Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Three Themes: Truth • Life • Beauty

People often ask, "what do you paint?" This is it! But why? Read on.
When I was a little girl, my teachers marveled at my drawings; the people with their profiles drawn, circles for heads with little u-shaped bumps to represent noses, tube-like arms, and details such as accessories to match their clothes. But somewhere between preschool and graduating from art school I started worrying about my work. What would be my subject matter? What would be my theme? What am I trying to say with my artwork? Suddenly, painting what I saw in my life wasn't good enough anymore; it had to make a statement that hadn't been made before, it had to communicate a profound idea—or at the very least communicate a product.

I became so bogged down with these questions, that I craved external direction. It made me a good illustrator and graphic designer, but it made me a lousy artist. I didn't enjoy painting, and fretted so much about the subject and concept that I'd often not even start. The blank, expensive papers and canvases seemed too precious for merely my desire to create. That is, until I had a my firstborn.

Something about becoming a mother, enjoying the moment and relishing in life, made me throw away all of the prejudices I had about painting. I wanted to create, to work out or watch life flow out of me through vibrant colors. I wanted to paint what I was learning, what I was processing. I wanted to doodle for the sake of beauty and I needed to somehow express powerful themes I saw in my Bible study time. And... speaking of time... I had only two-hour naps to do it. If that!

And thus I started painting what I came to call watercolor devo's. They are watercolor out-workings during my regular devotional times. I allowed my natural urge to express dictate what was to be said on that paper. As I look at my body of work, I see three recurring themes: Truth, Life and Beauty.

I stare at the text, befuddled that it's written so plainly. How can such astounding truth be contained in plain writing? Those verses simply didn't make sense the way they sat on the page. They should burst! They should shout! Gracefully glide or powerfully punch! Sometimes those words on the page were so profound that I'd find myself staring at them, as if waiting for them to start talking from their loops. But they just laid there in an inoffensive font. So I took out my brushes again and painted, meditating on those truths, letting the color seep into paper as the meaning soaked in my heart.

Nothing flows more naturally out of me than painting from my life. The experiences that tend to prevail in this type of work tend to be treasured moments of motherhood, our time living in China, and portraiture. These tend to take on an illustrative nature, the best of these have a story to tell as the viewer looks into a snippet of the everyday.

We are surrounded by beauty, and it is to be celebrated! I am less concerned with making my subject matter look realistic as I am with celebrating it. I explore the shapes, the shades, the vibrancy of nature—be it abstracted or representative.

These three themes intermingle and overlap, and isn't that the nature of these greats: life, art, and expression? We wrestle to grasp ideas and at times are wise enough to let go and relish in the mess.