Archives for posts with tag: Birmingham Vineyard
Bag of ideas, text and influences

Bag of ideas, text and influences

After what seems a lifetime I’m back in the shed today and not to clean it!!! The theme most prominent in my thinking at the moment is that of identity. I’ve been listening to the talks on the Birmingham Vineyard website and have found them to concur with ideas for work I’ve been mulling for a while. When completing and handing over the four canvases I felt a need to further explore one of the themes, that of doing life well and what that involves. And, I suppose that which stops us/me.

I wanted to get all my thoughts down I one place and usually I would turn to a sketchbook but some how that process wasn’t quick enough for me to gather everything in a format I could work on immediately. So, looking round for a massive piece of paper I could collage onto I saw this large paper bag and started on that. I think the whole bag will eventually be covered and layered and written over, and as I’ve been doing this, ideas and pictures have been starting to form.

It’s so so fabulous to be back in here and just have the space to sit in His presence and listen to His voice. I think I’ve been listening to my old nemesis fear recently: fear of failing. It just freezes me into inaction. So to sit and listen and to focus on the truth is so liberating.

Working on the third canvas

Working on the third canvas

The canvases are complete. I can hardly believe it.

The third one was the only one I felt needed work so over the last few days that’s what I’ve been working through.

The importance of doing life well is unquestionable. God Himself came as Jesus to model what that would look like, and I think it probably surprised people. Doing life well has to be married with a non judgemental spirit…. it’s essential. The moment Jesus drew in the sand and suggested that he without sin should cast the first stone at the adulterous woman He challenged the perception of sin. None are without and yet we seem to have a natural, innate ability and even a tendency to judge others. And yet with Jesus no one is unforgiven or outcast.

Close up of stone

Close up of stone

The incident in John 8 has influenced this canvas a great deal. I wanted to paint a stone that was indigenous to the Galilean terrain but the research turned up so many different kinds and was quite conflicting. So I thought I’d look into what sort of stone was indigenous to Birmingham. Red sandstone was high on the list and this is what I selected. I wanted to paint the stone by the footprints to remind us that it remains there, at Jesus’ feet. There is no condemnation in His salvation and we can live in the fullness of life.

I’m so excited about the canvases. They have achieved everything I hoped they would. To sit back and just look at them now is such a affirmation of the journey God has brought me on. I pray God blesses the church through them as He alone can do, and that I have adequately reflected all the church wanted me to. It has been a total privilege to be asked to create them.

The Four Finished Canvases for Birmingham Vineyard

The Four Finished Canvases for Birmingham Vineyard

Ok, so I headed back into the shed this morning after varnishing the pieces and began working on them again. My children are exceptional and have friends over… and they actually are playing together which allows me to sneak into the shed every now and then. It’s the only time I’ve ever used the baby com, to connect the shed to the house. Knew it would come in handy at some point!!!

Four canvases with additional words.

Four canvases with additional words.

Even as I was varnishing them last night I knew they weren’t right. The words I’d hesitantly painted on them seriously weren’t clear or even readable, and having the words on is really important to me. The conceptual side of the work, the meaning behind it all, is evident if the blog has been read, but for those who won’t read it the words are key to an immediate sense and understanding of the work. So I’ve been bolder.

I’ve mixed up colours similar to the background of each canvas and drawn out the key words to each section. I’ve painted them slightly overlapping but leaving enough space for them to be seen, and overall I am pleased. The words on canvas two are more visible than the others and stand out a little too much, so I’m toying with the idea of rubbing them back after lunch. It’s more unfinished in appearance, hinting that there are more layers to come, but clear enough to provide a context. Eating pasta with the kids and then will look later. May even get their eyes on it. They seem to have a keen understanding of balance and composition combined with encouragement and truth. Always a good combination.

Four canvases with verse added on horizon line.

Four canvases with verse added on horizon line.

After a few frustrating days when I didn’t have the energy at the end of the day to get into the shed I managed to get down there tonight. Over the past 48 hours I’ve spoken to several people about the canvases and have gleaned their opinions and advice in order to go forward.

Watered down paint on canvas one

Watered down paint on canvas one

I definitely wanted the sense that there were more words being layered on the top of the canvases but I was seriously unsure how that would work. I knew the main verse was to go across all four canvases but under that….. would it work? The main verse went down very easily and only needed a little watering back to get it how I wanted it. The words for below were taken from the initial verses given for each area: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly; go make disciples of all nations; pray to The Lord for it, whatever you do do it with all you heart as for The Lord; I have come that you may have life to the full.

I initially painted the words in watered down paint, then continued the words over the top using water after thinking it looked too messy and unclear. The words cannot be seen but there is a sense that something is there.

Paint and water added.

Paint and water added.

I’m pleased with it and I think having it any darker or more solid would not work.

Now my nemesis!!! Canvas three has been tricky and I’ve thought really hard about whether I should completely change my mind about what goes on it. I discussed using broken pieces of pottery as a symbol of the broken jars that God uses and reforms. I’ve wondered if the roots just need to be smaller. I’ve wondered if I should use porcelain casts I made ages ago in my series called ‘broken pieces’ and either wrap words around them or write the words on. I’ve found the broken jar I soaked in spikenard that I used for the ‘Anointing’ canvas in Lichfield Cathedral. So many thoughts and questions running round my head.

Canvas three - arrangement of bound roots.

Canvas three – arrangement of bound roots.

And then I went back and read through all my notes again and listened to Andrew’s talk on Doing Life Well, and it is rooting our lives in the word of God that is mentioned and featured most prominently. So I gathered together the pieces I’d made and lay them onto the canvas in different arrangements until I had three to choose from, all featuring three smaller pieces of root and arranged horizontally or vertically on different sides of the canvas. And this is the one I’ve selected and will stitch them on tomorrow when the canvases are dry. They will need re varnishing again after my painting tonight but then I think, bar maybe stitching more red thread into the cross to make that even clearer, I will be done. Hopefully they will be complete before New Wine on Sunday.

The thing about a sketchbook is that you should do it at the same time as the project, documenting the decisions you’re making so you can go back in future years and revisit techniques and development of ideas. But I find that, although I am going through the process of noting things down and exploring techniques, I hardly ever do it in my sketchbook…. so I end up with all these scraps of paper in my bag or by my bed or pinned around the shed that I eventually gather together and make some semblance of. So that is what I’ve been doing.

Sketchbook in its current state.

Sketchbook in its current state.

I love collecting everything together and getting them organised. It fulfils a deep sense of order that doesn’t really feature in my life in most areas!!! (You should see the mess my shed is currently in, and our house come to think of it!) but usually this process happens at the end of the project rather than towards the end of the project, and in doing this, by revisiting everything at this stage, it’s made me wonder a little more about the pieces.

One of the aims of the brief was that they needed to look unfinished, unfinished in a way of suggesting that there is more to come. I personally think they look too finished and I may well need to work back into the background of the pieces. I know through looking online at the Birmingham Vineyard site that there have been discussions regarding how the church goes forward in each of these key areas, and these have brought out potential ideas and themes that need exploring. If I could suggest, some how, these areas of consideration, these emotional desires of the church, that would be a kind of stepping stone from the initial vision of the church to the current day. The key verse, Jeremiah 29 needs to be more visible but the other words could be more sketchy. Time to experiment some more me thinks……

……. thinking ahead to the next potential pieces of work. It’s been an incredible lesson this commission and it’s taught me so much: that so often I short change God with the work I create. I consider an exhibition or a competition too late to give it enough time. I work towards something with intensity because I have to, because I leave it too late. This commission has been a real gift to me and the only one, with the exception of the Lichfield Cathedral exhibition I did an eon ago it seems, were I really had the time to seek God’s face and reflect, as exactly as I can, that He wants me to create.

So the next project will be a slow and considered one, one were the resulting work will not be complete for months rather than weeks. And one were I will listen, I will consider.

But this one isn’t quite there yet. The third canvas is still challenging me and I think that I may create something new based on this theme: mending brokenness, doing life well. Quite excited by this theme. Time to tidy the shed maybe, ready in anticipation of what is to come.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven't secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven’t secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

It was an interesting day yesterday. Rectified canvas three by rearranging the bible verses bound around the wood so that there are much less of them and it’s more ordered for the composition. But in doing that I’ve realised that there needs to be something more than the scarlet thread to link the four canvases together… a key verse that is written across them all. It needs to be clear and readable but not so solid that it looks out of place. Have experimented on a separate canvas to see if I can get the effect I wanted and I think I’m there with it.

Canvas I've used to try out different techniques.

Canvas I’ve used to try out different techniques.

I just need the verse…. and the kids break up for the summer in two hours!!!! Good job they still go to bed at a reasonable time. Can see me in the shed most evenings until this is finished but stuck until I know what the verse is. I think it’s probably going to be Jeremiah 29 v 7 as I know the church has a passion for and is seeking the peace and prosperity of the greater Birmingham area and it’s a verse that has been mentioned quite a few times but I need to be sure. Excited that it’s nearly complete.

It’s in these moments of stillness that you reflect over the whole process and realise just what a privilege it is to be an artist and to be able to use simple things like canvas and pigment to form something that hopefully reflects God’s heart, even if just a little.

Varnished canvases one, two and four.

Varnished canvases one, two and four.

Spent the afternoon in the shed and varnished canvases one, two and four. Realised that the logo needed work on and made it lighter…. then darker and it seriously didn’t work. Then I made it lighter again and I think it’s nearly there!!! I remember someone saying my whites are always too white and I think this is the case here. Needs toning down a little, but important that light radiates from the Birmingham Vineyard logo. The brilliant thing about varnishing the work is that it suddenly comes to life and the layers underneath come through a little but more.

Been a bit of a chicken with canvas three and ignored it, as you do. Know once I start on that there is a lot of undoing to be done! Many start on that tonight. But the cross is the section I really wanted to work a little more on. I thought that adding the varnish to the scarlet thread would enhance it but it doesn’t at all, in fact it moves it about a little and it loses it’s definition. So by varnishing the pieces and then working into the stitching I think I’ll achieve the effect I’m after. Still wondering if there needs to be a verse alongside the stitching to tie the four canvases together again. I love the verse in 2 Corinthians 12 v 9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” It’s relevant for those who are seeking God’s face in order to do His will but also for those who are seeking His face for the first time. And it keeps the focus on Him and acknowledges that without Him it’s pretty pointless.

I’ve just had to take a break of seven days from the canvases to get up to date with other work from other jobs I do…. but now it’s back to it.

After the break from working on it, I can’t quite explain why, but I’m a little hesitant to begin. It feels like the beginning of the end because I feel the pieces will be resolved quite quickly and I’ve had such a wonderful time working on it. I suppose it’s my equivalent of watching a child grow in wonder and knowledge and courage and eventually leaving nursery and enter school. They’re ready to move on and take their place somewhere else. I know it’s ‘just a painting’….. but to me it’s so much more and I suppose there is a feeling akin to feeling slightly bereft.

Spent most of the morning listening to worship music and just sitting in His presence, which is such a luxury after a busy week, and the words below are from the Bethel song called ‘It Is Well’ by Kristene DiMarco.

“Through it all my eyes are on You and it is well. So let it go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name.”

Such a reassurance to know that our God, our Father, our Lord and Saviour, the One who commanded the waves and the wind to be still is the same Jesus whom I can come to with my fears and my dreams, my joys and my mountains and sit before Him, still in His presence, and know for certain that His hands hold me and the one I love.

Thinking and sketching on top of photo.

Thinking and sketching on top of photo.

One of the most useful tools I have on my iPad is ‘drawing brush’, a free app I downloaded a while back. There are probably loads of programs out there but it just allows me to take a photograph and draw on top of it, and that is what I’ve just done. There are several things I’ve realised: the logo looks better when it is lighter, the stitching of red thread across the three canvases needs to be more prominent, the idea of taking three pieces of the wood/paper and binding them horizontally should, in theory, work, and I think there may need to be one text/scripture that is written across the whole four canvases underneath the red stitching. Much more to do than I thought.

Right, NOW it’s dishwasher time.