I’ve been doodling an abundance of skulls and bones lately in my little sketchbook. In the wandering of my collective journey through art, I have had to learn through a few different methods--mentors, books, & Google.
These have become my closest friends (sometimes literally) as I struggle through a cut & paste creative arts education. I’ve made mistakes along the way and I have had a few small successes...both have come at the great influence of artists along the way. My mistakes have come by way of too strongly emulating others, while discovering my “style.” My successes have come by way of some of those same influences recommending to me opportunities I would not have considered otherwise. For both the mistakes and successes I have nothing but gratitude because it has appropriately positioned me to see my work differently than before.
Whether it be fan art, or original creations, I have started to realize that I only want to make what I want to make. My work should not be for the acceptance of others but for my self-acceptance, and if it is appreciated (some might say successful) by others—great! But my goals have shifted from what I thought success was to what I hope remains as a new definition of success for me: If I am happy with my work, that is all that matters.
Of course, this does not mean that I should never improve, put my portfolio out there for work, or work hard for the clients/contracts I have had. There is definitely a healthy respect for the work we do when it is for other people, and how we approach that. But what I am trying to say is that as creatives we should less concerned about what pople bring to our creations by way of their support, and instead we should care more about what we bring into the world by way of our creative endeavors.
Kind of like this sketch:
I want to be less inward focused and more outward focused on how I create.
It makes me think about Paul and what he writes in Colossians 3:23-24,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for people, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
This does not dismiss the individual or make them unimportant, but rather it adjusts my personal expectations of individual engagement with my work. Instead, it puts an emphasis on the importance of serving others by way of God versus serving self by way of me.
Francis Schaeffer writes:
Because God has created individual man in his own image and because God knows and is interested in the individual, individual man is worthy of our painting and our writing.
There is in fact a balance to working for, and in service of, God as Creator, and how we approach our work and our art as creatives. But it is a hard balance, because the things I create are often unrelated to my faith (comic characters, fiction stories, etc), yet what I do if done with all my heart should in fact be done for God rather than for people. While work, clients, projects may result in a piece done for a person, if I am not giving the heart of my work as an act of worship to God—regardless of the content— what am I truly working for?
I believe that the root of my problem has been established in the idea that I need human recognition for the work I do. Which, heck, we all relate to that a bit, don’t we? We like the nice comments, hearts, likes, and subscribes, but where I hope to continue to grow is not only in my ability to produce quality work, but also in how I approach and respond to work as it comes. So that, in whatever I do, I can work at it with all my heart as if working for the Lord.
Which brings me back to skulls and bones.
If you read my post Finding Inspiration in Rest, I share about my time in Florida back in March of 2019. This experience followed some doctor’s visits and MRI’s because my health has been bonkers! Nerve damage, numbness of the fingers and right arm, etc. It’s been crazy. Here it is, now eight months since the symptoms started in November of 2018, and four months since the first scans and tests. And what have I discovered? Well, after another series of tests and an appointment with a neurologist, I have stenosis of the C5, C6 vertebrae.
I have bone spurs growing inside my vertebrae and they are pressing on and flattening my spinal cord. Now, the spine is amazing. It is rigid enough to hold us upright, but flexible enough to move with our body and actions. You may not know this, but the spinal cord is like the railroad of all the nerves from the brain out to the rest of the body. Like a train, the nervous system sends signals to everything from the fingers and toes, to the heart and lungs. The nervous system centralizes our actions and our sensory information. At this point, if the spinal cord is severed or damaged, there could be trouble; i.e., paralysis or, you know, skull and bones. The only real course of action is surgery to remove the spurs and restore function to the spinal cord.
So I have been drawing skulls and bones and spines and skeletons a lot in my notepad and sketchbook because they are on my mind right now. But more than that, is the promise I feel so certain of: there is more to be done. This part of my story—at this exact moment—is overwhelmingly terrifying to me, but it doesn’t feel like the story is over. For the more medically equipped, this may all seem rudimentary, but not so for me. And so I process the way I process best. Through prayer, reading, writing, and doodling the heck out of my sketchbook with what’s on my mind.
Skulls & Bones.
NIV Bible. Zondervan. 2006.
Schaeffer, Francis A. Art and the Bible. InterVarsity Press, 2009.