So What Do I Do?

If you're reading this you have somehow stumbled upon my blog through a Facebook post, Twitter tweet, Instagram photo, Mama Carmen's gallery, or through my mom. 

You might know me as a charcoal portrait artist through the different non-profit fundraisers I've made pieces for or the art galleries that I've been represented by. A digital illustrator through my Instagram posts. Or a live painter from seeing me paint at conferences , weddings, New Heights Church, and Mama Carmen's.

That doesn't include the travel and wedding photography that I've done, and the graphic design day job that I have at a t-shirt company. 

It's sometimes hard for me to explain what I do when people ask me, "So, what do you do?" Well, I do lots of things, but I would say I'm a visual artist. I create visual images that have a story behind them. The kind of work that I do is either work that I make to share something that is meaningful to me or sharing someone else's story.

I wanted to write this blog post to process all of these creative rolls and what direction I need to focus on. Lately I have been realizing that I have been spreading myself very thin with all of my different passions.  I feel like I am able to keep up with these different passions but they are just "good" and not "great". That means I will have to say "no" to taking pictures for a friend's wedding, or doing that logo for this new startup company, etc. 

Two of the things that I want to keep doing is Live Painting, Charcoal drawings, and digital illustrations. 

 

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In Unity - Live Painting

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Charles - Charcoal Drawing

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Open Door - Digital Illustration

 

My main focus right now is to let people know and understand "What" I do before of the "Why". I will be writing another post on why I make all of this art and the meaning I believe it has. 

Since I've helped start this art gallery/music venue at Mama Carmen's, I am finding it difficult to hone in on one or two "Whats" so people can later understand "Why" I am making all this art. I want people to be able to hold on to something and believe in. To not be thrown into a box, but to not confuse people and help stories be told in a clear light. Not that many people will want to support a cause without seeing a clear need or find value in it.

What do you think I can do to explain what I do better? What do you think makes the most impact? I'd really like to know because I don't know at this point in my art career. 

I Forgive

When I'm preparing to do a painting sometimes I don't know what I am going to do until it's crunch time. Well, last night was crunch time for me. I have had many things going on and Sunday service was one of those things. We already had a few lunch meetings prior to this service. Some of the things we discussed was the process of forgiveness and what does it look like visually. How can we help encourage people to forgive the acts that others have done against them or their loved ones. What can we do as a church body help move people in the right direction? Forgiveness, for me, is a repetitive act. Something that I choose to do. Some days its easy for me to forgive and others its almost impossible to not want to smash someones face in. I am the type of person that will take the punches for as long as I can until I feel like an erupting volcano.

I started by priming the canvas black because I wanted to be able to write white words on the canvas. As I was in my garage at around 12am I was hit with the thought of doing a dialogue with God on the canvas. It's o.k. to ask questions to God, but when we let those unanswered questions the reason we don't forgive it creates a bitterness that pushes us away from the love that Christ offers on the cross. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We love because he first loved us. The chains of bitterness is what holds us back from ever having freedom from our past. The people that have hurt us, rejected us, taken advantage of us, aren't the ones that are holding us back from having a loving relationship with Jesus. It is ourselves. The enemy can't make us suffer for eternity. Now, I can't even begin to relate to what some of you have had to endure and the suffering that you have been through. But that is why Christ came as a man to suffer the ultimate price to make a way through this dark mess of a world. 

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As I got up on stage I felt heavy and was praying that the Holy Spirit would break the chains of bitterness today. I think that happened. I began painting words such as, "Why Me?" "I will never let go." "How could you do that?" "You owe me." And painted chains next to them. I then began the process of making the choice of forgiveness. I painted white over the questions that we hold on to and flipped the canvas to write out over and over different things that we have to forgive. Our parents, our brothers and sisters, our teachers, our coaches, the church, our enemies, or coworkers, our wives, our husbands, etc. this is what leads us to waking up each day and saying, "I Forgive." 

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It was an interesting process for me because I just used one canvas for both services. I painted over the original words of forgiveness in an act for myself to come back to those things and forgive them over and over and over again. They only lasted for minutes and again I had to do it all over again. Just as I will have to do tomorrow and the next day.

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If you are reading this and you haven't forgiven something or someone I hope that you ask God to help you forgive. "I believe, help my unbelief." "Teach me to pray for I don't know how to pray." We have to constantly reach out and ask for the strength to forgive. We have to make that choice. If you ever want to talk about something I am open to messages. I am no professional or coun elder but I hope that this image and the thought behind it can help you with unforgiveness.

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Taking Stage

So it happened. We started creating art and music live at Mama Carmen's last night for the first time. My nerves were jittery and I was excited to just make something. So happy to be next to my friends TJ and Taylor. "We're doing it man." As we said to each other before TJ started playing. I listened to one song to just see how it was to be in the audience and then took stage to make a piece about walking through mountains and what leads us through them. A woman is on this path and there is a red ribbon wrapped around her that leads through the door and up and around the mountain. Attached to the ribbon are keys symbolizing that the blood of Christ opens doors through things that seem like mountains in our life. He is the gateway to life and we are called to follow him and walk with him. He is tightly wrapped around us and guides us through things that we can't imagine doing. I'm not the one to say that all things here on earth are possible, but eternal life that is forever lasting, far beyond the things of this earth is what we are given through Jesus.

Follow the red thread. It is the key to life.

We might feel like we are walking on an invisible path but he is the one who creates the bricks to walk on. I'll be honest, I don't always walk away from live paintings being very pleased with the painting itself, but try to see the message behind it. That's what I want to hone on the most, the story. Our story and how we fit into the painting. As an artist it's hard to explain what I want to say and only have an hour to express my message brings a lot of pressure and challenge. I am trying to embrace that challenge. To make a different in my community with my art and to do that with others around me. Having TJ doing this along side of me brings me so much peace knowing that I am not alone in this journey. God has placed people around me to help me where I am weak and together we are on this path with bricks being placed along the way. I hope that whoever reads this will see my passion in doing live art and I hope that you join the storytelling with us. We have big goals and dreams and we want to reach out to them every week when we get up on that stage. But our biggest goal and hope is to be with Christ and bring as many people as we can with us. If you weren't able to come out to the first Live Art music session we will be doing it weekly on Thursday or Friday nights. You can sign up to my newsletter to get updates and showing times. Thanks for spending the time to listen and read my thoughts. Here is a video from the show! We're doing it!

The Balancing Act

So I've been doing a lot lately. Working a full time job as a graphic designer at a screen print/tshirt company, painting at weddings and church, doing freelance design work, investing in pro-bono projects, speaking and showing my work at fundraisers, shooting pictures at weddings, painting a 30ft. mural, and preparing myself to start an art gallery at a coffee shop. Now I haven't been doing all of these things at once, but it has definitely felt that way. My mind dreams about so much that it's hard to focus on the now and what's in front of me. I've been learning to start saying yes to the greater things, not just good things. As I move forward into putting my work more in the spot light at this new art gallery (it will be at Mama Carmen's by the way) I will need to figure out how to not bite more than I can chew. I'm expecting to start painting live on Friday evenings and my friend will be playing music with me. I will need to plan out ahead of time of what work to put up on the walls and have it all scheduled out. That way I won't be stressing out as much week to week. I want to find a balance of doing what I'm best at really well and keep things simple. I realize that I am not going to be able to do all of the things I pointed out at the beginning of this post. I want sustainability and I want balance. I want to connect with people and have an influence on my community and not let me talents go to waste. I want to love my creator and the people around me. I don't want to do too much and get burnt out. I don't want to get caught up in my work and forget the purpose of why I am creating it. I don't want to forget what is most important in life. 

Forgotten Song's Gala Event

I want to invite you to come and hear stories at Forgotten Song's Gala Event this Thursday, December 4th at the Fayetteville Town Center from 6:30 - 9pm.

I will have pictures of some amazing people I met in Uganda this past May. There are some amazing stories of redemption and hope that I want to share with you. 

I hope to see you there!

You can get tickets here: https://forgottensong.webconnex.com/galatickets 

 

You are more than what you do.

It has been a struggle for me recently to really take the time to enjoy God and take a step back from all of the things I have been doing. Although it is a blessing to be able to have work, it's easy to let it be a distraction to what matters most. I have found that being in this busy head space has brought a lot more worry and anxiety into my life. I know that isn't healthy for me or those close by. I am thankful for community that reminds me there are seasons in life where you don't always have control over the external activities, and yet making internal space for God amidst the busyness is so important. You are more than what you do. I am loved by my creator and I realize that I have been given gifts to serve him, but I must also know Jesus. If you aren't finding spiritual rest like myself, then maybe writing this not only help remind me but spur you to be proactive in finding time in God's word and in prayer. Love you all, and thanks for loving me.

Sam

Scraping Away The Dirt On Ourselves And Others

We have to be willing to sit in the dirt with others and not give up at the tip of the surface. That is where the beauty is and freedom is found.

Imagine walking along and you see something that is jetting out of the ground. It is subtle and you could have easily missed it. It is dirty and blends in with the surroundings. Here you have a choice. Do you continue on or do you examine what it is? This is going to take getting dirty. Sitting in the dirt and scraping away the layers. Do you have time for that? Is that something you really want to do? But when you do actually get in the dirt and take the time to really dig and discover then you end of finding something that is so beautiful. You discover that it is not just a dirty edge of a rock but a giant geode. Full of color and bright. Complicated and stunning. 

No body does anything for no reason. We are always expressing ourselves even when we are trying not to.

I have found that people are that way. Everybody walks around carrying different things. Things that you could not tell from the surface. Whether they are things from their past or situations they are currently in. The surface may be so dirty or so uninteresting that they are overlooked. Someone's outward behavior may even be offensive or repulsive. And out of our own fear or lack of understanding we walk away before we truly understand. We give up too soon. I wonder how often I have missed out on someone because I did not understand or take the time to do so. 

No body does anything for no reason. We are always expressing ourselves even when we are trying not to. We all have our motivations whether they stem from fear or hurt or even self protection. All of our experiences affect the way we see the world and how we interpret the messages around us. We cake layer upon layer to cope and to hide and to not be seen. And it takes time to even understand why we do what we do. 

To understand people we need to take time. Lots of time. Time to sit with them and truly understand where they are coming from and why they do what they do. And I am confident that under every layer of dust and grime there is a treasure. Something beautiful and complex that has been hidden over time. If we stop at the surface we will miss out on the beauty. 

But first we have to be willing to dig within ourselves. To uncover the lies we have believed. To get past the coping mechanisms we have adopted. To understand our own griefs and wounds. To dive into our own pain because that is where healing begins. This is not an easy task and requires dedication and bravery. And yet someone who understands their pain will not be afraid to work along side others as they face their own pain. We have to dig so that we can dig deep with others. We have to be willing to sit in the dirt with others and not give up at the tip of the surface. That is where the beauty is and freedom is found. 

-written by Lauren Stuck

 

Billy

I met Billy at Lifesource a few years ago. Lifesource allows South Church to meet on Sunday evenings around 5pm. Food is served, worship music is played, and Jon Baker talks to whoever wants to listen. Out of all the people I have met there, no one has been like Billy. One day I find him in the back of the room and the worship team is playing a song and he is dancing and laughing and praising Jesus about every 10 seconds. Obviously I wonder why he is so happy. I mean, Jesus makes me happy, but not the kind of happy that makes me jump up and down and raise my hands all the time. I introduced myself to him and we quickly connected and he seemed to appreciate me listening to him some.

 

At first I would say I was more interested in his crazy personality than trying to connect to him on a personal level. Something I have learned spending time at South Church is how I view the "cast" system of our society. I thought that for me to be able to connect to someone that is poor, I would have to lower myself or step out of my comfort zone. For most of my life I have been more of an introvert. Coming into contact with someone like Billy has really helped me see how easy it is to share love to others. I remember taking him to Walmart one day and we are in the self checkout isle. He immediately turns around and boldly states to the woman next to him, "You are beautiful and don't let anyone tell you different!" I was pretty uncomfortable when he did that and I'm sure she was too. But I'm also sure that she might remember that someone told her she was beautiful for a long time. Billy shared with me that he had struggled with Meth addiction and was bi-polar. After I spent some time with him I one day said, "Billy, I think we are going to be spending a lot more time together soon." This was before I invited him to stay in my home for two weeks. For some reason I trusted him and he gave that trust right back at me. It's that weird feeling you get when you can look into someones eyes and they know you want what's best for them. Billy saw that and he saw God providing for him by bringing him into our home for two weeks. Every day he would wake up from the couch and be reading and reciting the word from his etched up Bible. I began to notice that even if he had some mental problems, I would say 90% of the things he would talk about all day was truth from scripture.

I didn't want to tell him to be quiet because of that. Another thing Billy would be free to do was to pray in the spirit. I hadn't really experienced the amount of charismatic prayer before. I grew up being anointed by oil when I was sick and my parents sometimes prayed in tongues. The way Billy prayed, crazy or not, he seemed to fully believe that he was talking directly to God and that he was worshiping. Now I know that here is this man, who is a drug attic with mental problems, and I am beginning ask if he is the crazy one or if I am? I believe that God put Billy in our home for two weeks because of the love that he gave and the way he worshiped. God demands our love and our worship. Billy did that, crazy or not.

Seeing the other side

I sometimes am overcome with nostalgia for my childhood days playing in the backyard with my little brother chunking crystal rocks onto the ground and finding the clear insides. Riding go karts around my house for my birthday. Scoring the winning bucket for my 5th grade basketball team. Winning state soccer and running on the field in a frenzy with all of my teammates. Getting pumped up before a football game and running out of the tunnel screaming as loud as I can. Those were the days. Not much to worry about, other than feeling accepted and a part of what was going on around me. I didn't care that I had a broken back, or have three surgeries in my shoulder. All I cared about was to get back into the game with my friends and playing video games. There were no dark seasons because I never had any real responsibilities. I've had my share of injuries and set backs in life. Inner ear disorders, e-coli infections, torn shoulders, and a broken back have happened at different times in my life and each have had a different impact on my life. It's easier to look past difficult times when you are younger. When I have an illness or an injury now it seems that I take two steps back in life. Like I'm never going to catch up. The past few years I had a season where I was bed ridden for more than six months. I don't have any nostalgia for anything other than sitting in a hot bath for two hours. This was only to help heal up the huge infections I had from an e-coli infection I got in Rwanda. It's interesting to think about how I would have responded if I was still in jr. high/high school if something like that happened to me. I would have probably just kept thinking about when I could get back into the playing field or be able to hang out with my friends. Except this most recent setback was really a time for me to see where God wanted me to be in my heart. I personally believe that he didn't cause my illness, but allowed it to be used to show me what was best for me. That was community, a church, and a new set of eyes on how I viewed the poor. These three things are what I prayed for when I was in this alone season. I struggled with feeling depressed, and felt alone. Without myself having full absence of these things, I don't think I would have sought deeper roots in my community, church, and the poor. I realized that God was moving me in the right direction. That he was patient with me. And he answered my prayers. I'm not saying that I have those things all figured out, but my life has looked very much different the past few years. I have a community that I seem to be connected to, a church that loves me, and relationships with the poor in my home. So if these words make any sense to you and you seem to be in a dry or dark season. I would take a perspective that God wants you to pray for the things that he knows are best for you. To ask that God would open your eyes to his love and what he can show you about your heart. Keep pushing through and see the other side.

The Working Man

This portrait is of my friend's grandfather. My friend asked me if I would do a drawing of his grandfather as a tribute to his family and his grandfather. I have been staring at this drawing for a handful of months. Long enough to wonder what he is thinking. I've even practiced his pose a few times, but I can't seem to muster up the sophisticated demeanor he has. The original photo of him was taken in some business meeting and he definitely looks like he's ready to say something that moves a mountain. I also have thought about his life and what he did to provide for his children, the hard work he had to endure, and the influence he has had on his children and grandchildren. I don't think he was only a thinker as this picture depicts, but a hard worker. A scripture that came to mind about hearing and doing of the word is in James 1:25 and it reminded me of him, 

"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."

I know the context is talking about hearing the word of God and being obedient to it, but also correlates to what it means to be a working man. He seemed to be someone that has lived a life not only a thinker, but a doer. To not only hear the word, but a doer of the word. A dreamer who lives out his dreams. I know these things about him because I know his grandchildren. And they want something to remember him and his influence. I've already learned something from him.

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Mama Carmen's Mural WIP.

Here is a Work In Progress (WIP) of the Mama Carmen's mural. At this point I would like to have some type treatment in the middle of the canvas, a background landscape that flows into the foreground, a timeline of the coffee process, and botanical coffee plants/beans in the landscape. Let me know your thoughts and suggestions!

A few things to know: 

- Mama Carmen's script font will likely change to a thicker form. 

- The botanical drawings of coffee will be floating in free space as well as part of the landscape. 

- There will be a bridge that people will be crossing over to bring the coffee into the cup. 

- The mountains and water stream will be influenced by Mama Carmen's landscape in Guatemala.  

 

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Mama Carmen's moving forward

As I move forward with the mural for Mama Carmen's I would like to create something elegant and natural. A mix between modern design and the older botanical style. In the middle of the Mural will be some type treatment and a landscape scene that shows the process of the coffee coming from the farmers to the cup. Floating all around I am hoping to incorporate botanical drawings of coffee plants and beans from different regions. The first thumbnail I have is a first attempt at creating a type treatment and a drawing of a coffee plant. Things are likely to change but I would like to keep track of the process here on my blog. Stay tuned! 

Mama Carmen's From the farmer to the cup

It is an exciting time right now with Mama Carmen's Coffee. I was recently asked to help rebrand Mama Carmen's Coffee off of College Ave in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The process involves a new mural painting on the right side of the building and new signs in the front. There will be many changes which involves some art/music things in the works. I will try to share a visual story of what Mama Carmen's is about and the process of the coffee we buy. 

Made new.

A girl told me how she was in a state where she saw herself as dirt and unclean and that she didn't want anything with God. She fell on her face asleep during worship not wanting to be a part of what was going on. Someone began praying for her and she began crying and once she looked up she saw me paint the hand print in the painting. This hand is Gods hand that is pure and makes us who we are as children of God. Spotless and blames in his eyes. Jesus rose today to wash awa all sins. Although sin still exists and pain and suffering, it is just a most that comes and goes and a way has been made for us to be in full joy with our creator some day. Our identity is in his hand

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Reaching the Unreached.

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Of the world's 6,500 people groups, 2,500 are still unreached. New Tribes Mission helps local churches train, coordinate and send missionaries to these tribes. I met with Jack Crabtree a few months ago, and he shared his heart for Papua New Guinea and the unreached nations. I see he and his family are trying to be faithful by moving there soon and they are in the process of raising more support to help them be sustainable while they focus on their ministry in PNG. I offered to do a piece that would help share the vision for what NTM is trying to do in PNG and to see the faces that God is bringing himself to through people like the Crabtree's.

Please take the time to visit Jack's website and get connected. http://blogs.ntm.org/jack-crabtree/

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How good is enough?

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Sometimes someone points out to me that I am the best artist they have ever seen. But, I know for a fact that I am pretty normal when it comes to my craft. Craft, as in skill level and how well I execute my ideas. I realize that I could obviously be a lot better in my art execution. I would say I don't understand color theory as well as I could and my figurative work could use improvement. So when someone says, "You are like the best artist I've seen!", I would like to sometimes reply with a "you have not seen that much art then." I usually just go with, "Wow, thank you. That means a lot to me.." Because it does. I know that they appreciate me as an artist/person and the work that I make. But I know that appreciation might not be as much as my skills/craft but more of what the message is saying or conveying. As I find myself growing as an artist and a follower of Christ, I see that the importance to pursue my skills doesn't weigh as much as my relationship with God and other people. Lately, I haven't really spent as much time as I would like on studying and reading art books and practicing new things for my work. And I don't really care. I usually just jump into a project and expect it to work out. And it has. I'm really enjoying the community I am in and the people that are around me. I do have some big project ideas that God willing I will get to. I have dreams of changing the world with my art, but more and more each day I see that there is no possible way that I can do that on my own. Only through the Spirit, if given that gift, can I make an impact with my work. My definition of making an impact would be determined on how people come closer to God and loving him, and loving other people. How they find the light in the darkness. That's what I want. Some days I wake up and see a different life of mine flash before my eyes if I didn't know I was a sinner in need of a savior. I also see all of the wonderful opportunities God has given me a taste of to see that lifestyle of trying to please myself with my art. I am so thankful for that. I have failed in relationships and have tried different things that just didn't work out. I thought I was going to travel the world and just make art all the time and sell it and get famous. Some of those things could still happen, but it would probably look different than what the world expects. I want to see how God is enough in my life and let his heart be mine. His eyes be mine. What he sees and feels be what I see and feel. I have been able to experience that through just spending time with people. I feel the spirit inside of me. He is telling me that He is enough.

So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Calling

“In large measure, becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your voice, which makes your work distinctive.”

I accept that I am a flawed human being, but have faith that one day I will be reconciled. As an artist I hope to help people see themselves they way God sees them.

I desire to be used as one who brings hope to others, to bring light into the darkness, to gently guide a lost soul back onto the path towards the Light.

Great I Am

Behold

I can't put this past weekend into words. God showed up.

It was such a gift that us as sinners can come together and worship Him. Truth was spoken and prayer was heard. One thing we prayed for was that this wouldn't be an emotional high that we have for a few days but that God would keep that fire growing inside of us. That our worship would be our lives. Jesus is worthy of all praise. The old has gone the new has come.

Being on stage worshiping with the team is something that I am not used to. I had to constantly be in prayer to draw my thoughts away from myself and on Jesus. I wanted to be used by Him. Painting is just a tool that God uses and I think He did. To be able to give a visual process of story telling can make things click for people. It does for me, and it's how I express my heart and how I see God. I am so thankful that I got to do this. Doing something so fast in an hour on 5 ft. canvases made me be more free with the paint and just worship and enjoy God's presence. His Grace is enough.