Wondering while Wandering…
…an artist’s limp toward finding ‘Radiance Through the Rain’
‘May the Rain of Suffering Soften Our Hearts,
Seeping Radiance to Our Thirsty Places.’
- Douglas Thompson© 2022
Opportunity knocks occasionally as requests arrive to speak at events regarding ‘Why I paint what I paint.’ The following are my notes from a short talk I gave at McMaster Divinity School, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, January 17, 2023. Various parts of this are found in my introductory sections here in this blog. Once again, in this and several blogs to come, I’m laying a foundation of my journey as a creative/painter. I will of course get into the actual acts of putting acrylic paint to canvas or board as we go along in future posts. I prefer to call these posts: ‘Thought Collections on Art and Life through an Artist’s Eyes’ rather than ‘blogs.’
McMaster Divinity School Talk
As I’ve quoted before on various occasions, C.S. Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and Oxford professor stated: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because I see everything by it.” Prolific author, artist, and apologist, G.K. Chesterton, friend and colleague of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have together given us the wonder of using artistic imagination as a means of pointing to truth with their nuanced writings! As you’ve no doubt picked up, this too is my chosen world-view.
Chesterton writes, “To be thankful is the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Thanklessness, then, must be the lowest form of thought, and ingratitude is discontentment, bankrupted of wonder.”
Welcome to my studio!
Here, working through a painting is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding and for me a spiritual act. It is not a trite plaything, but involves intense involvement on many levels. This is why my wife warns me by ringing a little bell before entering the studio. I am off in a far country, wandering multiple paths and any sudden interruption can result in a tailspin of PTSD over-reaction. The bell helps me come back to a single point.
The actual act of putting paint to canvas is almost subconscious as simultaneously disparate thoughts and techniques dance their many forms from my imagination through my painting tools, brushes, towels or rags.
Some of those thoughts meander back to my childhood surrounded in institutional and family abuses that occurred living for over eleven years in an iron-fisted enclosed community in western Canada. The trauma from that time has affected my life and work until this day. My early paintings reflected that dark side and were an expression of unresolved issues that presented themselves with symptoms such as depression and anger. Today, after many years of hard work, my life and paintings attempt at presenting more light and hope.
John Ruskin, the famed British water colorist and artistic companion of JMW Turner said,“ The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.”
My purpose therefore as an artist, is to ‘Make Aware’…to encourage people to take the time to truly savor and care for what they see. The thought that part of my personal act of making art is to be a conduit of pointing toward the Creator is humbling at best.
I personally am a follower of who C.S. Lewis describes as ‘Aslan’ or ‘the Word,’ one who was and yet still is. John 1:1-3 is chapter and verse from the New Testament part of the Bible.“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This of course refers to Jesus of Nazareth! The transcendent God becoming flesh to enter with us even now, into our deepest pain and joy!
Caring for the creation as good ecologists is a mandate given to all human kind. I stand with that as part of my faith, to see the natural world as something to be cherished and nurtured…we are to be good ‘gardeners’ in the broadest sense of the word.
I am a wanderer…
I am a broken struggler…
I am in process…
I am a fighter – I’ve chosen hope, when despair attempted complete desolation…
I am thoughtful – pushing back against the obnoxious simplistic…
I am an artist who observes and portrays beauty, both darkness and light…
I am a poet – a lover of all the senses and who gains freedom in savoring them well…
I am called to shed light – and there is light!
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning states, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes — The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Soli Deo Gloria (SDG) is Latin for ‘Glory to God alone.’ Used by artists such as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, it is added, signifying the work was produced as an act of praising God. I’ve copied their idea and have had many who’ve asked what the letters SDG mean when placed near my signature.
For me, each painting is a small human attempt at reflecting light and expressing gratitude back to the light giver, Jesus Christ, the only incarnation of the creator God in human history.
My hope is that some of my ‘I am’s’ above will push through the rim of life’s mist with the gleam of atmospheric light. Maybe it will encourage some struggler in the darkest depths to persevere while seeking help. For others, it will at least give some insight into my purposes of ‘making aware.’
Part of this is journey was producing a 160 page full colour coffee table book, a compilation of some anecdotal life recollections – Psalms, if you will. There are 61 short essays and/or poems found on the facing pages from the over 100 paintings included in the book. This ‘blog’ has the same title as the book. ‘Radiance Through the Rain.‘