Making Art in Busy Times

Working this summer so hard at my summer job and raising support for the ministry very easily puts art on the back burner, but even in a less busy season I will have just as many reasons to not work on my artistic self.  Looking at stepping into arts ministry in just a short time is certainly a challenge for me to begin practicing what I preach about good art making habits. But it’s the beginning of a very tangled knot to actually develop the creative practices I only know enough to talk about.

I am at an advantage in one way, this is a season of change and I can use it to establish some healthy foundational habits, even if they are small or infrequent. What’s important is that they are the right habits, the habits that have the kind of natures that will grow into what I want to do long term. Sometimes I feel frustrated and embarrassed that I’m starting only now at what seems like square one, but that feeling is actually self-perpetuating, making me turn away from starting at all and then later feeling bad for not having made any progress. So instead of avoiding it, I’m writing it down in hope that I will remember that if I really want to be a good artist I have to start from here.

My next steps are pretty clear, in a time in my life when I am busier than I have ever been, I need to slow down. I need to make art slowly and in quiet stretches of time, no screens on and minimal music. I also need to set aside time to approach the work slowly giving my imagination more time to become active. I need to have the diligence to work on pieces in many sittings if necessary, meaning I come back to work on it each time with fresh eyes and with more I can add to the piece. Being slow and silent will also allow for me to incorporate prayer into working. Mostly I’ve just been having those little frustrated prayers after an unproductive work session, but I’d like to move towards focusing on inviting God into my work before and as I’m doing it. I expect it’s going to feel and look a lot different.

Working slowly and in silence is easier said then done. It surprises me how infrequently people talk about how hard it is to be quiet and alone with God. No talking, no TV, no music, reading, writing, just being and listening. Being silent with God is one of the best and worst places I have ever been. My particular challenge is to practice that quietness with a pencil in my hand, waiting to see what the spiritual realm might have to do with my work.

Working slowly feels like I’m sacrificing what I could do if I worked at “full speed.” But the truth is if I don’t slow down and be precise in my work then it will just be a monumental waste of effort (which is like, my least favorite thing). This verse helped me pin down some of these thoughts: “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6. If I look at the amount I think I’m able to do working “full speed”, and then I cut that in half (one handful instead of two) that’s about the right amount I could actually do well. Now I just have to remember that it’s not a loss to let go of something that is “toil and striving after wind.”

Here are a few mostly unfinished things so you can see what I have been working on when I have been working.

 

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