On Reading FINDING DIVINE INSPIRATION

Just a couple weeks before 2019 came to a close, I finished reading Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy. Much more than a book, it became the inspiration behind a deep spiritual assessment of why and how and with Whom I pursue all of my artistic and creative endeavors.

I know now that, if I truly want to make the most of my time and to produce anything of significance, I’m best to apply what I read in Finding Divine Inspiration. Here’s what that would mean—and here’s the challenge I set for myself in 2020 and beyond…

Why I create
I’ve mentioned it in previous posts: Making a living, making money, and making a name for myself are sure and certain temptations. But there’s so much more power in making for making’s sake—to revel in an idea, then the process. The end result should place a distant second to the truest heart of creativity: how and with Whom I create.

How I create
To be the person God created me to be, I need to discern and live into what He wants me to create for this world. In other words, creativity is a discipline. If indeed I believe I am a unique channel of the Holy Spirit and His purposes, then I should take that business to great heart. This is where my faith is tested, of course. A woman of true faith follows through with passion and energy, but I regret to admit that the Spirit’s leadings often fall on deaf ears and among a multitude of distractions. There is a different way—and I’m determined to find it. This year, I commit to take intentional steps in addressing the “how” of my creativity.

With Whom I create
It probably goes without saying, but part of my “how” is also to acknowledge the almighty “Who” right up front. In the companion journal of Finding Divine Inspiration, McElroy suggests a habit of dedication—to offer a routine prayer or to make some type of special mark on all pieces of art to acknowledge the creative process as a cooperative effort.

How easily I forget the constant presence and pursuit of God. How little I trust God—the Divine Inspiration who formed my passions and sparks my ideas—with an effort’s entire and ultimate purpose, be it personal time well spent with Him or a profound message to share with the world. As my church sings regularly in worship, “I will rest in the Father’s hands, leave the rest in the Father’s hands.”

Why? How? With Whom? These questions now shape the what of my creativity. Such enlightenment certainly doesn’t mean that my work is now ultra-theological or spiritual. In fact, I think my latest endeavors couldn’t be more rudimentary and secular. But, for me, they bear much more depth and meaning than many past projects simply because of the God-given purpose I now yearn to fulfill in my artistic time. Amen. May it be so.

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)“Psalm 104”
Barbara Farland
Mixed Media, 2018

From Psalm 104:1-5, 10-13:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.He makes winds his messengers; flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

 

Process in Progress

In one of my more recent blog posts “Art vs. Crafts,” I mentioned how the process, not the result, is the priority in making art. I have to say that the process has indeed become a great joy for me, even an obsession (as evidenced in burning two meals in exchange for the artistic process over the past week). Though I remain a rookie at all this, this is how the process seems to work for me personally, for now anyway:

Background

The beginning: The background using tiny pieces of yarn

Begin with recklessness – I started with those yarn scraps. I took to them with my scissors, cutting each piece into thumbnail lengths. I slathered my canvas with glue and waited to see what would happen. Beginning with experimentation versus an extensive plan of action set the stage for further inspiration and freedom in the steps to come.

Study and ponder – For a day or more, I didn’t change what I’d already done or add anything more to the piece. Instead, I just hovered over it, thinking about what it reminded me of and considering what it could represent.

Embrace the revelation – I saw hints of a landscape and could have proceeded just with that observation, but as soon as the scene seemed to pulse with one of my favorite Bible passages (Psalm 104), I was ready and super excited to dig into my work again. I knew I had discovered the piece’s deeper purpose, and there was no turning back from embracing and following the theme.

Go with your first instinct – For some unknown reason, I was certain the next layer should involve ripped up grocery bags with text. But my piece got way too busy in following this first instinct and I was never satisfied with the effects of my handwriting. What I learned? It’s okay to start over again to introduce new or different materials. It’s not time lost—it’s process gained. For me, it revealed how I often default to words when it comes to artistic expression. It revealed how I could play with some new tools and techniques beyond my usual words.

Process in progress

Evidence of the process in progress

Return to recklessness and studying and pondering – I raided my daughter’s toy basket for the pebbles and glass stones she uses to play kitchen (don’t worry, after I was done, she still has plenty). I twirled and twisted and shredded my remaining yarn scraps into shapes and curly-cues. With these additional materials in hand, I’d lay out a picture, then wipe it clean, then adjust my approach and create again. I reinvented my portrait of Psalm 104 several times until the Spirit seemed to say, “Stop, that’s it!” What a thrill!

Bring what you learned into the next project – My first inclination was to evaluate the end result. Is this really any good? What will other people think? It’s difficult yet necessary to turn off the insidious critic of self. I learned a lot in the process despite the end result… and there’s no better way to apply those lessons than to start another project! More on that later!

p.s. Okay, okay, sure, I’ll let you see “Psalm 104” eventually. After it dries and I test out some framing, I promise to take courage and to show my work.