Why My Coloring Book Isn’t Finished

12042909_10153691586456450_8249815417010762711_nThe other day, my Dad asked me why I keep decorative skulls around the house. “That’s no thing for a preacher!” he said. It does well to remember that death is at our doorstep. We fool ourselves to believe otherwise. It shouldn’t be something to be feared and pushed aside but pondered in the everyday.

We have a set number of days upon this earth. Fewer every day. Every moment is important and any moment may be your last. What are you going to do with them?

I know it’s cliché and all the rage right now but I’ve been working on drawing a coloring book. I had hoped to have it ready for friends and family and anyone interested to purchase them by Christmas but that obviously didn’t happen. You see, like every other mortal, I have been forced to choose how to use my time.

In life you are either filling up or pour out. Exercising creativity, however you might do it, is pouring out. It takes time, energy, thought, resources. It costs something of the creator. I don’t know what it’s like for other people but I am not an endless well. I know people who seem to overflow in creativity. Every time you turn around, they have created something new and, like the Energizer Bunny, they never seem to need recharging.

But my coloring book project (which I will finish, by the way), no longer felt exciting, it felt like a chore. I wasn’t creating from an overflow of creativity, I was creating to finish a product. And every minute I spend on a project like the coloring book, I cannot spend on something else. If I am spending my time and energy pouring out, then sooner or later I will run dry. You can’t keep pouring out without filling up.

So, instead of working on the coloring book, I have been reading a lot lately. I’ve read and/or re-read some classic literature over the past month or so. Flannery O’Connor, Steinbeck, Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut, just to name a few. It has been an encouraging, challenging and refreshing time for my mind and soul. I’m the 39th-best aspiring writer in my neighborhood, so I am enamored by how well some people can choose their words. It’s a gift that is made better with hard work and it is a gift greater appreciated seen in full bloom. Good writing inspires creativity.

And so my coloring book was not ready in time for Christmas. Because we are born dying and every minute we live is a minute less we have to live. We must choose how to use every day. Every minute I read is a minute I am not drawing. And vice versa. Since the coloring book project is something that I am very excited about, this reading hiatus has reminded to me redeem the time; to be mindful of how I spend my days because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. That should be on a plaque somewhere. Actually, I think that’s where I saw it.

But not only must we fill up in order to pour out, consciously numbering our days reminds us to be mindful of what you fill up with. My family sometimes watches The Amazing Race and there’s one episode in an early season in which several of the contestants fill up their automobiles with the wrong kind of gas. Inevitably, the cars break down.

If I am going to take a break from creating to fill up on someone else’s creativity, I want something that’s going to inspire, challenge, provoke, incite or just plain make me think. I have, over the years, been accused of being a snob in music and movies because I rarely celebrate what is most popular. Now, I’m not some sort of elitist but I do find, as a general rule, the more popular something is, the more watered down it is in order to appeal to the median (lowest common denominator?). I am not as inspired by Titanic as I am by Wes Anderson.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the in and out, the filling up and pouring out of a creative life requires a certain level of self awareness. Each person must know what media (music, movies, books, etc.) is going to benefit them and what is going to drain them because it is possible to think that you are pouring in while, what you’re putting in to your system is actually having a negative impact on your creative being. You can’t expect to fill up with hours of mainstream television every day and pour out something new. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the value of the lost art of silence but that’s probably a post for another day.

It seems to me that successfully creative people have learned enough about themselves and the impulse to create that they know when to fill up and what to pour in.

What is true of the creative life is true of the spiritual life. You will exhale what you inhale. That’s why Paul tells the Philippians: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8) and the Colossians to set their minds “on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2).

I have to remind myself of this, especially during our country’s regular political rhythms. I find myself being easily distracted and discouraged when I hear some of the things our candidates are saying and how their supporters justify them. I need to tune out this noise because, even though it might be incoming information, it is not filling full/fulfilling information. It does not incite creativity or fill my soul.

Creativity requires not only self-awareness but intentionality. Towards the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Granger tells Montag:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

So please have patience with me if you’re one of the three people who has asked when the coloring book will be finished. I want to be a gardener, not just someone who cuts lawns.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyI think you know what I mean. I think you know what I really mean. Well, actually. Hold on there a minute. I haven’t said anything yet for you to even know what I could mean. Much less what I really mean.

So I suppose I should come up with something really clever to say here. Something about how the Weekly Town Crier is where I collect links of varying levels of interest and pas them along to you for your interest in the interesting links.

Enjoy.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of the year.

Read NPR’s piece: “Learning Soft Skills In Childhood Can Prevent Harder Problems Later.”

Now you can have a robot act as maid of honour at your wedding.”

Read as Salon considers “How the Samurai warrior inspired the Jedi Knights.”

Read as Sojourners considers “‘Firefly‘ and the Dignity of Humanity.”

Read an account of “Kurt Vonnegut’s Daily Routine.”

Read as NPR considers “The Neuroscience Of Musical Perception.”

Watch as The Atlantic considers “Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive?”

Read as The Atlantic considers the public zoning backlash against small community libraries.

Read as Consequence of Sound‘s catches up with Henry Rollins.

  • See Henry Rollins build and destroy a gingerbread house.

Read as Mother Jones considers Pete Seeger‘s FBI file.

Read as T Bone Burnett considers “Our culture loves music. Too bad our economy doesn’t value it” for The Washington Post.

Read as No Depression asks: “How Did You Find Your Favorite Albums This Year?”

See the “Secret catalog of gadgets police and feds can use to spy on your cellphone.”

Read as the Atlantic considers “Machines That Can See Depression on a Person’s Face.”

Read The Creator‘s Project‘s piece: “The Art of Reflection Within the Rothko Chapel.”

Read about “The Exemplary Narcissism of Snoopy.”

Read as The Guardian considers “Hidden gems of 2015: great records you may have missed.”

Read as KJZZ considers the “Mixed Reactions To Anheuser-Busch’s Plans To Buy Four Peaks Brewing Company.”

Read as Rolling Stone considers the impact of the Grateful Dead‘s farewell shows.

Read Okay Player‘s piece: “Killer Mike, Big Boi + More Will Testify On Hip Hop’s Behalf In Front Of The Supreme Court Today.”

Browse The Washington Post‘s ranking of the country’s best “food cities.”

See Shane McGowan’s new teeth.

See someone “Pouring a Thermos of Hot Tea at -40°C Near the Arctic Circle.”

See the card that caused Steve Harvey’s worst nightmare.

Browse “A Beginner’s Guide To Frank Zappa“.

Read Stereogum‘s report that Lenny Kravitz is being accused of illegal dentistry in the Bahamas.

Read about many Muslim women asking non-Muslim women not to wear the hajib “in the name of interfaith solidarity.”

Read Noisey‘s interview with “The Founder of ‘Yeezianity’, The First Religion Based Onn Kanye West“.

Meet the finalists who could design the Obama Presidential Center.”

Read CNN‘s report: “Vatican paper says ‘The Force Awakens’ is not evil enough”.

Fueling the rumors that Apple is ditching the 3.5mm headjack, read Hypebeast‘s report: “Apple is Developing its Own High Quality Audio Format.”

Read Rolling Stone‘s article: “Cheap Trick‘s Bun E. Carlos on Possible Rock Hall Reunion: Any friendship we had went away when I had to file a federal lawsuit,” says drummer.”

Read as Christianity Today considers “Why We Get Religious About ‘Star Wars’.

Read The New York Times’ article: “New Novel From Jonathan Safran Foer Coming in September.”

Read “The Story Behind The Famous Portrait of André The Giant Clutching A Beer Can.”

Read CNN‘s piece about companies with “mandatory” vacation policies.

Read Noisey‘s report about the “rebirth” of CBGBs . . . as a NJ airport restaurant.

Browse Pixar color palettes.

Read Rolling Stone‘s interview with Leon Bridges.

Read about the new “451” internet error code for internet censorship.

Read The Stranger‘s piece: “How Christianity Infiltrated Seattle Music with a Little Help from Mars Hill Church and the City Council.”

Read as Noisey considers the rise and fall of Ozzy Osbourne.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why it’s a good sign if you curse a lot.”

Read Amazon one-star reviews of some of the year’s biggest albums.

See bonsai skulls.

Browse Flavorwires‘s picks for the best literary criticism of 2015.

Read as Christopher Hitchens considers George Orwell.

Read as AV Club considers the year in band names.

Read as Literary Hub considers how “White Christmas” started the trend of popular Christmas songs.

Browse this list of “The Most Googled Artists of 2015”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “The Sultan of Brunei Has Literally Outlawed Christmas.”

Read The Washington Post‘s piece: “My husband read to me while I was sick. It changed our marriage.”

Watch as The Atlantic asks what you wish you had learned in college but didn’t.

See a fountain in China made from 10,000 toilets.

Read as Techly considers “Five Things You Don’t Know About Beer (But Probably Should).”

Go with Fast Company into the secretive world of Freemasonry in this photo essay.

Read the Washington Post‘s report that “The Republican debate stage could shrink considerably next month” based on new rules.

Watch Steve Harvey announce the wrong winner for the Miss Universe pageant.

Watch what could happen to your body if you drank 10 cans of Coke every day. Please don’t drink 10 cans of soda every day.

See “inflatable hotel rooms.”

Read Outside magazine’s ode to the VW Vanagon.

Since we no longer live in a culture in which people own important albums, you will soon be able to stream The Beatles‘ catalog.

Poor Nicholas Cage has been forced to return his T-Rex skull.

See the decaying church building repurposed as an artsy skate park.

Read as Slate considers the impact of “bro country”.

Read about how Facebook helped solve the riddle of an ancient artifact.

Read as Salon considers the possibility of an R.E.M. reunion.

Read about U2‘s Bono buying the Eagles of Death Metal new phones to replace the ones they lost in the Paris attacks.

the Weekly Town Crier

Town Crier

Yeah, whatever, nevermind. Where is my mind?

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Read the New York Times‘ piece “Independent Musicians Find Unexpected Rewards in Streaming.”

Watch Keith Richards Teach Matt Sweeney Some Acoustic Licks” at Stereogum.

Watch a Japanese Kokeshi Doll Emerge From a Spinning Block of Wood” at Colossus.

R.I.P. Joe Moss, manager of the Smiths and Johnny Marr.

See “Dually Sinister and Playful Solarplate Etchings by Jaco Putker”.

Read Time‘s tips: “How to Avoid Having Your Posts Show Up in Facebook’s New Public Search”

Browse Consequence of Sound‘s “Brief History of Prince the Weirdo”.

Read as Clickhole asks “How Many Of These Hayao Miyazaki Films Have You Seen?”

See the “new Super Mario Bros. speedrun record.”

Read Slate‘s piece finding that “Highly Religious People See Little Conflict With Science”.

Read Smithsonian‘s piece finding that “27 Percent of U.S. Adults Didn’t Read a Single Book Last Year.”

Read about the upcoming tour of Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx holograms.

Read Uncut‘s piece: “The story of Television, by Richard Lloyd”.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Anthony Bourdain to open giant Blade Runner-themed food market in New York City”.

Browse CNN‘s collection of “7 terrifying airplane seat patents.”

Read Vox‘ piece: “The philosophical problem of killing baby Hitler, explained.”

Read AV Club‘s report: “Wes Anderson would like to make a horror movie”.

Read as Consequence of Sound reports “Maynard James Keenan wants nothing to do with Tool, or their fans” and Phoenix New Times‘ report: “Maynard James Keenan Has Two Things On His Mind: Puscifer and Wine. Tool Fans Will Just Have To Wait“. Also Read NME‘s piece: “Tool frontman labels band’s own fans as ‘insufferable retards.’ And don’t forget Keenan’s response to the hoopla surrounding his original remarks: “Our core fanbase aren’t fanatics. They’re music lovers & artists & good people. Its the fanatics that are insufferable,” Maynard James Keenan says.”

See “Newly Digitized ‘Phenakistoscope’ Animations That Pre-Date GIFs by Over 150 Years”.

Read KTAR‘s report that Phoenix has been named one of the top pizza cities in the country.

Ever wonder “What Happens When Your ‘Jeopardy!’ Response Goes Viral.”

Read as Aquarium Drunkard interviews Phil Cook.

Read as Paste reports that “Ballast Point is Going Public”.

Read as NPR considers the enduring appeal of Dungeons and Dragons after 40 years.

Watch free documentaries.

Read/Listen as NPR wonders “Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?” and read as the Atlantic wonders “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?

Browse “Augustine’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers”.

Read Food and Wine‘s report that Canada has a burger stuffed with peanut butter cups.

Read “A Deeper Look Into The Life Of Mansa Musa – The Richest Human Being Who Ever Lived.”

Read Wall Street Journal‘s piece “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.”

The Keurig of Home Brewing Batches Craft Beer at the Push of a Button.”

Take “A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day.”

Listen as Terry Gross talks to Carrie Brownstein about her new memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. Also read Noisey‘s interview and read Spin‘s interview.

See a $39,000 knife.

Read Stereogum‘s interview with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar. Also read amNewYork‘s interview.

Read as the Daily Beast speaks with Ta-Nehisi Coates on “Why Whites Like His Writing”

Read as the Los Angeles Review of Books interviews Stephen King.

Read PopMatters‘ interview with Kurt Vile.

Read/Listen as Gloria Steinem speaks with Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

Read about the French vending machine that will print you a short story.

Read Relix‘ interview with Jason Isbell or read The Planet Weekly‘s interview.

Read/Listen as NPR talks with Elvis Costello about his new memoir Unfaithful Music And Disappearing Ink.

Read as James Franco speaks with Variety about adapting William Faulkner’s The Sound and Fury for the screen.

Read Rolling Stone‘s report that Phil Collins is unretiring.

Read Paste‘s report of the new (unauthorized) Beastie Boys musical, Licensed to Ill.

Read BoingBoing‘s piece: “The more unequal your society is, the more your laws will favor the rich.”

Read Steve Martin‘s picks for “5-10-15-20” (featuring “people talking about the music that made an impact on them throughout their lives, five years at a time”).

Read Hi Fructose‘s profile of Mark Mothersbaugh.

Read as Consequence of Sound’s report: “Study suggests Spotify doesn’t have a negative impact on record sales.

Read as Richard Mouw considers the ever-growing Christian opposition to Halloween.

Watch the trailer for the upcoming Dave Navarro documentary detailing the murder of the Jane’s Addiction/Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist’s mother.

Read FACT’s report “Jimi Hendrix’s London home to open as museum.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Digable Planets are reuniting for a Seattle show.

Browse “the 9 rarest plants in the world.”

Read The Guardian‘s profile of Mark Hogancamp, subject of the fabulous documentary Marwencol.

Read Hypebeast‘s report: “Apple Records Largest Profits in Corporate History.”

Read as NPR considers Ben Carson’s Seventh Day Adventism.

Read about the Hatian roots of zombie myths.

Read Salon‘s report about Katy Perry campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

See a “floating” record player.

Read about the Japanese manga series revolving around a cast on unemployed men who decide to become great housekeepers to attract women. The series was pulled by the author after several men complained.

Read about the sock company making a point about differences through mismatched socks.

Read as Techly wonders if the music you listen to is having long-term effects on your brain.

Read a profile of the “hyena men” of Nigeria.

Watch an animated Bill Murray interview from 1988.

Read The Guardian‘s report that Anonymous plans to release the names of approximately 1,000 Ku Klux Klan members.

Read The Stranger‘s interview with Richard Bishop about the reissue of Sun City Girls’ class Torch of the Mystics.

Read this report that Goonies 2 has been confirmed, including the full original cast.

the Weekly Town Crier

Town CrierI’m in Boston town, in some restaurant
I got no idea what I want
Well, maybe I do but I’m just really not sure
Waitress comes over
Nobody in the place but me and her

It must be a holiday, there’s nobody around
She studies me closely as I sit down
She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs
She says, “What’ll it be?”
I say, “I don’t know, you got any soft boiled eggs?”

She looks at me, says, “I’d bring you some
But we’re out of ’m, you picked the wrong time to come”
Then she says, “I know you’re an artist, draw a picture of me!”
I say, “I would if I could, but
I don’t do sketches from memory.

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier. A weekly world wide web page where I gather links of interest for your interest. Please show your interest by browsing.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Read as Quora wonders “Why Do Car Buffs Dislike Tesla?”

Read as Ozy considers the cost of weddings: “the more you spend, the shorter your marriage is.”

Read as CNN wonders about “How to think straight in the age of information overload” and why so many smart people wear the same outfit every day.

Read Smithsonian‘s piece: “Columbus Day Is Now Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle And Minneapolis.”

Read as the New Yorker considers Max Richter’s new eight-hour album: Sleep.

Browse Paste‘s list of “10 Hip-Hop Albums For People Who Don’t Like Hip-Hop.”

See “Gorgeous animated pixel-art depicting everyday Japan.”

Read The Art of Manliness‘ piece “The Lost Art of Cheap Recreation.”

Read as the AV Club reports: “Joss Whedon made more money from Dr. Horrible than the first Avengers.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that “St. Vincent Working at New Dallas Restaurant.”

R.I.PThe Stooges‘ Steve Mackay.

See The World’s Largest Man-Made Wave.

Read Atlas Obscura‘s piece about “The Doomed Effort To Make Videos Go Vinyl.”

Read as Slate wonders how to “Become More Articulate in Everyday Speech?”

Read as The Atlantic considers: “The Cheapest Generation Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.”

Read The Daily Beast‘s piece: “Lou Reed “was a monster”

Read Fast Company‘s piece: “Getting More Done At Work Won’t Make You As Happy As Just Working Less.”

Read as First Things considers whatever happened to liturgy in gathered worship.

Read as American Songwriter considers “Lucero’s Never-Ending Tour.”

Read the New York Times‘ report that “Earliest Known Draft of King James Bible Is Found.”

Read IFL Science‘s report: “Study Claims People Who Like Their Coffee Black Are More Likely To Have Psychopathic Tendencies.”

See “A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source.”

Read as The Atlantic considers “Twilight of the Headbangers How long can the legends of heavy metal keep on rocking?”

See a “Bicycle That Lets you Play Records On Its Wheels.”

Read as Draft Magazine considers “Why the DOJ is investigating AB InBev” (SPOILER: It’s their war on “craft” beer).

Read Stereogum‘s report that Urban Outfitters will now carry cassettes.

Watch/read as AZ Central considers the “Day of the Dead” ritual.

See tattoos made from one continuous line.

Watch First Teaser for Netflix’s A Very Murray Christmas” at Paste.

Read about the move “to put DRM in JPEGs.”

ReadRelevant”‘s piece: “Playboy’s Move Away From Nudity Is Actually a Bad Sign.”

Help your kids discover punk music with this new new children’s book.

Watch Natalie Prass cover Slayer.

Read as the Guardian profiles Kristin Hersh’s new book on Vic Chesnutt: Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.

Browse this list of “The ten best rock docs of all time.”

Browse this list of “must-read books by musicians.”

Read/Listen as NPR’s Fresh Air talks to Berke Breathed about the return of Bloom County.

Browse as Pigeons and Planes makes their picks for “2015’s top indie music labels.”

Read/Listen as NPR‘s All Songs Considered profiles Elvis Costello’s memoir: Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.

Read as Paste profiles singer/songwriter Josh Ritter.

Browse years and years and years’ worth of KMart muzak.

Browse “a primer to the works of Flannery O’Connor.”

Read ABC‘s report that Phil Collins‘ “autobiography will be published in October 2016.”

the Weekly Town Crier

TownCrierAnd then they lived happily ever after. Except there was this pesky little feeling that they were missing something, they had forgotten something. One night, as sleep evaded them, they whispered to one another: we forgot to check the Weekly Town Crier . . .

This is where I collect links of varying degrees of interest for various reasons.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Paste‘s list of “8 Beer Hacks.”

ViewErnest Hemingway‘s life through his mementos.”

See images from visual artist Eduardo Terrazas‘ first solo exhibition in the UK.

Read as Paste argues: “Anthony Bourdain Is Still the Best Critic We Got”. Thoughts?

See photos of “people devoured by nature”.

Browse a visual list of “The 50 best-selling albums ever”.

Take “a look at Taco Bell’s first alcohol menu”.

Read Salon‘s profile of Memphis’ Lucero in honor of their terrific new album All A Man Should Do.

R.I.P. Phyllis Tickle.

R.I.P. Yogi Berra.

R.I.P. Jackie Collins.

Read as Drowned in Sound considers “the Ineffable Joy of Pop” as they talk with Carly Rae Jepsen.

Read as Ryan Adams talks about his album of Taylor Swift covers.

See the art of 10 serial killers.

See “Kintsugi, The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pottery With Gold.”

Browse as the Huffington Post makes their picks for Fall book releases.

Read Pitchfork‘s report of the posthumous release of “Over 40 Rare Instrumentals” by Dilla.

See the “New Caption That Works for All New Yorker Cartoons.”

Ever wonder why you can’t print without color ink?

Listen to Johann Johannssen‘s score for the film Sicario at Noisey.

Browse Paste‘s list of “7 Hotels for Artists and Art Lovers.”

Read reports that Kenny Rogers will quit touring.

Browse as the Orange County Register picks their favorite surfing books.

Read as the Guardian examines “the history of feuds between pop stars and the press.”

Read as Rolling Stone talks to Kurt Vile about his fantastic new album: ‘B’lieve I’m Goin Down…

Read as Kim Gordon interviews Kurt Vile.

Morrissey has released his debut novel and the reviews are not good: “It is an unpolished turd, the stale excrement of Morrissey’s imagination.”

Read as the Guardian examines John Peel’s lasting musical influence.

Read as Ivan and Alyosha pick their favorite music to listen to while touring.

Read the New York Timesreport that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write a Black Panther comic for Marvel.

Read as Literary Hub considers the convergence of books and music festivals.

Read as the AV Club considers the history of music bootlegging and browse as they make 15 “essential” picks.

the Weekly Town Crier

towncrierBlippity bloppity boo to you too. So what of it?

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Outside‘s 2015 list of “The 16 Best Places to Live in America”. Did your town make the list?

Read about the “121-year-old bottle of whisky” found in a “Scottish time capsule”. Would you try it?

Browse Paste‘s list of the 10 best things on Crackle (other than Seinfeld, though Jerry does make an appearance).

Read as Oregon Live catches up with NPR’s/”Portland’s Own” Ari Shapiro.

Read Time‘s report: “J.J. Abrams Says Nazis Inspired the New Star Wars Villains”.

Read about “One Woman’s Attempt to Become a Wrestling Fan”.

Browse this list of “15 Composers To Watch” in 2015.

Read reports that “Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence are writing a movie together”.

Read as Salon explores “Why the ’90s are literally disappearing from history”.

Read FACT‘S piece reporting: “Spotify demands access to your contacts, photos and location”.

Adding traffic sound effects on ants makes them entertaining to watch“.

Browse Time’s list: “14 of China’s Finest World Monument Replicas”.

Read Outside‘s piece: “John Muir Knew How to Live”.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “How Coolness Defined the World Wide Web of the 1990s”.

Enter the debate: “Are Older Whiskeys Really Better?”

Read as Banksy interviews Run the JewelsRead about Banky’s Dismaland. See the trailer.

Read about “Pop Tart Beer”.

Watch Seinfeld Recut as a Devastating but Heartwarming Lifetime Movie.

Apparently “Axl Rose and Slash are friends again” prompting many to wonder about the possibility of a Guns n’ Roses reunion.

BrowseUncut’s 50 best bootlegs”.

Read Paste‘s report: “Paul Thomas Anderson to Release Documentary on Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood”.

See a $20,000 opal, which looks like “a nebula trapped in a gemstone”.

Read NME‘s report: “Morrissey announces release of debut novel. See the cover.

Browse Paste‘s list of “6 Fictional Languages in Literature”. What’s your favorite?

Read as the Washington Post laments: “We’re now averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2015.”

Read Flavorwire‘s report: “Bruce Willis Probably Got Fired From the New Woody Allen Movie”.

Hear “Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp’s Hollywood Vampires cover The Who’s ‘My Generation’.

See photos of rarely seen cultures.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report that Odd Future rapper Tyler the Creator has been banned from the UK.

See “Harry Potter re-imagined as the villain of a horror movie”.

Read the Washington Post‘s report that the Mormon Church will continue its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.

Watch “a Supercut of All the People Batman Has Killed”. For a guy with a no-kill policy . . .

Browse Spotify‘s list of “the most timeless songs ever”.

Art Is A (Necessary) Luxury

IMG_6362I’ve got a sketchbook that’s found itself a special place in my heart. It’s not a particularly special sketchbook except for the fact that I’ve place a stretch of weird tin-fin-foil-duct-tape that my son Danny received for his birthday across the front of it.

I know this is an odd observation. But  it’s been with me for at least several months now which has got to count for something. It’s been responsible for pieces like this and this and this and this and this . . . (you get the idea, weird doodles one guy makes so he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown.)

It’s been a great sketchbook and I’ve really appreciated it. But there are only a few pages left so I know by experience that I’ll be lucky to get one more piece (by my own subjectivity) out of this particular sketchbook.

I know that in a few days, I won’t have this sketchbook anymore, so I’m in the midst of a weird grieving process that will likely only make sense to those who weirdly attach themselves to inanimate objects.. I go through the same thing every time I finish I finish a writing journal (I prefer Moleskine Classic if you’d like to buy me one) as well (though I don’t “journal” in the traditional sense).

This has set me to thinking (as many things do).

I am under no illusions of grandeur (at least in this area of life). I am not a particularly meaningful artist in the grand scheme of the universe. But art is very meaningful to me. I understand that I have been given just enough artistic ability that I am continually frustrated by normal suburban life but not enough that I will make a living selling my art. And I am OK with that. But I’ve been thinking a lot about a couple of ideas lately:

Art is a luxury (Art always costs):

For purposes of today’s conversation, we’re going to simply define art as:

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination

I’m thinking of a broad spectrum of things. Things like dance, painting, music, poetry, drawing, Andy Kaufman, writing, knitting, sculpting, theater, and the like. I’m thinking of such a broad spectrum, 01) because they all fit the definition: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, and, 02) because they all cost. You cannot participate in these activities without giving something in exchange. Like a sort of modern alchemy’s equivalent exchange.

I was made keenly aware of this fact the other day as someone who is currently between opportunities. As you may know, I dabble a bit in the doodlings (sample my dabbles here or here). I prefer Staedtler pigment liner markers and my 0.8mm marker went dry on me in the middle of a doodle dabbling. Ever the Proverbs 31 woman, my wife had a Michael‘s coupon. But that didn’t change the fact that I’m currently unemployed and (even more than normal) every cent counts. I had to stop and think about how we were going to pay for the marker.

Art always costs. I have a friend who sits inside a closet after his family goes to bed so he doesn’t wake them while he practices guitar or writes songs. Art is a luxury because it always requires something from the practitioner. Whether it be the cost of an item, the time taken from some other task, art costs, which means that many view it as prohibitive.

Art is necessary:

Art may be a luxury, but unlike caviar, art is necessary. I can only speak from the microcosm of my own existence but I know that, for me, practicing creativity has helped me through some of my most difficult times. There is a therapeutic (and/or cathartic) value to externally expressing one’s self in a creative venture. It forces you to either take your mind off of something that’s bothering you (hopefully then being able to return to that vexing issue later with more clarity and calmness) or to work through the issue in some sort of external manner, forcing you to consider the issue issue in different ways.

But art is not only necessary because of its internal personal benefits. Art gives us the unique opportunity to see the world the way others see it. It broadens our thinking in often challenging ways. Art can soothe or stir. Art can critique or celebrate. Art can gives us windows into complex issues and help us understand one another in deeper ways.

The Faith-Art Connection

My faith teaches me that I should be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8) and that I should give sacrificially, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35), considering others more significant than myself (Philippians 2). In other words, sacrifice is at the center of my religion.

My faith also teaches me that I have nothing to prove. Because of Jesus, I have all of the love and acceptance I could ever hope for (and more). When God the Father looks at me, He says “this is my child in whom I am well pleased”. I am able to work from my identity rather than for my identity. My being produces my doing.

This may seem initially unrelated to topics of art, but for me, it is integrally related. I have known many artistic people over the years and many of them view their art as a way to give their lives meaning. They find their identity in their art (in their doing) and therefore, by necessity, they are also tied to the continual pursuit of approval. I don’t know about you, but when I am seeking the approval of others, I take fewer chances. I’m more likely to find a winning formula and stick to it.

It is not necessary or helpful to believe that every single piece of art we produce will be a sea change. But art is always tied to creativity and creativity naturally pursues growth. Most artists mature over the course of their careers. But this always means that there were evolutions in their style and approach. And this means that they had to be willing to change. And this means that they had to be willing to take a risk. And this means that they had to be willing to fail.

The freedom to fail does not come easily.

I have scrapped many, many pieces of art. And that’s OK. It does not mean that I’m a failure. I have also let people see pieces I probably should have kept to myself. This also does not mean that I’m a failure but it does mean that lots of people know that I’m open to failure. The freedom to fail can only come when our identity is not tied to the task at hand. If my self-worth comes from my art, I will not take chances because I can’t risk my identity. The freedom to fail only comes when our doing flows from our being and our being (our identity) is tied to something greater than ourselves. Something not shakeable by our failures or successes.

Art requires vulnerability.

Putting a piece of creativity out into any sort of public sphere (sharing it with anyone) always requires vulnerability because it always involves the possibility of exposing more than you’d wished and that it will bring criticism.

Since art is often the expression of something deep, it requires vulnerability to share it. But sharing our creative expressions also means that we are aware that others may not like it or may not “get it”. Once again, if I find my identity in my doings, in my art, then I will either not take risks with my creativity or I will now share them with anyone.

Those With the Least to Lose Have the Most to Give, or, Those With The Least to Prove Should Take More Risks

It pains my heart to know that some of the worst “art” in recent generations has been produced by Christians. This pains my heart because this has not always been the case. Some of the best art the world has ever known has been produced by Christians. I believe that Christians should be at the forefront of every artistic endeavor. We have the freedom to fail because our worth comes from Jesus! We have the security to be vulnerable because we live to give rather than to receive.

It’s time for Christians to once again value art as more than propaganda. Go, create something today and share it with others.