I was recently asked to paint a large painting, intended to be used at my church to kick off the year with a new theme. I was given a few ideas and some words to put on the canvas. Then I painted. It was edgy and different. I poured my energy and my life into it. I felt it was right.
But they did not like it.
At first I was hurt, then angry… then angry and hurt… then hurt.
You get the picture… but they did not.
I considered never painting for them again.
The rejection hurt deeply because it touched a vulnerable part of me. A part of me feels that no one gets me, or gets what I do. “The piece is deep and they don’t get abstract art,” I told myself.
Some churches get art and some don’t. My church is trying, I give them credit. What I have learned is that I still have to believe in what I do, even if it is misunderstood.
We need to find a way to persist in doing art that matters to us, while taking feedback that will make what we do better. That is hard. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is so different that no one understands. Then we will stand alone.
The only way for a lake to have ripples is for the rock to be thrown. No one may notice the ripples and the ripples will soon calm. But if the rock is withheld, the lake stands silent.
I think it is a sad day when we won’t allow our art to be seen, to be heard, to be witnessed. Art calls the audience and the artist together. Not everyone likes what they see, but coming together is important. The lake is meant for the rock, the water for the swimmer.
Creation, leadership and art is a risk. We pour our passion, our emotion and our creativity into a canvas, a story, a vision. We give it life, then we give it away. The gift that the artist brings is allowing the creation. (Artists do not originate, they channel their creativity from another Source). The one who observes the art brings their own gift, the gift of presence. We each have our gift and we are responsible for what we alone can do.
I shared my story with some friends and they were supportive. They asked me to keep at it because they want to see more of my paintings. I realized that this is the challenge. If we take rejection to heart and stop creating… stop writing… stop envisioning, then our voice will not be heard. What we have to say will never be said in the way that only we could say it.
When God created the world, he said it was good before anyone said “thanks.” I think what he was showing us is that creativity is important even if no one is looking at it. He did not need people to appreciate his work in order for Creation to have value. He knew that some would turn their backs, and that others would pour chemicals in the lakes. Yet he still made the world, and he continues to paint graffiti in the sky every morning.
What are you painting in private? Quietly writing? Or what venture do you envision? Don’t keep it to yourself. Creating is not about the likes, the shares or the traffic. What you bring is your own graffiti. That is your gift. Don’t rob us of what only you can do.
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
Keep it real
Source: Steven Pressfield. (2002). The War of Art. New York: Black Irish Entertainment. P. 165.