Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

No person is an island and that goes double for creatives. One of the things we always end up thinking was, “If only I was better at this, or better at that.” It’s frankly a little maddening and I am just as guilty as any other creative, but let’s go broader. I’ve joked a time or two with people complimenting my work, that you have no idea how many times I would have traded my art ability for the ability to fix my own car. And there have been moments of frustration, when that may have been the case, but that’s not really what I mean. I probably could spend the time and learn to be somewhat mechanical, but time is always in limited supply. For me to learn to fix my car, I would need to take time away from my areas of greater gifting. Far better for me to find the gifted mechanic, and pay him to do what he does best. That way I can spend my time doing what I do best, which will be infinitely more productive.

It’s the same in any area where we lack skill. You could probably learn to do what you want done, but at what expense. There’s got to be a better way, and there is. It’s called collaboration. Yes I know this is nothing new, so why do so few people do it? Basically what happens is a group of people come together and bring their best gifts to the table to do together what none of them could do alone. Think about it, this is how most great projects happen. No one is truly a one-man show, even one-man shows.

Collaboration helps to remove a lot of our limitations and allows us to break through to bigger and better things and by the way, it’s God’s design. If you look at 1 Corinthians 12, you will see the Bible comparing the church to a body in which each member has a part to play for the good of the whole. Our creative pursuits can work the same way.

Assignment: Look at your creative projects, dreams and/or ambitions. What are you lacking to finish them and bring them to reality? Write those things down. Then think about who you know who might be able to do the things you need done. Consider how you might set up a mutually beneficial collaboration.


Before we go any further, I want to tell you what this post is not. It’s not a patriotic or political post. Politics have been done to death and my life is so much happier since I’ve started pushing them further and further off the front burner of my life. It’s also not in any way bagging on America. I consider having been born and raised in the U.S. to be one of the great blessings God has given me. Independence Day is the day we celebrate the U.S. breaking free from England and becoming a sovereign nation and while this nation is far from flawless, it’s still a good place to live and grow and raise a family and not matter your views on immigration, there are a lot of people taking great risks to be here. I appreciate this land… but that’s not what I am talking about.

See there’s a downside to independence. No not the freedoms we enjoy in this nation, but in this idea that so many people carry that they’re independent and they don’t need anyone else. That can be a huge problem and it is not the way God designed us to be. No friends we were not created for independence. We were created for relationships. Thing about the body of Christ image from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul writes about how all these parts (people) come together to form one cohesive whole, a church that represents Christ to the world. We’re diverse and different, but when we bring those differences together and we each bring our best to the table and work together, we can do things that we could never accomplish independently. In the case we were not created for independence, but rather interdependence, depending on each other to do more together than we could ever do apart. As creatives, this plays out every time we collaborate or work with others in any way. One of the great freedoms we can find in the creative life is when we realize we don’t do everything well and allow ourselves to “out-source” our weaknesses to those for whom our weaknesses are strengths.

And then there’s the other element to be considered. We were also created to be totally and completely dependent on God. What did Jesus say? “Apart from me you can do nothing…” This is the truth of our existence as human beings. Whether we know it or not, whether we choose to believe it or not, we depend on God for everything from the air we breathe, to the world we walk on. When we acknowledge our dependence it frees us from having to solve and control everything and that may be the greatest freedom there is.

Celebrate your independence, but don’t forget to revel in your interdependence and the relationships it can create and, of course, never forget your total dependence on God, because in all of this we find true freedom.

mural1Years ago, Hillary Clinton wrote a book called It Takes a Village. I wasn’t necessarily in agreement with her and the phrase has sort of irked me ever since. A few days ago a friend of mine, Kent Rice, asked me to design a mural for his latest project, East Petersburg Area Civic Center. I was excited to do this project. I sent the sketches through and he asked me to make one addition.

A banner that says, “It Takes a Village…”

mural2Are you sure??? I said it might be seen as political, he reminded me if comes from an African proverb, long before it became the time of Mrs. Clinton’s book. I added it.

Today as we began the painting, it was amazing. I had so many people volunteer to help. People who see themselves as artistic, people who really don’t, but just wanted to help, even young children. It was amazing, kind of like a village. Someone made the comment that they were surprised that I, as an artist, would allow others to work my design with me. I actually love to collaborate, Beyond that, the only way it was going to get done was massive quantities of help. At least ten people helped over the course of the day. It went from blank wall to finished piece in one day and a whole lot of people can look at that piece and say I helped with that.

mural3This civic center project is all about community and so is the mural. Maybe it really did take a village.

I stand corrected.

(Continued from yesterday’ post)
Next is roles: On this project, John is the lead. Not because he demanded it, but because it makes sense. My input is more along the lines of “can we get that done in the allotted time?” and other things that come with my experience at painting live, etc. This is important. Part of collaboration (the really cool part) is the give and take. When we collaborate we need to be humble enough to look for the best solution, and work together for the good of the piece and the message it will convey. Message is king (Okay Christ is King, but you know what I mean). In a piece to be created live, the roles are even more important. We have to consider the order in which colors are applied, drying time, etc. not to mention the look of the piece as it comes together. We are both working on the same canvasses.

Style: John’s style of painting and mine are night and day. He would probably best be described as an abstract expressionist and he usually goes slowly, working in meticulous detail and many layers to create works that are a thing of beauty. I’m a speed painter with a style that is somewhere between pop art and cartoon. On paper that sounds like it won’t work, but I believe you’ll see it will work really well together. The reason it will work is because we respect each other immensely, and we have a great desire to “feed” off each other for the good of the message, the art and the people who will see it.

Collaboration is a skill all creatives need. Come to think of it, probably all people need it, too. What could be better than working together to do something good?

When was the last time you collaborated?

Maybe you’re due?
(If you’re in the area, next Saturday, August 3, why not drop by and see how the collaboration works.)

Last week my friend John contacted me and asked me if I would do a couple live paintings with him next week at his church, Glad Tidings Assembly of God in West Lawn, PA. Of course I jumped at the chance. John and I have always really liked painting together, his church is really cool, plus this will be different than anything I have done before. Should make for a good evening but I thought I’d share a little about the process of collaborating here.

The theme of the evening is creation as in the seven days of creation. We are tasked with creating seven paintings in a two hour period, and while we have worked together many times and bounced ideas off each other many times this will be our first time working together on the same pieces before an audience, so a few things had to be worked out ahead of time.

First was vision: We had a phone conversation about this where John described his vision for the pieces. I want this piece to be his vision. It’s his “gig”, his home church, filled with the people he knows and loves and frankly he’s amazing. He described his vision to me over the phone and I got a really clear picture. Then we got together and I saw his sketches and they were really great and completely different from what I imagined. Pictures and words don’t always line up.

Next is prayer: So we were both seeing something and the two things were different. As I said earlier, I wanted this to be his vision, but we ended up getting a little stuck. We were both sketching and trying to figure out how to make this work and not getting very far. Then the lightbulb went on. This was probably the first time we have ever gotten together that we jumped right in and didn’t pray? No wonder we were confused. We prayed and I kid you not, the next thing to come out of John’s mind and onto the paper was pure gold. If we’re going to work together to do God’s will, God needs to be consulted frequently.

I want to say one other thing on the subject of prayer. There are times in art ministry where there is a pressure to be “Spirit led.” I am all about that concept, but what does it mean? Some folks would look at our advance preparation and say it’s not “Spirit led” and I disagree. Had we just shown up next Saturday and started banging out what was on each of our minds, it might have been good but it could have also gone into chaos. (Consider what might happen with two artists with radically different styles and two different visions, trying to paint the same seven canvasses in the same two hour period.) To me “Spirit led” is being led by the Spirit through the process, which can include the preparation time. Having a plan in advance is not a sign that something is less Spiritual, it simply means the Spirit led you to be a little more prepared.

To be continued tomorrow… If you’re in the area next Saturday, August 3, come on over and check it out for yourself.

A few months back, just before Christmas, I was approached by Chuck and Joy Kieffer of The Foundry Church to help with their Christmas Rocks program at Weidener University, We were going to create a performance art project together telling the Christmas story. Joy and I put our heads together to come up with the project. I had seen a Youtube video of a guy who did a painting of the face of Jesus on six cardboard boxes and suggested we do a variation of that. I then came up with some roughy sketches. The sketches weren’t quite what Joy had in mind and she took a run at something a little different.

I loved what she came up with but I’ll confess I thought it was far too complicated to get finished in the time allotted. Nonetheless, now we had a plan. Somehow we got more time than I thought we had, and Joy recruited her daughter to help with the painting and it came out great. Chris Pierdeminico from The Foundry videotaped one of the sides being created and I think you’ll agree it came out pretty cool.

We did four paintings in all that night on nine boxes )over 80 square feet of full color art). It seemed to be very well received and I thought it was a very successful collaboration. Collaboration works when we are willing to be humble enough to see another way of doing things, comfortable with the give and take of exchanging ideas, flexible enough to try a different approach and determined to get it done. Of course having God in the midst of it can’t help but help.

God never said it would be easy.
Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Leviticus 15; John 8
You can also download your own chart here.



Look at the word collaborate. Now strip away the first three letters. Then strip away the first three letters and you’ll see something interesting. Right there in the middle of it all is the word “labor” and that is exactly what collaboration is, sharing the work.

Collaboration may well be the best illustration of what it means to be the body of Christ. when a few people bring what they can do to the table and work together, weaknesses are erased and more is accomplished than we could ever accomplish on our own.

The apostle Paul even went to far as to call himself and his partners in ministry God’s co-workers (or co-laborers if you will) in 2 Corinthians 6:1. That is the best collaboration of all. After all the best effort we can make—the best investment of our time and talents is to be a part of what God is doing.

What are you waiting for? Seek the Lord. Find people with a similar vision. Utilize all your gifts in community. Be the Body of Christ.


Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Exodus 40; Leviticus 1,2; Psalm 27
You can also download your own chart here.