Away for a While

I’ve taken a long hiatus from painting since my last post. I’ve started and stopped half a dozen projects none of which I ever finished due to the creative person’s roller coaster self confidence/worse critic syndrome; “I’m going to do this! It’s awesome! This is hard. This sucks. I suck”. But I finally suck my neck out and decided I HAD to finish something and start back up again. So, without fear, well on, with courage, here it goes.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

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Scissors Paper Rock

No scissors or paper here; just rocks and beautiful light. But you can pretend :) I love the hole in the tree in this image. And the water looks so inviting; indeed it was! Very cold though.

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Psalm 62:7
My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

Mountain Change

A few weeks ago my family and I went to the Smokey Mountains for a vacation. I’ve never been IN the Appalachian Mountains like we were on this trip. Previously, I had only driven past or quickly through. But on this trip we camped in them, and I was able to walk through and up the mountains reveling in creation. It was a good reminder of the God I love, of He who is on my side. I pray for a change from within; a slow weathering of my Earthly form from the same power that shaped stone into a beautiful thing such as this.

Proverbs 14:29
People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

Ecclesiastes 7:9
Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

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Short and Sweet

A different approach to a landscape photo I took while in the Smokey Mountains last week. It’s a little wonky but I like the rendered feel of it.

In other news, a shovel is digging deep to get to some old muck and mire. I’m not sure where I’m headed yet but I know it’s good. I’m blessed to have the wife I do.

Job 1:21

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

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Rock of Ages

I live in Michigan. In Michigan we are fortunate enough, in my opinion, to have a large layer of soil beneath our feet over the bedrock. In some places this layer of soil and sediment is a couple hundred feet thick. Many parts of the Midwest have deep layers of sediment like this due to the glaciers and erosion, and this allows us to have basements or for older houses crawl spaces. To build a house in Michigan you have to have a basement or a concrete slab on top of the sediment. My wife would like to think a basement’s sole purpose is to shelter us from tornadoes but she is only partially correct. The purpose of a basement is to provide a solid foundation upon which to build a house. If we build houses in Michigan on the sediment then our houses would fall apart as they settle and as rain eroded the sediment around and beneath our home. In other parts of the country “artificial” bedrock is not needed as the Earth’s natural bedrock is not buried so deep or is already exposed due to erosion and weathering. This basic concept of having a strong foundation for a home has been understood by builders for thousands of years. A home built on loose ground will easily fall apart when the elements of nature come knocking at the door. But, there are still hidden dangers for a home even when it is built on a solid foundation. Unless the foundation is deep and solid there is a chance that the foundation itself can buckle, crack, and even collapse. The most common cause of this in Michigan is the freezing and thawing of water from Fall to Spring. Those of us who live where snow is a part of winter can testify to the damage freezing and thawing can do to our roads. A little bit of water in a crack can cause a lot of damage when frozen. This is due to the property of water that allows it to expand when frozen rather than shrink; the only natural liquid in the world to do this. So, when you get water in your basement or in the walls of your foundation and the temperatures drop enough to start freezing the ground that water will freeze and cause cracks in the foundation. If enough of those cracks occur it can weaken the foundation and eventually jeopardize the safety of the house. This threat is silent and often unnoticed until the cracks are visible in the walls. Once those cracks are there they can be filled and patched usually but if ignored they will only get worse and destroy the home. On the other hand though, and on the extreme end of foundation destruction, is an earthquake. Yes, earthquakes are dangerous events for any home on any foundation but they can cause a unique type of event for foundations that lay over sandy or wet sediment. When an earthquake shakes the ground it will crack solid rock, dangerous for those homes on bedrock, but when it shakes lose sediment like sand, or wet sediment such as an aquifer or buried swamp the vibrations can actually make the sediment act like quicksand and anything on top will sink straight into the ground. Once the quake stops the vibrations cease to shake the sediment which then becomes solid again and buries whatever sank within. If you’ve ever been to the beach and stood on wet sand and padded it with your foot or hand rapidly you’ve seen this phenomena. The sand, seemingly solid and wet, will “liquefy” and the water will move to the top and turn the area you are padding into a liquid, muddy substance.

So why am I saying all of this. Is it to scare you? No. Jesus builds his house upon rocks-us (Matthew 16:13-20). But we are susceptible to damage just like any foundation. Sometimes the damage comes from slow, unseen places that we tend to ignore thinking they aren’t a “big deal” until the sum of them become a big deal. At other times disaster strikes and rocks our very foundation, shattering what we thought or expected from the world, family, friends, or God.  So why build a church on us? Do you have personal experience with disasters? Do you have experience with healing, rebuilding, and the love of Christ during and after such disasters? Who better to tell the Message than you; someone with personal experience on what the Message TRULY means. What hope and faith TRULY mean. Suffering and disaster are a result of a fallen world, and God, like everything else, can turn suffering and disaster on its head using it to reveal a reflection of who He is and what He is about. 

Psalm 63: 1-3

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the flood waters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

1 Corinthian 15:46-49

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lorde from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Information about liquifacation from the USGS. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/qmap/

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Distractions

I had these grand plans for a new painting that I wanted to do based on Genesis 3:17-19 and Matthew 13:18-23. When I was reading Genesis 3 the passage about the land being cursed seemed like good imagery paired with the parable of the farmer scattering seed. Just as we have to work the land to get a good harvest and eat so we also have to work the land of our heart to reap a good harvest of the Word. If we work our hearts and minds, prepare them to hear and take in the seeds of the Word, then our silos will be full. So I felt inspired to do four paintings; one of the seed scattered and eaten by the birds, one of the seed scattered on shallow soil, one of the seed choked by weeds, and one of the seed finding fertile ground and producing a harvest “..thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.” How easily my plan fell apart.

I never painted any one of those images. All I did were some sketches and one painting study on birds from Google images because I had never drawn or painted a bird before.  I got distracted. Satan came and “plucked” the Word away from me while I sat here on my computer playing video games. One such game,  I might add, frustrates me to no end sometimes. I’m not sure why I keep playing it and I definitely don’t like the person I become when I start “losing”. Words and sayings that would hurt your mother’s ears come bursting out of my mouth aimed right at the people on the other side of the game, sitting in front of their computer, kicking my butt. Who is this person saying these things I wonder? Why do I feel like I have to win in order to feel accomplished before I go to bed?

Sparrows.

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God’s Word fell on deaf ears and I let the sparrows come and snatch it away. The paintings are lost now, the inspiration gone. When I realized this I felt even worse. But God was tugging at me to write here. I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep playing a game and ignore my feelings of failure, inadequacy, and worthlessness. (That may seem melodramatic I know, but there are long paths to the origins of my struggles and feelings that I will not share, for now, here). But I came and I’m glad I’m here. Too often I don’t show up to till the soil of my heart. Having been here tonight I prepared the way for the Message to fall on my heart and take root. I was able to release my bad feelings and open up to forgiveness. I also  learned that I was putting painting before God. I made the Word about painting rather than making it about the heart. The reason I read the Bible shouldn’t be to paint it. That should be secondary. The reason I read the Bible is so that I can receive, plant, and harvest the Word. To do so I need to prepare myself to receive the Word. Sometimes, that’s as simple as showing up. Showing up to write, to church, to pray, to forgive, to reach out or allowing myself to be reached.

Do you have sparrows in your life? Is there something or some place you need to be or do to make the field of your heart ready for the Word, for Love?

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Matthew 13:3-9

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

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Matthew 13:18-23

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

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Genesis 1

Genesis 1:6-8

“Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”

Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 6

Change Is In the Air

First, some pictures to share for this week. With spring on it’s way, storms will be here soon. Two years ago in early spring a storm system came through the area that brought several tornados one of which touched down in Dexter and ruined quite a few homes. One of my wife’s photographer friends lost her home in this storm. I had just come home from work when the storm system was getting ready to push through and I went out behind my house to take some pictures of the approaching storm. I remember it was a very humid and very hot day for early spring, a sure indicator that things were going to get bad. Sure enough, a few minutes after I went into my home it started to rain and then the sirens went off. My family and I took shelter and made it through with no damage to our home even though there were tornados north and south of us in addition to the Dexter tornado that same day.

a blessing

A sign of hope that our neighborhood was going to be OK through the storm.

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The coming storm

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That’s a storm!

So thing two. I wanted to share this video that I saw at my church the other week because it gave me the direction I was searching for in my painting. The main take away I got from it was the merging of passions – painting and God. For a while now I’ve been searching for a direction and theme to my painting that just felt “right” the way photography does. I don’t want to say just yet what I’m working toward but I’m excited to start this new journey and I’ll definitely be sharing it here as I move forward.

Oh Deer

No photograph for the blog this week. Instead I’m sharing a painting I did over the last week and a half. No, this is not Bambi or a hunting scene. I painted this in Photoshop (CS6) using a Wacom Intous 5 tablet. The brushes I used were the chalk brush with opacity and flow jitter set to pen pressure, a hard round brush with size jitter set to pen pressure, and then I have some tree brushes that I used in areas of the foliage on the left and right as a primer. I then painted over top of that using a custom round brush I created using Shape Dynamics, Scattering, Dual Brush, and Transfer settings. I stuck with a very monochromatic color tone, obviously, focusing more on lighting to invoke mood than color. Though there are areas of some yellowish brown here and there. I feel as though I could have spent a bit more time adding some more details but overall I’m happy with it. Every time I paint I learn something new which is the goal. I’m still hoping that in a year I’ll be able to paint more regularly and with a greater range of themes and stronger mood. I’m still pretty “green” (ha, yes, pun intended) at painting and work better with photography but everyone has to start somewhere.

Thank you again for visiting.

Job 12: 7-11

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
  Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
   In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind.
   Does not the ear test words
    as the tongue tastes food?

forest and deer

Are you the deer or the painter

Message Without Words

I seem to be a man of contradictions. In my last blog post I talked about taking pictures because, for me, they are a form of worship. But then I started looking through more of my images and I asked myself “what about the side of a barn or a brick and mortar building is worshipping God?” It was a tough question. I thought back to when I took this image and tried to remember how I felt taking it. Why did I take it? What about it struck me as something “worth” photographing? Was it the lines? The architecture? The sky? What did I feel? The answers I came up with had nothing to do with worshipping God while in the act of actually taking the photograph.

Now, let me stop here and step back to the images of South Haven from my last post before I go on. When I stood out on the ice and took in the power of creation on a frozen Lake Michigan there was indeed worship in the act of taking the photograph. I was trying to capture a moment in time where God had put elements of nature together in such a way as to tailor a specific message that my heart picked up and understood; I am loved, God is here-listen and open your eyes Rico. Listen in the wind and you’ll hear my story. Open your eyes and you will see my footprint. That has been true many times when I’ve been out photographing beautiful landscapes; but not all.

Cities and buildings are landscapes too, and sometimes even natural landscapes can be a bit underwhelming simply because they are so common. For instance I live in a location where there are lots of farms. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of beautiful sunsets over fields, barns, and small woods. I’m kind of used to them. Are some more extraordinary than others? Sure. But because I see them so often not many have that same “wham!” affect as say Lake Michigan which I don’t see that often. So is there worship in those photographs? Yes. Was it there when I actually took the picture? No, not always. But let’s be real here. How often do you go to church on Sunday and leave feeling like a million bucks? I’m willing to bet you don’t feel that way 8 or even 7 out of 10 Sunday services. Or what about when you kiss your Love. Do you always feel sparks when you kiss? Ugh, no. But sometimes you do! And when you do it’s amazing. So no, I don’t get sparks or feel God’s presence or have a moment of uber peace every time I push the shutter button. “But Rico you said there is worship in this image, so where is it?”

I’ll tell you why I love this image so much and maybe that will shed some light where, for me, the worship was. I love this image because it’s real, but not real. It’s like a dream; soft, vibrant, warm, and memorable. It could be anywhere, but where it really is doesn’t really look like this. No, I didn’t Photoshop a barn, tree, or sky into this image. This is a real image with no cut/paste alterations but it doesn’t look this good in real life. Is that a bad thing? Not to me. I’m not a photojournalist. I don’t take photographs to necessarily journal a real, unaltered moment in time. I take photographs to share a message. The worship for me was in the editing to get that message out. I saw what could be said without words and did my best to convey that.

So, take a moment to look at the image and tell me what message you get. I know, that seems kind of egotistical of me to assume my image is going to move you or activate your cerebral cortex to the “aha” moment where you’ll actually reply to this blog post, but indulge me, please. Is it a beautiful image? Why? What does it remind you of? Is it calming? Is it inviting? Is it warm? Does it tell a story? What’s that message? And don’t feel that the message has to be about God just because I’ve been talking about worship.

As always, thank you for visiting.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

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