My friend, artist Martha Kelly, will be the artist-in-residence at the Memphis Theological Seminary this year and has asked me to write up a little about this spiritual practice of daily painting so she could use it in the seminary course she’s teaching. I realized that, unless I incorporate her request into my own spiritual practice I might not get around to writing it up…and if I did, it might sound stilted and disconnected. Today’s painting seemed to ask for me to address what I’m doing here in a little more depth.
If you ask me, I will tell you I believe God can be found everywhere, in everything, in everyone. If you let me I will also tell you that, at any given moment, I have trouble experiencing God anywhere. There frequently seems to be a disconnect between what I believe and what I experience and, frequently, there seems to be a disconnect between me and belief. I mean, what does that mean anyway? Belief? Sometimes (frequently) words just get in the way and I find myself needing to connect with God outside of the confines of scripture, doctrine, and “language” in general. I need to find a different way to experience my continuing, deep-seated sense that God IS. How to do that? This spiritual practice of daily painting was born out of that question.
The basics of my practice are this. Every day I do a little watercolor painting. The basic compositional area is a 1″ circle and the entire project, from the time I sit down to the table to the time I put the date across the bottom, can take no longer than one hour. I have developed a ritual of entering into this space, sitting down, taking an engineering template and a pencil and drawing my circle on the watercolor block, pausing to take a breath and then silently asking, “What now?” Within this framework of “what now”, I am open to suggestion, influence, and guidance from any and all quarters.
This all felt awkward at first- and still feels awkward some days- but what I have found as I’ve gone through these last 65 days is that the awkwardness is less of a hindrance. Sitting within the space of the question draws me and it is from within that space of the question that these paintings, and the words that they inspire, flow. I find myself playing with the paint now. Most of these pieces happen with no drawing. I have even, with a smile on my face and in my heart, intentionally broken my “rule” of painting within the space of the circle. The “rule” needs to breathe and sometimes, for me, that has meant playing with the structural framework of my practice.
Show up. Be present. Ask. Listen. Miracles happen within the space of the question.
(© Karen Opp. All rights reserved.)