Why is it that I paint? Every time I think about painting, I feel an apprehension that arises in my gut. I guess because I know that every one of them takes me through a similar journey. Every one of them begins in the excitement of a new adventure - a dream even! As I begin painting though, a battle also begins in my mind. The thoughts come rushing in: “What if this one doesn’t turn out? What if I’m not good enough to accomplish it? It’s not going to look like the picture you have in your head, so why even try it? You should probably be doing something more productive.”
Once I banish these thoughts out the window, I begin. It’s a bit like stepping onto a path that you can’t see yet, but you know it’s there, and when you step, then you can see it. Kind of like when Indiana Jones has to cross over a valley and he has to trust that there will appear a bridge that he can walk on. Faith is most definitely in action here. The colors and materials I lay down in this stage lay a foundation to be built upon in the latter stages. They often reveal very exciting things happening, but most of the time, they aren’t the finished product. I have to decide what I’m going to keep, and what I’m going to cover for the good of the whole piece.
Deciding what to keep and what to let go of doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes the good stuff can get even better when given a chance to grow into something bigger. But sometimes, I can see the stuff that’s not working, and you’d think it would be easy to cover over, but it’s not. What should I cover it with? A swipe of color, or a special paper? What if that ruins the whole thing then? Another thought that often comes to mind.
After covering some things, and leaving some things, the painting, and myself, often enters a painful stage. I regret some of my choices, and I’m not sure if it’s going to turn out. Sometimes, I think about abandoning it, and sometimes I do. (Just look at the shelves of half-painted canvases in my studio). The painting feels like a mess and I don’t know which way to go with it. All of my initial fears rush back in. The things I feared may have come upon me and my work. I may have to just go find more toilets to clean for a living!
I tell myself how silly those thoughts are, and after I’ve walked away for a bit, I begin again. A new perspective always brings the blessing of which direction to go. I pick up faith again and keep walking/painting. “Perhaps it isn’t so bad”, I say in my mind. This is where my worship becomes more intense. I renew my thoughts to focus on the Creator Who made me to create. I decide I will finish the work for Him, and then it won’t matter what it looks like. I spend the rest of my “work” time absorbed in the present moments of laying down color and watching them interact with the texture of the dried “ugly” layers. It brings beauty to them. It always does. Just like Jesus brings beauty to us.
I don’t know why I worry about the result every time. But the journey of art making is just like the journey of living. We don’t know how it’s going to look in the end. We walk in faith, make our choices, regret some of them, and begin again. We pray that the new strokes are going to bring beauty again. So if you find yourself at the most painful part - the messy and dark - step back a bit. Let the Creator in again. Follow His lead even though you can’t see the step. He’s faithful, and you can trust Him. Worship Him because He’s worthy, and you’ll see the next color to lay down. Decide to live the rest all for Him. Take each present moment absorbing His Beauty and one day you will see that you and He together have created a masterpiece!