The Making of "Deeply Held"
I love drawing stick figures. The pressure is low to do it well, and they can be quite expressive. This piece started in a 9x14 art journal. On the top half of the page I drew the stick figure crawling up a hill, tired and desperate, with dark sky and dark earth. There is no seen end to the hill, or rather, mountain. Much of my art and music comes when I'm processing stuff, so it often appears much darker than people who meet me would expect it to be. I'm often referred to as a ray of sunshine, and yet, my creativity is often inspired by suffering. Another hallmark of my songs and art is some higher perspective following the acknowledgment of suffering. I don't add that perspective out of obligation but as a meaningful part of my process. I express the dark and it makes space to open to the light.

The bottom half of my art journal page was blank, and it felt incomplete. I decided that under the mountain I wanted to draw a fleshy set of hands holding a heart. Stick-figure hands wouldn't convey what I wanted to express. The hands and the heart needed to have life, suppleness, substance. I typically steer away from drawing hands, but knew that's what would complete the piece so decided to go for it, with a pencil, of course, and true to character, a mechanical pencil, haha. I looked online for images to try to replicate, also a first for me, and found a beautiful image that captured the feeling I wanted to convey.

Rather quickly, albeit with much erasing and redrawing, I was able to draw a fairly realistic pair of hands holding a heart. I was dating a fine artist at the time, who mostly does realistic portraits. I happened to be at his house during this experiment and he was as impressed as I was at the branching out from my typical stick-figures. I used some of his pastels to color the heart pink and made a green healing light around the hands. The original image shows that under the surface of our experience of struggle our heart is held safe and whole, alive and supple. 

When I started playing around with digital art I discovered layers. For those who don't know, in many programs you can take an image in one layer and make it slightly transparent so another image on another layer comes through. I wanted to see the stick figure crawling up the mountain actually held in the heart. I wanted the hands to appear a little more subtle, almost as if in an x-ray. Their presence is there but may not always be perceived. Finally, I added some healing blue light around the heart, representative of the activity of Holy Spirit. 

This image is the first in which I've added text. My song "Oceans" ends with the line: "We've never been more deeply held." It's the perfect quote to go along with the image. In the darkness and struggle I may feel more alone than ever, but it's in those times that I believe I'm held tenderly by the Holy Spirit. And it's in the times that I'm desperate to find greater meaning that I'm motivated to open in surrender and see the Love that has been carrying me.

As I type this I'm reminded of the poem "Footprints" by Mary Fishback Powers. I remember reading the poem in my grandmother's bedroom as a child. In the poem a man has a dream that as he walks his journey of life there are two sets of footprints in the sand - his and the Lord's. He notices there is just one set of footprints in the most difficult times and asks why. The Lord replies saying: "It was then that I carried you." 

In these times of great change in humanity, I take comfort knowing: we've never been more deeply held.

~Tracy Rae Clark, November, 2015