Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Painter

March 23, 2009

The other day I met a painter. Oh, not the one who is getting ready to put fresh
colors on the walls of my house, but a real P-A-I-N-T-E-R, one who dabbles in oils, and paints portraits and landscapes. During our brief encounter, he showed me a small, but impressive portfolio of his work - beautiful Native Americans, children, churning seas, and still life. He might even be famous, but I allowed him his anonymity as we chatted. He commented that his students often ask him, “How do I paint a tree? How do I capture the crest of the wave?” He said he tells them to just think like the tree …to think like a wave.

So this morning I am trying to think like a tree - not to paint it, but to write about it. And I am thinking that trees do not think…. nor does a wave or a rock. But they do give us much to think about if we study them. Maybe that is what my artist friend meant. I guess that is how true expression of any artist comes forth – their thoughts of the object as they think about it and interpret it through their mind’s eye (and their heart’s as well). Isn’t that why some paintings are colorful and engaging and some are dark and removed? Isn’t it the mind of the painter that thinks instead of the subject being painted? If a painter thought like the tree as he painted, then wouldn’t all paintings be alike? That is, if the painter were honest in interpreting the thoughts of a tree, without adding any of his own thoughts to the canvas. Oh, I digress and am confusing myself.

Somehow, somewhere, our mind’s soul is drawn to capture something – whether it is on a canvas, at the potter’s wheel, in a conversation, or in the written word. And it is in the “drawing of the mind” where creativity flourishes. The “drawing” or the longing of finding richness, or completeness, or expression that is beyond what the human mind can conceive – but longs for. As a friend said, “There are just no words to describe a sunset – we just sit and watch it.”
Maybe we should sit and quietly watch more sunsets. Henri Nouwen says, “Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.” As I admire – with no words - the cherry and apple trees blooming outside my raised window, I return to the One who provides it all, the grand Artist, the substance of all creation who out of love, designed an extraordinary world with redbud trees, bald eagles, and tidal currents. And topping it all off, created you and me with a heart and soul to care for it all, to think and study and learn and wonder and worship – and interpret. The Artist of creation beckons us to think His thoughts, to learn His ways, to know Him. Maybe my friend meant, “Just think like God!” It makes one speechless for sure.

But more and more it is what gets me through the days. Days that can bring sadness and sorrow (great struggle) can also bring me a surprise of nature or a friend to remind and inspire me and I am drawn back in to see the big picture (great encounter) a little more clearly. As spring emerges from the cold earth, I realize how closely we are connected to the same cycle and must all die before we can emerge to life eternal. And yet, we are given the gift of today – that is grace. I do believe it is why Nature sings to us each day and instructs us constantly with wordless wisdom. What will we paint? Who will we think like? Sandi Patti’s song, Artist of My Soul, expresses my ramblings so well.
Oh Lord of light, of form and hue,
Who has created all things new,
Create in me, from shapeless clay,
An instrument on which you play.

God of the dance that planets tread,
Who walks beside and soars ahead,
O let me move to worship Thee;
come, Holy Spirit dance with me

God of the Living Word, Poet of Time,
teach me Your words in Your cadence and rhyme.
O Lord of beauty, Lord of art,
Who gives a song for every heart,
carve out my life, reshape and mold;
And be the artist of my soul

Teach me Your words in Your cadence and rhyme.
O Lord of beauty, Lord of art,
Who gives a song for every heart,
carve out my life, reshape and mold;
and be the artist of my soul.

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