The Ebenezer Stone
Did Charles Dickens have a deeper meaning in mind when he named his iconic character “Ebenezer” Scrooge? Its a topic that had never occurred to me until I heard the literal translation of the name, Ebenezer, which is “Stone of Help.”
It was the name given to a stone that was erected after a battle to humble and remind the victors that the help they received was supernatural. It was not by their own hand that they were victorious over a particularly brutal enemy who had waged war on them for years. It was by a power much greater than their own that supplied the vital help that resulted in the final victory. This stone, the Ebenezer, will forever be in this spot as a reminder. We all have our battles and we can all have our own Ebenezer stones. This is mine. It is alabaster from a Colorado quarry.
In working this stone, I preferred using hand tools instead of power tools because of the tactile nature of alabaster. Many people make beautiful sculptures of alabaster into a variety of wonderful things. For me, the stone has its own beauty. I use hammer, chisel, rasp and sandpaper so I can see and feel more closely what the stone is becoming. The natural color is obscured until the tools chip away the sharp edges and smooth the roughness. The only power tool was the drill used to make the center hole to show the color goes through the heart of the stone.
As the work on the stone proceeds, so does the battle of the day. After the battle, the beauty underneath is revealed. But it is not my hand that made the beauty. It was there along. The stone is that reminder. For all battles, there is help. What comes after the battle can be something beautiful.
Here is how the revelation progressed:
The Butterfly Garden
Most of my inspiration comes from the garden or other beautiful nature scenes.
Christmas tree 2014
Paper Plate Christmas tree
Paper Plate snowflake
Christmas Light bulbs
Creating is a response to the gift of life. Rosalind Pinsent (from The Painter’s Keys)
There are all kinds of comments and opinions on Christmas trees that crop up every year about this time. Creativity is one example. A Christmas tree is a statement of creativity. That creativity comes in many forms. Some like to have a color-coordinated tree. Others are all about the lights. You name it and people have a creative expression with their trees. My tree is all about eclectic creativity. This year added some new examples.
I have never had a color coordinated or designer tree. I have an “artsy” tree. My tree has some childhood ornaments that I love, like the angel that got chewed on by the cat. One year I made a few elaborate ornaments. My first tree in my first apartment was done on a shoestring budget and decorated with cheap ribbon. I loved that ribbon tree! This year four very special little girls decorated my tree and added their own creativity to the mix.
Looking at my tree this year has made me want to celebrate creativity. This year adds a paper plate cut out Christmas tree and paper plate cut out snowflake, a light bulb with ribbon hanger, and two yard-ornament egrets brought in from the garage to become Christmas tree ornaments instead. The paper plate cut out Christmas tree hangs alongside a hand-tied bow from the ribbon tree. The light bulb ornament and paper plate snowflake are hung with some of the ribbon from that first tree. The egrets have a grouping of other items beneath them that I am not sure of the meaning of but love it. Each ornament is unique and special in its own way.
Christmas time is a time of being thankful for giving and receiving gifts. Creativity is a wonderful gift to be thankful for. A Christmas tree is evidence of that gift.
“Create we must, and respond to this dark hour.” Makoto Fujimura
The artistic process for many can be a compulsion, striving to express an idea, a thought, a feeling bubbling up from deep inside. The expression is often not consciously mulled over before erupting into reality. How much time is spent reflecting on the purpose of the churning creative urge before releasing the explosion? What if this flow of artistic need is consciously directed in such a way as to nourish the human heart?
Even in the midst of the direst of poverty, the soul seeks beauty. Anne Ciccoline of Creator, Created, Create and leader of Creative Communion, describes her trip to Nairobi where she was taken to Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Anne was captivated at the sight of a mud hut with an entrance adorned with strips of fabric and a tin can planter with a green vine growing up the side of the hut. Anne says, “…no matter how primitive or impoverished our shelter, we strive to make it beautiful.” Beauty lightens darkness as nothing else can.
The human heart longs for beauty. Our darkest hours are brightened by the simplest of beautiful sights. When there is nothing else, there is still beauty. Artists have a gift. Are we seeking to use it in a way that demonstrates gratitude for the gift? What better expression of gratitude could there be than for artists to bring the longed for beauty to the hearts of others? Creating art to nourish the soul is a noble purpose, a goal worth pursuing. And that is a beautiful thing.
Mako Fujimura talks about his painting, “Golden Sea”
“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” William Butler Yeats (from The Painter’s Keys)
To provoke the senses is to be inspired. Without the conscious act of giving in to at least one sense little would be painted, written, performed or otherwise translated into art. Art requires that openness that comes from recognizing the role the senses play in inspiration. It is not only one sense that must be provoked in the creation of art, but all of them. And all of the senses include the most important and most elusive, the sixth sense
Can a painter paint smell or a writer write color? Suppose a person wants to provoke the feeling of a breeze blowing through the trees. Painting a few bent over trees won’t do it. Neither will writing the words, “ a breeze blowing through the trees,” provoke much. But giving those bent over trees some texture and color with paint, words or action and perhaps the senses of sight, touch, maybe hearing, could be provoked. Add some autumn leaves and smell might join the other senses. Taste could even be added to the mix if those trees happen to be apple trees. Five senses have now come into play with that blowing breeze.
But what about the sixth sense, the magic sense? How can one go from sensing taste, sight, smell, feel and hearing to actually standing one with the trees totally within the blowing breeze. The only way the magical sixth sense can be provoked is to let go of the effort. The sixth sense comes from feeling the magic. The magic comes from within. To become one with that breeze is to go within and patiently sharpen the sense of magic, to be in that moment. Artist and breeze are one.
All very easy for me to say but doing is another thing entirely. In the meantime, I think I will go out and sit under a tree for a while. Maybe if I sit long enough, the magic will happen. Maybe I will begin to grow roots. Maybe birds will nest in my hair. Maybe leaves will sprout from my fingers. Maybe I sit long enough to get arrested for loitering. I wonder what the judge will do when I say I was sharpening my senses by becoming one with the breeze? Maybe someone will come bail me out of the slammer.
“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper (from Artpromotivate.com)
An eagle in flight, the newly opened bud of a spring flower, the crashing waves on a white sandy beach are sights that can momentarily take the breath away. For many artists the feeling cannot be put into words. Only paint can express the depth of emotion attached to magnificent sights in our world. But there are times when frustration can set in over the difficulty of expressing that emotion followed by feelings of failure. Why is it not happening?
Perhaps the beauty seems more than mere mortals can express. The great C.S. Lewis said, “We do not want to see merely beauty…we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Father Shane Tucker of Four Winds Anglican Mission and ArtistSoulfriend.com spoke of this quote and encouraged artists to search for those places that inspire awe and to breathe them in. Father Shane suggests getting still and thinking of when one has last seen awe.
Taking time to be in that place of awe, to breathe it in, absorb it, dwell in it then turn back to canvas and paint with fresh feelings intact can break the logjam of frustration. Getting out of the way of feelings when they are trying to express themselves may be just the ticket. Letting go of control takes the physical act of shaking out arms and hands. It takes a conscious act to let the unconscious take over. So start shaking, breathe deep and get out of the way. The logs are breaking!
“Beauty is whatever gives joy.” Hugh Nibley (from The Painter’s Keys)
Suppose your goal is to create “beautiful” art. The first thing you might set out to do is define, “beautiful.” Good luck with that! Volumes have been written about what is and isn’t beautiful. The subject was examined in a movie documentary starring Mathew Collings, titled “What is Beauty?” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a mind bogglingly in-depth article on the definition of Beauty. Even the dictionary has multiple definitions of beauty. What’s an artist to do?
The first step may be to go back to the beginning and take a look at why you create art in the first place. Was the original purpose to create something “beautiful” or something that will be enjoyed by others. There is a big difference. As the exact definition of beauty is likely near impossible to pin down, while giving pleasure to others is not. Therefore, a better goal might be to define how art gives pleasure to others and set out to pursue that direction.
Now that the goal is in mind to determine how to make pleasurable art, you take a look at what you have and discover one person finds pleasure in one style and another person prefers a different style. Uh Oh! What now?? You could just throw in the towel and give up. Or you could follow your own heart, create what you find pleasurable and let the chips fall where they may. Some of those chips just may fall on a few likeminded folks.