Saturday, August 27, 2011

That we are like 'car window' art

This one is for all the creative types out there.

I used to wonder, "What will I do if I never get published?" Then when I got published, I'd wonder, "What'll I do if I can't sell many books?" (I still wonder that one.) That's where we automatically find ourselves. How do we get our work on good-seller lists, and then when and if we do, how do we keep it there? How do we keep interesting the general public enough to invest money into our work?

Why even bother when the shelf life of anything is so short? When I was in Sydney with my family in 2004, I bought an album from the Hillsong Church. I played it a few days ago while I was driving. It's full of songs that are no longer sung in church. They were popular at the time I bought the album but now they've been swept aside to make room for newer songs. Yet their melodies and lyrics are still as powerful and awesome as they were back then.

It can be easy to wonder why we bother expending energy and effort on anything when we know the new is always going to come along to brush the old aside? Why work so hard on something that won't last? What is true for a work of art is just as true for its human creator. Each generation quickly forgets the ones which came before. We visit places that glorify history, such as Ballarat's Sovereign Hill, but the lives of individuals who really lived, loved and toiled during Australia's pioneering era have been long forgotten. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, "There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow." We are relegated to names on a family tree or remembered by single accomplishments if we're lucky.

A few years ago, I typed out my dad's handwritten genealogy for him. My grandfather, who was born in 1892, served in both Great Wars and died before I was born, was one of South Australia's most celebrated boxers. Yet now, not many people have heard of him. Maybe those who are yet to be born in my family line will say, "Oh, she was the one who wrote books."

The bottom line is this: we are just as perishable as the things we create. This blog is a prime example of what I'm talking about. We spend precious time forming our thoughts and then expressing them in posts like this which we know very well will soon be buried deep in cyberspace like layers of silt and rock sediment underground.

But I saw a five-minute film on You Tube about a man named Scott Wade who created stunning works of art on the backs of dirty car windows. He was busy making a beautiful landscape, and he could see heavy black clouds in the sky as he worked. That didn't stop him. He just worked faster to finish. The end result was fantastic, and then the heavens opened. His work of art quickly turned to mud and was washed away but the artist still smiled and bowed. I couldn't forget what I'd seen. He was wiser than me. He understood the value of beauty for the moment. I didn't at the time.

Basically, it's just an illusion that any of our work is different from the work of this dirty window artist. Today is really all we have to work with. Just because our creations might not be around to enjoy tomorrow doesn't diminish their beauty today. Every day needs its own beauty. It's sad to assume something isn't meaningful just because it doesn't last for long, or that it won't be seen or heard by many people. Yet that's just what I'd been thinking and feeling.

So keep writing those stories, painting that oil painting, molding that sculpture, composing that song or whatever it is that you do. I believe God loves it whenever we use the talents He's planted within us. He's given us today to fill with our creativity, so let's keep busy brightening today without being gloomy that our work won't be around tomorrow. How boring, dry and stale today would be if everyone stopped working just because we'll soon be forgotten about.


  1. Awesome Paula. What beautiful words and thoughts. Thanks.

  2. Yes, Paula, life is to be lived in the moment and if our work is to be here tomorrow great.

  3. Thanks, Narelle and Laura.
    It could be seen as a sad reflection, but I also find it encouraging in a way.

  4. Hmmm...I think this is a hard concept for you to grasp because you work in a medium that offers some illusion of permanence, even if it doesn't last in its original form.

    When I did a lot of facepainting, I had many people comment about how it was too bad it couldn't last, that it wasn't permanent. And as welcome as those comments were, I enjoyed each moment I could create something new and impermanent on a face. When you are in your moment, creating because it is what you do, who you are, THAT is what makes you smile when you finish. You can't help it. And then you let it go to be washed clean again by rain or soap. It's very freeing.

    I have a much harder time letting go of my writing and comics because I do sense the illusory permanence of it. It becomes like a weight. I don't want to subject my work to criticism because it is like a baby for me and the longer it is out in the world, the more likely it will be exposed to a negative comment. It's almost worse to create something that lasts long because the longer it is out there, the more time I have to get attached to it and I feel the pressure of my work's mortality. Does that make sense?

    Car window art and facepainting are like a beautiful butterfly stopping for a moment and fluttering away. Writing and your more mainstream art is like a majestic forest. Its presence is taken for granted, but it can just as suddenly disappear through natural (fire) or unnatural (making room for a house or store) occurrences.

    Ooo. Ominous! Just be grateful for the beauty you create. Enjoy it while it lasts! Because sometimes it does last. :o)

    Peace and Laughter,

  5. Hi Cristina,
    That makes perfect sense. I like your thoughts. And with my writing, I think sometimes the sheer amount of time (from 1 to 2 years) that I spend steadily working on each book as my main creative project, helps me to become as emotionally attached to it as you say. If it seems to plummet, I have this, "What a waste of 2009 and 2010" sort of feeling to wallow in.
    Coincidentally, Emma had her face painted with a beautiful design at an event last weekend. All gone now, but she loved it while it lasted. I love your butterfly and forest analogies. It might be a bit of a relief for me to indulge in some non-permanent art forms as a bit of relief at times.
    Bottom line - be grateful for any beauty we create, however long it ends up being around for.

  6. For impermanent writing, I suggest writing poetry in the sand. :o)

    Peace and Laughter!

  7. A great post, Paula! Can't think of anything more to say, especially after reading Cristina's comments. You ladies are terrific - so glad I know you both!
    - Kate

  8. A lovely reminder Paula, beautifully written.
    Love Cristina's face painting mention - my girls had lovely flowers painted on today - beautifully created just for today.
    Every moment of beauty brings glory to God

  9. This reminds me of the sand paintings created by Buddhist monks, then purposely blown away. When I first saw this I thought "How can they destroy such a beautiful work of art?" But now I see it as a spiritual exercise - living in the "now". It's also a great exercise in "letting go" and as Cristina says, it's freeing.
    Eleanor (Cristina's Mom)

  10. Thanks for your comments, ladies. I found the feedback I received from this post was really great and thought provoking. Eleanor, I think I've read or heard about those Buddhist sand paintings too. When I think about it, a lot of reasons I ever find myself downcast at any time is because of not 'living in the now.' You and Cristina have a lot of collective wisdom between you.

  11. Coincidentally, I just received an email from a friend who wrote about a rare flower which only flowers for a few brief minutes every few years, and some horticulturalists are wild about them. It seems to me this principle of beauty in impermanence has been put in place by God.


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