The SHORT answer to my inspiration:
The painting shows several paths of water, all making their way to the ocean. It comes from different places, but it eventually all the water ends up flowing into the sea. That is how I see my life these days. I am not sure exactly what direction the path with take, or what it will look like, but I am trying to be OPEN to where God wants me to be. I want my life to be heading into the sea of His plan for my life, as opposed to my own idea of what I should be doing with it.
Life is getting shorter every day, so I want to be make sure I'm making the most of it — being OPEN to fulfilling His purposes for what He created me to do.
The LONG answer to my inspiration:
24 hours to create a painting from start to finish?
That's the deal during the Flat Out Under Pressure contest sponsored by the Greenville, SC Metropolitan Arts Council. If you can finish a piece in 24 hours, you are entered into a contest where eight winners will be chosen to have their art on a public place in downtown Greenville for an entire year, along with cash awards for second through eighth place, and first place winning an all expense paid trip to Italy.
Based on past experiences in Greenville, my head told me not to get my hopes up for winning. But it also told me that if I want to be considered an active member in the Greenville Arts Scene, that I needed to participate in this contest. So I sent in my $24 and signed myself up to paint.
I went into the contest with absolutely no expectations of winning. The main goal was to create a painting for myself and my family to enjoy. One that would hang in the new home that we had been working for weeks to renovate.
I spent several weeks mulling over ideas for what I wanted to paint during the 24-hour art making contest. I knew from experience that it had to be something simple, because my style does not lend itself to being quick and fast.
As the time drew near, we took a little weekend getaway trip to Charleston and Beaufort, SC. I am alway so inspired by the vast, open expanses of marshes found in the Lowcountry landscape. So this trip was just what I needed to get a boost of visual inspiration for my upcoming painting project.
One night as we were walking along a pier, just north of Charleston I was really moved by a place in the landscape where a huge body of water met the sky. It called to me, that it needed to be painted.
I took a few photos, but knew they weren’t exactly what I wanted the composition of my contest piece to be. And that is when I came up with the real concept for the painting, and the name “Open.” I knew I would have to be open to how this painting would turn out, since I wouldn’t be working from a photo, but more an impression of all the beauty I had seen during our trip. I also thought this idea of being “Open” was perfectly suited to all the changes we were in the midst of.
For several months leading up to the contest, our life had been in a constant state of uncertainty. I found a house I wanted to buy, even though we weren’t even looking to move. So we thought “maybe we should just buy it and live in it.” That whole process, put us onto a path we never would have imagined even six months ago.
Then we had to sell our house. But despite how lovely everyone says our house was, we had no calls to even look at the house. So we thought “maybe we should just rent it out.” That whole process took us even farther down this path we had never thought we would be on, and now somehow we find ourselves as landlords. We are happy about all of this, but it is a very different outcome from what we ever would have excepted to happen.
In the midst of all of this change and uncertainty, we both felt a huge sense of God’s peace and guidance. It made absolutely no sense to trade in our nice big “American Dream” home, that I had perfectly decorated for my taste, for a small house with a huge yard. The house had amazing bones, and the yard was full of wonderful surprises, but we knew from experience that it was going to take a lot of work to get it to the place where we would both feel we were “done” making it the way we would want it to be.
Yet we were OPEN to God’s leading, and he seemed to direct us down this new path of life.
Another uncertainty these last months has been my painting career. For years we have been on this journey of living an artists’ life, and it has required tremendous sacrifice in comparison with the rewards it brings.
From a wordly perspective, this career makes absolutely no sense, so at least once a year, I ponder these or similar questions...
“What am I going to do with my life? Should I keep trying to fan the faint flicker of flame still left in this business, or should I read the writing on the wall and close up shop? I could just paint for friends and charity causes, and save myself a whole lot of trouble. Should I stop painting all together and volunteer, and read magazines, and have friends? Should I get a female collie and start and breed collie puppies?”
But then I am always reminded, that I am NOT painting for wordly purposes. The reason I paint is to reflect God's glory. To remind people that there is still good in this world. But more importantly, to give my impression of the beauty that is yet to come, when the earth is made new and our life here on earth is done, and all is perfect in heaven.
As I planned this painting, I thought “I think I am open to whatever God has for my life. If it really is time to stop the insanity of my art-making, I will be OK with that. For the first time since I began painting in 2001, I think I am finally ready to be OK with the possibility that maybe I am not supposed to keep working at making art a career, and just enjoy my art for the sake of what it is.”
I decided to call my painting “Open” because that was the frame of mind I feel I have been in for several months now. It is a different place for me to be, because for once I feel like I’ve been able to give up trying to control the outcome of so many areas of my life.
The contest day came, and I began my painting. I do not like to feel out of control, so this painting was just another exercise in letting go. I couldn’t approach it in my normal manner, simply because of time constraints. So I decided “I am going to be OPEN to however this painting turns out.”
When both my energy and time had run out, I did feel good about my finished painting. I knew it would match my new bathroom, and I felt like it captured the peaceful, still beauty I had seen during our trip.
I hadn’t even planned to go to the awards ceremony, because I knew in my head that I would not win. But then our son Nathan seemed so shocked that I would give up hope of winning and just stay home. So in order to not squelch his optimism, I thought “He’s right. We should go!”
So we went to the reception where all the other works (and artists) were on display. My painting was completely different from everyone else’s, which made me feel like an outsider, but I thought "maybe that would be a good thing??" so a glimmer of hope was stirred inside of me.
Then the time came when they announced the winners, and once again, my name was not called. And once again since moving to Greenville, I felt like a little part of my once optimistic heart died.
The irony of all of this was that I was “open” to not winning, and then I did not win. That’s when I realized that maybe I wasn’t as OPEN as I had thought I was.
Now that some time has passed, and I’m deep into some rewarding commissioned paintings, the wound of not having my painting chosen has healed. And once again I am just trying to stay OPEN to what God would have me do with my talent.
And THEN a few days ago.. the most surprising turn of events occurred in light of this (as I saw it) continued failure with my painting career.
A week before the Flat Out Under Pressure contest, on the last day of the application process, I applied to an art show in Hendersonville, NC for the first time.
I found out a few days ago, that not only did I get accepted into that show, but they chose MY painting as the ONE painting that would represent the entire show.
I didn’t even know this was part of the application process! All I was hoping was to get juried into the show, so I could bring my tent and set up my paintings in the street, and try to sell them for two days. But in addition to that, just MY painting will be on all the t-shirts, posters, and marketing promotions for this show which is in its 54th year.
So I am taking this as a huge sign that God wants me to continue painting, as least for the next few months... being OPEN to wherever it leads me.