This was a rather easy theme to do this time as I’ve been preparing digital art lessons for my high school students. We’ll be creating robots using PhotoShop and their cell phone cameras. The plan is for them to go around our campus taking photos that will be used as the backdrop for their battle scenes. I introduced the idea before we left for Spring Break so they’d have plenty of time to play out scenes in their imagination. I’ve got a great group of kids this years, a lot of talent. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with as we proceed with this project.
Last night I was invited by a dear friend, Mrs. Moore, to Black Nativity Revisited put on by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. I had a little problem with the “revisited” in the title. Why was it there? Isn’t it the reason for the season? However, as the night progressed, it became so important.
I left late in the dark to a crowded freeway headed to a part of Oakland I didn’t know. When I stopped for a red light, a homeless man appeared out of the darkness right up at my car window with a palms together begging. I was taken aback and tried to explained through my tightly shut window and locked door that I couldn’t reach my purse, didn’t have any cash in my pockets. I just couldn’t help him. There were cars lined up behind me. I didn’t have time for this, I thought. I was going to be late. As the light turned green, he signaled he understood and backed away into the night.
When I finally reached the church, I was greeted warmly and let in to the performance held in the sanctuary. I couldn’t completely settle down to enjoy the jubilant performance. The beggars face haunted me on and off throughout performance of the Christmas story. I revisit the Nativity story every year. It doesn’t change. I do it to honor and celebrate this glorious gift from God. But on this night, it changed for me.
During the performance last night the phrase “no room at the inn” was spoken and sung I don’t know how many times . It’s repetition, though, called upon me to rethink about the beggar I had just left on the street. Had I not just refused him entrance into my life? Why didn’t I roll down my window? Why didn’t I make the extra effort to reach for a couple of dollars? Why didn’t I just stop, let the cars behind me wait, and give something to this man in need. Some would try to ease my conscious by saying I was a woman traveling alone at night. But I didn’t feel threaten. He didn’t approach me in hostile way, made no movements that indicated I should be weary. He just want some help. I turned him away like the inn keepers in Bethlehem. I had no room for him.
I read somewhere, long ago, that the people who come into your life which you find most frustrating or disturb your day to day existence, are there to teach you something; most likely something about yourself. Last night that beggar came knocking on my door, and like the inn keepers in Bethlehem on that most holiest of nights, I turned him away. The inn keepers, that turned Mary and Joseph away, missed being there when a miracle occurred. They missed seeing Emmanuel, Jesus, Son of God, Comforter and Prince of Peace. What had I missed by not giving a minute two more to a beggar?
Or, maybe, I didn’t miss out. Maybe I got to play a part in the retelling of the nativity story. For the beggar reminded me to keep my inn open. To remember that we all are walking miracles brought into this world to give it something special of ourselves. I revisited the nativity. I learned I am part of the nativity; that I live it everyday. Last night I was an inn keeper. Today I might be a shepherd, tomorrow one of the three kings. That the next person I meet might have lesson for me. Whatever part I play, giver or receiver, I must keep my heart open and greet everyone as though they might hold a message I need to hear. And sometimes, slow learner that I am, I might have to be revisited again and again to get the point.
Merry Christmas to all, and may you be open to the miracles that surround you.
It’s Mike White; all dressed up for the Pooch Pow Wow held at Ol’ Niles area of Fremont, California.
Joseph Campbell’s books, the Power of Myth and The Hero With A Thousand Faces come to mind from this weeks prompt from Illustration Friday. I strongly believe we all follow the the path of the archetype hero. We walk the stages of the myth story as described by Campbell. Whether it be the stage of leaving home to begin a quest or meeting the trickster that will divert us from our adventure, our life paths seem to be headed towards a goal. We illustrators draw these stages over and over again in hopes of helpings our viewers to get closer to their goals.
At the present I think I am at the end a conflict stage in my quest. It’s been a year of struggles. Only now am I becoming more aware of the treasures I have gain from walking my path.
I began this piece last June when summer vacation began. Freed from the responsibilities of teaching high school students, I had time to sit down and draw. I started out doing the deletion technique on bristol board using ground graphite. I attacked that sheet of bristol board. What started out as a giant scribble transformed into a jungle of vines entangling my hero; stopping him, holding him and not letting him move forward. I think my subconscious was trying to work out my real life frustrations. I had been dealing with the death of my mother and the tasks of taking care of my 87 year old father. And like my hero, stuck and not moving forward, I had to learn to pause, breathe and just let go of trying to hold it all together. When I did, things began to settle down and I could handle things much better.
Isn’t it always that way with a tangle? You can’t fight it into order, you got to let go first.
Once the pencil drawing was done, I let it sit for a few months. Only last Friday when I learned that myth was the Illustration Friday prompt, did I look at it again. To finish it off, I scanned it into PhotoShop and with my new Wacom tablet started adding color. I’m still amazed at the fine quality of line and control the Wacom stylus gives me. I would have been fearful of trying to add color to the graphite drawing, but on the computer I stay tangle free. My quest is complete.
Summer gardening takes some attitude and grit to make things grow. I guess I don’t have this year. By this time in the season my raise beds should be over flowing with squash and cucumber vines. I generally have lush tomato plants that are covered with bright yellow buds and swelling fruit. The bees would be buzzing in and around the plants as I tended their care. But alas, not this year. I’m blaming the weather here in the Bay Area; too many cool, over-cast days. The truth, though, is my attitude for these activities have waned a bit.
My interest have been diverted to the interior of my home. Painters are currently finishing up transforming my dull beige and white walls into sunny yellows and dreamy blues. One room is being painted with a color that is so appropriate for an artist. It’s called Clean Canvas. Doesn’t that just make you want to go and start something new! So in away I guess I am still planting seeds. The kind will burst into new interiors that will feed my need to design a garden of a different sort.