Paint a Community: Lessons Learned from Scott Erickson

Crumbling buildings crowded with graffiti passed by as he stared out the window. Ever thickening layers of paint cracked to reveal bits of history. Inspiration often comes unexpectedly. For Scott Erickson, it came when he saw a some graffiti out the window on a public transit ride in Argentina.

Liz and I recently purchased a collaborative project called Feedback. It is centered on The Lord’s Prayer, the famous prayer Jesus taught his disciples. There are nine lines in the prayer. Derek Webb aspired to create a project to capture the beauty of this prayer. He wrote nine abstract songs and then conscripted a painter, Scott Erickson, and a photographer, Jeremy Cowart, to create nine abstract paintings and nine photographs also based on the Lord’s prayer and Webb’s musical interpretation of the prayer. There are no literal works in Feedback: the songs have no words, the photographs and paintings are abstract.

I’ve heard this project described as “a soundtrack to prayer.” Using description as  directive, Liz and I took an afternoon and listened to the cd, studying the corresponding paintings and photos to guide us in meditation on each line of the prayer. Our experience was positive and the time felt prayer-full. The project is well done, perhaps not mind-blowingly so, but engaging enough that I’ve returned to it a few times since my initial interaction.

In particular, I have returned to the abstract paintings of Scott Erickson. They are hands-down my favorite part of this project. When I did a quick google search on Erickson I found that he is not primarily an abstract painter; this surprised me.

Scott’s primary art form is live painting! He paints as a part of church services, responding to the message and the community. Scott’s art is directly at the service of his community. Fascinating. Now some of these paintings are very good and I’ve posted a few above, but none of them moved me quite the same way the Feedback series did.

“Four of these are great. Five need to be re-worked.” Those were the words Scott Erickson heard when he thought he had completed his nine paintings for the Feedback project. Ouch! Take a few minutes and watch this video in which Scott talks about his process and the few key moments that brought his art from good to great.

The Making of the “Feedback” Paintings from scott erickson on Vimeo.

Because Scott is heavily involved in community, because he paints FOR REAL PEOPLE, because his art is focused on giving rather than taking: he was able to accept some extremely difficult advice.

Scott had cultivated a teachable spirit. He was able to accept the hard truth that took his art from good to galleries.

He was able to find inspiration in totally different cultures in a different art forms, namely graffiti, and use it to communicate an important idea. I am learning from Scott, and taking notes.

Thank you Scott. We love this series.

-Jeremy

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“For me, the layers of these paintings represent the history of the Lord’s prayer itself. Just as we continue to build up and layer over the foundations of our society, so has the journey of entering into the prayer of God. It’s written throughout our history. Though it may at times seem covered up, it’s still amidst all the glitter and decay… speaking to us, telling us about something ancient yet resonating with our life today. The graffiti is less about words (although there are meanings to all of them) and more about the emotions and textures we find throughout our modern society. Just as we see traces of creative life throughout our cities, so too we see symbols and signs of the Lord’s prayer throughout our world. To me the music and the images forged together in this project are a modern urban meditation on an ancient contemplative pathway to the Almighty.”

-Scott Erickson, Painter

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