Working Guitar by Ken Riddles
Did they get Dillinger?
The story behind this painting:
I held an exhibition when I finished with my day to day job as a typesetter.
The exhibition sold well.
Amongst my guests on the opening night was my elder brother.
There was eight years between us.
He suffered from a heart condition and passed in 2015.
We used to meet up once a month for lunch, and these were enjoyable times, with banter about whose turn it was to pay etc.
When we were young, he was always kind to his little brother, especially at Christmas, when I waited with anticipation to see what present he had bought me. He never disappointed (e.g. when I was 8 y.o. – he was 16).
I had two ‘not for sale’ drawings in the show. And he liked these because they were depictions of the street of our childhood upbringing.
As I would have explained – not topographical depictions. A drawing of a memory, not a drawing from memory. (Some of you might ‘get’ the difference).
But I wouldn’t let these go. So his eyes lit upon the painting above, and just before someone else wanted to buy it, he was able to stake his claim and it ended up on the living room wall of his home.
He too, like me, was ‘weaned’ on the old black and white gangster movies seen on TV.
He had three of my paintings in his home and joked about how when I was gone – they would be worth so much more. With reference to the old adage about an artist not being worth much until he was dead.
These paintings have been inherited by his son and daughter.
Be great to have my brother back – I would paint him as many ‘Dillingers’ as he wished (RIP).
Any great ambition I had to sell my paintings, and perhaps earn a living from doing so, got lost along the way somewhere over the years.
The ambition wasn’t big enough in the first place, to drive me to do all that was necessary to achieve such a goal.
The bible talks about seeking first the kingdom of God. And as far as I was concerned there was no other option, than to gladly do so. So spiritual ministry priorities were put first.
Consequently an 8 to 5 job in a newspaper office took the place of these ambitions as the responsibility of raising a family also came first.
So to sell a painting now is the result of some kind of connection with other human beings.
Whereby they see some of my work and would like to have it.
I do not spread the work around as e.g. in galleries etc. like I used to do. So I’m pretty much, an unknown – sliding into ‘oblivion’, in the background somewhere.
If someone through this blog wanted to buy a piece of work, this would entail individual email communications and financial arrangements. And gladly the forming of some kind of relationship.
I have in other words no selling mechanism of pay pal and all the rest of it, necessary, if you are running a business.
Sometimes my mind wanders to Van Gogh – a man who was on a spiritual quest and through the rocky road of life with its hurts and rejections – eventually found solace in his art.
As far as I can discern he lost his way spiritually, because in biblical language he sought God by works and not by faith.
It isn’t my intention to elaborate on such a statement in this post. I realise it is more complicated than my thesis might suggest.
But I do see in his life and can understand, why painting became his passion and means of self-absorption, and quest for achievement.
Even in his art he did not find the acceptance and praise he justly deserved.
I see life in that way, and am so thankful that I have found in Christ what I was looking for.
In the old hymn Be Thou My Vision we read these words:
Riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance through all of my days
Thou and Thou only though first in my heart
That succinctly sums up how the loss of ambition doesn’t matter, when it is replaced by the Riches of Christ. It is Christ who satisfies, not only in this world but in the one to come.
There is a place for doing things well, for creativity, and for enjoying the communication of life through the arts.
A place for someone to have goals and resolutely set out to achieve them (provided others do not get trampled-on along the way.)
But there is a fine line between seeking man’s empty praise and appreciating the love that others give, that makes us feel worthwhile and satisfied that we have something to give, through our expressed talent.
Life poses the question: ‘Are you ultimately empty?’
Perhaps – but there is a spiritual vacuum inside each one of us. That can only be filled through a relationship with Christ.
Realised ambitions will not take this vacuum away.