It’s an incredible experience to watch a master at work. Someone who truly knows what they’re doing.
Especially when I realize how often I question if I know what I’m doing.
Having recently taken a turn at painting, when my sisters and I had the chance to see true artists at work, we grabbed it. We were in Santa Rosa, and my friend, Alice, mentioned that her son, Father Moses, was working on painting the inner walls of St. Seraphim Orthodox Church. He and his mentor, Father Patrick, were producing beautiful icons and scenes that covered the interior of the church. These two orthodox monks are iconographers. Father Patrick had trained all over Europe, and he was teaching Father Moses the finer points of iconography.
They graciously took the time to show us around and explain what they did and how they did it. These are frescoes, painted on wet plaster, which is an art in itself. Every region has to come up with a plaster that will work for that climate, that place. And it’s work that must be done quickly, while the plaster is in a damp state.
Including the dome. 40 feet above the floor.
We climbed to that dome. My sisters are both a little weak-kneed when it comes to heights.
Who am I kidding? They were scared. Getting up wasn’t tough, but coming down that scaffolding was a bear.
(That’s not one of my fears. I’m still hoping to go sky diving some day soon. While I’m still upright.)
This is not something that Father Moses and Father Patrick are slapping on the walls. It’s tiring work. They often work through the night, to plaster at the right time, to paint when the plaster is just right. The precision of their work, down to studying paintings of the saints through the ages, takes time and planning.
These two men meticulously plot how each of the scenes and figures will fit into the spaces they have to fill. They draw sketches to get placement down right. Deciding what and who will go where.
And when the painting begins, it is done with complete and total focus. To the end. Finishing well.
Not that I’ll ever be a painter. Or an architect. Or a dome climber.
But I’m a work in progress. I have a lifetime to fill with experiences, learning, growing. Every day is like a blank wall to be painted on.
Sometimes the days feel sketchy. Like I’m not getting it. Sometimes they feel overwhelming. Like looking up at the dome and not grasping how it could be finished well.
But God knows I’m not finished yet. He’s not done with me. He’s worked to put me in places I need to be.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6
We’re all works in progress. Rough spots abound that will be molded and smoothed by time and trials.
But if we allow ourselves to be fashioned by the hand of the Master, He will make us lasting works of art.
That’s my kind of art project.