My apologies for being MIA the past couple months. After the medical issues I experienced in spring, friends and family were also dealing with personal crises. Dad is winding down and getting harder and harder to understand. Mike’s uncle had two strokes. A friend has been in and out of the hospital with no answers as to what might be the issue. In fact, I got a text to update me on her situation as I sit and compose this. One thing after another and after a while I’ve just lost heart for writing.
But I have been working on painting and photography. Images work when words fail. At least they do for me. The painting is mostly abstract work. On Mondays I volunteer at an urban coffee house where coffee and bagels are free and the cafe is a safe place for people in the neighborhood to create community. I was talking with one of the guys over coffee asking me what my paintings were about. I told him it was about the mystery of prayer. That the paintings were black on black with metallics thrown in to represent what prayer is like - a spiritual quest to represent prayer in paint. Up to that point the conversation had been pretty superficial. He stopped eating and looked me in the eye. “That’s really powerful,” he said. “I like the way you think.” That took me by surprise. Can’t say I’ve heard that very often.
Images work when words fail. I find in prayer I am often at a loss for words, but that’s where I can trust that God can read my heart. My tears are my prayers. My anguish and feelings are my prayers. My paintings are my prayers. And God, being good and gracious, hears and understands those prayers.
I’ll leave you with this triptych. It’s called Mystery, Questions, Wonder.
One day this week I was able to teach a delightful young girl (and her grandma) some basic techniques in watercolor. We had a fun morning playing with paint, wax, and salt; creating lovely paintings of the cosmos.
When they left I went home, changed, and drove to another town nearby to attend a funeral of a long-time friend who will be dearly missed by his friends and family.
Life is a roller coaster. Highs and lows in one day - sometimes within one minute. When I shared that, a friend mused that life is terminal. So I’d better keep painting.
That is good advice.
For years I’ve experimented with calligraphy. I bought the basic pen holder, C-4 nibs, ink, slant guides, and books and practiced italic. I’m proficient enough to address some envelopes and that’s about it. The craft just never generated a passion in me.
I have a friend who is a calligrapher and she believes in me. She just knows I could do it and she has invited me to attend calligraphy groups and workshops with her. Since I love her, I’ve tried. Really. But other things call to me and I set aside the latest nibs and attend to them.
Lately, I’ve been kicking around a concept in my mind for a painting based on Micah 6:8. The idea I have consists of lettering, layering and collage. I want the lettering loose, bold and free. I turned to YouTube to find lettering artists that have bold styles and discovered a new calligraphy tool called a folded pen. It looked promising and I asked my calligraphy friend about it. Soon, I had a stack of books and a bag of pens to try out.
It turned out that I’m not a fan of the folded pen. However, I’ve discovered the beauty of the automatic pen. It was instantaneous. Bold, loose strokes just flowed from my arm through the pen to the paper. Finally - the bold look I’ve always wanted to make.
I believe I’m in love.
The project has been completed. Hallelujah! My original estimate for it was between three to six months but it took almost two years. There were moments I wondered if I'd ever complete it and to be truthful, I'd really like to start it over. It's not up to my former standards and I want to make it 'perfect'.
But perfection kills and I need to learn to let things go. Not just in art, but in life. I could bring myself to a nervous breakdown trying to do things perfectly for Mom and Dad. It just can't be done. When I was caring for my own mother, I had to accept that I could not make her situation perfect. I just had to do my best and keep moving forward.
Years ago, I read a book by Larry Crabb. I don't remember the title, nor do I remember anything about the book, but I do remember one thing. A quote that has stayed with me. It was a question, actually. In relating to our spiritual lives the question is, “Do you want to be a mystic or a manager?” You could try to have a nice, orderly, managed spiritual walk with everything in its proper place, striving for perfection. Or you could have a wild, reckless roller-coaster ride with Jesus through life - not knowing what is coming next.
There is a small part of me that would love to have an organized, 'perfect' life. The bigger part of my heart wants to run hard after God, find the mystery He has for us to explore, and the power He has to change me into something extraordinary.
I let go of perfection. The project has come to an end. We'll see where the ride takes me next.
One goal for this summer was to take time off work to concentrate on painting in the studio and to write and polish the manuscript of the story of caring for my mother. After a series of fits and starts, it looks as if my time is opening up. Up to this point, there have been a few days off, and then I get called in to work. Last week I filled in all week for someone on vacation. But it looks like I finally have some time off for a bit and can start working in earnest.
Of course, once you sit down to write nothing comes to mind. But I will try.
My last post was about the Freedom 58 Project. I thought I’d post some photos of how the first painting is going. Please keep in mind it is a work in progress and isn't done. But if you aren't a painter, nor have ever seen a painting being developed, I thought you might find this interesting.
(For captions, hover the pointer over the image.)
It is a slow process, but it is coming along. I can tell I'm rusty, but I haven't lost my training completely. There's a parable in here. I'll leave it to you to figure it out.
A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out an email account that I rarely use. Most of the emails were spam and I was deleting entire pages of junk when one message caught my eye. I can’t really tell you why I didn’t delete it with the rest. It was from someone I didn’t know, had an attachment, and the heading wasn’t something that I knew anything about. There was just a gentle nudge on my heart to check it out.
It was from a man named Robert Swenson representing a group called Freedom 58. He had seen my profile on a website I’d completely forgotten about. I had been invited to this group about ten years ago or so and I posted my contact info but never completed a page. Sort of like my LinkedIn or Google Plus profiles. Imagine my surprise when someone actually contacted me from this site (www.christiansinportraiture.com).
Mr. Swenson introduced himself and the ministry he and his wife are heading and asked if I’d be willing to donate a painting to help end human trafficking. I asked my husband if he’d ever heard of Robert Swenson, and he asked, “The All American football player?” Yes, that would be him. A former professional player for the Broncos was contacting me about portraiture for a ministry to work against human slavery. This was getting interesting.
I started researching the Freedom Fifty Eight Project. Part of Freedom 58 is this call to artists to donate their time to paint a portrait of someone who was formerly enslaved. Essentially, creating dignity portraits. Photos and canvases are supplied to the portraitist. The Freedom Fifty Eight Project is looking for a significant number of artists for this project with the hope to develop exhibits to showcase the problem. The art exhibits are dedicated to raising awareness about modern day slavery and other forms of violent oppression. The secondary purpose of the exhibits is to drive people to the web site www.Feedom58project.com for more information, resources and opportunities for action.
Once I realized this was a legitimate organization and request (as opposed to the “Dear Beloved, help me move money out of this country/ministry” scam), I contacted Mr. Swenson to ask more questions. He was very helpful and soon I found myself volunteering to paint not one, but two portraits.
Here are some things you may not know about modern day slavery…
There are 30 million slaves today
Human Trafficking is a $32 Billion Industry
2 million women and children are trafficked annually
Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world
Children as young as 6 years old are being trafficked
A large box containing photo reference materials, return postage labels, and canvases arrived this past weekend and Tuesday I laid in the first layer on one of the portraits. As I was painting this lovely young woman who radiates dignity, I found I was praying over her. It had been a lovely day.
This is a unique opportunity for artists to give the violently oppressed the first taste of dignity, beauty and hope through their own God given gifts and passion - in the form of a painting. To participate and to get more detailed information on the vision and opportunity please email Bob Swenson at email@example.com. To learn more about Freedodm Fifty Eight Project, go to http://www.freedom58project.com/about-us/purpose/
I hope you’ll join me in supporting this cause, and I hope you’ll share this information with others.
Whilst in the grip of the icy polar vortex, I pulled out spring colors and experimented with a new painting medium. I chose these particular colors to remind me that there is indeed hope that spring will eventually come.
In the past, I’ve worked in pastels and in oils on linen. Now, I’m playing with acrylic on ClaybordTM. Parts of the painting worked, and some parts didn’t. With the help of a table saw, I created several smaller paintings.
Recently, there was a call for small paintings with a garden theme from IAM – International Arts Movement – to help fund new programming. The auction is April 23 during Ruby Garden Dreams with T. S. Poetry Press. The event is in honor of National Poetry Month, and is an evening of music, poetry, and art. The auction tickets are available for $40 – first come first serve basis. Each auction ticket holder will take home one piece per ticket. I have sent a couple of the paintings to them.
If you find yourself in NYC in April, stop in Space 38|39 for the evening. Their address is International Arts Movement 38 West 39th Street, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10018. The space is in the heart of Manhattan.
To view the online catalog and to purchase a ticket for the raffle, go to http://www.internationalartsmovement.org/art-auction-catalogue-2014/
Promise - Oil on linen - 24" x 30"
True to my word, I have published a gallery of artwork. There are samples of the pastoral series, the vineyard series and portraiture. I have not converted the files of mural work, illustration work nor restoration work. Maybe later. I'm about to embark on a new artistic journey that will be abstract. Once I have a body of work to share, I'll post that as well.
Until then, enjoy!
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.