Love the Mess

By Hillary Asbury

The first creative act in history was a perfect one.

Everything was done with order, purpose. It was intentional, loving. Great care was taken for every little detail, every little life. God created the world. And with each new piece of his creation he called it good. Good. Until he created humanity. God created humanity and do you know what he called it? Very good. God created us in his image and it was very good. But then sin entered the world.

God’s very good creation made a mess of what he had perfectly created.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my cousin. Her daughter loves to create art but hates the mess that often comes with creative projects, and she asked if I would send along pictures of my creative mess so that this little one could see that “real artists” are, indeed, messy.

I did not disappoint.

Many artists have pre-work rituals they go through which help them transition into the proper frame of mind to work, and mine consists mainly of organizing my work area and materials. It’s a nervous, methodical process during which I clear my space, organize my brushes and order them by size from biggest to smallest, prepare my palette with paint ordered according to the color wheel, and organize my paint tubes to correspond. I then arrange, and sometimes rearrange, my remaining tools and materials until I am satisfied all is in optimal order to begin work. I’ve said in previous posts I like things “just so”, and I really do, but the moment I get into my working frame of mind or “the zone” as some call it, all of that painstaking organization goes out the window.

Chaos breaks loose.

The thing is, when I get into “the zone” everything else falls away. I lose track of time, I forget to eat, I don’t notice if the room becomes too hot or too cold, sometimes I don’t even hear outside noises or the voices of others. It seems like nothing exists but me and my work (and I get a lot of work done like this) but all of my organizational skills also seem to fall away. Along with everything else I seem to forget to consider, I forget to pay attention to where I set my brushes, if I accidentally drop a paint tube, or if I’ve sat in paint. It’s a mess! But this is my process and I have come to love my process- mess and all. I don’t mind that I go through the motions to lay out a perfect work space just to lose myself in creativity and destroy it.

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty for the sake of art.

In fact, sometimes I really enjoy it. I love being up to my elbows in oil and terpenoid. I love walking away from a project and realizing that I was so passionate about my work that I didn’t notice or care about the paint that dried in my hair and on my face. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a clean and tidy artist. There are some creative geniuses out there who work only under pristine conditions and, who knows, maybe my cousin’s daughter will be one of them.

Thing is, our God wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when it came to his creation.

When we made a mess of everything he created, he didn’t hesitate. God put on flesh to save us. God took on our sin, lived in our reality, bore our curse.

He became our mess so that we might have a perfect life in him.