Paul Buxman and the role of disappointment

I spent some time with Paul Buxman today.  He’s a friend of mine, and also a really talented artist.  We check in at least once a year, when he brings in the year’s crop of paintings for me to photograph and archive.

Paul’s paintings tell stories on more than one level.  Visually, each painting tells a story about a slowly fading agrarian way of life in California’s beautiful central valley.  But taken collectively, they tell a story about the artist.

When I see Paul’s entire collection from a year, I see changes.

Paul used more red paint this year.  When I asked him about it, he told me that this year he discovered red, and brought it out from the back of his paint-box.  I also noticed more purity in the colors he chose, and he confirmed that he spent less time mixing colors this year.  I also noticed some different kinds of composition creeping into his work, and more diversity in the nature of his subjects.  His paintings this year feel a touch more realistic, and also a little more wild; a little less controlled.  All these facets of his art make me wonder about Paul’s life, and the events that shaped the artist this year.  So I asked.

Paul told me that this has been the best year of his life.  When I asked why, he started listing off events and feelings that seem to me like anything but the ideal year.  But in looking back, he’s been able to see God’s hand in his life and in his family this year.  The struggles he has been through this year have brought his life into sharper relief.  They’ve brought out the reds.

I’m challenged.  I’m challenged to accept the hard things in life as a gift from God; as his tool for molding me into the shape He wants for me.  I’m challenged to try putting myself into places that seem less safe.  I’m challenged to work harder, as if I’m working on things that benefit someone else instead of me.  I’m challenged to let God show me where to find the red paint.

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