And If You Draw Pictures

I blew past the so-called crisis of realism that typically marks the end of drawing fun for most 8 to 12 year olds. I didn’t get much better, but I didn’t stop either. I’ve always enjoyed having something tangible to show for the units of time whirring by.

So I’m drawing the city skyline in black ink on a lined sheet neatly torn out of a pocket-sized reporter Moleskine as the green line whisks several of us work-weary commuters from downtown Dallas to the northern suburbs. I’m outlining a tall tower, a row of buildings, and a crescent moon rising up behind them when I pause, raise my head, and look around.

No one else is drawing, and at first glance no one seems to mind that I am. Then out of the corner of my eye I see it. The woman beside me is staring at my notebook.

Commuter culture is pretty established and it’s unusual for someone to break rank and look at anything besides 1) a phone or tablet, 2) a real book, fake book, or newspaper, 3) eyelid backs, or 4) the window. So when my seatmate peered over my shoulder, I was a little surprised. Then it occurred to me: I shouldn’t be.

In five years of commuting in and out of downtown Dallas via train, bus, automobile and occasional airplane, I’ve only seen a handful of folks actively creating in or on their way to the city center. I wondered why.

Just how many people are creative? I asked myself.

Creativity is complicated. A decent working definition refers to the making of something new and valuable.  Humans, though, are “creative” only by metaphor. God creates, in the truest sense of the word, out of nothing.

I revised my question. Who among us are gifted in the arts? How many of my fellow passengers can handle a brush-tipped artist’s pen, or jangle a bright G major on an acoustic guitar, or grand jeté over a puddle in the city street?

You’ve heard of IQ, we need a test for one’s creativity quotient (CQ). Somewhere around 1 in 10 working-age Americans are employed in the creative industry, a vague term that encompasses advertising, architecture, art, crafts, design, fashion, film, music, performing arts, publishing, R&D, software, toys and games, TV and radio, and video games. But what about the non-vocational creative, the average nine-to-five man on the street, or more specifically, woman on the train?

There just isn’t enough information to answer. But it is important to ask, and here’s why.

The Fort Worth/Dallas metro area is the fourth largest in the country. Dallas’ bourgeoning arts district alone has the city poised to become something of a great art town. There must be creatives spread all across North Texas, each with a gift, each responsible to a giver.

Vocational and non-vocational, active and reserve, all creatives are responsible to God to use their gifts to bring into being objects and instruments of responsible action, to bring about shalom, to create the world that ought to be.

In other words, if you have it, flaunt it. If you can draw, then draw. And not just when you’re alone, but out in the open. Bring your gifts into the light. Let your seatmate on the train look over your shoulder. Asking the question helps us to identify and hold accountable those God has singled out as responsible servants in the arts.

As active creatives bring their gifts into the light, something extraordinary happens. Friendship often begins with “What, you too?” What if the passenger who saw me drawing was an active creative herself? We’d have an immediate commonality, a foundation upon which a friendship could be fostered.

Artists need to know they aren’t alone, that they are part of something larger than themselves, part of a plan. Friendship built on any commonality is the beginning of community, and community makes and shapes culture. Asking the question helps us connect with others like ourselves, establish friendships, provide encouragement, build community, and affect change.

Harvey Pennick, one of golf’s greatest teachers, wrote a book filled with practical wisdom from a lifetime in and around the game. He routinely autographed copies of his Little Red Book “to my friend and pupil.” When asked how he could write such an intimate inscription for people he barely knew, Pennick replied, “If you read my book you’re my pupil, and if you play golf, you’re my friend.”

A different author shared this bit of encouragement in a letter to his friends: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”

Look around. Do you see anyone actively creating? Are you? If you draw pictures, you’re my friend. Meet me at Art House Dallas and we’ll talk.

Joshua Seth Minatrea is a Dallas-area thinker and creative. His aim is to gain and give space, time and direction for creation. He has never been bored. Real books, espresso-based beverages and pocket-sized reporter Moleskines® are a few of his favorite things.