Archive for May, 2012

May 31, 2012

Muse: Drawing Inspiration

It’s a vocab lesson this week, folks. ūüėČ

Muse v. to think about something in a deep and serious or dreamy and abstracted way; to say something in a thoughtful or questioning way; to gaze at somebody or something thoughtfully or abstractedly.

Muse n. someone who is a source of inspiration for an artist, especially a poet; the inspiration that supposedly visits, leaves, and suggests things to an artist, especially a poet; the particular gift or talent of an artist.

The concept of muse originates in Greek mythology.¬† The muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne: Calliope, muse of epic poetry; Clio, muse of history; Erato, muse of tragedy; Polyhymnia, muse of sacred poetry (yes, that’s where we get our word “hymn”); Terpsichore, muse of dance; Thalia, muse of comedy; and Urania, muse of astronomy. Clearly, muse has been associated with art from the beginning (or very close to the beginning). Through the ages, it has come to be known as an artist’s inspiration, and now holds connotations of deep thought, meditation, and reflection.

Muse is what we as artists are dwelling on as we create.  Muse can take the form of another artist, a piece of art, a lover or love affair, a life circumstance, or any combination of these.  Muse can be ever-changing or perpetually-constant.  Regardless of the form it takes, muse represents the deep connection on the part of the artist to who or what is being thought about.

Muse is personal, perhaps even private to some.  You can see the product of muse and the artist in the art, but you may never know what is behind the art.

Many times the¬†muse relationship¬†fluctuates through auras of painful and joyful. I can think of about twenty break-up songs that illustrate the painful side of muse: a relationship that once caused happiness has been shattered, and the artist draws from that experience.¬†Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know is in between on the muse front:¬†it’s good that the¬†romantic relationship is over, but when the friendship and civility disappear, it’s painful.¬†In sheer joy, a poet can exclaim, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45). In Psalm 45, dwelling on God inspires art of praise. Muse can dictate the outcome of art.

Artists should be inspired by the pain and joy in their relationships and circumstances. The art this produces resonates with art-observers. But if the fluctuations of life are all there is to our art, I am afraid it will be detrimental to us as artists. Think about it: if I look only to myself and my experiences, what happens when there is nothing left to draw from? What if my art only ever reflects my feelings and my circumstances? Emptiness is the product of self-centered and victimized (others-centered, circumstance-centered) muse. (Trust me).

I write poetry (although I would not call myself a poet). When I was around fifteen or sixteen, I wrote a poem called Journey to Nowhere.¬† It reflects much of the emptiness and nothingness I felt at the time. I was pretty much numb to life. My muse was nothing tangible, just an enemy I’d wrestled with (and still wrestle with sometimes) – but an enemy I’d kept close. That was undoubtedly one of the darkest periods of my life.¬†¬†I’ve never shared¬†the poem¬†with anyone, and I’m not planning on sharing it now, but I do keep it around.

I was lacking something when my art was dictated only by feelings, circumstances, relationships. I had no personal relationship with God or His Son Jesus, and had wrong conceptions of Him. My God-view affects my world-view and art-view, and believe me, how you view God also affects you and your art. 

I recently wrote another poem. (I should qualify that I have written many poems during the interim). It’s about how I view myself, and God’s answers to my views – how He views me. It stems from things God has been growing me in since the beginning of my senior year in college. It deals with painful things, it asks hard questions. While I still have an imperfect view of God, dwelling on Him and how He sees me based on His Word, sets this poem volumes apart from Journey to Nowhere.

When writing it, I was not necessarily dwelling on my feelings, circumstances, and relationships, but I acknowledged them. They’re important. More important, however, is what God has done and is doing through these feelings, circumstances, and relationships. In order for my art to have right perspective, He has to come first in the muse process.

So my challenge is to artists. Will you think about what you’re thinking about when creating art this week? I mean, seriously engage. What is it that’s fueling your creativity?

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is also a prolific writer and the facilitator of FortyOne20 Ministries. She desires to see artists come to know Jesus and be as artists committed to knowing Jesus and making Him known through art.

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May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Honoring God

The questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past several months are these: Can art be God-glorifying without expressly mentioning God? Can an artist glorify God in a secular art-producing environment without expressly mentioning God?¬†Can art and artists unintentionally glorify God?

Sherwood Pictures, division of Sherwood Baptist Church. You’ve probably heard of them at some point, and if you haven’t heard of them you’ve probably heard of their movies: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous. However you may feel about them, if you’ve seen any of their films you cannot deny that they clearly show Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth,¬† and the Life. They show Him as the One who heals and makes right.¬† Their films are obviously, expressly, intentionally God-glorifying.

I’m thinking about some of my favorite movies: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Little Women, Stardust, Anne of Green Gables, The Sound of Music, and I could probably go on for days. Some of them I like for their stories and some I like for overall art direction. Thematically, these movies present good and evil,¬†love and hatred, lust and fear, positive femininity, growth, and (for the most part) wholesome humor.¬†None of these movies mention God, unless its in a generic way. Certainly they don’t portray Jesus and being the Way, the Truth and the Life.¬† In fact, some of them draw from other philosophies. And yet, I would say all of them are good movies, even excellent movies.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when a movie is composed in excellence, that is it follows or intentionally manipulates the rules of film theory, is thought out and thought-provoking, it can still be God-glorifying. I feel like that just has to be one of those God things that will completely blow my mind if I think about it to hard. I do accept it, though.

Similarly, I think believing artists who go into “non-sacred” art can also glorify God – in the way they conduct themselves and¬†in the way they produce art.

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Excellence is an emerging topic on this blog. It’s been an emerging topic in my life.¬† Excellence in the movies we observe is just a starter topic. In the coming weeks and months we will be hearing from various artists on excellence in literature, photography, and music, as well as art in the local church. We are excited to share it all with you!

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television,  and Film.  She is passionate about reaching artists with the good news of Jesus Christ. She is also incredibly thankful for the artists who have stepped up to the plate to help in this ministry. You are all a HUGE blessing!

May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Moral Excellence

Not many people like Hollywood. Conservative Christians don’t like Hollywood. Liberal Christians don’t like Hollywood. Film critics and theorists don’t like Hollywood. Film scholars don’t like Hollywood. Independent film-makers don’t like Hollywood. Film-makers from other countries and cultures don’t like Hollywood. I don’t like Hollywood. (Did I just make a bunch of¬†generalizing statements? Yes).

Hollywood is one big, fat movie-making corporation. They are able to knockout movies faster than you can blink an eye because they recycle stories, characters, and production processes for greater profits. For this reason, the films they produce are generally not thought out nor thought-provoking. Hollywood movies are far removed from moral excellence. (I am just full of generalizing statements today).

I should probably stop now, before somebody gets the impression that I don’t watch or even enjoy¬†Hollywood movies.

I am a girl. I like a good romantic comedy – applying the term “good” very loosely. Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl and girl falls for boy, some circumstance threatens to rip them apart, boy and girl get together anyway. ¬†My¬†favorite romantic comedies are probably¬†Katherine Heigl movies – yeah, she gets her own subcategory. Bad boy meets uptight good¬†girl, both seem to hate each other at first, both realize they are in love with each other (usually in a dancing scene of some sort), a circumstance threatens to rip them apart, they end up together (usually after yelling about all the things they hate about each other).

I don’t know why I like this particular plotline so much. I guess it resonates with my personal history. (Not that my personal history has¬†turned out the way a Katherine Heigl movie does, nor do I want it to, but I digress). I really kind of hate that the good (but uptight) girl must be loosened up by a bad boy. Along the way, she reforms him from a commitment-phobe to a semi-nice guy.¬† It’s a really bad model of relationships.¬† (A really, really bad model of relationships). Not to go all Dr. Lydia on everyone but¬†a good relationship is not about reforming the other person, but in helping the other person become who God wants them to be (and that doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships).

Just so you know, this whole deal about movies – I’m not exactly¬†trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t watch. That is most definitely between you and God. I’m just saying that we need to be critical consumers of movies: that is, we think about and analyze what we are consuming. What do these movies say about society? Cultural issues? How do these movies affect the way I see things, if at all?

Most importantly, and to be continued…

What do movies say about God?

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is passionate about reaching artists for Jesus Christ!

May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Following the Rules

I know, I know.¬† When you think of the word “composition” your mind probably goes to an essay or a piece of music.¬† Because of my film theory background, however, my mind goes to the rules of composition applied when making or analyzing a film for its goodness or badness.

Last weekend, Kathryn and I were watching a movie of her choosing. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie consisted of multiple bombings and fist fights between lots of different characters who all had some mysterious (but deep) connection. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what the story was. Kathryn insisted that I should just ride it out, saying that it would all come together eventually, and that it really was a great movie. (Uh-huh). I responded that if a movie’s story hadn’t emerged within the first ten to fifteen minutes, it probably never would, and therefore it couldn’t be a great movie. (I should mention that the last time I waited for a movie’s story to begin was when I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I know that as a film major I am not supposed to knock this fine specimen of film-making history, but that was several hours of my life I will never get back … simply waiting for the story to start). Kathryn berated my taste in movies, saying I couldn’t possibly¬†know a good movie in the first ten to fifteen minutes. After some debate on the topic, I watched The Sound of Music and she went to bed.

How is it that my sister and I, who were virtually raised the same way (she is the baby, so some concessions must be made) and come from the same background, have such different opinions on what a good movie is? At the risk of sounding a bit elitist here (but believe me, that’s not my intent), the biggest difference in how we determine what makes a good movie stems from the fact that I studied film theory for two years. I know the rules that a good film-maker follows. (One of the rules is that you have to set up the story and characters within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie).¬†¬†I also know that you can’t just break the rules to break the rules – you must have a reason for breaking the rules, and that reason must be related to the story or point you are trying to get across.

This has nothing to do with my degree, this has to do with me studying and understanding an art form I am passionate about. In order to create excellent art the artist either must follow or purposefully manipulate the rules of his or her chosen art form. In order to follow or purposefully manipulate the rules, the artist must first know those rules inside and out.

One¬†movie that exemplifies manipulation of the rules for visual intent is The King’s Speech, based on the true story of King George VI and how he perseveres through a speech impediment. When you listen to the actual tapes of the fictionalized speech at the end of the movie, it is incredibly hard to listen to because of the stammering and stumbling. The task the film-maker must have had was, “How do we translate this discomfort visually?”¬†

As I said earlier, in film-making we have rules and¬†a lot of these rules dictate how a shot should be framed. When framing a person, the shot must observe proper headroom and leadroom. And then there is the rule of thirds: objects should be framed on one of the two horizontal lines or at one of the four points of intersection. You may be reading this and have NO idea what I’m talking about, but I promise you if I showed you a movie where these rules are not followed, you would notice. We were created to observe art a certain way, and so when something isn’t right with a shot, our eyes tell our brains. (That of course, is the non-scientific explanation). It causes us discomfort.

So we have a movie where we are visually trying to portray the awkwardness the character is going through. How do we do that? Awkward shot composition. In many situations the film-maker breaks leadroom  and headroom rules to give the viewer a sense of awkwardness.

Speech therapist should be to the left and back some, if our film-makers weren’t trying to get a visual message across.

So I suppose the movie Kathryn and I started watching this past weekend could have had some reason for taking longer in setting up its plot and characters. I just wasn’t going to stick with it to find out.

To be continued…

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is passionate about reaching artists with the good news of Jesus Christ. (Also, she has been wanting to analyze The King’s Speech for a very long time because it was the first movie she watched where manipulating the rules really “clicked”).

May 18, 2012

Integrity

“Lord, I know this is going to hurt, and so I hesitate to ask it – but Lord, I ask that You will make me an artist of deep character and high integrity for the cause of Christ.”

And from this prayer, along with many other things, FortyOne20 Ministries was born.¬† Asking for integrity is like asking for patience: God is going to put you in situations where you are tested and grown. I asked anyway, and whenever I will catch myself in a situation that’s particularly challenging and asking why, God? Why?, God points me back to this prayer. This is exactly what you asked for.¬†Humph.

Integrity.¬† It’s a loaded word. Most people have heard of it at one time or another, but very few¬†people have a clear concept of it. Webster’s defines integrity as “uprightness, soundness of character, moral wholeness; the condition,¬†quality or state of being complete or undivided.” When I worked¬†as a cashier, the company explained that integrity is being who you are whether or not someone is watching.¬† That may be stating it simplistically, but it’s to the point: hypocrisy cannot exist with integrity. Pretense destroys integrity.

When I think of a person without integrity, I think of the storefront facades in old wester towns: ornate and elaborate on one side,¬†but not¬†much of anything¬†on the other. They appear to have great character, but it’s all an act.

Integrity is a struggle for me as an artist. (I can’t say whether it’s a struggle for all artists, but I’m betting there are¬†at least a few others like me, so I’m going to share it anyway). You see, I want to be liked.¬† I¬†want my art to be liked.

When I am making a movie, writing a poem or story, or singing, the end result is the overflow of my heart. I literally put myself into what I create. When it comes time to share my art¬†with other people, I am¬†putting pieces of myself “out there.” So every time I sit down and create, I make a choice: I can either put myself¬†“out there” the way I want to be seen (or the way I¬†think people want to see me) or I can put myself “out there” the way¬†I actually am.

Can I be honest for a minute? The way I actually am is not usually pretty.¬† Until about a week ago, I had kept¬†up a¬†personal blog for about three years. It was mostly my thoughts in response to a trial I was going through at the time. Anybody who read it can tell you that there were days when it was encouraging and uplifting, but there were also days when it was hurt, sad and angry. It wasn’t¬†an outlet, wasn’t even¬†me processing, it was just me.¬† About a year ago, the tone of my blog changed because I suddenly felt like some people didn’t like the real me. So the real¬†Lydia took a blogging vacation, and happy/joyful/positive/fine-just-fine Lydia started¬†writing. My readers may not have noticed, but I sure did. Suddenly, there was immense pressure to perform. I had let go of my integrity.

Before graduation last summer, I remember crying out to God in pain Рmany times. I remember the day I had a breakthrough. Very clearly, I felt the Holy Spirit convict me: Why are you deriving your worth from what people think and say about you? Why do you need their affirmation? Let Me affirm you.

And I began to slowly to tear down some of the walls I had built.  I think it had been going well Рnot too easy, not to hard (haha) Рwhen I asked God to make me an artist of high integrity. (What was I thinking???) As a result, the old struggle of performance over reality especially in creating art has popped up again.

I want me art to be God-honoring and excellent, but I also want it to be honest. I don’t really have a solution, but I do believe it is possible to create God-glorifying, excellent and honest art. God is¬†still teaching me how. I think¬†I need to begin¬†with honesty – being real before God and others – and pursue excellence¬†from there. But it’s a journey.

“The integrity of the upright will guide them…”

Proverbs 11:3

No challenge with this one, folks. Just think about it…¬†ūüôā

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television and Film.  She is passionate about reaching artists for Jesus Christ.