Monday, December 26, 2011

What it feels like to RECEIVE a great work

A few months back (in one of my favorite posts), I talked about an artist friend who taught me something very valuable about finding your calling in life. You can revisit that post here. Yesterday, as a Christmas present, I surprised my wife with a painting that I commissioned from this artist, the incredibly talented Santiago Michalek (you can check out his blog here).

The piece that he did for us is already a family treasure. I had him paint my son, Spencer, in Ghana. I took Spencer there with me on a university trip a couple of years ago, and he completed his Eagle Scout project there by delivering donated soccer balls to schools and orphanages. That trip was extremely meaningful to me because of the unique memories I made with my son. I wanted to capture them, and knew that Santiago was the artist to do it. Here's a photo of the completed piece, which is about 24X30 inches, and far more stunning than this photo can capture.

The process of working with Santiago as he produced the painting was far more emotional than I could have imagined. As we discussed the painting, we explored what my son means to me, what the experience meant to us, and my motives for commissioning the work. Far beyond just painting a beautiful picture, Santiago delved deeply into my emotions, and also into my son's while Spencer was modeling for him. Santiago poured hours of work into ensuring that he captured not only Spencer's likeness, but also his character. The result is a representation that is true physically, but also emotionally. When my wife and I look at this piece, we see our son's spirit looking back at us.

I can't begin to understand how Santiago accomplishes this. But I know now that he brings far more than just his craft to his work. His tenacious commitment to creating a "true" image represented a huge sacrifice for him during a busy Christmas season. He taught me that having a professional calling goes far beyond talent and effort. There is a spiritual dimension to having a calling. As the recipient, it feels like a personal offering that includes a heavy dose of heart, along with the more obvious involvement of hand and mind.

I am deeply grateful to be the beneficiary of one who lives his calling! Though I'm no artist, I hope to bring the same devotion to the work I do.