Thursday, November 30, 2017

Introducing: “The Daily Office” in Pictures

Introducing: “The Daily Office” in Pictures
How I Used The Book of Common Prayer to Inspire Art and Devotion

What Is This Project?
For some time, I have thought about completing one piece of visual art  for every page of The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church in the USA.

My inspiration came from the wonderful book by Matt Kish, Moby-Dick in Pictures:  One Drawing for Every Page.  

I’m drawn to the Book of Common Prayer’s language and wise liturgies.   “Liturgy” refers to the order of church services, but technically translates as “the work of the people.”  I love that!  Member churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion have done this “work”--prayed the prayers and practiced these rituals--in various forms since 1549.  

I hoped the BCP could inspire my own thought and art into new directions.  In turn, I hoped that my work might inspire users of the BCP to work with the text in new ways.

How Did It Work?
But, oh, the sheer number of pages (1001)!!  Wow!  Daunting.   I couldn’t really imagine pulling off that many pieces of art.  How would I manage my time and my tools and my motivation and… and… and…

Then one day, the answer came.  The BCP’s attraction to me as a guide for spiritual contemplation lies, in part, in how it helps me focus.  In the middle of life’s chaotic messes, the BCP helps me settle.  I needed to bring a similar focus to the art project.

First, I decided to work with only a small section of the BCP: “The Daily Office,” which includes prayers for particular times each day:  Morning, Noonday, Evening, and Compline. This comes from the ancient tradition of religious communities praying “the hours.”  It is a discreet section of the BCP, starting with the title page on page 35 and ending on page 146--111 pages in total.  

Second, I focused my artistic approach.   I decided to use only one medium--watercolor--and only one size of paper (2.5 x 3.5 inches).  I used only one brush, one brush pen, one palette knife, and very few other tools.  I limited my palette to about two dozen colors.   I used only one approach (abstraction).  While I did not plan on pursuing landscapes, you’ll find that most of the paintings turned out that way.  I suppose that came from my personal connections with nature and spirit.

Third, I made it orderly.  I would consider each page in order from first to last.  I would only start and complete 111 pieces--no discards.  If I finished one and it didn’t fit the page at hand, I could use it on another page, but I could not throw it away.  Every painting had some value, and part of my practice involved finding and honoring that.

I completed each painting the same way:  practicing a form of lectio divina.  I read the page and let the words sink in, noting what phrase stuck out to me.  I sat quietly with that phrase, not analyzing.  Then I responded, not through words, but through color and form on paper.

What Will Be on This Blog?
For 111 days (beginning on Advent One on December 3, 2017 until just before Palm Sunday on March 25, 2018), I’m going to share these paintings in order. I will include the page number and phrase that inspired the art.  Any particular edition of the BCP shares the same page numbers across all versions, so it is easy to read more of the related text if you wish.

I used the most recent (1979) edition of The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church in the USA.  

You Can Do It Too!
I found the process meditative, insightful, and peaceful.  I would recommend it to anyone, using The Book of Common Prayer, or any other text which you find to contain wisdom.


pattygould said...

Kathy Klein shared this blog with me because she knew I would be interested. I believe art in inspiration - being inspirited. I will try to paint along with you. Patty

Beth said...

Hi, Patty, I love "inspirited!" Do you have a blog or instagram where you post your paintings?

pattygould said...

No, but I did a blog on our national parks tour in Sept. I am on facebook and some of my paintings make it there. Mostly watercolors- seascapes, animals.

Tom Hart said...

This is wonderful, Beth!

Beth said...

Thanks, Tom!

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