Wednesday, January 28, 2009


"Ode to Joy" detail by Susan Obaza (acrylic on paper)

It's been a weird past couple of months, starting at the end of August. I started back to college with my youngest daughter. We took in a boarder. I pretty much lost the time and space to create, though in all honesty if you want it badly enough you will find it. I was unsure of myself, the time, the space of life that I was living in. I hadn't painting since August and began again in January. I had to. I had to. I was out of my mind with desire to create. A sweet friend reminded me regarding his own struggles, that to everything, there is a season. I know this. But I have learned that I HAVE to create. If I do not I am tormented. This precious gift is a very personal and dear treasure to my heart. God in His wisdom may not take away the earthly things that trouble and harass, but He brings comfort, and in my brushes I find it. I'd like to think that every loss brings gain, every time away and every struggle enriches our experience. It brings more and more meaning to that which is good, that which we can share with the world-our very selves. My self, my heart, comes out on paper. I pray to God that I paint and draw with my heart. Many artists have expressed this sentiment. And it never stops being true. As long as my painting is an act of worship, an affirmation of the goodness of life and the desire to live, it will be the gift God intended me to have. And my love back to Him, and the world.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I have always loved the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. They are two of my favorite scriptural leaders, humble men with a (not so simple) mission. Nehemiah was cupbearer to a king, a very important job requiring a trusted man. He protected the king's well-being, and obviously, had his love and respect. The king noticed that Nehemiah was down-hearted. No reason why he should, except that they were friends. Just like Daniel having the respect and love of the monarchs he served. Nehemiah grieved at the state of his native land and the city of Jerusalem. The temple was rebuilt but the walls were broken down still, after years. So the king let his beloved man and servant leave to return and remedy the situation.

I was watching Jack Hayford tonight. I rarely ever watch Christian television, but I put it on briefly, and it was one of those times it felt like the message was directed straight to me. Pastor Hayford was talking about Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem by night to inspect the broken walls and burned gates of the city. He compared this to the human condition, how when God restores our lives, the center of worship, our spirits, are reborn and built anew, but we still struggle in the soulish realm (our walls and gates). No one knew that Nehemiah was riding around the city walls thinking about what needed to be done. In the illustration Nehemiah is a type of Christ, who identifies with our broken condition and works with us to rebuild the things that we cannot. I know I'm there. My spirit is glad-I know God, but I've allowed so much through the gates of my mind, and allowed my protective walls to be broken down by sin in my life. I was so touched by the way the message was put forth, that Nehemiah did not berate the people for being lazy-after his inspection he said, "We are in great distress". He identified with his people, as Christ does with us. Our great High Priest, touched by every infirmity we could ever experience, knows us and is our Help and Shield. It was not an easy job. They had enemies. The work was laborious. Family teams worked side by side day and night to rebuild the walls with tools in one hand and weapons in the other. They could not leave any one spot unprotected.

I've come to understand that my Lord is a carpenter of the highest order. The places my heart is broken down, my will not strong, my desires off course and my foundation cracked, He comes. But I have to stop running around looking for help in every other place, or sitting idle. I ask, He is already working, we begin the job.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

a legend gone

There was a great loss in the art world this week, at the least the American art world. Andrew Wyeth died at 91 years old. I forgot. I resisted putting up a Helga picture-I love his drawings and simple still lives and interiors. I did read the obits that were up, and realized that he went through the same gyrations of labeling as did Norman Rockwell-genius vs "just a painter", an illustrator. Just an illustrator who painted some of the most memorable images of the 20th century. I should be such a painter, sigh. I didn't realize the Met would not show the Helga pictures. I guess they figured it was a husband/wife put-up job to create sensationalism. Whatever. They didn't need to do that if they did. Helga never looked better. I also would not squawk at going from a neighbor's cleaning lady to model/goddess, at least hotly pursued on canvas. They are stunning paintings. Nothing else can be said about them.

Andrew Wyeth was quoted as saying, "An artist's work will only be as deep as their love". Maybe not verbatim, but I've been thinking about fear as of late. Scriptures says perfect love casts out fear. We take risks for that which we love, and certainly I can defend poor Andrew for painting a model hundreds of times-some things in the world inspire such desire to create. His love for his craft, maybe his love for her...but really, I don't think so. He was an artist's artist. He said something to the effect trying to explain it, "That Prussian face..." Ever fell in love with bones, strands of hair, the way light falls on a form? I have. I wish I loved that much! I painted today, and prepped my paper yesterday. I decided color and control be damned-I flung paint, I dabbed, I dripped, I let it run, and I let it dry, and then I painting on it. And today I looked at something I did last week and got angry-it's not exciting enough. I retaped the painting and covered the background with slashing strokes-it was just too uhhhh...nothing. If risk is not involved in creating art or living, it is blahhhhhh!!!!!

security vs the world outside

The character of Quasimoto in Victor Hugo's story is one of my great favorites. I grew up on classic books and movies, and Charles Laughton's portrayal of the hunchback is burned in my memory. I searched for a painting of Esmeralda and Quasimoto, and there wasn't one that I could find. The story is a literary great, but it apparently has no counterpart in classic painting. I need to look further because I can't believe it. Sounds like a project to me.
There are personal reasons why this story is meaningful. It has much to do with how we are viewed by the world, the social implications of handicap, the cruelty of small-minded people and powers that be which never changes, but further, how destiny plays a hand in our lives when we are literally born and how do we deal with that hand. Our social status, our physical appearance, our ability to make decisions and live with courage-who wins in this story? Disney gave the story their happy ending treatment, one that I could not bear to watch. The final scene in the 1940's film adaption and the end line is such a truthful comment on the nature of being human and having a heart I would never want to disfigure or deny that truth.
I have thought much about this in a very personal sense. I think every female who ever lived longs for security, and odd as this sounds-a tower and a fearful protector who lives to care for me is a secret desire, or used to be. On a larger level I think about it in terms of life, my fear of going out into the world, being who I am, and taking on the prejudices and dangers on my own terms. I watched several movies yesterday-I was out of energy, struggling with inner turmoil and feeling no desire to move onto projects I need to do. Fear, my old enemy, is chasing me up into the bell tower. All the movies had to do with a heroine who had to vanquish old fears and not run away from their given destinies. They could have gone one of two ways, and maybe it would have worked out. I'm trying to remember the line from the one, that while was a child's film, had a great deal to say about being who you were created to be, something like...fearful people may live with mistakes, but cautious people don't live at all. I thought-there are many versions to this, but the same idea.
It feels sometimes like my brushes weight a thousands pounds, my home is an empty castle, I'm tired and I want someone else to do what I know I have to. The call on all our lives is to be human, face the joys and pains of life and embrace the day and as a creature of clay I can choose to be molded or set on the shelf. I don't want to love any more, I don't want to feel any more, I don't want to try any more. But I must or turn to stone and lose all claim on living.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

a picture (or two) is worth...

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I would enlarge that to say loving anyone and watching them go out into the world knowing what the world is and how fragile life is takes some strength. The above is what is left of our Jeep after black ice and a telephone pole. My daughter's boyfriend was driving, she was in the car with two other friends, nothing illegal or reckless going on-just an accident. They all walked away. Thank God. I took stock, realized what's important and actually learned to let her go just a little more this week.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Portrait of Cara

This is my latest portrait. I am still without studio space, but it was time to get back on board and begin working. I'm painting now, a pair of roses. I promised my 80-year-old artist friend that I'd begin painting "happy", and so that is what I'm doing! Actually, before the hiatus, I was experimenting with acrylic paints. They are great because they're water soluble and the pigment is extremely saturated. I used to use watercolors to stain my drawing papers. Well, I tried staining with acrylic, and got a much more brilliant base. I love the chaotic jumble of colors to begin with, so I am using acrylics and colored pencil together over this color crazy paper, doing white flowers. It's coming out great. Maybe I really needed the break. I'll post the colorful one when its done. Feels good to be "back"!

p.s. Cara is a former inmate and was helped by Providing Hope Ministries. She was (is) a success story, and hopefully will remain so.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Museum of Broken Relationships

I skim the news for stories of interest, or stop what I'm doing on the computer to read them if something catches my eye. One did this morning-an article about a museum for broken relationships. I was immediately intrigued? Isn't the worst of losing someone you love knowing that the evidence the relationship even existed will soon be swept away with time? In this museum you can mail in your exhibits. Some of the items on display include a hatchet which was used to break up an ex-girlfriend's furniture, fur-covered handcuffs, a prosthetic leg from a war veteran who fell in love with his therapist...of course, the fun for me was, thinking of what I might send as an exhibit. We collect very strange relationship debris. I'd love to see a random list from people I know. Ok, I do need to include a link. This museum is in Croatia-I wonder if they experience more break-ups there than average? It will be traveling and there is a schedule.

I know I don't need to spiritualize absolutely everything in life, but my mind naturally thinks in spiritual application, so here everything, there is a season. One day the rose is blooming, and the next it's dried and dusty in a book page long forgotten. In the world, in life, things are meant to end, or mature, or die, or morph into other things. One song I absolutely love, written by Sara Groves (I Think) is...c'mon brain...He's Always Been Faithful. It's about God, of course, and one line goes something like this-I can't remember a trial or a pain, He didn't recycle to bring me gain. I so want to believe that. There are reasons why we meet people, love them, why they are special for a season. Some are special for a lifetime, but must be far rather than near. It's ok. I suppose we're given memories as our own museums, and we thankfully forget the pain and hold the remains of what was good until all is redeemed on the last day.