The Artisan Soul, a review

artisan soul.jpg

“Fear is the Shadow of creativity. When we choose to create, we bring light to our fears.”

Erwin Raphael McManus

The Artisan Soul is a book for creatives. In saying that, in accordance with the premise of the book, it is therefore a book for everyone. McManus states that we are all actually creatives simply because we have been created and to create is a part of being human. He stands against the popular belief that creativity is a skill limited to the elite few who label themselves artists and live well off that. He argues that the human soul is creative and we just need to give ourselves the freedom and the grace to tap into it.

As a writer, my heart soars when I read this book. There is a huge sense of relief, a weight lifted off my shoulders. His words bring comfort to the forming artist inside me. As it turns out, I don’t have to earn my title by being successful in my ‘field’. In fact, failure (or lack of recognition perhaps) is often a part of art. In order to be an artist, a creative, I need to be bold enough to claim it and then make it a part of my life.

I asked a friend of mine recently how he decided to take the risk of trying to make a profession of his art. He is a photographer by trade and I worded the question along the lines of “How did you decide to BE a photographer… to live your art.” This friend tends to be philosophical almost all the time and so rather than answering my question directly he said this:

I do not want to be labelled by one specific type of art. I am an artist, not a photographer because, although photography is what I am currently doing, have a knack for and I’m being paid for, it is not the only thing that makes me an artist. My artisan soul can manifest itself in anything I decided to put my mind to – any medium I chose. I’m  not saying that I would be an expert in every artistic field, but rather that the type of art I produce is not the goal. The goal is to express my creativity because that is what drives me – that’s what drives all artists.

This book speaks along the same lines. In finding our individual voices, our mediums, what we love, we learn to express the artisan soul within us. To call yourself an artist is not pretentious, nor does it create the expectation that you have to become famous for your art. It should make your heart flutter, make you sit up straighter, make you want to form something, in whatever way you want to express it.

McManus says “to create is to be human. To create is to fulfil our divine intention. To create is to reflect the image of God. To create is an act of worship. So, who is an artist? Anyone with a soul.”

With his book, McManus is changing the face of creativity in the faith-world. And I believe those of us who feel the significance of creativity in our lives already, are standing with him.

SH

Purchase The Artisan Soul on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2poAGJF

Advertisements

Listen Up

7EDB03AE-3276-4508-AE31-D2FDB62A2695

I like listening. As a quiet person I have a lot of time to listen – to music, to people, to the world around me. I love hearing stories more than I love telling them and I reckon this is often mistaken for me being either antisocial or intimidated by social situations, but it is my belief that one of the greatest forms of love we can show to one another is listening and giving people the space and time to tell their story and be vulnerable with us. I know, in any position I’m in, whether that’s on top of the world or at the bottom of the pile, I would appreciate the time to speak my mind.

Like most people, I often listen to music while I work or feel like I have to, to get me in my ‘zone’. More often than not,  I find myself getting lost in the music and losing focus on the task ahead of me. Sometimes this is a good thing and at other times it is, well, not so good and can have very negative consequences. For example, if you have a deadline in two days and you’ve spent the last hour choreographing your performance to Bruno Mars’ latest album, that can be a problem.  To make matters worse, from a young age I have been so fascinated with music that I not only get lost in it, but I also start to analyse it without even thinking twice about it.

For the majority of life I have avoided conflict and debate (even when necessary), simply by listening to what the other person has to say and walking away. The keyword here being I listened. The reasons for walking away from debate is when the rational exchange of ideas becomes a screaming match.  Why walk away? Because what tends to happen in scenarios like this, is that two or more parties end up expressing their views with one purpose: to be heard over everyone else. Are we willing to be educated beyond our current beliefs?  “I hear you but…” is a phrase often thrown around in these situations. We may be heard, but are we listened to? Are you willing to engage with me, the way that I’m engaging with you?

Too often, we listen to what needs only to be heard, and only hear what needs to be listened to.

What do you listen to? The big voices of the media telling you who to be and how to live, or the smaller voice of your brother, your sister, your friend, who needs help, who needs someone to listen? What do you listen to? The voices of those telling you to give up, or the One True Voice that says “I have a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future”. When we walk in the path that God has for us, life has a natural rhythm and flow, even when times get hard (because they will) we find inspiration and strength in what we do. However there will be other voices, that seem to shout over the promises God has for us and they will make themselves heard, but, the choice we have to make is what are we going to choose to listen to. Each and every one of us has a God given gift and plan and the potential for greatness. That is fact.  It is down to us to listen to what needs to be listened to and hear what only needs to be heard.

JC

Unfinished

unfinshedWe 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.

Pete

My Songwriting Process

Vulnerability Shoot 12“How do you write? Is it lyrics first or the melody?”

This is the number one question I get asked as a singer songwriter. If I’m feeling impatient and want to get running to the next appointment, my facetious answer is “both.” And the truth is, sometimes the best songwriting moments do hit you head on at once. One legendary rock artists was once quoted saying something along the lines of “I just stick up my antenna and see what I can pick out.”

Songwriting is not that glorious to most. To most of us, it is hard work. So with that in mind, here are three questions I try to ask myself in the writing process.

AM I CREATING OR AM I EDITING?

My biggest early writing mistakes have come when I have approached a writing-from- scratch session with an editor’s mindset. The problem is that I always come away disappointed because I can’t get beyond the second line of verse one. If I’m going to be creative, and begin with nothing, then the parameters must be endless, with wide boundary lines, and frankly who cares – it doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I do just that.

Editing is saved for a later session. “Tomorrow I will edit what is the inspiration of today” I say to myself.  That way, I can be as critical of a piece as I want to be.  It’s less frustrating, and more beneficial in the long run. If I’m honest, whether I’m editing or creating will depend on what mood I’m in. The write frame of mind is key for the creative process.

WHY AM I PLAYING THAT GUITAR PART AGAIN?

No matter how good a musician you might be, it’s tempting to live in the past with our playing. I know I can easily rehash what I know, but to create something new, it needs a new perspective.

As I began writing “Vulnerability” (my second album) I got frustrated with guitar parts, so decided to write on our electric piano. Now, I would never suggest that I’m a pianist. At best I can bash out some chords, with a few right hand melodies. So why did it work so well? “Playing” an instrument that I would not perform on live gave me the space to make mistakes, and as the mistakes flowed, amazingly so too did a few happy accidents. The piano allowed me to create, to make mess and music. It was fun, and the songs came alive. So, whatever you play with ease, perhaps challenge yourself to write form an instrument you know little about.

WHO CAN I TRUST WITH THIS?

Once the first draft of the song has been hashed out, it’s time to decide who I should share it with. In the past I’ve struggled to co-write, perhaps because I was a little too insecure and way too protective of my own ideas. Now, if I have a chorus or a bridge, but the verses are continually a struggle, then I need to go to that guy who writes verses with ease. Perhaps I need the melody man or the girl who writes hooks in her sleep. Each song could require a different voice depending on the feel or the sections missing.

Over the years I’ve tried to get wiser with whom I play the song to first. The wrong person who knocks it, could be the road block to an awesome song. As writers we need somebody who can believe but also critique in equal measures.

Ultimately, if you are a creative, your process will be determined by your personality, your time and your way of thinking. I don’t profess to be an expert in the art of song writing, but I hope that the very least my three questions can create a platform for you to develop your own process.

Write well!

Pete

A Very Good Place to Start

Pete McAllen. Worship pastor, singer songwriter, husband, father. Describing himself as intense, but also loves a good laugh , Pete is obviously someone who is passionate about his art, his family and his faith.

This blog – Artwork of the Soul – is a glimpse into the life, music and musings of Pete and so what better way to start things off than with a bit of an expose. At the start of each month we will be focusing on Pete’s perspective on different areas of life – worship, family, creativity, and faith.

Seated comfortably in the McAllen’s living room, with Lizzie McAllen and their baby girl Lilja sitting next to me, I turned to Pete on the opposite couch and began the interroga – uh, the interview

I think that if you are going to understand Pete’s music, you need to understand where he comes from. Born and bred in Diss, Pete started out leading worship in his mid teens at his local youth group.

Worship was so intense that on Monday mornings I would walk to school with aching legs because of how crazy worship was the night before.” he says remembering fondly. “I felt called to lead worship, though I never really thought I was going to be a worship pastor.”
Pete got most of his initial worship and music experience at a small church plant in North Hertforshire before moving to London and joining Hillsong  where he played guitar on team. Having lived for a number of years as a singer songwriter initially, he says it didn’t go the way he hoped “though there are parts of it I wouldn’t change for anything” – but more on that in another post.

To be honest, I used to think that becoming a worship pastor was a cop out – the lazy route for an artist.” The sheepish grin with this statement could not go unnoticed. “In hindsight, I know different and have the upmost respect for all of those in this field.”

Pete’s been working as Worship Pastor at Cambridge Community Church (C3) for nearly 7 years. In that time he got married, produced his first album, began work on a second album and more recently, become a father. I feel now is a good time to confess that during the interview I was distracted. Sitting next to adorable Lilja, and looking into her piercing blue eyes – when she took them off her parents – I saw the love that the McAllen family share. It was deep, authentic and beautiful. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Pete.

In terms of his leadership, Pete’s drive is connected to his calling. He believes that when you are called, you give your all because you care about it so much. “It comes down to vision really. I have a high expectation of myself. My personal walk with God is key to my work as a Worship Pastor. If I don’t have that right in my life, how can I expect God to work fully through me?  Because yes, I can trust Him, but can He trust me? Of course He loves me, but can He TRUST me? That’s the test. If I’m consistent in that, then I can expect it of my team as well.”

He recalled the times at the start of his leadership, when he wasn’t as gracious to his team, but through the people in his life, especially his wife Lizzie, grace has been shaped in him.

Pete has recently made the decision to step down from his position as Worship Pastor to pursue a career as an artist and song writer. In asking about this I prepared myself for a deep and meaningful response about the love he has for the church, the risk he would be taking in stepping out as an independent artist – but before we could get to that Lilja was sick on herself. I promised Pete I would include this in the article.

What he did say though was that he would be looking forward to experiencing church as a family. That standing next to his wife in worship was something that they had sacrificed (willingly) during his season of leading and so now they are looking forward to being together in church, especially as Lilja gets older.

In the coming months as Pete’s new album, ‘Vulnerability’, is prepared for launch, and he transitions from the position of pastor to participant in church, there will be a lot of change. The result of change is lots of stories to tell … and that’s where this blog comes in!

So, welcome to Artwork of the Soul. The journey of a Creative is never ending, ever winding and always exciting. Thanks for coming along with us.