Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." I've always been puzzled by what God meant by us becoming like little children. The recent behavior of various celebrities makes you think of the terrible twos. However I don't think that's what the Lord meant. The statement is mysterious but the same goes for childhood, it is a mystery. Unpacking the Lord's words completely is above my paygrade. To quote St. John Chrysostom, "It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of scripture. It is a well that has no bottom." However, ignorance is my bliss. Inability has never been a stumbling block for me... so here goes.
Childhood is a time when the world around us is magical. We are filled with creativity, finding new things to do and becoming enthralled in doing them. I remember as a young child, my siblings and I were trying to make honey by squashing bees. Our self confidence and enthusiasm was only slightly dampened by the adult world expressing doubts on our likelihood of success. Children also have the ability to hold to apparently contradictory concepts with equal certainty in their developing minds. As a child I saw no contradiction in Santa bringing us presents Christmas morning, yet mom would go out shopping for presents on numerous occasions and hide the gifts away in forbidden corners of the house.
So what is it about little children that the Lord loves? Basically little children don't quit. Logical difficulties and repeated failures are not permanent obstacles. A small child is incapable of despair. Children are never cynics, even if their parents are. They'll have to wait until high school for that, but for little children there is a freshness and innocence to what that say and what they do.
Now to combine the subjects of art and children. Pablo Picasso said, "It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to paint like a child". Al Hirschfeld opined, "Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons." It has been said to me, "Just because nobody understands you, that doesn't mean you're an artist." That is true. I think the key to being an artist is never quitting, not just being obtuse or difficult to understand, (though I have proficiencies in that also).
The thing about Sam Mercier is that he never quits. He's like the energizer bunny that way; and that's one of the things that makes him a true artist. My goal as an artist has always been realism, that has always been my fundamental orientation. I don't think I can ever change that for myself but I did for a brief while try and get Sam to adopt my preferred style. Thank goodness it didn't take. Now I find myself appreciating Sam Mercier's art, its simplicity, its brilliant loud colors, the bold solid lines and the vibrancy of composition taken as a whole.
Handwriting analysts claim to be able derive information about character from scrawled signatures. That may be true. Consider the well known fact that all true doctors write illegibly; it's as if there is a big money prize for the physician with the most unreadable handwriting. I'm not going to take a position on that question, except to say that an individual style can carry with it the unique personality or voice of the person who drew the lines. Whether you are pulling a pencil across a page or a bow across a violin, there are a plethora of micro-decisions being made within each stroke, as well as mental concentration to oversee the whole process and muscle memory to make it smooth and doable. All this rises to make the the work of musical or visual art a success or a failure. I guess the same could be said about our spiritual life.
Sam's art in the comic book has been somewhat fettered by the storyboards and scripts I have given him. He artistic voice shines through with more authenticity in the art he does from start to finish on his own, where he enjoys complete creative control. Sam has the ability to pare things down to the essentials, get rid of the dross as in the refining of gold and precious metals. As Charles de Lint said, "The best artists know what to leave out." Here is a selection of other works by Sam. More is to follow next week. Please subscribe.
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