Dreaming in Living Color: Secrets from my 30-day art challenge
Updated: Feb 19
How do I begin to express all I learned through 30 days of painting on one canvas? Me, an art newbie with less than six months of painting experience? I don’t even have words for this new desire to paint, this unction to create…yet. In all honesty, this canvas is like my interior world splashed across a palette, then painted over and over, exposing my years, my tears, and my dreams (and it took me until Day 29 to realize it).
I’m calling it, “Dreaming in Living Color.”
Sorry for the intimate exposure. My quest is laid bare here for whomever cares to view the inner workings of my imaginative and often obtuse amalgamation of raw moments, whimsy, colors, muddle, and God-focus all rolled onto one canvas.
Like writing a first novel, when an author has every intention of making it about some fictitious character, but somehow, unwittingly, it reflects their personal story at every plot point — this is that. Can true creativity begin only when we are willing to be transparent? Perhaps our true selves must be available, honest, and willing to be exposed. A necessary starting point….
This art style won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, which I understand. I’m amazed to find I quite like the painting – the colors, the noble steed, the whimsical bird, the grapes, the wonky flowers, the dark circles filled with tiny points of light, the showers of white dots, and especially the little grey bird who looks toward the future with a watchful eye.
What secrets have I learned through this somewhat torturous 30-day journey?
1. Growth is inevitable if you don’t quit. I gave God my meager skill and abundant desire, and He is multiplying it back to me. For someone who couldn’t draw a stick figure…not bad. I almost quit the challenge when I reached a point where I needed to paint over parts. This required a few days of processing before I chose to continue. (Okay, my challenge wasn’t 30 consecutive days, but it was 30 days total!)
2. Layers add unique texture. The underneath layer contains a butterfly, a globe, a web, and layer upon layer of color runs, applied with brush, palette knife, eye dropper, sponge, and yes, my fingers. Each stroke contributed to the texture of the final painting. So it is with our lives. Infinitely unique. Marked by wonder and not a few woes. Our God wastes nothing. Absolutely nothing is ever lost in His economy.
3. Learn by modeling other’s success. I perused paintings, abstracts, portraits, landscapes, photographs to find out what fascinates me. I like whimsical animals, abstracts, trees, birds, butterflies, and horses. The list is growing. I saw painting styles I don’t even know how to name yet. I made up a term, or so I thought, of what I seem to like most: abstract realism. Real things presented in an abstract manner. Then I found out it really is a thing…I must have read it somewhere?! I tried a few on for size and delighted in the fit. The world will never see those paintings, though honestly, they barely resemble the original, but I grew in the mimicking. There is much to learn from those who have gone before us – in art, in business, in life. Paul said, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Following others helps us understand the standard of excellence as a guideline, not to compare ourselves against and slink away in defeat, but as a challenge to spur progress.
4. Letting go allows room for growth. Like pruning a tree so the remaining branches can flourish, when I painted over a section, it allowed room for further creativity. I learned to hold my creation loosely, trusting my Source for new inspiration rather than relying on my own limited skill or imagination.
5. Art captures the essence of life and expresses it creatively. I was struck this week as we worshipped at church how a song highlights every simple word as it’s sung. In the same way, a visual work of art conveys an emotion, a moment, a memory, an experience, with or without words, invoking a response from the viewer. Perhaps the response matches the artist’s original intent; more often it probably doesn’t. Art, music, dance, poetry, and words that elicit a visceral response in us have done their job.
6. Please yourself first. This sounds selfish, but it’s not. I have been on a quest to paint a simple tree and I’ve mirrored numerous styles to attempt to capture the tree I would love. But they all have fallen short. The exercise has taught me much about techniques and textures, design and styles, but when I quit trying so hard and decided to play, allowing the colors to flow and mingle, I finally achieved the look I desired. Simple. Unadorned. Colorful. By discovering what pleased me, I felt I touched God’s heart too. Expressing the true me honors His design. When we genuinely present ourselves as God created us to be, He is delighted.
7. Transparency honors God and frees us to live life to the fullest. God knows we’re not perfect and so does everyone else. When we let God’s light into the dark places, the roaches can’t hide. I choose to let the Holy Spirit exterminator do His job. No more hiding behind my insecurities and fears. Transparency allows light-filled space for joy (and hidden talents) to thrive.
8. The best secrets are not really secrets at all…and neither are these. The obvious only feels like a secret until it becomes truth to us.
“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.” Ephesians 3:20 TPT
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For more about my art journey, see this blog post: CLICK HERE