There is a little tiny girl who was born the same day as my little baby. She was born far too early, weighing not even two pounds, and her lungs are still fragile and undeveloped, even at three months of age. I know she has been borne up by prayer, but I also think she must have some spunk to hold on to life the way she does. It was my privilege to draw her portrait without the tubes and medical things that have tethered her all her short life.
The rest of us have our own battles to fight. Yesterday, as I thought about what I wanted to paint for a journal type page, I thought of the words, "Courage, dear heart." I think I remember Aslan saying something of the sort to Lucy, his lion breath strengthening her. Life has a way of making us tremble in our boots. It can be such an effort to keep taking steps, to push through weariness and pain and fear. We need strength that is not our own, some breath of the Lion of the tribe of Judah to give us courage.
He said, "I will never leave you or forsake you"
Because I was recovering from childbirth at the beginning of June, painting was not feasible....so I made a goal to sketch as much as possible. I belong to a Facebook group that was concentrating on the male face in June, so most of my sketches are men and boys. Once again I found myself exulting in the variety of human features!
Now I am looking forward to getting back to painting more in July... There are a couple of portraits and a work in progress to share with you tomorrow!
I have a few commissions for portraits right now, and I think about faces.
When I was a small girl....maybe six or seven... we went over to someone's house. At that house was a framed picture of a face. My mother told me that someone had drawn that face. I was stunned. The idea that it was possible for someone to draw so well had never occurred to me. My mother told me that if I practiced, I could draw faces well, too.
So I did practice. I drew faces, over and over again, in my growing up years. When I left home, they were my favorite thing to doodle. I find faces in peeling paint and in the cracks of the ceiling; watch how the light hits a face in real life and the changing of the shapes of it with changes in angle; marvel at the treatment of faces by other artists. I am not an especially fast learner, but I don't ever stop. Little by little, I get better.
The fascination of faces is multi-faceted. The same basic elements.... eyes, nose, mouth, and the surrounding structure....repeated over and over again with such amazing effects in the differences. The Creator's variations on a theme.
Even one person's face is a study of variations on a theme. The baby, the child, the youth, middle age, old age. The face changes from moment to moment with the sweeping effects of expression, and from year to year with the slower but deeper effects of time.
A face may reveal much about a person, and it may hide much.
And whether a face leads me to observe or to wonder, there is no end to its fascination.
No great art was made this week in the Spinning Daydreams studio. It was a week of real life, a week of running here and there, of getting stuck in a snowbank, of new responsibilities and old, of small comforts and of disappointment.
But I did find a little time to make some sketches. In a traffic jam. In the waiting room. At McDonald's.
Sometimes we can't feel our art advancing. Sometimes it is just putting one foot in front of the other. Using what we have, doing what we can.
And that is what will get us there.
He has no form or comeliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2
When Jesus came to earth and took on the form of a man, He changed the way we look at creation. He drew our attention away from physical beauties and comforts to spiritual truths and solace. He dignified ugliness.
Not that many years ago, if asked for a definition of art, my answer would have focused almost exclusively on beauty. Now that kind of definition seems too narrow. And though I am loathe to offer a definition of art today, art is broad enough to include the ugly.
Before, I would have said that art helps us see the beauty in things we normally think of as ugly. But now I wonder. I wonder if the beauty I find in the wrinkled hands of an old man or the decay of an old building have not as much to do with physical realities as with realities unseen.
It doesn't do to try to dissect these things too finely. I don't need to know why I find aged hands beautiful....I do, and that is enough. But even if I did not find them beautiful, there may be some truth in their portrayal that pulls me up short and makes me think. Why is this world so marred and raw and painful? Why is it also vast and stunning and beautiful?
Good art may be lovely, and it may be decorative. But it will also cause us to ponder truth. It is man's small extension on the loud but inadequate revelations of creation.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Psalm 18:1-4
Yesterday was a hard day. There are times in the life of any mother when life seems not to fit together quite right. When there is too much to do, not enough gumption or time or whatever you have to do it. When things seem to fall apart much more quickly than they come together. When she wonders how much of that is her own fault.
I was already feeling that feeling quite keenly, when one of my sons came to me. "Mommy," he said. " You know those toenail clippers?"
It seems that the toenail clippers took advantage of him, teasing him until he cut the cable on my brand-new circular knitting needles that I had bought to make Bruce's Christmas present. Not that he knew it would cut... oh, no, how could he ever know that it would cut?
So his allowance will be going toward new knitting needles, so I can finish the present. But somehow it still bothered me.
My animosity toward those clippers wanted to come out today, in that sketch. Of course, not really the clippers. Really, the foolishness of my son's and mine, that says that you can use things that cut in ways that are meant to cut, and nothing will get cut. The foolishness that takes the delicate beautiful webs of life and shreds them and then acts all surprised.
But of course I cannot draw that.
Nor can I fix it. So thankful for grace. Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows....
Up in the middle of the night with a fit of coughing, suddenly I am wide awake. Perfect time to cast about for something to sketch. I'll begin a new illustration project in January. In the meantime, I will have time for sketching.... and baking Christmas cookies, perhaps.