The Beauty of Lumps and Bumps

Life drawing, or drawing nude people, was one of the most interesting of my college classes. To see where muscle and bone interact is important in learning to draw the human form. For example, if you want to paint a woman working in her garden, you need to know what her triceps are doing as she leans forward, lifting

We were timed on each piece. I think this was a two minute attempt.

We were timed on each piece. I think this was a two minute attempt.

her arm to water the roses. How do you capture the right proportions with her arm outstretched and quads flexed to keep her balance…how does her skin stretch across her knuckles as she grips the watering can?

It helps to know what’s underneath so you can accurately bring the action to the surface. Of course, you never know all that goes on underneath unless a person is completely nude, and you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

Some of our models were athletic, some were obviously sedentary, and several were in between. The body can speak volumes without a single spoken word. Beauty, however, is a little different in the art world. Outside the studio, it’s all about looking young, fit, and stylish. But inside the studio, we capture the essence of beauty. The eternal kind of beauty—the kind people will pay thousands to grace their walls with. It could be a stolen glance between lovers, a deeply-lined palm of hand, a belly ripe with new life.

We called him the "Jesus guy" because he looked like all the old paintings.

We called him the “Jesus guy” because he looked like all the old paintings.

To this day, I like to guess what someone’s feet look like by the wear of their shoes. I know my own look a little different after years of ballet and two pregnancies. They’ve widened and changed shape and my shoes do show their story.

Several years ago, the retirement place where I work hosted a dance every Tuesday evening. Outsiders were invited—a handful showed up on a regular basis. One woman, along with her husband, shuffled in with her feet stuffed into slim, low heels. The shoes were so tight, her skin muffined out of them, and her gait was more of a limp. With every step, I could feel her pain. I don’t know how she managed to dance that way—I suppose she thought dance shoes had to look sexy, even to the point of pain. But she just didn’t fit the mold anymore, and she heeded the world over The Sculptor.

I could have told her that she’d dance much more beautifully in her Grandma shoes. Grandma shoes are made to cushion years of sacrifice—they’re made to support years of children, grandchildren, and all kinds of battles.

They hug the bulges pushed out from Love, and make smooth the tread of eternally beautiful feet.

Eternally beautiful feet aren’t necessarily young, or fashionable, and only some of them are

Everybody's favorite model. She had a certain essence.

Everybody’s favorite model. She had a certain essence.

fit.

But we know The Sculptor has spent much more time and care on them than any sexy heel fashioned by the world.

I could have told the woman that The Sculptor would rather her wear Grandma shoes—that He would want her to celebrate freely all the things that made her feet change. But my words wouldn’t have mattered if she didn’t realize the value of all those hidden things.

 

Go boldly into this week, knowing you were made to shine through any kind of surface.

To Be A David

What would you think of as beautiful in your last season of this life?

I may take that question to work, where people go to live during this great transition. I learn a lot there, where most conversations revolve around family: theirs, mine, and whoever else has one.

Children are incontestably beautiful. They celebrate life in so many colors and

Am I not divinely beautiful?

Am I not divinely beautiful?

expressions, it’s hard not to look at them as canvases of the most divine kind of art. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to raise them—we don’t want to unintentionally shape a Monet into a Picasso if that’s not who they are meant to be.

Speaking of art—if my “ship” ever makes it through all the cactus and dust devils, bringing treasures beyond my expectations—I hope it’s full of art to fill my walls with. I can’t get enough—Impressionism, Renaissance art, Contemporary…maybe even an art studio of my own, because to me, life without art means a life without beauty.

At the retirement resort, there used to be a group of ladies who, at the first sign of a fire truck, would gather in one of the lobbies to watch the firemen walk by (unfortunately, they were usually accompanied by an ambulance). Young and fit people will always have an audience.

But really, when we reach that phase where our human side starts to peel away from the eternal—what will we remember as truly beautiful?

My daughter is seven, and in public school. She’s reached that point where she’s gaining that early foundation of experience. She’s a butterfly—sweet and quiet (at school), and full of color (strong-willed monkey at home). Her teachers would like to see her speak up more in class, speak louder—find her confidence. We do our best to build her up—we even signed her up for ballet where she can express her creative side within a group.

But a person has to uncover their light on their own accord.

When a boy in her class kept coming in without lunch, and worried about his parents “illnesses”, she found her voice, taking him to the lunchroom supervisors and asking if they would give him a free meal. For those of you who have never been shy this may seem like plain old common sense, but all those former and practicing wallflowers will recognize what a leap of faith this was for someone afraid to raise her hand.

This, to me, is beauty at its brightest. It’s reaching beyond our own comforts, switching on that stubborn lamp, and letting the eternal side shine through the human side.

King David, in his early years as a shepherd boy, was described as beautiful.

So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 1 Samuel 16:12 (emphasis mine)

I’m sure he was made “good-looking” for a reason, but is that what made him “the one”?

When I look at Michelangelo’s David, I see the story of him—the slingshot, the strength of body and spirit—the shepherd boy who stepped forward to save his people.

The statue will eventually crumble, but the part of him that made him a legend came from the Divine.

What do you think is eternally beautiful? Tell us in the comments.

How to be an Impressionist painting

In my teen years, I handled life with my hands dipped in paint. I found joy in the blues and reds, found peace in knowing I was good at something, and for my own entertainment, it confused those who kept trying to put me in the preppy box. Yes, I behaved myself. Yes, I was quiet and most everyone assumed I was an A student and read a lot (I did read a lot). But the messy paint and my “unique” way of fashion had more than one person scratch their heads. “How do I complete this picture?”

My art teacher encouraged me to paint big. He recognized that I was more of a free spirit and didn’t accept bashful art. I didn’t either, and I flourished with giant flowers and portraits of whoever was brave enough to model for a bunch of teenagers.

No erupting pimple could dampen the thrill of art class.100_2417

On one occasion he made what I thought a strange observation. “Your watercolor…it looks great from far away, but it loses something up close.”

There it is again. Up close I’m not quite. Not quite what?

I worked on my art, studying the masters, taking the passion to college—polishing up a bit and producing better work—but there was always that messy quality.

Of course, it worked for Claude Monet—if you look at his paintings up close, they’re a little messy. A little unorganized, but step back a bit and…hang that on my wall, please, and on every wall in my house. His work is an overall collection of wow.

Do we all really need to be normal? As one of my reviewers said about Faith Seekers: “… is occasionally like free-form jazz” (which, after mulling over, left me in chuckles). What do I do with this free-form part of me?

Twenty years later, Jeff Goins answered that question.

“Maybe the best moments in our lives aren’t meant to be so cut and dried. Maybe the mess is beautiful.”

Is this how God sees us? He knows we can be messy, and up close we’re far from perfect. But we’re His art. Why do we fight so hard to be accepted as normal? God made us unique from the beginning, and He calls it wonderful.

To Stretch a Canvas

I don’t roll out of bed. I slowly morph from one-with-blanket to kind of awake. It takes me a minute or two to realize that I’m not really running from a phantom at the speed of geezer, but was dreaming. I blink the dry from my eyes and stare at the new day – except it looks like an out of focus impressionist painting without my glasses. I have to feel around for them because I’m too blind to see them sitting on my nightstand with the low light. Once I get them on and get dressed, my little guy bursts in.

“Morning, Mommy!”

He’s in his Thor costume and wants to wear his Spiderman flip flops to take Sissy to school because he can’t find his tennis shoes, “So can I wear them, Mommy, please, please, please?” I’m still trying to separate dream from awake and he’s asking me this before I get my daily dose of caffeine and….

“Uh, okay.”

“Yay, thank you, Mommy! Can I go wake up Sissy, can I have oatmeal today, CANIHAVEHOTCHOCOLATE?!!

The stinker knows Mommy is too groggy to say NO.
I grab my pants and pull them over my had-two-babies belly. It’s not that I’ve eaten too much chocolate but my skin is as stretched as thin as I am. You know – how we get our kids ready for school – making lunch and breakfast at the same time while loading the dishwasher and trying to brush teeth while handling a toddler meltdown? Working to pay the bills, and then writing novels—dreaming dreams—well after the sun goes down?

Is there any room in there for a date night?100_2990

We are strrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeetched tissue paper thin and have the tiger stripes to prove it.

There are those moments in between the chaos that shine beautiful, like when my son opens the door for old ladies at the library, or when my daughter picks up her journal and scrawls in her six-year-old script, “I love how the trees point toward Heaven.” This is when I know the life-scars are not ugly – they’re marks from the Great Sculptor Himself.

“Being stretched thin makes you a canvas for God’s glory.”—Ann Voskamp

God doesn’t stuff our plates full to waste our time. He takes the threads from each generation, dips them in His grace, and makes art.

Art on my mind

Sometimes I think about it when I pass my empty easel in the garage.

It peeks at me speckled and lonely.

My first love stains empty water cups; burnt sienna, crimson and my cool favorites 100_1071that could paint a peacock for my kitchen.

Sometimes I see it in the patio cracks, concrete crumbles that could be faces, mountains. I could dream a little more or just sweep it away.

For a small moment, I join my kids with the sidewalk chalk and hope I haven’t become too rusty because someday, Someday, I would love to pick up my paintbrush again.

A shadow on the brick fence would look lovely in acrylic, but that will have to wait, so I’ll snap its image for my memory album.

The door that opened for me was one I ignored for so long, it had become dream camouflage. When I finally saw its loveliness, 100_3066I gave thanks and I’m holding it tight…

But I still think about that blank canvass in the garage, wondering what to do with a gift that, for now, waits in those in between places.

Is there something you love to do, but just can’t right now? I LOVE art, so feel free to share your gifts and post your (family friendly) links in the comments.