Why do I torture myself so? I ask myself this every time I start a new portrait.
The beginning seems so easy: ideas grace the mind…an outline drawn…the hollow of a mystical person appears.
But then it doesn’t take long for excitement to give way to feelings of helplessness as I enter into that dark space between the envisioned creation and ineptness.
Yes, sometimes painting can be torturous—wrestling with uncertainty, wandering in aimlessness, facing the impossible.
And then just about the time I’m tempted to give up, the face forming on the canvas looks into my eyes and begs for release—to be created, to be born. She seems to have a message to give, and I feel a sense of compulsion to make it possible. But I can’t promise her a thing. I don’t know if I can rescue her let alone make her into something lovely that speaks to the heart.
Finally in exasperation, I pick up my pen and write and write in hopes annoyance will fade and courage grace. The frustration drives me to pray for grace, and so I beg God to kick in when I can’t. And the miracle always happens—I pick up a brush and begin to paint, once again.
Maybe it’s because I’m a novice that my consternation is so great when I paint. I often wonder whether other artists struggle with similar feelings as they go through the creative process. Do you ever experience frustration when you try to create?
I titled this new piece in process “The Giver” because there’s a story behind her. She represents people who bear glorious burdens God asks them to carry for the sake of others. So I want her eyes sad but hopeful. I also want her to be imperfect because although we humans are full of flaws, by the grace of God, we can still give what He asks us to give. And sometimes giving can be torturous—wrestling with uncertainty, wandering in aimlessness, facing the impossible. Just when you’re tempted to give up, God kicks in.
Today I am grateful for all of those givers out there who are helping someone through his or her dark night of the soul. May you bear up under the weight of the burden you carry. Take heart! For in your service to others, like a painting, you are becoming something lovely that speaks to the heart.