My Friend, Geoffrey

My college art teacher Geoffrey Baker died a few weeks ago. He was my favorite professor. He was a British oldster who taught me of painters and ideas that I'd never seen or heard before. I learned from Geoffrey that an artist doesn't just create on a canvass. There's creativity in the words we speak and how we express them, in how we dress, in how we take care of our lives. Our life is a creative act.

Geoffrey showed me there's presence in the space around the things of our lives that enliven and support them. He would say, "When you paint a hand, the space between the fingers is just as important as the fingers." Geoffrey woke up in my mind the idea of space as being tangible.

Geoffrey told me a funny story about how one of his friends from many years ago asked if he could have a particular painting of Geoffrey's. Geoffrey said yes and took the canvass from the frame and began to roll it up so he could put it in a tube and mail it. But the oil paint had other ideas and completely cracked off the canvass in a cavalcade of colored specks. Geoffrey calmly took the paint dust and put it a jar. He capped it and sent it off to his friend with a note saying he hoped he enjoyed the painting.

Geoffrey taught me that I can't control creativity. A creative impulse sparks me into action and the painting reveals itself as it's being painted. I've seen how that extends into the rest of my life. Life is one big painting, many miles long, that takes a lifetime to be painted. Where I am now is the piece of my life that is currently being painted.

First Steps by Geoffrey Baker