Art: Spiritual Journey Through Art - Part 1


(system) #1

By Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson

“The soul never thinks without a picture. —Aristotle

Last week, I invited you to embrace your identity as creative being, made in the image of the Master Artist and to join me in a six-week exploration of spiritual journey through art. Over the next six weeks, we’ll contemplate symbols and metaphors of spiritual journey through simple art activities. Rest assured—you don’t have to be an artist or even artistic to participate. In this journey, an open-mind and sincere effort will be infinitely more valuable than artistic talent. Really. In case you missed it, here's a link to the intro.

“Dare to err and to dream. Deep meaning often lies in childish play.” —Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

I’ve prepared these activities for Sabbath afternoon enjoyment by one or by many, but chances are, you’ll feel compelled to share what you’ve created, so consider inviting your significant other, a good friend, your kids or grandkids to join the journey too. After you’ve created your individual sketches, have a show-and-tell to share what you’ve learned.

Each week, we’ll focus on one aspect of the spiritual quest: 1. Survey: Observing the Land and Its Seasons2. Direction: Mapping the Journey3. Movement: Packing for the Journey4. Traveling: Living on the Road5. Discovery: Staking My Claim6. Identity: Owning My Spiritual Territory

What you need: -a pen, pencil, a box of crayons, colored markers, tube of toothpaste or whatever you want to draw with. (If you’re absolutely terrified of drawing utensils, you may take a pair of scissors to pictures in magazines and catalogs. But I encourage you to just try scribbling and see what happens. )-a piece of paper, the back of a napkin, last week’s church bulletin, or anything else you can draw on-an open, reflective mind

Ready? Here we go, dear readers.

Part 1. The Survey: Observing the Land and Its Seasons

“We must accept life for what it actually is—a challenge . . . without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.” — Ida R. Wylie

This week, we take survey of the spiritual land in which we find ourselves and recognize what season it is in our individual spiritual journeys. Where do you find yourself today? What is the terrain of your spiritual life? The climate? The season? Is it a scorching Nevada desert in the dead of summer? A Southeast Asian monsoon? A beautiful early spring in the countryside? What are the blessing and challenges of the spiritual place and season you find yourself in? Consider the following Bible verses that use metaphors of place and season:

“He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; And He has set darkness in my paths…. My hope He has uprooted like a tree.” (Job 19:8, 10)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul….” (Psalm 23: 1-2)

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth: The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13)

“Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:18)

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” (Psalm 125:1)

1. Contemplate the symbols and metaphors of place and what they mean to your spiritual journey.

  • Does your spiritual life feel like a climb up a steep and rocky terrain right about now?
  • Or have you recently come through a treacherous valley to those green pastures of Psalm 23?
  • Perhaps you find yourself at the edge of the Grand Canyon—at the brink of both possibility and danger.
  • Or perhaps you are in the safe and familiar front yard of your childhood home.

Where are you in your spiritual life? Choose a place that represents where you see yourself right now in your spiritual journey. Visualize its terrain and what it signifies about your spiritual journey.

2. Contemplate the symbols of climates and seasons and what they represent in your spiritual journey.

  • Is it springtime in your spiritual life? Is the new grass a vibrant, thriving green? What is sprouting and coming to life? What are the flowers in bloom, and what do they represent? Is it raining? Flooding?
  • Is it summer in your spiritual life? If so, is it a dry summer or a humid tropical season? Is the sun beating down on you mercilessly and drying up the ground? Or is it gently warming the terrain of your soul?
  • Is it autumn in your spiritual life? If so, what is coming to harvest? Are the leaves turning brilliant colors? Are the leaves falling away and decaying? What do they represent?
  • Is it winter in your spiritual life? What lies dormant? Is something at rest this season so that it can come to life in the spring? Is it biting cold? Crisp and clean? Is a sheet of snow covering a muddy landscape?

Choose a season that represents the climate of your spiritual terrain. Visualize symbols that represent that season for you. Those symbols could be raindrops, flower petals, falling leaves, snowflakes, weeds, or anything else that’s meaningful to you.

“We see the brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen.” —Maria Rilke Rainer 3. Pick up those drawing utensils and that piece of paper now. Scribble something that represents the landscape and season you’re experiencing in your spiritual life.

It doesn’t have to look like a masterpiece, but it ought to be honest. The process of discovery is significantly more important than the end result. In this exercise, you’re documenting where you see yourself today in your spiritual journey, and this act, I anticipate, will be revealing. Though it’s a simple act, putting pen to paper in this way forces us to walk right through the walls of our comfort zone. It reveals where we have perhaps been blind.

David wrote, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6) In the moments when you hold that pen in your hands and are drawing your spiritual landscape and climate, you are facing “truth in the inward parts.” There’s no turning away from it, as your hands, eyes, mind, and heart engage in putting pen to paper.

I did this exercise with a group of friends a few summers back, and at the time, I made a collage of a tropical island and palm tree with a thought bubble that said, “Vacation doesn’t last forever; the real world and responsibilities await. I must go home soon.” I chose that landscape, because it represented how easy it is to become lazy in summer. I felt I needed to be more responsible and intentional in my spirituality rather than coasting along.

By contrast, one friend drew a stark winter landscape depicting a mountain, snow, and two lone flowers representing her significant other and herself. “I feel we’re coming through a long, cold winter, with only the slightest bit of hope of spring,” she said. “His flower is a bit higher on the mountain, because he’s ahead of me.”

This is the drawing I did just recently. (By the way, I’m drawing left-handed even though I’m right-handed, because I didn’t want to have any perceived advantage as someone who has dabbled in art all her life.)

In this drawing, I’m standing on a mountain after having made a treacherous climb. The truth is, after the tropical summer of my drawing several years ago, I encountered the mountain of prolonged illness, the near-disintegration of the church I’d called home for seven years, transition to a new home church—all of which was trying on my spiritual life. I chose to sketch the skies in a colorful blue though, because throughout this treacherous climb, God’s grace and the compassion of those who love me were evident and always surrounding me. I feel like I’ve come over the top of that mountain now, and I’m looking ahead to where I want to go. I’ve come full circle through the seasons, and it’s summer again—but I’m not on vacation.

Perhaps you’ve come to a place of peaceful respite in your spiritual life, and recognizing this brings you to gratitude. Perhaps you’ve been pretending that it’s a lush springtime in your spiritual life when in reality drought has set in. Or perhaps you’ve fallen into a canyon and are struggling to climb out. Wherever it is you find yourself, taking survey of the landscape is the first step to discovering where we want to go from here.

If you’re brave enough to share your creations with the world, scan them in and email them to me (signed or anonymously) at sharon@sharonfujimoto-johnson.com along with a brief description of your artwork. I’ll see about putting them up on the blog.

Next week’s activity is “Choosing a Direction: Mapping the Journey.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4197