I have been privileged this week to be involved in the creation of a work of art at the Railway Embankment in Goldthorpe. It’s an experience that has enriched my life in ways that are difficult to articulate.
When I was at school, art was one of my least favourite lessons. I lacked the skill, talent and imagination either to recreate what I saw or to create something original. I still don’t consider myself skilled at drawing, colouring or painting, so my ‘art’ has been very functional. My four-year-old granddaughter can do better works of art than I can!
Since starting the Dearne Community Arts’ Festival in 2017, I have, however, had the privilege of watching many artists at work and being invited into their world, and I have seen something of their skill and vision. The thing that most impresses me is their humility (they don’t think their talent is really beyond that of mere mortals as I do!), and also the way they work.
Lydia Caprani, the Hull-based artist who has designed and overseen the art mural at the Railway Embankment, has been a joy to watch. We started with a very large rectangular white canvas (aka a brick wall), and with chalk she would each day draw squiggly lines on this canvas and let us loose painting by letters (DG for dark green, LG for light green and so on.) These small, manageable sections did not seem beyond the capabilities of any one of us.
Then she drew more chalk lines, more random shapes, more letters, and we would paint those. Slowly but surely, shapes began to emerge – sky, grass, bushes. The contours of hills were emerging.
This process somehow did not seem as intimidating as being asked to ‘paint a landscape’ on a blank canvas. It’s gradual, manageable. It’s do-able. Suddenly, the picture was recognisable: there was a train hurtling through countryside. Suddenly, this is art.
Every time we view a finished work of art, listen to a completed piece of music, see a finished craft, we are awed – and possibly daunted. “I could never do that,” we say, and then shrug and don’t ever even try. But every created thing like this involves a process of little steps and these, with time and patience, can be learned. I’m working with my granddaughter on handwriting at the moment. Hers is large and rather messy now, letters not always correctly formed, sizing uneven. But as she practises each day, it’s becoming more recognisable and neat.
Life is not so much about arriving at a finished product instantaneously (it took 14 people well over 30 hours to paint this mural), but about the process of little steps that take us to our destination. We are ongoing works of art. Each one of us is being designed by God. We are His masterpiece, and each little step of faith and obedience takes us further on the journey towards that finished masterpiece. We may not see the masterpiece yet, but we can trust Him as the ultimate artist to complete His work of art in us.