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How do you define Art?

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 4)

Start with what you know, then re-invent it. Art is magic, no argument there, but all art, no matter how strange, starts in the humble everyday. Jut don’t be surprised when weird flowers sprout from common soil.

How do you define art? Whether it’s painting, sculpture, music, writing – what separates the very good from the very great? Do you rely on an expert opinion? Or at the very least, does said opinion influence your objectivity?

If you agree with Mr. King’s assessment that “all art…starts in the humble everyday”, then to some extent does your emotional attachment to the familiar, to what you know, color your opinion of what is beautiful or even what is not?

Even though we all share one planet, we each live in our own separate worlds. The world I see through my eyes is different than yours. It’s colored and shaped by my own regrets and successes, my own dreams and hopes. Because of this, we are all separated from each other in a small but important way.

Art is the means by which we bridge that gap. It’s how we shout across the expanses between us and seek understanding and fellowship. It’s how we reach out of the deep holes we dig for ourselves and grasp the hand of God. Through art we turn the chaos of our lives into order and give what cannot be explained meaning. Often it isn’t the answers we’re after, but better questions.

To create something, whether a painting or a poem, is to sacrifice a part of ourselves so that we can grow. It’s to voluntarily feel the pain of hollowing out our hearts so we can feel more happiness later on. It is the ultimate risk, and the only one worth taking.

Stay Hungry

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 3)

Stay hungry. It worked for Michelangelo, it worked for Picasso, and it works for a hundred thousand artists who do it not for love (although that might play a part) but in order to put food on the table. If you want to translate the world, you need to use your appetites. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. There’s no creation without talent, I give you that, but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging. Hunger is the piston of art.

For those of you who are blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with the desire to create, what drives that desire? What do you hunger for?

It is the ultimate luxury to be able to make a living doing something you love. Sure, there are parts of every job one might consider drudgery, but such is life.

As I’ve mentioned, I am a painter. And while I can’t say with a straight face that it’s a living, it is a job I love. While I certainly utilize my creativity in my work, most projects are hardly art. Murals are the exception to this, but they do not represent the majority of my work.

I often hear leaders in business and ministry stress that you should not take criticism or rejection personally. While I agree with that to a certain degree, I guess I’m hard wired to believe differently.

How can you pour your heart into a creative endeavor – writing, creating music, painting, poetry, etc., and then NOT take it personally when your work is criticized or rejected? Especially when it is rejected by the so called experts?

I’m learning only the bravest of souls dare to subject themselves to this type of abuse.

Hunger is indeed the piston of art.

I still don’t dare consider myself any type of serious writer, and my limited exposure to the world of publishing has temporarily put any personal aspirations on hold. But then I remember one of my favorite quotes, and it gives me a bit of courage. Hope it does the same for you.

“What you really have to do, if you want to be creative, is to unlearn all the teasing and censoring that you’ve experienced throughout your life. If you are truly a creative person, you know that feeling insecure and lonely is par for the course. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t be creative and conform, too. You have to recognize that what makes you different also makes you creative.”

– Arno Penzias, 1978 Nobel Prize winner for physics

Marking the White

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (I)

Start with a blank surface. It doesn’t have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember.

How do we remember to remember? That’s a question I’ve asked myself often since my time on Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have the mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that remakes the world is heroic, or so I’ve come to believe.

I have on occasion referred to myself as an artist. Reluctantly so if I’m being honest – and I usually am. (Honest, that is.) I am not an artist in the classic sense. I seldom create something from nothing. Rather I find myself reproducing something I’ve seen before and taking it one or two steps further, or subtracting something. The term I’m most comfortable with is painter. Simple, descriptive, accurate.

I have always been interested in pursuits I would later learn are in the field of Creative Arts. Music, literature, painting, creating things with my hands. Some might refer to the latter as Arts and Crafts. But I would not necessarily fit some of the things I have made into that category. (Perhaps I’ll share more of that on another post.)

What has caught me completely off guard is my desire to write.

I have always loved to sing, but it was not until I was inspired by the company of talented vocalists and musicians that I considered creating music – specifically creating music for the express purpose of praising God – as an art form. What was once a very special friendship with music has now become a passion.

So, it seems, it is with writing. The first blog I ever read was my friend and pastor Jeff Hogan’s blog, Convergence. He has a gift for both the spoken and written word. He set the bar fairly high.
Next, there was Stuff Christians Like . After reading two posts, I was absolutely hooked. You had me at Rob Bell, Jon. You had me at Rob Bell. I think that’s when the writer in me began to stir.

I am in unfamiliar territory here, but because many of my readers and fellow bloggers are such incredibly talented writers and storytellers, they have given me the courage to get out of my comfort zone. Funny, irreverent, sarcastic, downright ridiculous – that’s my A-game. And while I have always tried to write from the heart, I want you to know that there will be times here when I will write from parts of my heart that you are not accustomed to seeing.

Hope that’s okay with you.

And speaking of irreverent, sarcastic and downright ridiculous – Twitter update tomorrow!

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