Creative Fires

In the last few days, tensions have built to almost unbearable levels in my city. In case you haven’t heard yet, Colorado Springs, CO, scenic outdoor paradise, is on fire and has been for six days. People have lost their homes even as firefighters desperately defend our city day and night. (We are safe, by the way). The air reeks of smoke and of fear. What can we do?

Living in Colorado, I’ve never tasted the fear and uncertainty that accompanies natural disasters. Along with this week’s fire in Colorado Springs has come a new compassion for the victims of Katrina, Japan’s tsunami, Ground Zero, and the countless other disasters worldwide. At this point, no one has died in the Waldo Canyon fires, and for that I am extremely grateful. Even so, it’s frightening and painful knowing that my parent’s home has likely burned to the ground, along many of my friends’ homes as well.

It’s easy to feel helpless, restless, and angry. I can’t fight fires. What could I possibly do to help?

Two days ago, a friend of mine and owner of a local design firm, sent out an email to a few designers and artists who live and work in Colorado Springs.

“Let’s make some t-shirt designs and give the profits to the relief efforts,” he said.

Everyone was in and “all-in” at that. We worked with feverish energy, fueled by those same feelings of restlessness and frustration. Our creativity burned as fierce as the fires outside. My friend Troy’s design said, “fight fire with fire.” We nodded somberly and kept working.

Within 24 hours, we had three shirt designs and a website. We had hoped we could sell maybe 200 shirts and raise $3000 (much more than any of us could have donated). The site went live the other day with eight shirt designs, and in the first hour sold 50 (my design is below). Last I heard we had made $50,000. I’m still astonished. (UPDATE: we have now raised over $120,000 $200, ooo $270,000.)

My wife Liz is pregnant. During a recent “nesting energy burst,” we rearranged our small house to make room for our little girl who’s on the way. But suddenly, with uncertainty hanging densely in the air, Liz found herself listless and on edge.  What could she possibly do except try to stay cool and out of the smoke? It was simply maddening.

“I need to process,” she said to me yesterday, getting up and grabbing her iPad. “I’m going to a coffee shop to write.”

“Alright,” I said, “try to stay cool and out of the smoke.” We kissed and she left.

Two hours later she returned with a beautiful piece of writing about the fire, about this place we love, and about fear and trust. She submitted it to the arts magazine The Curator, and this morning heard it would be published. (UPDATE: the article can be found here.)

We all have destructive energies inside us. We all have the potential to act out of fear or out of apathy. But there is a better way. We can choose to be creative. We can choose to walk in trust and faith. We can choose to trust in Jesus who was called “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.” Jesus who was called “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” We grieve as the land around us is turning to ashes, yet even so, scripture says that God creates “beauty from ashes.” He CREATES. And in the single greatest creative act in all history, Jesus turned a horrible and disgusting death into redemption, into freedom from guilt, shame and fear – for absolutely anyone who believes in him. That’s pretty creative.

I can see beauty from ashes. I can see this community coming together to help the helpless. I’ve read about teens buying toys to give to children in the shelters, children who have lost their own toys to the fires. My co-workers have made care packages for displaced employees, and they have donated to Care and Share. And these creative friends of mine have channeled their energies to help raise money with a few t-shirts. We are fighting fire with fire.

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On Beauty: “Sunset” Parable

I (Liz) just wrote a piece about watching a sunset that may help us to meditate on the beauty of our lives. This piece is also a part of a larger project that Jeremy and I are working on: we’re writing (and illustrating) a book of parables! But more on that later perhaps.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading this piece.

——————————————————————————————————————————————

I have been driving on the highway for some time before I notice the yellow glow behind the mountains. Once I see it, I cannot take my eyes from it. I steal glances from behind the wheel, and when the off-ramp turned my car East, I strain to see the colors in the rear-view mirror.

The clouds are streaked with yellows and purples when I pull into the driveway. I open the car door and hurry inside, where I find Jeremy at work in his studio.

“Babe,” I say, “You have to come with me. I want to show you something.” He wipes his hands on his pants and I grab his hands in mine.

“Quick!” I say. Jeremy lets go of my hands to slip on some sandals, and as soon as one of his hands is free, I hold it and take off, bringing us out the back door and into the yard, leaving the back door ajar.

“Look at the sky,” I say. “Do you see it just beyond the trees?”

“Ooo,” says Jeremy.

“Come on,” I say, “Let’s try to get a better view.”

We walk beyond our garden into the alley behind our house and out onto the nearest street corner. Now we can see that the sky has changed again, throwing pink, purple, and yellow clouds across the expanse before us.

We stop short, staring at the beauty that lies before us. Jeremy stands behind me, holding me with both arms. “Wow,” he finally says, slow and quiet. We stay still for several minutes watching the light change, as color fills up our eyes to overflowing.

Then Jeremy says, “I’ll be right back,” and he goes inside the house. He comes back two minutes later with folding chairs. We sit down to watch the finale.

Meanwhile, cars pass on the street. Several drivers wonder at us, staring and pointing, while others drive past without even noticing us.

“Strange that they don’t turn to see what we’re looking at,” I say to Jeremy.

The sky has now turned to an orange, the same color as the light from the street lamps that have begun to illuminate the neighborhood. Highlights of purples and pinks begin to fade behind the bulge of the Rocky Mountains.

I put my arm around Jeremy and his metal chair, and rest my head on his shoulder in the quiet.

“We don’t normally have sunsets like this, do we?” I say.

“Well, I don’t know. Usually we’re inside the house at this time of night,” says Jeremy.

I wonder how many sunsets we’ve missed over the past nine months living on our block. But just as I begin chiding myself, Jeremy begins to hum, and then to sing. It’s one of my favorites, and I find myself smiling, forgetting my thoughts. I listen and then join in at the chorus: “Let’s sing, let’s sing, for joy, for joy. Let’s sing, let’s sing, for joy, for joy…” The song ends, and we sit still.

Finally Jeremy says, “You ready to go back inside?” I look around and see that the sky has just  turned an ash grey. Night is on the horizon.

I sigh and say, “Let’s go,” and we carry our chairs in our arms and sing our way home.

A Love Story: Part 4

The human heart is a mystery. We don’t know truly how it works, how it changes, how our wills or feelings are moved. We just see the results in our actions and in others’ actions. No one can predict where it will go; it is like the wind. Moreover, we cannot determine or will that it move at a particular pace. All we can do is wait and watch for its movements.  Continue reading “A Love Story: Part 4”

A Love Story: Part 3

Every woman has a story in her head of how she’d like to be romanced. You, reading this, may happen to be the one woman in the whole world who doesn’t have a story like this in her head, in which case, shame on me for making sweeping generalizations. Maybe it’d be better to say that, at the very least, I always had a story in my head about how a man could fall in love with me. If any of the boys and men I was interested in had asked me what I wanted them to do, I could have easily mapped out a scenario for them that would fit the picture in my mind just perfectly.

However, there was a consistent story that I came back to, year after year, crush after crush. It went something like this:  Continue reading “A Love Story: Part 3”

A Love Story: Part 2

Who is this guy? Oh yeah, the man I fell in love with. 😉

This is the continuation of Jeremy and my love story. 🙂 I have through part 3 written, so there’s one more that I can easily transplant from my old blog to this one, and then after that, I have to start writing from scratch again so I can tell you the rest of the story! Here it is for your reading pleasure…

-Liz

– – – – –

Chad and his friends took me back to my car and told me that they’d had fun.

“We should hang out!” they said.

“How about you come to this bible study we go to?” Sure, I said. I wanted to make friends with some women, I told them—I didn’t want male friends.

“I’ll call you on Wednesday about it,” Chad said. “It’s at 7.”

“Okay,” I said, overjoyed that I had a social engagement on the calendar. I could wait five days to make more friends…but I’d be counting down the hours!

On Wednesday around 4PM, Chad called.

“Yeah, Liz, I don’t think I’m going to go today. But you should call this girl (insert phone number here) to get directions if you still want to go.” I hung up the phone and my eyes widened. This was a test—could I do it? Could I go even though I didn’t know anyone who’d be there? Continue reading “A Love Story: Part 2”

Digital Storytelling: “Joie de Vivre (Joy of Life)”

A couple of months ago, I (Liz) took a digital storytelling workshop through Digital Storytelling Asia, which is made up of Angeline Koh and Aurelia L. Castro, two women who love to tell stories! I really like digital storytelling as a medium because it is a unique way to tell a story visually. Basically there are three elements to digital storytelling: spoken words + visual images (video or photographs) + music and/or sound effects, and all of those components go into telling a compelling, personal, true story.

This was the result of the workshop for me. I created a story about my mother. I hope you enjoy it.

-Liz

Art in Love? What does that mean?

 

For us, Jeremy and Liz Grant, the phrase “art in love” has a lot of meaning. We’ll  go into more depth about each aspect of what it means in the posts we write, as well as what we hope this blog will be, but to begin with, “art in love” has to do with us.

Who are Jeremy and Liz Grant?

Excellent question, Watson.

We are a recently married artist couple– in fact, our marriage will be  two weeks old this Saturday.

Jeremy Grant dabbles in almost every visual artistic medium. His fortes are graphic design and found object art (check out his flickr page for more of both), but he enjoys photography, illustration, collage, interior design, handy man work extraordinaire, etc…

Liz Grant (or Elizabeth Charlotte Grant, as she’d like to be known professionally ;)) is a writer of creative non-fiction, the genre of such greats as Annie Dillard, E. B. White, and David Sedaris (check out Liz’s old website here). She loves visual art and even paints, designs, collages, and takes photographs from time to time, but just for fun. She sings to herself in the car, enjoys to cook creatively, and is thrilled to be remodeling and decorating a new house with Jeremy.

What is “art in love”?

Art in love is, first of all, about us, Jeremy and Liz.

We know that God has brought us together to love each other and to do art together. It’s hard to say what that will look like now, but we have high hopes for collaborative work in the future. We are madly in love with each other. We respect and admire each other’s art and vision for living. And we want to explore how we can be the best artists, lovers, and friends to and with one another.

(NB: Some of our first posts may be sharing our love story with you, so you won’t want to miss that :))

Second, art in love is about you.

We love our friends, our families, and our audiences. We have been filled up with thankfulness and love for each other and for our God, and we have found that one of the best ways to say “I love you” is the artistic life. When an artist is paying attention to the beauty of the people in her life, then she will be more and more eager to represent that beauty she sees and to give it as a gift to her audience. She will be more eager to love her friends and family because of the beauty she is looking to find in them. Liz, in particular, finds that she rejoices over the people in her life more when she is seeking to tell good and beautiful stories.

Third, art in love is about the beauty of this world.

It has been a trend in recent years (or should I say that past two artistic and cultural movements of modernism and post-modernism?) to devalue the world and this life. The temptation for the artist has been to disregard audience altogether and to create art simply for himself. It has also been to find nothing in the world and nothing in his life that is beautiful. It is a choosing to ignore the beauty that is inherent in living.

Yes, tragedy and sorrow are always with us. Yes, poverty and despair haunt our living. But our living is also accompanied with great joy, with great hope, with flowers and bees and cucumbers and yarn. We refuse a gift when we as artists, as people, turn our eyes away from the beauty of living and choose instead to focus on the sufferings of this life alone. That is simply untrue, and Jeremy and I desire our art to reflect the truth of living, with its hardships and beauties.

(I’m sure Jeremy will define what we mean by “beauty” and “art” in a later post)

And art in love is, most importantly, about God.

We love God and know that He has given us artistic gifts for the sole purpose of worshipping Him out of love and thankfulness. We love to be His and we want to tell Him so in any way we can, and the best way we know how is through artistic expression. When we are loving Him, we will love everyone and everything else well: we will love each other, we will love you, we will love this world.

So, I realize we aren’t beginning this blog with a light introduction, but we hope that our philosophy of art will draw you in.

We hope to post all sorts of things here:

We want to highlight artists that we love and talk about artists that we don’t love and why.

We want to point you to beauty at every turn.

We want to display some of our own art here to encourage you in the artistic life and to give you as a gift.

We want to allow other artist friends of ours to post on here as well– to hear their valuable thoughts on the arts and on living.

And we want this to be a discussion place for artists to be able to explore why art is so important and why we must do art on top of all the other necessities of living (such as grocery shopping, doing laundry, checking email, dusting table tops, and pulling up tenacious weeds–or maybe that’s just my week).

We love you.

Sincerely,

Liz (for Jeremy too)