttermints: Congratulations, Inkmom! If I can get a batch to turn out in this warmer weather, I'll send them your way right away!