When I take in her words, I go away pondering, considering. Sometimes a piece is so moving that I leave it on the screen and come back for a second read. When I see her artwork, I feel like testing my (child-like) skill with the paintbrush. It’s the sign of an authentic artist in my book, one who inspires others to consider their own life in light of the work and one who inspires others to create works of their own. That is Annie Barnett. I am honored to have Annie as part of our Take Heart series today, sharing words and watercolor and letting us in on the way one friend’s honesty helped her go deeper as an artist.
She lives in faraway Texas now, but these little-ones-playing-wildly-in-the-background days we talk on the phone nearly as much as we did in junior high.
It was autumn when she told me, gently: “I love your work, I really do. But it lacks some of the tension and messy brokenness that makes your story yours.”
I wasn’t expecting so much honesty, but wounds from a friend can be trusted, and few people know (and love) me so well as this particular one. She knows I draw little birds and acorns, favorite lines of Christmas hymns and a whole series of eggs, all expectant, full of April hope. These are the pictures I want to hang on my fridge, to call me towards home and invite me in to a place of daily abiding.
I shuffle around her words, awkwardly mumble something about not adorning my walls with images of a bleeding heart twice flattened by a Mack truck. And this wise friend, she didn’t pull her words back or defend them at all. She just let those words sit a while.
We ended our call, and I sat with the words. Days and weeks slipped by, and the words stayed, grew.
Since I started painting again, all my work centered on good true words I needed to hear and see, speak and remember. These were not simple niceties, rather painted during hard days, when the call to abide and dwell was a lifeline in the midst of grief.
I set out to paint a shadow of that brokenness and filled a sketch book. In the end, I pursued a nest filled with eggshell debris and a fragile heirloom marked by hairline cracks. I worked water and pigment over weeks instead of hours. Often, this is how I learn, pouring over a painting and learning from the image as I create.
I let the brush wrap moss and string and branch into a crown of twigs: the little nest to frame the fragments that once housed life. I have carried babies in my womb, and I think twice about such fragile eggs sustaining and nourishing an unhatched life. The broken pieces left behind are the only evidence of something fully alive, taken wing.
Sometimes brokenness is part of the birthing.
My toddler insisted I add baby birds to the nest. But this nest, it speaks of the broken places, where neat little bows don’t tie up the mess because our hearts are made for walks in the cool of the garden, and we don’t always see the whole of redemption in the midst of brokenness.
We wait and we sit with those who wait. Like my dear friend, we ask the hard questions and we learn to listen. And sometimes, when we are quiet, we see a shadow of something new unfurling in those hard places.
Annie Barnett is a creative soul who pours her days into her family and her art. She writes sporadically at AnnieAtHome.com, chronicling her broken, grace-infused journey of playing house and centering her heart on her true home. She loves to make a good mess – whether it’s curry, painting, or play. In the last few months she’s stepped tentatively out into a new space, offering her prints on Etsy and slowly entering the conversation about art and faith at BeSmallStudios.com. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.
And now for this week’s giveaway from Be Small Studios!
Simply comment below for the chance to win your own 8×10 print of “Nest: A Study in Brokenness”. (I plan to use my print as a focus point while laboring to deliver my baby girl this April!) For extra entries (include a separate comment here for each entry): 1. subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed, 2. like Be Small Studios on Facebook, 3. share this post on Twitter, 4. share on Facebook, 5. and/or share on Pinterest. This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, February 23.
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This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about kinship/community. We’d love to have you link up with us and share how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles in anything related to extended family drama, difficult ministry experiences or conflict in friendship. The link-up is open through Friday night. And don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win our giveaway from Annie at Be Small Studios today!