Trusting and Creating

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Magical Camp

We are once again at the family art conference that we’ve gone to for three years now. And it continues to be a magical experience for us all. Most of the people here have been coming for years and we’ve finally been here enough that I’m starting to feel like I know people and am known by others.

This year Hal got to join the Young Artists group instead of the nursery.  Technically you are supposed to have completed Kindergarten but that’s a loose rule and “they” felt he was ready.  He’s having a blast.  According to his big brother, he’s quite the disruption.  Big brother seemed surprised when I told him I had received the same report about him by big sister the first year we were here.

Jane is taking Landscape Painting with acrylics.  She now loves to paint and is doing remarkably well.  My husband is trying his hand  at Digital Photography and, while he claimed earlier in the day yesterday to dislike it as an art form, is now enjoying himself immensely.  I’m doing Stained Glass and once again managed to pick an overly ambitious project.  And once again, with a wonderful and supportive teacher, I’m pulling it off fairly well.  Although I’m having to put in some extra hours outside of class to get it done!

The big story of the week so far though has been Daryl.  Daryl has fallen in love with a charming three year old girl named Mia.  He is smitten.  And I mean that in the healthy, he’s-going-to-make-an-awesome-daddy-one-day kind of way not the man-that’s-kind-of-creepy way.  He plays with her and takes care of her like he’s never done for his own little brother.

When Mia loses her sword (again) after slaying the mighty dragon, he tells her to climb to safety in the covered wagon (where monsters, including dragons, apparently can’t go) and then, after making sure she is safe, goes and retrieves another imaginary sword to slay yet another mighty dragon.

When she falls down, he’s right there, making sure she’s ok and picking her up again.

When she decides to take off her shoes on the wood chip covered playground, he carries her on his back so her nice little white socks don’t get dirty.

When she wanders over to said playground during the outdoor worship service, he follows her to keep an eye on her, carefully watching her when a group of teenagers from a different camp invade the space.

And during musical chairs, when she falls down as everyone scrambles for a chair, he puts his hand on a chair and calls to her to come take it, thereby being out himself but preserving her participation in the game.

He’s been simply charming.  And now everyone thinks he’s an amazingly sweet kid.  Which I suppose he is… just not all the time.  And not typically with his own siblings.

My three earlier posts this week were scheduled before we left.  I’ve had very limited time here, my days filled with many wonderful things.  This one is just a light brushstroke but I hope to find some time later today to blog about the deeper things that come from being here and being fully an artist for one brief week that I can share in the morning.

Until then, I encourage you to break out of your box  today.  Try something radically new!  It does wonders for your psyche.