I love art. For me a painting or a photo can explain feelings and emotions better than any spoken language I know. In my home I have all kinds of paintings and photos. Each of them is displayed because they evoke a feeling or teach a lesson through their image. One piece, however, is a personal favorite, and the image has nothing to do with why I love it. It is a stretched canvas print of a famous painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte painted by Georges Seurat. There are people of various ages and status all enjoying a sunny afternoon on the shores of the River Seine. It’s serene and colorful and peaceful. It is one of my very favorite pieces, and unlike some of my other paintings, the lesson I learn from it is not found in the images of people relaxing and enjoying life, but in the method with which the artist painted it.
Georges Seurat was one of the founders of neo impressionism in the late 19th century. His meticulous style became known as pointillism. Art up until Seurat had always been a mix of different colors and brush strokes to create a smooth image. His new method was instead tiny points or dots, each in one color, very carefully calculated and placed on the canvas to create an image. From far away his paintings look smooth and flawless. It is not until you get up close that you can see the tiny dots so carefully placed on the canvas to create amazing details.
There is so much we can learn from these little dots. As I look at the tiny points on his paintings I can’t help but think of the amount of planning and preparation that went into it before he ever put a dot on the canvas. He had to have a vision and a careful plan of each color and where it needed to be placed in order for the image to come to life. If he would have just started painting just to see where he ended up, the way many artists do, it would have been an abstract, indecipherable work. Just like the painting, we too need to have a vision and plan for what we want our lives to look like. As we make choices, even seemingly tiny ones in our day-to-day lives, we are placing dots on our canvas. Those dots will determine what our lives look like in the future. Without a vision for what we want, how will we know where to place our dots? As my family leaves our home every day, they see that painting and are reminded that their choices matter. They can become whatever they want, but their choices today determine what their outcome looks like. You can want to be a ballet dancer, but if you go every day to kickboxing instead of dance you will never become an elegant ballerina.
Another thing I learn when I look at this painting is that even the tiny things matter. As a mother I often feel like what I do is unimportant and most often goes unnoticed. My husband and kids have never thanked me for always having toothpaste in the bathroom drawer or how comfortable the fluffed pillows on the couch are. But as I am reminded by Seurat, even the tiny dots matter in the image. Without the unbelievably small points on the pole of the umbrella the image would be incomplete. My work as a woman and mother in my tiny corner of the world is not only making dots on my family’s life canvases, but is also making tiny dots in my neighborhood, city and country. Small decisions by each of us create big changes in the world. As we go about our days in each of our corners of this vast world, I hope that we can all remember that we matter; our choices matter. Our choices affect the beautiful art that we are all engaged in creating. I hope that we can have a vision of what we want and then place our dots carefully and intentionally to create that vision for our lives.