Today is our last post in this beautiful collection of thoughts on what makes the mundane holy. I can’t think of a better way to end our journey than to hear from Annie Barnett, my friend the writer and artist.
I am an artist, and I see all life through this lens. All our days, we are making art: creating, with our hands, our words, our silence and our lives. We make oatmeal for breakfast and love letters to slip into lunch boxes. We write on each others’ lives in delicate strokes of compassion and jagged lines of judgement. We create bridges, cultivate community, fashion idols.
We were made and we are making, always. Imago Dei.
Some artists, they dream of a small studio: exposed brick walls and a view of the river in four equally glorious seasons, a glass of wine and hours of uninterrupted painting. I imagine it’s quiet there.
I set up shop at the Lego-littered dining room table, right in the center of our daily commotion. The mammoth buffet behind me, the one we scored through Craigslist, holds drawers jammed full of old paint and blocks of cold press paper, not the fine china and cloth napkins it was intended for. I pull out watercolors that belonged to my sister and open wide the window-coverings, let all the light in.
This is where I create, right here in the midst of our messy lives. Some days the girls climb up to join me, inevitably spilling little glass bowls of water onto their Crayola masterpieces. On these days, I celebrate that I’m a creative woman raising creative kids. But more often, I sacrifice sleep to paint, occasionally let the kids take in too many episodes of Shaun the Sheep while I linger long over hand-lettered watercolor words, me ignoring dishes and dust-bunnies.
It seems fitting to make art in the midst of life. After all, it’s the living that’s making art out of me.
Years ago, I heard someone speak of creation ex nihilo, how God made something out of nothing. It was suggested that before “In the beginning” there was just glory echo-echo-echoing between Father, Son and Spirit, as if “Let there be light” was birthed wild, right out of that sacred reverberation.
As the Creator’s making sprung from the very heart of his Eternal being – all holy, holy, holy – so our small creating reflects our being. Inside this heart there are echoes of glory, mixed and muddied by a fair share of muck and mire. I paint in the middle of the mess, and it is the taut tension of brokenness and beauty that leaks from my brush.
Colors bleed when words fail to form. I paint a nest when I cannot find words to say how desperately I long for my life to be a song of abiding: it’s an image I need daily. Spring paintings of life unhatched express heart longings I cannot yet stuff into syllables. Simple shapes and lines capture the complicated loss of a sister, the goodness of being small and loved, the savoring of this short-lived season when my children hunger to be held just a little longer. I paint an acorn, a feather ripped in two, a fragile world wrapped in good tidings; hang them on the fridge and over the radiator to call me back home.
When I paint, I feel small in the best sort of way: now I am the child dragging a chair close to her mother to paint alongside, clumsily dashing water dish and cheap paint. These days, I cannot sort out whether the picture pinned on the fridge or the deep impression of being near and making together is the real art.
Even in the making, I am being made. Imago Dei.
I’d love to hear, where are the places you feel God’s pleasure (that’s right, hum that Chariots of Fire theme)? What are the beautiful, broken ways you bear God’s image?
Annie Barnett writes sporadically at AnnieAtHome.com, chronicling her broken, grace-infused journey of playing house and centering her heart on her true home. She loves to make a good mess – whether it’s curry, painting, or play. In the last few months she’s stepped tentatively out into a new space, offering her prints on Etsy and slowly entering the conversation about art and faith at BeSmallStudios.com