I’m currently two meetings into the class that I always dreamed would exist as a Media Arts and Worship student. We’re collaborating with fellow students, stepping into the shared space between Theology and Art, and we’re actually producing artwork.
What I have had to do for classes for the past three years merely to keep from going crazy, create art to work out and take ownership of all I was learning spiritually, now I am invited to do in the context of community.
First, we excavated together, in partnerships, recalling a memory involving a drop of water. Then we did flash sketches surrounding what we dug up and out of each other. I don’t draw enough to do more than play at being a graphic novelist, even though I read them all the time. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics blew my mind even further on this art form. I knew after my initial excavation with my partner artist Stacy Voort that I would want to do a panel sketch first, then write.
I did a lot of trekking around the internet, because other than the rule of thirds, I recall nothing about composition. I found two really lovely resources, this post by freelance illustrator Kali Ciesemier on her website that gave me a visual reference along with the concepts and this handout I found on Pinterest on the relationship of line to emotional response (if I knew its original source I would credit that person so if you do, please let me know in the comments below).
Using those, this is my flash sketch (covered in my notes with the ways I applied composition concepts I liked):
And what follows is the flash sketch I wrote of that memory. Our theological theme to push into was baptism. This is one of the first times I’ve written about my own life without changing my name to a character name, part of my new resolve to be more honest and edit less of my real self in my writing.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t share this piece publicly, it’s not ready for publishing, it’s just a sketch. But I am sharing it here because I want to model what I preach, that Art in its formations, its many iterations is messy. I keep meeting many artists in all mediums who are discouraged because they only see the brilliant presentable finished works of fellow artists, the same way we only see flattering picture-perfect lives on social media. If I can do my part to knock down that false assumption that real artists simply channel inspiration and pump out finished works, I’m gonna do it.
Remember, integrity has the word gritty in it. To have integrity we’ve got to disclose what we don’t want to disclose, our foibles, our imperfections, our blind spots. I hope you and every reader take this as an invitation to make a mess, to make your own Art.
Flash Sketch #1
By Sarah Frase
The last line came first, like so many of her poems. Now she went back to the start and re-read it all, filling in missing verbs or articles, changing the position of a line on the page, double and single indent. Sarah figured she’d submit it to the school newspaper, or the Lit Mag at the end of the semester. Not that anybody else would get it. Not these paltry masses who played it safe with the Spice Girls and Titanic pics lining their binders. They didn’t know the meaning of the word individual. Her own binder had the Alphonse Mucha portrait of Poetry, Alanis Morissette, Philis Wheatley, Suzanne Vega, and Emily Dickinson collaged on graph paper. No, they wouldn’t get it, leading their gray little lives with their vanilla flavored choices.
But it might haunt them.
Who was she kidding? Nobody read the student paper except for the column by Senior Ryan Stevke, a weekly stream-of-consciousness babble masquerading as deep with word choices he got from right clicking the Thesaurus feature in Microsoft Word.
Even he didn’t know with his three-year gain of life experience on her, what she knew. That the enemy, the lion roaring and seeking to devour souls, was not vivid red nor tawny gold.
She read the last line again.
the largest lion of all
A drop of water hit the r and the a, blurring the edges. Blurring like the natural world consented to her theme. Gray, ambiguous, noncommittal, blurred. Sarah looked up, hoping that the redwood was just shaking down some moisture caught earlier in the day, rather than indicating the start of a current shower. Her back against this tree was the only place on campus that felt solid to her, and that intuitively advertised to her peers, “Leave me the hell alone.” Here she’d read her Bible, mostly psalms and ecclesiastics, and consider the complementary spheres of the total depravity of man and the ephemeral nature of his existence, and God’s fidelity and eternality. It was their space, and nobody else’s.
No luck. It was drizzling, soon to pour.
Sarah shut her composition book and tucked it inside her hoodie, zipping it closed and cradling it under her arm. She pocketed the pen and regretfully made for the nearby overhang by room eight. At least most people left this part of the campus alone during lunch, giving her a chance to continue her musing in peace.
Brandon Frank. Against the classroom wall, under the overhang, eating lunch.
He was in her first period English and in Spanish next period. He never talked in class. He wore track pants and the same college team sweatshirt most of the time, and had a buzzed haircut that made him look more like a cancer patient than a ROTC member. Probably because he was uber-white. Eating a slice of pizza from the cafeteria and finishing math homework. At least he wasn’t one of the triad’s sycophants, she’d never caught him with a dreamy look on his face as the three most popular girls in the school did a roll-by. Actually, Sarah never noticed him at all. She only knew his name because he came before her when the teacher called out attendance at the start of class.
She sunk down on the opposite side of the door, closer to the falling water, so it dampened her pants leg, but she hoped this spacing would suggest she didn’t want to talk. Drawing out her sharpie, she began to draw sheeple on the back of her notebook, giving some of them jelly shoes, bucket hats, butterfly clips, and slap bracelets.
“You’re Sarah right?”
She nodded affirmative but didn’t look up. She kept sketching the JanSport backpack at the feet of a sheeple wearing a letterman’s jacket.
“We have English and Spanish together. Is English your favorite class?”
“How did you know?” Sarah gave another sheeple crimped wool in a scrunchie above her face, and long eyelashes.
“You talk a lot in that class.”
“You don’t talk at all in class.”
“I prefer to keep my opinions to myself mostly. I’m kinda over high school. If it weren’t for the Army recruiter saying that ROTC looks good on your application, I probably take the GED and just go to MJC.” Brandon stood, scarfed the crust, and folded his paper plate like a taco and tossed it into the trash. Today his sweatshirt wasn’t zipped and she could see through his Savage Garden concert T that he was skinner than she was. To join the Army he would need all the edge he could get.
“Me too. I talked to my parents about taking the GED, but they say I have to stick it out at least through my junior year. Some BS about my “socialization” and normalizing, but who wants to be normal?”
“So are you like a writer? I see you’re always reading or writing in your notebook at lunch.”
“I’m a writer and a poet.”
“Oh yeah? What are your poems about?”
“The total depravity of man.”
“Basically that most people suck. They’re self-absorbed and inconsiderate of others. Like they don’t even see people they consider not worth their time.“ Sarah’s right pant leg was beginning to soak through to the skin, so she got up and sat down against the door. She left a respectable amount of elbow room between them.
“Yeah, my Dad’s like that.”
“Most people at this school are like that.”
“Yeah but they’re just kids, you know? Immaturity is annoying, but it kinda comes with our age.” Brandon crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back against the stucco.
“How is your Dad like that?”
“He says he’s going to take me to the movies and stuff on the weekends, and then he calls and gives some pathetic excuse for why he can’t show.”
“That sucks. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah well, people suck.” Brandon grinned.
“Yeah they do.” Sarah returned his smile. The sky cracked with thunder and they both jumped, then laughed some more.
It poured the whole lunch hour. They kept talking until the bell rang.