We recently travelled to Paris for an overnight stay. I’ve ventured to some fascinating countries in my time, including Rwanda, India and Mexico – but this city sang out creativity like none I’ve seen before. As we walked through the famous Louvre, viewing wall after wall of stunning expressionism, ceilings adorned, and a building which in itself was fascinating, I felt overwhelmed. How can I take this all in, and give the art significant space it deserves in my finite mind?
I left shattered, and over-awed.
Those images will live with me for a long time. And while I loved the fabulous finish of oil on canvas, the paintings that struck out were those incomplete. Why, in such a ‘go-to’ museum would you want to exhibit pictures in still sketched-and- half-painted format. As I looked at the third unfinished piece, I tried to imagine why it was incomplete. Did the artists die? Was he disillusioned and gave up? Did someone commission him to do another piece and he never finished?
I guess we will never know.
In the studio, recording my second album “Vulnerability” the producer and I regurgitated a familiar saying in studio land “It’s never finished, you just have to choose when to stop.”
Art. Music. Writing. I figure none of these can be completed like a mathematical sum. As a person who enjoys “getting the job done” I find the unfinished and incompleteness of artistry difficult. Listening back to previous recording projects I can list at least ten things I would change about them, yet at the time it was important to press stop, and move on.
As the artist with the pen, paint or plectrum we have the final say on when something is complete. So here are a few questions I like to ask myself, hopefully some of these will help you too.
Can I walk away satisfied I gave my all?
Am I at peace with myself enough that I can walk away from this art?
Do I love the process of art creation, or do I simply love a finished product?
That last question in particular is hard. As I said, I love lists and love completing them with a big tick. Enjoying the process of creation for me has got to be a bigger goal than the final completion.
And this too I believe as a Kingdom person, is how I should live. Enjoying the life God has given to me, because it is a gift. Enjoying the nappy changing part of life as well as the singing crowd.
Worship. Prayer. These too are unfinished acts, that will continue through and beyond our lives. As a worship leader I never feel we can give enough time to sung worship, and that, I believe, is because worship is a continuous act of life. Breathing, singing, sleeping – all acts of worship. And then in Heaven, far more worship. Prayer which is the act of communication with God is another continual. We listen, He speaks. We speak, He hears. Prayer should be as natural as breathing. And as we pray, so too do we see the greatest art work of the King, as He breathes life into our every situation.
So artist, let me encourage you to pick up your brushes, and breathe, and continue. Whether the piece is left complete or not, be ok with being unfinished.