Monday, January 12, 2015

Painting {at} Worship

Okay, so you've heard me talk about painting as worship, but how about painting at worship? As in, painting at church during the {singing} worship portion of the service? I had the opportunity to enjoy doing just that this weekend. Though it was for only a small portion of the service, involving live visual art into the mix of our Sunday service was a first for Autumn Ridge Church. It seemed to have been very well received! 

This was not my first time painting onstage at a church. My previous church in McKinney, Texas, Christ Fellowship, involved me onstage at least twice. I painted an illustration of Isaiah 6 during the sermon. And while Nichole Nordeman's powerful song "Crimson" played, I painted a dark red background on a large canvas while a dancer added her creative interpretation to the song. I continued during the sermon, timing the painting to follow along the course of the message. 

Both times had great feedback, but some felt that the live painting was distracting to the message. There's definitely a tension there, and I suppose a matter of learning styles and taste. I could do an entire post--or twelve--on how the arts could be involved in corporate worship and its pitfalls. 

This occasion, however, was not planned much in advance. And that was a bit freeing. I accepted the off-the-cuff invitation on Thursday, the first church service was Saturday evening. It wasn't the last-minute rush that worried me, other factors that I made me nervous. And in true Amarilys fashion, I'd think and strategize, then peel away and act like it wasn't a factor at all. I bobbed between reality and denial all Saturday. 

Finding a subject to paint. I know that some folks assume that watching an artist doodle is fun enough, but since I had hopes of this helping others be edified over just being entertained, I needed to think up an idea. And I needed to watch it play out. I knew that I would be painting to Chris Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God" during two of the three services. So I thought about the lyrics. I went with some inspiration from three lines for the three services: the splendor of the king, let all the earth rejoice, and He wraps himself in light.
Coping tools: A dry run. I took out a canvas panel and hacked it in three to mockup the proportion that I'd be working with for the services. I wasn't about to create a clear roadmap for the paintings, but I was wanting to find a direction and get a boost of confidence.

I would be working upright with watercolor. Guess what happens with watercolors when they're propped up vertically while wet? Drip. Drip. I do this sometimes for runny backgrounds. I love how the colors blend and repel. I was happy to "go with it," but that's about all they do. 
Coping tools: Paper towels & richer colors towards the end. I rolled a bunch of paper towels and tucked them beneath the canvas. This was going to be a runny mess of a piece, no doubt about it. But to keep the viewers from landing at boredom, I added very saturated pumps of color at the end. When you take a half-wet, watercolor-tinted background and add dabs with a brush that's more loaded with color than water, the new dabs seem to repel the water around it. They're known as backruns. So the colors stayed truer if they were added at the end and I totally exploited those backruns. 

Painting within a very limited amount of time. I don't care who you are, there's only so much you can do in five minutes and twenty seconds... or three minutes and thirty seconds (as was planned for the traditional service)! To an extent, I had to concede. This was going to be an exercise in worship and in broadening the minds of others to embrace a new form of worship... this was not going to be a studio session. The final pieces would not be my best work, and they'd hardly be rendering anything. I could, however, give the piece some shape. I could plan, and therefore cut out some of the thinking time.
Coping tool: Liquid Frisk Mask. I prepped the canvas ahead of time with a few masked areas. Can you see them in the photo above? It was like using clear glue to keep some areas white. These lines served as a sketch and added some interest. As the paint dried, the white areas left behind would shine through. {You can learn more about how Liquid Frisk is used in this post.}

And here are the pieces--a collective fourteen minutes! They're still unfinished in my book. I brought them home to tinker with. But all in all, I'm pleased with the {un}finished result.

It is pretty amazing to do what you love for the Lord, and to be invited to share it, and then to watch how others enjoy it and join in!

This was a wonderfully creative service. You should have been there! I'll post more about it later on this week. Church sketches and more to come!

Keep painting, 

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