Sound and Fury

Yesterday, I met Frank Schaeffer.

Frank. Schaeffer.

Friends, you probably don’t know the significance of this moment (give me time, I’ll elaborate). Many of you may not even recognize his name and that’s okay. In the art world, he’s…magnificent. If you like texture and color, reminiscent of VanGogh (a personal favorite), check out Frank’s work (www.frankschaefferart.com). Truly extraordinary. He’s the most famous person I’ve ever met. But more than that, he’s human. He’s just like the rest of us. Knowing of the tormented emotional and mental backgrounds of many of history’s famous artists, I wonder what motivates Frank’s brush to move across the canvas in the manner it does. Why does he choose those colors or the specific designs? What’s the meaning? What thoughts are coursing through his brain, down his arm, and out the tip of his paintbrush?

What you also may not know about Frank Schaeffer is that he’s a New York Times best-selling author for both fiction and non-fiction publications. Another element I believe many artists share…the constant need to move the thoughts from the confines of our craniums out into the universe. Whether that’s through a painting, a blog post, or a novel, etc. The words have to come out. The feelings must evacuate us, lest we become consumed by them. Perhaps my ruminations are simply projections of my own need to create, but that’s a deeper discussion for another time.

Yesterday, Frank spoke at a church I attended at The World of Beer (the only worthy church location). Church scares the shit out of me. I went because a friend of mine told me I should meet Frank because Frank was “my kind of people.” By “my kind of people,” my friend means that Frank doesn’t bullshit, likes beer, participates in deep conversations, and gives a damn about the people in his life. My friend’s assessment was accurate. The moment Frank started to speak, I was captivated. I felt like he stepped inside my brain and walked around for a while. It was the most soothing, most invigorating speech I’d heard in years.

After he concluded, the group of us migrated outdoors for beer and more conversation. I kept feeling the need to talk to Frank directly but like a good introvert, I found an excuse to avoid it. He’s talking to someone else, he’s eating, he’s busy. I’ll just sit here and read his latest book and pine for the moment when I can sit in his proximity. If you’ve never met Frank, you’re missing out. This man looks you in the eyes, holds your hand, hugs you, and talks to you like you matter. He exudes such compassionate energy.

A moment presented itself (thanks to an opening provided by my friend) and I began discussing art with Frank. I’m a painter…and for me, “art is not a thing, it is a way.” Frank and I sat together for over half an hour discussing art. He poured buckets and buckets of encouragement into my mind and soul and rendered me quite speechless. In fact, the entire drive home from the event, I could hardly concentrate on anything else.

I’ve been reading his book (“Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God“) off and on since yesterday and in it, he quotes Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing
.”

Frank has his own reasons for including the text and it carries a specific meaning relevant to the book’s content. But when I read those lines of Shakespeare, I reflected on part of Frank’s talk (in front of 15 people at a random bar church in Arlington, Texas) yesterday. We’re sucking the creativity out of life. We’re stressing out about all the bullshit…the career, the bills, the mediocrity, and we’re losing touch with ourselves, with who we’re supposed to be. We neglect our souls, we discard our families…and for what? The sound a fury of a society who expects us to think and behave like a bunch of fucking robots.

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Life is so much more than sound and fury… Life is “giving love, creating beauty, and finding peace.”

Free Hugs

I’m currently sitting in my recliner under a blanket with my trusty laptop across my legs. Not that the description matters, but perhaps it will allow you to step into the space I’m in as you read the words I’m thinking, saying, and typing. I’m also writing a research paper…which is the universe’s way of taking every profound notion I have and making it tedious as hell, to the point I’m willing to give up all future aspirations of brilliance. I’d rather be boring than have to cultivate a 15-page paper on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. And we wonder why procrastination exists. 

My research paper (because I know you, dear reader, are so interested) is over the use of mandalas in psychotherapy. At least I’m not analyzing Freud…that’s the only upside after days of research and writing. God help me when I have to initiate the thesis project. I’m getting off topic… One of the books I read was about art and spirituality. The two have always been mutually exclusive for me. When I create art, I connect with the divine… One particular chapter was called “Loving Body is Embracing Spirit.” I haven’t read the chapter so everything I’m about to say may in fact be redundant. I was too distracted by the title to peruse its contents. That, friends, is what’s known as a “disclaimer.”

Anyway, in reading the title, I started thinking about what it means to love one’s body and embrace spirit. For those who believe that there is a Divine Spirit in this world, in the heavens, and everywhere in between, there’s also the knowledge of the Divine Spirit within us. I wondered what that looks like, the Spirit rolling around inside me with all my quirky traits, horrible thoughts, and last night’s Firefly Vodka. Even beyond that, I wondered if all of the talents and gifts I possess are empowered by this Spirit dwelling within. There are so many elements about myself that I love and hate, or at the very least, wish were better. But in “hating” these elements, am I rejecting this Spirit? Do I dismiss this Spirit when I dismiss the beauty of my body because it doesn’t meet the standards of anorexic Calvin Klein models or that dipshit CEO from Abercrombie & Bitch?

Loving oneself doesn’t mean you have to walk around wearing a shirt that says “I kick ass” unless of course, you want to. It just means accepting who you are, in your entirety. If you do believe that there’s some divine essence dwelling around you and in you, and if you believe that this same entity has imbued you with certain traits…in loving yourself, you embrace the spirit. 

Kind of makes me want to give myself a hug. Or at the very least, walk around hugging people I know (and don’t know), for the sake of accepting others and their inner spirit.  

Oh and if you’re interested, the book I referenced is called “Spirituality and Art Therapy” by Mimi Farrelly-Hansen (Ed.)

Art and God

I’ve been creating art for half of my life. It started with a fascination with VanGogh’s Starry Night. It’s such a popular painting, it’s on coffee mugs, t-shirts, calendars, ugly Christmas sweaters. But to me it was transforming. It was taking all of those elementary art classes and culminating them into a masterpiece of color and texture. The first piece I tried to paint was a remake of the moon in Starry Night. I was captivated by the contrast of the moon against the sky and the sleeping blue town below. That was the beginning of the transformation.

Art was this activity I gravitated towards to challenge myself. I drew the faces of famous people, painted scenes for contests, and began to feel a deep, personal connection to every piece I crafted.

It was as magical as it was painful.

I never imagined that by simply picking up a paintbrush, I would be changed from the inside out. Painting was nothing but moving colors around on paper or canvas or whatever surface I happened to have at the moment. It was never supposed to be anything more. It was never supposed to make me feel emotions buried so deep…but it did. And amid the colors, I discovered the greatest truths about myself.

1) Art is not a thing, it is a way. It is a movement. It is what compels beauty throughout the world. It is not a thing, it is who we are.

2) Art is an act of love. It is the expression of emotions, fears, adoration, all the little phrases we’re too afraid to say with words. It is affection poured out in colorful streams of love.

3) Art is worship. I grew up in a conservative religion. Worship felt like a scripted encounter with God. Pray, sing songs, repeat. I don’t remember when art infiltrated my relationship with God, but over the last 15 years, it became the way I commune with God. It’s where I have my most intimate conversations with the Creator. Art has given me a unique connection with God.

4) I will avoid art if I believe I might feel some emotion I’m not ready to experience. Creating art makes me vulnerable, my defenses are down and I can’t fight off the waves of the past, present, and future. Sometimes I look at my paintbrushes and walk away. Save it for another day.

5) Art is as messy as life. Embrace it.

 

 

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Therapy

Sometimes I wish I could paint closure. The abundance of life’s mysteries, encounters with shitty people, the loss of Pluto from the solar system…I have no idea how to overcome it all. I wish my paintbrush was enough, that breaking glass and refusing the shards could simultaneously reform the jagged portions of my spirit that remain.

I pour much of the quiet side of myself into the art I create. All the words I can’t say aloud. The joy, the anguish, the fury, the passion…it’s all there…hidden in the brush strokes. Who knew? It’s there. When I’m up to my ass in paint…I let my guard down. Clients often never know that the new addition to their living room wall is coursed with the blood shed of my soul.

It is an on-going therapy. Sixteen years of creating and the issues never seem to be resolved. Yet I wonder, if the problems are ever overcome, will I have a reason to paint? So far it seems, I’ll be painting forever.