That Wretched Documentary

"In the Shadow of the Dark Fortress" shows the light winning.

"In the Shadow of the Dark Fortress" shows the light winning.

I have a tendency to either see life like a sunny sky that's always been sunny and always will be… or the exact opposite—like a dark sky that's always been dark and always will be. One day, a couple of years ago, I was beginning to feel that ominous sky creeping into my mind. It was lunch time and I thought to myself—hey, I think I'll watch a documentary while I eat lunch. That sounds nice. A few weeks before I'd heard someone say there was an interesting documentary about Sea World. Sure enough, I found it on Netflix and sat there munching a salad, ready to be entertained, and hoping to feel a little less gloomy afterwards. The documentary was very sad. Very, very sad. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I definitely watched enough. When I picked my kids up from school, they told me about their day and I remember thinking, That's really sad. Just like Sea World. And I continued to think those same words—That's really sad. Just like Sea World—about nearly everything I heard for the next three months. It's amazing how many things you can relate back to a sad documentary if you set your mind to it. After a while I started thinking—you know, the world is just one big Sea World, and all of it is really, really sad. I was super depressed. I might have continued that way forever, or at least for a good bit longer, if it weren't for a certain family of geese. 

I realized that I had taken a joyful event...and had managed to make it into a postponed sad event by tacking the words, "this time", on to the end of my sentence.

I was driving along, thinking sad thoughts that all went straight back to Sea World when I noticed this family of geese attempting to cross a busy road. I was certain they were all going to die, but to my surprise the car in front of me stopped in time for them to get across, and the car coming from the other direction did the same. The geese made it. Out loud I said, "Oh, thank the Lord! They made it! This time." Hearing myself say this out loud I realized that I had taken a joyful event—a bunch of geese not being squashed flat—and had managed to make it into a postponed sad event by tacking the words, "this time", on to the end of my sentence. The ridiculousness of this had a jolting effect. What had I been doing for the last three months? There had probably been good things here and there the whole time, but I'd colored them all with that wretched documentary. 

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom.

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom.

I decided to think back and try to see God's provisions—all the places He'd been shining through that I had not noticed before. I thought back, and there they were! The provisions had not necessarily been in the form I would have chosen, and so I had counted them as nothings at the time. I had looked straight past them. But now that I was intentionally looking for them, I could see so many. Little kindnesses. Little moments. Big kindnesses. Big moments. 

Creating art is a form of dwelling on an idea. It's an active dwelling.

There's this one verse that says, "Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."  Creating art is a form of dwelling on an idea. It's an active dwelling. If I spent a long time painting a picture that had a hopeless message I would be negatively affected by it. I'd probably "go Sea World" after 45 minutes—maybe quicker. It doesn't take long for all the color to get sucked out of my view. That's why I only paint hopeful pictures. Some of my paintings have deep sadness mixed in. The ideas and stories for some came to my mind when I was praying about very difficult and dark situations,  but they are all centered on hope. I paint pictures of the light winning.  

I've found that it's important for me to search for the light and hold onto it—even the memory of it—and to notice quickly when i'm sitting in the darkness and dwelling on the gloom. The act of painting is one of the ways I hold on to the light.  Avoiding incredibly sad documentaries is another. 

- Amy

My Favorite Color

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Green is my favorite color. When I was a little girl green was not popular. The way I know this is that every year in ballet at the end of the year performance none of the little girls wanted the green costumes…except me.

I always wanted the green costume. I would raise my hand high—desperate for the green costume—fearing someone else might get it instead of me. In reality no one else wanted it, so there was nothing to fear. They all wanted pink. 

I still love green, and I think I can say that I love green more than most people love their favorite color. If it was a food I would eat it up. To me it is a heavenly color. However it can also, in certain hues, turn into one of the nastiest most disgusting colors imaginable. Few colors can achieve the ugliness of a bad green. Isn't that weird? I fight greens a lot in my paintings. Fight for them. Fight against them. The Green Unknown was a painting I did a few years ago that was quite a struggle. I could see that amazing, edible green in my mind. I could feel it in my soul (that may be a bit dramatic, but still…), but I couldn't seem to make my paints capture the green I wanted on the canvas. For a good while that painting was absolutely revolting to look at. I had to turn it away from me each day as I left my studio so that I wouldn't be hit with it's hideousness upon entering the studio the next morning. Ugly! But I love green so much, and I was sure that the green I craved could be accomplished. I kept painting and praying. Painting. Praying. Painting. Praying. And then, low and behold—there was green. Delicious green! Green from Heaven! Praise the Lord for good greens!

 Don't give up. Colors are hard—especially green. Amen.

- Amy

My Answer to the "What's Your Process?" Question

I write a lot of words to capture the meaning I'm fighting for.

From time to time someone asks me if i would be willing to do a painting demonstration in order to share my painting process with other artists. I always say NO  because my process would be so horribly dull to watch that no one would want to sit through it.

It's a real yawn to observe. The reason it would be boring to watch is that I spend more time thinking about my paintings than actually painting. So unless someone wants to watch me think quietly, then I'd better not do a demonstration. My paintings pretty much always start with prayer, usually while I'm taking a walk. I stare up at the tree tops and remember how small I am and how amazing it is that God thought me into existence. Then I just pray—not about art, but about whatever—neighbors, injustice in the world, children who are suffering somewhere, and beg God to help. Or sometimes I just thank Him for the trees and the sky. Then something comes to mind—sometimes it's a title or a story. I have something I want to say. A mood I want to capture…but i don't know how to do it. I never know how to do it. More prayer. Then I start to sketch and write words out to the side—words that capture the meaning I'm fighting for. Many of the words are recurring, because often my message is the same— Light shining in darkness! 

My new painting "Undone" captures a mood.

My favorite words to write are, Light, Darkness, Wonder (that's my all-time favorite word), Hope, Magical, Ridiculous, Mystery, Victory, Courage, Glow. I find that writing words like this helps me not to lose my way as I paint. It helps me remember the mood I'm going for. It's sort of like those songs you hear that make you think— this song should be in a movie. Like the song, "In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel. The second I hear it, it's like I'm a character in a movie riding in a car at night and something amazing is about to happen. That's because the music has a mood. It has a color. Deep blue, in my opinion. So, I'm wanting to capture that same kind of intense mood in my paintings. And let me just say, it's a real battle.

When I teach painting and collage to students I tell them it is a mental battle that you have to fight. I tell them that they have to constantly remind themselves of what they're trying to say and the mood they're trying to convey. They ALSO have to fight all those annoying, pesky little voices in their heads— the ones that say, "You are wasting your time," or "You just ruined it. It's ruined," or "This is a terrible painting." I'm telling you, those voices will come and you need to be ready.


Here's what I say as I paint, "This is a beautiful experiment! This painting is going to be amazing! This WILL WORK!"


The reason I say these things is because these words produce perseverance and they keep hope alive so that I don't stop looking for the good in my painting. The moment you stop looking for the good in your painting—that's the moment you will no longer be capable of finding or recognizing the good. Isn't that just like life?

There's a Bible verse, in Proverbs somewhere that says, "The sluggard says, there's a lion at the door! I'll be killed in the streets!" I may be the only person in the world to say, that's one of my favorite verses. Because I understand the sluggard. It is so natural for me, when faced with an overwhelming challenge (in art or in life), to say—"The problem is so big! I give up! It's all over…everything is ruined and there's no hope left!" I'm a negative nancy. I like to call it being realistic, but seriously I'm often plain old negative. So that's where I have to fight, in life and in art. I have to fight those negative thoughts. I have to say, "Okay, there's a lion at the door and… maybe there's a way around the lion. Or maybe, just maybe it's a tame lion? or a blind lion? maybe this will not end in my eminent demise?" I have to keep looking for the good—looking for God shining out of the darkness. And when I look for Him, I see him. 

- Amy