Because life is a series of edits

The Sanctification Mug

In Thought on February 23, 2007 at 2:00 am


While I have a good eye (as well as an immense appreciation) for the visual arts, I have no such ability (developed to any degree, at least) within me. This realization became officially evident "back in the day" in my high school art class with Mrs. Dawson. I remember having some success with pottery (I loved working the wheel, but I never quite got the colors right) as well as string painting (my "Zebras Mating" is framed and still hangs above my Mom's washer and dryer at home, though I'm not sure I ever told her the title of the work).

However, when I tried my hand at candle-making, Mrs. Dawson gave me the moniker "Lava Man," as I had heated up the wax so hot that it melted my milk carton molds. Mrs. Dawson also often used to tell me to cut off my ear and send it to her (a la Van Gogh) when I turned in my attempts at oil and watercolor paintings, which I think was her kind but honest way of saying "thanks, but don't quit your day job."

I recently flashed back to my high school art days when one of the parents at Wildwood had an idea for the upcoming annual silent auction fundraiser. She requested that all interested teachers go to The Painted Zebra, buy a ceramic mug and some studio time, and create some kind of work of art to be included in a custom coffee mug set.

Great idea, but a frightening one, too. Couldn't I just write an essay or poem instead?

Despite my insecurity, I accepted the commission and made it my goal to figure out how to paint a mug that one of my students wouldn't be embarrassed to pull out in college when they needed/wanted some coffee. Intuitively, I knew I couldn't write anything on it – my handwriting would inevitably go crooked and look hokie; I also knew I couldn't "wow" anybody with my amazing use of color and perspective – remember, I still have both ears.

So what to do? I spent twenty minutes staring at the rough, white ceramic mug, trying to discern "what it wanted to be" (which is a line I've heard artist-types use, even though I think it's a bit silly). And then I had an idea.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

With this passage in mind, I picked up my brush, poured some black paint, and covered the outside of the mug (this was the easy part). Then I poured some yellow and covered the flat bottom of the inside the mug, then radiated yellow "beams" out and up the sides of the cup. I also added some red stripes descending down the sides as a reminder of Christ's blood in the process. So far, so good (in other words, I hadn't totally screwed it up beyond repair just yet).

Finally, I mixed several different colors and filled in the white space between the radiating beams, swirling it a bit and trying not to overdo the overlap. Done with that, I went back over the beams again with the yellow, put on one more coat of black on the exterior, and voila: The Sanctification Mug – respectable enough for college use, and interesting enough to start a dorm room conversation about the theology of Christian sanctification once someone bottoms out on "transient" caffeine and sees the "eternal" colors emerging from within. Or something.

Somewhere there's a Christian bookstore trinket distributor just dying to market these…

  1. Hey, that’s pretty good!
    By the way, one of the teachers at Wildwood has a daughter who is married to the youth director at our church. Small world, huh?

  2. I like it too!
    I can’t wait to see the “resurrected” canvas shoes!

  3. I just returned from the laundry room where I checked out the string painting. Aptly titled, I must say! I’m so glad I know now, after all these years. Laundry will take on a whole new meaning.

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