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!


InkMom said...

You have no idea how thrilled I am to horde those buttermints and eat them in the privacy of my closet, far away from the grubby, grabby little fingers of my children.

I taught our RS lesson yesterday on developing talents, and as I prepared, I was again struck by how closely related are talents and spiritual gifts. (Why aren't those two lessons taught together?!?) The exercise of faith is required to magnify the talents we have been given -- and when we consider the good we can do in the kingdom through the use of our talents, then every last one of them becomes a spiritual gift.

Love this post . . . love creation.

Happy Mom said...

Nice post!

My husband has always been supportive of anything creative that I've ever wanted to do. He says that it's evidence of the divine to want to create.

Congrats InkMom!

Kimberly said...

There's nothing like having a meeting of the minds where you feel like yours was the only mind actually present! lol

Congrats InkMom!

And thank you for sharing the inspiration. I'm all fired up suddenly!

Shari said...

Such a beautiful post! Thanks Jana.

Heidi said...

I was reading today about victim personalities (I suspect my youngest might have some of that in him) and ran across a quote that said how we need to be creators of our lives, not victims or someone who allows things to be done to us. When we choose to create, whether it be a painting or a blog post or our life, we have to exercise faith that the effort, as well as any other resources, we expend in the process will be worth the end result. And now I'm wishing I had a buttermint.

Candy Eash said...

I have been pondering this same concept at length lately. Some of the blessing I've received in the past few months have helped me understand that we need to cultivate our creative side. Not doing so creates a frustrating imbalance.
Nice post. :)

Dedee said...

Thanks for sharing! I love this post. Lots. Thanks for the reminders that I have lost sight of lately.

You? Are a queen in every sense of the word.

(May I pretty-please have a buttermint lesson?

Melanie Jacobson said...

Wow. This sounds amazing. I don't like thinking of my writing as art because it takes me to the edge of that scary realm where I realize how much I need to faith to make something great. And my faith is weak. I like to think of my writing as a skill that pure hard work and practice can refine into excellence.

And that right there, is actually the analogy that explains my lifelong struggle with the gospel.

I have things to think about, I guess.

Kazzy said...

Every one of us is a creator. And I believe we were all involved in the first great creation.

That conversation you wrote about with the dude at the lacrosse game..... grrrr. It made me very tense.

Luisa Perkins said...

I now have a crush on Alvaro.

You were in the right place at the right time--another necessary fundamental of creation.

Oh, how I love this post and this topic--I could go on and on.

Another concept I love is spiritual creation before physical creation: sketch/study before painting, outline before novel.

You are a faithful, art-full creator, and you inspire me every time we interact. xoxo

Jessica said...

I LOVE this! Going to copy these lines down for my own writing journal!

Mona said...

I too will make note of some of these quotes in my journal - right beside pages of others I have accumulated through the years on the subject of creativity - one of my favorite topics! Here's a sample of a apostolic view on creativity:

Elder Maxwell: “Thus creativity involves both a process and a result. It springs out of our seeing possibilities we have not seen before, seeing connections between patches of truth and beauty, and responding to them in ways we have not done before. Feelings that lead to poetry, mental imagery that leads to painting, and pondering that gives birth to prose are but examples. Creativity, therefore, is not simply innovation but organization.”

Lara said...

I am so bookmarking this for my inspiration forevermore.

How can anyone question whether art of any kind has a spiritual base? It does seem obvious! I'm glad that maybe you enlightened that man's mind a bit. :)

I love the way Heavenly Father teaches us eternal principles, and creation is definitely that.

LisAway said...

So beautiful and so enlightening! Very neat. Thank you for sharing this. I love that you got two conferences in one. :)

L.T. Elliot said...

I think that the moment I connect, the moment that faith turns into surety, that's when the words flow. It's like I finally hear the whisper and it cuts through the din and it's just me and God, like a wind through my soul.

This desire to create is so deeply rooted that I feel it must come from God. I don't even understand it, sometimes. I ask myself often why it matters. And even when I don't get the answer I think I want, I still feel it. How can it be anything but God?

Katie Bevan said...

That conversation would make me so annoyed with that man. You handled it nicely. I definitely think that faith and art go hand in hand. I can feel it whenever I paint or draw. Thanks for the post!