The business of the creator is not to escape from his material medium or to bully it, but to serve it; but to serve it he must love it.
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
Anyone who has ever worked at planning or creating anything knows that, like Frankenstein’s monster, the creation can take on a life of its own. I experienced this a few years ago when, with a few friends, we decided to have a women’s conference at our church. It was the main organizer of the event that backed out first, leading the eventual collapse of the whole thing, citing, “It had taken on a life of its own.”
Yes, as we create, those things, whatever they be, take on a life of their own.
As I was reading through Dorothy Sayers book, The Mind of the Maker, I found myself thinking about Jacob’s artwork.
Okay, yes, I’m his mother so I may be slightly biased, but I think he has some talent. And the things he went through as he prepared his pieces for this year’s art show fit so perfectly with what Dorothy Sayers is saying in chapter 5. I watched him learn to serve his material medium as it took on a life of its own.
Jacob wanted to do something with a World War II theme. His first idea was of a woman looking out to sea, thinking about her loved one fighting in Europe. He scrapped it for a coming home picture. You can see the sketch of the one behind the start of the other.
The house he used was based on this painting by Edward Hopper.
Here is Jacob’s final picture.
It’s funny that the things I love about the picture are the things Jacob hates.
For instance, he didn’t put faces on his people. He doesn’t like that. Without the faces, though, I can project onto the picture whatever I choose. In truth, I become more engaged in the story the picture is telling.
He criticizes the fact that his lines are not straight, her hair is indistinct, her feet are blurry. All these things allow me to use my own imagination in the story.
The other two pieces he submitted correlated with this one.
First a charcoal sketch of soldiers. I thought the charcoal was effective in showing the heavy weight of battle. This isn’t the completed picture, but a photo he took of it in progress. He gave away the completed one to a little boy who admired it at the art show.
And last, an acrylic painting of flowers, the flowers seen on step next to the girl in the first picture.
I kept coming back to Jacob’s artwork as I struggled with The Mind of the Maker. Jacob had told his art teacher that he wasn’t happy with his painting and she suggested that he work on it some more. He didn’t. He told me that he had lost his vision for it.
How wise! To continue working on it would have been bullying. He no longer loved it because he really no longer knew it. Without the love and the vision, he couldn’t serve it.
I think we can apply this to whatever it is we are creating.
If our creative energies go into parenting, it must be done with love and without bullying.
If our creative energies go into gardening, it must be done with love, carefully tending to its needs, and without bullying.
If our creative energies go into writing or music or acting or teaching or cooking or cleaning or preparing sermons or running a business, it must be done with love.
We need to maintain vision.
We cannot escape.
We cannot bully.
We must love.