My favorite art form as a child was finger painting. I loved mixing the colors, making designs, wiping them away, and starting over. I also liked making clay bowls from mud. Maybe it’s something about getting my hands dirty. I’m not sure. One thing I longed to do and never could was draw something well enough for others to recognize. That may be part of the reason I created Bobby Ray Dean, a natural artist, who morphs into the Bird, a graffiti rebel, who evolves into Roman Velasco, a “real” artist.
Art is everywhere, from the walls of art museums, to the colorful blasts of graffiti in cities and byways around the world, to the multitude of wonders God has created. The art I most enjoy evokes an emotional response, makes me stand in wonder or think more deeply. That covers a lot of territory (modern, classic, photography, black-and-white, and color).
Rick and I have had the opportunity to visit some of the most famous art museums in the world: the Louvre in Paris; the Hermitage in St. Petersburg; the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; the Vatican, where we sat in awe beneath the Sistine Chapel ceiling staring up at Michelangelo’s work until our necks ached. One can see a life in art. Rembrandt’s The Prodigal Son in the Brothel portrays his good life of fame and fortune, all too soon tragically lost, and then followed by the testimonial work The Return of the Prodigal Son of a transformed life.
Though I would love to be able to draw and paint, I can do neither. Writing is my artistic medium. I love to create characters who can do the things I wish I could do. I can live out my fantasy of painting something beautiful and evocative, be it graffiti or a work on canvas. Sometimes I get carried away. One character in a previous novel redecorated four times before I reigned her in and deleted the details.
It was no different in writing The Masterpiece. I had a list of imagined graffiti and “real” art pieces by the Bird and Roman Velasco. A hint of what may be is often more than enough. The mind of the reader is a wellspring of imagination, too.
What do you see when you think of Christ Triumphant? Or a man dressed in spiritual armor? Or a woman holding her first child? How do you see love or peace or promise portrayed in a painting?
God is the ultimate artist, but I think He gave us our ability to imagine so that we don’t just see what is, but what may be.