As I said yesterday,we are back for our third year at a family art conference. We attend our art class for three hours each morning with optional mini courses in the afternoon, worship each evening, and enjoy a beautiful location that allows for hiking, swimming, resting, and enjoying God’s great creation.
One of the hardest lessons for people to learn is to silence their inner critic. We each have a tendency to compliment others’ work while dismissing our own. Why can we see the beauty in other people’s creations so much easier than we can our own?
This year, the worship leader spoke about how our God is a creating God and since we are created in His image, we are creators too. All of us. We are all artists. We all have that capacity within us. She pointed out that it doesn’t matter how good your work is, how well received it is, how perfect or flawed: you are an artist, regardless.
We call people who have children parents, she pointed out, regardless of whether they are any good at it. So, too, you are an artist, regardless of your skill level.
The idea here was to get people to relax and create. And love their creations.
It’s easier for the kids. They love what they create. It takes years of effort on the part of our society to drive all that hope and creation and self-love out of them. And if we can’t stop society’s effect, it will take years of attending events like this one to add it back in.
I chose to take stained glass this year. It was recommended that I bring a pattern or picture that I’d be interested in doing. My first thought was of Van Gogh’s exploding Tardis:
I was not surprised when I was told it was too much. I had some back up pictures. One was of the backside of a sunflower. It was interesting but not nearly as difficult. That’s all relative, of course. It might be easier than an exploding Tardis… but it was still an ambitious project.
I put in a lot of hours outside of class. Two or three afternoons and a couple of evenings. There were 60 pieces, many of them tiny. They had to be cut, trimmed, ground, fitted with copper foil around the edges, placed together and held in place by horseshoe nails. (As a quick aside… do you have any idea how terrifying it is to hammer a nail right. next. to. your glass creation?!) Then I had to solder all the seams – front and back, attach the lead border, solder it to the seams, and clean it all up.
I finished though and it looks gorgeous.
A lot of people stopped by to check out our work. A number of people insisted that this couldn’t be the first time I had done stained glass. They didn’t believe me when I said I had never done it before. This kind of reaction was, in my mind, both complimentary to me and healthy for them.
Other comments, which were also complimentary to me, seemed perhaps unhealthy for them. At least, if you are looking to believe that we are all artists. They would say stuff like “your whole family is so talented” – as if somehow being married to a potter made me more of an artist. I know they were just telling me that they liked my work and felt I was talented. But I couldn’t help but hear a tone of “well, we’d expect such work out of you… but me…”.
The thing is, I don’t think of myself as an artist most of the time. I’m an engineer and a mother and a wife. My life is full of non-art stuff. I told my husband the other day, “I’m an artist one week out of the year.” It’s this week. At this conference. When I can devote almost my entire self to creating something.
And that’s where the talent lies, I think. In taking the opportunity and making the most out of it. Removing the distractions and the self-criticism and just doing it.
I am an artist… as it was described in our opening worship service. I am not an artist in the way that most of us think about it. I’m not more talented than the person across the table. I don’t have some innate skill, some gift. I’m you. I go into every project thinking I can’t pull it off. And every year I do. And you can too. You just have to believe in yourself.
So, please, do yourself a favor. Go out there and create something. Think and dream and design and build. You won’t regret it. The sense of accomplishment is worth all the frustrations and failures along the way. Trust me. Better yet, trust yourself.