Shrouded in the shadow of Terrace and the Immaculate Conception Chapel is a building that is often overlooked. It is a small little hall filled with the most exquisite assortment of randomness. Skulls from every kind of animal decorate the room. Toys from a generation ago are cherished on shelves and tables. The hall is filled with art supplies ready at one’s disposal. One needs only enter and give it a shot. This hall is none other than the Barrett Hall, the home of many art students, art classes, and specifically the Drawing 1 class that I took last semester.
My experiences of art at the Mount have been few and far between. Although the core had some extensive studies of art, there is nothing like getting your hands on art of your own to truly experience what it means to create something beautiful. I had some previous experience with drawing before, but beyond that I had minimal skills and promise. I knew drawing was therapeutic for some, but I saw it as a class first and foremost and didn’t think I would gain any deeper insight from the course. My semester was stressful; in January I was already thinking about the semester-long computer science senior project I would be working on. I wasn’t very interested in actively pursuing the fruits of a drawing class.
At first, it didn’t seem to be much beyond the standard. We drew some random objects, listened to music, and mostly it just felt like a time to blow off some steam. However, it quickly became more. We started to create work that was bigger than some of us had ever dreamed of making. The first major project we had was to draw a still life of a bunch of objects. It took me over 10 hours to complete. It was a grueling process, and I didn’t think I had the patience to persevere. In the realm of computer science, I was also persevering through my senior project. The hours I spent each week on it were brutal, but I saw similarities in my suffering between the two. Although it is difficult to create something of your own or make something of yourself, you must not give up. Perseverance was one of the first lessons I learned while drawing. Although I gained a greater confidence in my own perseverance, I know that ultimately, I couldn’t have done anything on my own. I remain nothing without the Lord and His help in my life.
Drawing 1 has also given me great friendships. My heart is playful, but often suppressed by the rigorous coursework and monotonous class time. Drawing 1, to my surprise, beat at a different pace. There is room during class time to converse, constructively critique, and admire each other’s art. This was a wonderful change of pace and a friendly reminder of the dignity of others. We can often forget how we can affect the people around us. For the past couple years, it seems the world has forgotten what it means to be friendly and care for one another. The world has grown cold to even the easiest forms of love. We have even lost the ability to love ourselves, becoming lost in a cold world. It is important to care for others and allow others to care for you. Fortunately, we have a God that cares immensely for us beyond our comprehension. He pours His love into our hearts so that we may dwell in and share that love with others. Drawing 1 has been a place where I can share the love and light I know with others. It has been a place where others have touched my heart in ways that I didn’t imagine would happen in a classroom.
One of the most important virtues I have been contemplating in Drawing 1 has been silence and stillness in my life. Students walk around campus every day with headphones in. We subject ourselves to so much input from the world that it has made us averse to silence. Our senses are so deaf that we cannot stand a pause in the barrage of mindless stimulation we experience. We are not able to receive the beauty of silence. We are not able to be still and listen in a world of motion and disequilibrium. At the beginning of the semester, our class had music playing while we worked on our projects, but as the semester went on the music started to fade from our classes. Although the chatter and conversation continued most days, there were some moments in class where it was completely silent. It wasn’t a forced silence or a lull in the conversation, but it was a necessary pause. It was a moment for us to receive the power of silence and remain still enough to have our hearts completely opened to the beauty of this world. The beauty that was and is created by none other than the gentle, commanding, loving hands of the Father.
Art often imitates the world around us. Art allows us to participate partially in the divine song of creation. Art is not easy. It can come easy, but more often than not it is hard. Some days I didn’t want to draw. Sometimes I was so tired and strained I could barely keep my eyes open when I had to finish a project. Yet, the suffering that I endured matters in the same way that suffering in any facet of life matters. It matters when we unite ourselves to Christ. Art can show us that our suffering can be turned into something beautiful. It can lead us to aligning our will to the will of the Creator. Our hearts can become still when we see creation, whether we are looking at a beautiful landscape or a piece of art. In that stillness, we may rest in His arms.
It isn’t often you experience the bliss of a child at the collegiate level of education. Drawing 1 has lifted my heart, silenced the chaos, slowed me down, and allowed me to enjoy life. I have learned to take life less seriously at times, and to trust in the Lord as a child does. Life is hard, and those that are older than us often tell us it only gets harder. Not only should one try and cherish their childhood while they have it, but they should bring that childlike bliss to others. This world we live in is too serious. Does our Father in Heaven not often call to us, His children, to come, play, and rest in His arms? How could we refuse such an offer? It is because we have lost our childlikeness. This is not to say the world’s problems aren’t real and that life is a breeze when you go through life as a child. The weight of the world’s problems is real, and it is often a heavy burden for us, whether personal, familial, or global. However, it is those of us that trust in the Father truly as His children, and remain in that childlike state that know that His love remains beyond all things of this earth.