- Brian Myers
The Work of Art
My daughters love art! They like to draw, color, and paint so we were excited for a recent faith formation night at our church reflecting on art. The presenter shared a story of how he created piece of liturgical artwork and we got to enjoy viewing the beautiful images he had created. Then we got an opportunity to try some artwork of our own as he walked us through drawing Mickey Mouse step by step.
He explained that Mickey Mouse can be broken down into simple geometric shapes. He taught us to first lightly draw some of these simple shapes with some rough guidelines to help arrange the features of Mickey's face. After the basic outline was drawn, then we erased the guidelines and overlapping lines. Then he taught us techniques for filling in the black parts of Mickey's face and ears. My daughter eagerly followed his instructions and she was proud of her depiction of Mickey. I was pretty happy with mine as well!
Our presenter described how he created a liturgical tapestry step by step. He measured the tapestry and designed the arrangement of images that would appear. He continued by drawing the images on paper before carefully drawing the outline of the images on the tapestry. Then he filled in the images with layer upon layer of pastels.
I continued reflecting on the process of creating art that weekend as we carved jack-o'-lanterns. When I announced it was time to carve the pumpkins, my daughter grabbed her pumpkin and a knife, ready to carve. I stopped her and explained that first we needed to lay out paper on the table to contain our mess. Then she needed to draw faces on paper to choose her favorite design for the pumpkin. Next we opened the top of the pumpkin and removed all the seeds and pulp. Then we used a marker to draw the face on the pumpkin. Only then did we start to carve the face and after that we still needed to clean the pumpkin and put a light inside before displaying on our porch.
What all of these examples have in common is that creating artwork is a process which requires patience, planning, and completing a series of steps to create the final product. It takes work to make a work of art! An artist doesn't just grab a medium and pop out a finished piece of art in a moment. It takes time and creative energy to create the piece of art.
With little artists like my daughters in my home, reflection on artwork is valuable in my domestic church. As skilled of creators as we humans can be, God is the master Creator and no human artwork can rival the beauty of his creation. Specifically, Scripture tells us "we are his handiwork" (Ephesians 2:10). Like human artwork, God's act of creating us is a process that takes time. Through the process of sanctification, God slowly perfects the masterpiece he is creating each of us to be. Like the assortment of brushes, pens, markers, pencils, crayons, and pastels available to an artist, God has a variety of tools he uses in his work on us. He uses the experiences of our lives, the people who surround us, the sacraments we receive, the Scriptures we read, the nature we enjoy, and so much more to work through us. Sometimes he adds new colors and patterns to our lives, enriching us and building up new virtues within us. Other times he uses an eraser or a chisel to remove sin or vices that are marring our beauty. He patiently never gives up on us as we grow in holiness.
God sketched the outline of me when I was child, growing up in a home where we prayed together and read the Bible and going to a Catholic school where I learned more about God. Perhaps he decided whether to use paints or pencils to color me in as I discerned my vocation in my high school and college years. As I studied theology and found my passion for understanding how faith is nurtured, experienced, and practiced in the family, God filled in greater details. The brilliance and beauty of God's work of art that is me may have begun to shine when I became a husband and a father, as God used these experiences to teach me to love more fully and more deeply than I ever had loved before. I know God isn't finished with me yet and I can't wait to see God's plans for the finished work of art.
I also noticed the diversity of styles and appearances as I looked at the various pictures of Mickey Mouse drawn by the people at our church. Even in this situation when we all followed the same instruction from the same instructor, the style and talents and personality of each artist introduced subtle differences in the image. Something of the creator appears in any creation. Likewise, God leaves his mark on us all, as something of him comes out in each of us.
As my domestic church is decorated with my daughters' drawings and coloring pages - especially during this season of thanksgiving - I am going to thank God for all the work he has done and continues to do in me and in the people I love. I am going to take time to enjoy the beauty of God's artwork all around me and to reflect on how the Creator is represented in each of his creations. I look forward to the day God's work in us is completed and we are each a spectacular masterpiece in God's museum of art!