21 February, 2001

Welcome to my world.
. . . In my world, artists write. Two artists responded to last week's letter about creativity as a spiritual discipline. I'd like to share those responses with you..

James B. Janknegt, a painter, has a show opening March 3. His website -- http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~janknegt/ -- has details about his show and many images. He says:
Link to Janknegt's website
. . . "I think creativity starts with something I call informed intuition. Some folks can get by on intuition alone but, if one can stuff all sorts of data into the hopper of one's soul and let it mush around, better stuff eventually pops out. The great thing is that just about everything counts as raw data. And what counts is the connections the artists makes between the raw data. It is a mystery how those connections are made in the soul of an artist. For me they usually bloom during moments of manual labor when my mind is free to wander through the stuff floating around in the hopper.
. . . "But there is a second part to making art. Where informed intuition leaves off and rational critique begins. This part requires discipline. This is the difficult part for most developing artists. They begin with great enthusiasm. Their intuition is sparking and the paint or words are flowing. What a fabulous experience! For one or two sessions things flow effortlessly. But then the paint starts to get muddy and the eye ceases to roam around the canvas in any meaningful way. It is time to step back and analyze; to apply the principles of design; to force the painting to live up to its initial potential. The trick is to continue to completion without letting the analysis destroy what the initial seed of intuition called forth. It is difficult.
. . . "The problem with much of modern art is the artists are heretics; too much of a good thing; either all intuition or all rational application of ideas. It takes two to tango."

Betsy Von Dreele will join me on March 18 to speak on 'Creativity as a Spiritual Discipline.' Images of her work can be found with my letter of last week. She has this to say about creativity:
. . . "My Lenten-series partner says trying to define creativity is like trying to hold a river in your hands. All one has to do is go to the Internet and search for the words “creativity” and “creative” to discover how true this is. Every discipline (and I use that word on purpose) catches a different part of the river and takes it as its own. There are websites for creativity in teaching, technology, communications, business, marketing, politics, hiring, firing, and strategic planning, as well as the art-related disciplines. The most curious, for me, is the website for The Society for the Creative Anachronism. From which part of the river does that come?
. . . "Creativity has become defined as a product -- whether it is a photograph, a fabric collage, a ceramic form, a training program for strategic planners, or the study of pre-17th century life. Perhaps what we are missing is that creativity should be defined as a state of being, one that allows us to respond to our world and its challenges. Parents need to be creative juggling their personal lives, the demands of children, and professional challenges. The computer programmer needs to be creative in developing the cure for the hacker’s latest creative virus. Creativity is, then, a response to being confronted by a thought, a sight, an obstacle, a situation, or a challenge.

Link to Janknegt's website"We are all creative. It is a gift, yes, from God, if you will, but we are all born with it. As children, we are free to be curious, to explore, to see things differently, to respond to the world around us until we are told to color inside the lines, stay out of the mud, and follow the rules. And as adults we are often afraid to risk showing our creative sides. The person who says 'but you are so creative' fails to recognize consciously the creative gift within him and how he may demonstrate it, sometimes on a daily basis. To be creative means opening ourselves up to allow it to happen (a-ha, leaving ourselves open to the Spirit). My husband can’t draw a straight line, but his Arden childhood gave him the creative and spiritual tools to deal creatively with crises in the lives of the merchant seamen to whom he ministers.
. . . "Being creative is an essential part of being human, a part of 'child-of-God-ness'. Mine may be considered a more “stereotypical” creativity, for I produce 'art' -- tangible expressions of my 'a-ha' experiences (i.e., I can draw a straight line). I jokingly declare that creative people are basically insecure; that is why they have to keep producing. But on the other hand, it takes a very confident person to risk being creative. I am constantly torn by these two forces as I work. But as time passes I can see that my work is how I am known, how I reveal myself, how I share myself. It is my response to my surroundings, how I see things, my point of view. I play with raw materials in an attempt to transform something into an experience to share with others. And in that word 'transform' lies the relationship between creativity and spirituality. To risk being creative is a very spiritual activity. In it we recognize God’s creation of us and the world, and open ourselves to respond to His gift."

Image, top: One of Janknegt's latest paintings about parables; in this case, the parable about a man who found a treasure buried in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field. Copyright 2001 James B. Janknegt. Used with permission.
Image at right: Detail of the border art of the above painting, featuring bluebonnets and firewheels -- wild flowers common to fields in Central Texas.


A photographer responds: "It's always seemed to me that the creative act is not something you do but something you are given. So many writers, for instance, speak of the act of writing almost as 'automatic writing', you know, a trance-like state where it's all you can do to transcribe the rushing flow of ideas/words coming from somewhere else, being dictated to you by a (your?) higher power. You just try to get out of the way of the flood! So you doodle around for daysweeksmonths and then the gates open, and you have no control over when this happens, and very little control of what is being transmitted. It just comes. Fascinating."

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Creativity -- A Spiritual Discipline?
Tuesday, February 13, 2001.

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Dissatisfaction is a blessing, isn't it?
Tuesday, February 26, 2001.

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Text and images copyright 2001 Danny Nelson Schweers