A Prescott Hotshot

As I walked around the Granite Mountain Hotshots memorial with my phone light last night, a girl came close to where I was looking. I shined the light over for her to look and when I did she spotted a picture and burst into tears. I saw she was looking at a picture of Kevin- all at once it became real for me. A lump hit my throat with full force. Without words, I felt my responsibility- I stood there with her. I’ve never felt so important standing in silence, as if to say I’m here with you, we will get through this.
She then broke through her tears with a few words. With a lump in my throat, I asked if she knew Kevin. She told me they were starting to date and they had planned last Saturday to go out this Friday. She was looking forward to it because it was the end of her college semester and she would have more time. She broke into tears again. Feeling overwhelmed- I could hardly speak. I was hoping she would give me a moment to choke my tears back so I could talk. It was in this moment that the real sense of community and brotherly love was experienced. We, as people, really are in this together. I stood there not wanting to leave in an effort to provide support by letting her talk. I sensed she needed me to hear her grief. She said, through her tears, he really was a good guy – I’m not just saying that because I liked him. He was the best and most kindest person I know.

(This is a picture of Kevin Woyjeck. Age 21)


Why is it so hard to produce? I find the pain of producing something new gets harder with age. It really would be easier to just sit back and let the younger guys do it…let someone else with more energy…with more knowledge create.

But all at once I’m struck with the truth that God has made me unique and has done unique things in my life and I need and should express just that.

Our lack of art making could be robbing the world of a God inspired expression that points people to a loving God… A God who longs to connect to us. It’s an expression that gives humanity a glimmer of hope in the human condition.

So…why is this hard to remember? And just knowing this is somehow supposed to motivate us to create?

In thinking back to times when I have been most productive a few things seem to be present and maybe in this order…

1.   Inspiration – this comes from many sources: music, a photograph, graphic design, architecture, a painting, an experience, nature, theatre, film, a book, and God’s truth. We have to expose ourselves to things. Things outside our area are even better. I can’t count how many creative people I come into contact with - all telling me they are only interested in what’s going on in their field. No wonder all their work looks alike.

2.     An idea – this starts with a thought that wont let me go. It burns in me. It’s new and excites me. In the moment of inspiration capture it; write the idea down. I get great ides when im doing menial tasks i.e. shower, driving etc. I always have a notebook handy.

3.    When stuck for solutions… sleep on it. Write ideas down as soon as you wake up. The subconscious does wonders while we sleep.

Our training can’t get us there but at times it helps channel our inspiration. Steven Nachmanovitch says, “ knowledge of the creative process cannot substitute for creativity, but it can save us from giving up on creativity when the challenges seem too intimidating and free play seem blocked”.

I don’t believe creativity can be taught nor is it just for a select few. We are all made in the image of our creator God. We are creative…just accept it and then tap into it. I’ve stated it before in another post. As we grow older we are made to believe that creativity is for children. We are told to stop being creative so we can move on to more mature endeavors. Go back to being a child… do something in a new way and watch the possibilities open up.  When’s the last time you laid on the floor and looked up? Something up there might be your next idea. The world desperately needs creative solutions and ideas. Where are the artistic pioneers? Be brave and explore new land.  


I’ve been reflecting back recently on this past fall when I was in production of my first solo show (Epoh’s Pocket Full Of Snow) and how the experience has changed me. At times it was the most stressful-gut wrenching-nerve racking-experience.

I stretched to scrape together the financing and when it was all done I came out in the hole (who said art pays?). I had many technical challenges as I had to make the show portable to travel to churches and other venues, hence no special lighting, just props and a small array of foldable furniture. I had to deal with finding a graphic designer, once found, going back and forth with changes. It was raining the Sunday of one performance, making load in a bit difficult.

Did I mention the agony of trying to express before hand what the show was? Because it was genre bending. It was a theatrical clown performance but not a clown show. It had audience participation, physical comedy, but at other times it had very soft tender dramatic moments. It was a drama without any spoken word, but not a mime show although mime technique was used at times. I used magic not as a clown doing a trick and saying “tah-dah” now clap for what I just did. Magic was employed in an attempt to further highlight the plot. There was a section where my character opened a delivered package (a shadow puppet theatre) and preformed a funky, at times funny and humble, little nativity scene.

Now I ask you, how do you adequately promote this?  Right! You guessed it! I almost got hung up on asking if they were interested. I thought different was good? Innovative theatre was wanted? Never been done before was sought out? I thought this was the age of the church wanting to connect in a relevant way by bringing the arts into the church service?

The preview performance was a disaster. One of the key props broke (a glass snow globe) wetting other paper props that had to be used later, throwing timing off. The sound program was doing weird things to the sound ques. I almost forgot entire sequences of the show. The most important key moment at the end all went wrong. There is a moment when my character is supposed to touch a “magic red light” to his heart area when his heart lights up – signifying God has given hope (only the biggest theme in the whole play). The only problem was the light came on several times too early. Then when it was time to come on it went out a few seconds later never to come on again instead of staying on to finish out the show as the stage lights fade out and we only see his heart glowing.

With all the difficulty a beautiful thing happened…people got it! People were moved! Feedback was great (read reviews). And the show got better.

Now I could have just given up. It would have been easier and a heck of a lot less stressful. I pushed through. Art demands it! Art is work and it takes a lot out of you but what it does leave you is the satisfaction of getting the creation out of your head and into the hard “light” of the world.  The true artist, in my estimation, just has to get the idea out of his head. It won’t let you go – it burns in you.  The idea nags at you begging, "create me". I’ve heard it being described as giving birth – it’s painful but beautiful. I think there is something to this. The artist’s work is just like anyone else who works - the Bible describes man having to labor by the sweat of his brow (effort/pain). This is it isn’t it? We think, albeit erroneously, that creating art should be effortless or at least not painful. Or even no one else struggles as much as me. And even more so with the artist who is a Christian. We feel that creating works of art that are for God should be without difficulty. After all didn’t God give it to me? Didn’t God place it there? So why is it so hard to accomplish the completion of it?

What ever your process of staying motivated and creating - we artists must push through. We must create! We are obligated to the idea. And if you are anything like me, you just have to do it – it won’t let you go. My fellow artists join me in seeing the beauty in the process. The journey is part of the art or to phrase it another way the whole is much more than the sum of its parts – see the value in it. Push on. Create! 

(Click on pics to view larger. To view video clips from the preview performance click here) I'm available to perform for special events - contact me for details: todddurrance@gmail.com.

A Thought for a New Year

This year I’m not interested in being a better Christian. We have more than enough professional Christians. I want to be more cognizant of my position in Christ and in so doing have the capacity not only to receive His grace but also to understand it. I want to live life aware of God’s love and embrace it, own it, and give it away - this thought is life changing. Help me my Lord to succeed.

Feeling Burnt out creatively?

As a person who does creative ministry I find Psalm 40 to be a great inspiration for creativity.

Ps. 40: 3  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

I often feel I have nothing new to give or bring to the table. If you are like me you don’t like to repeat yourself or just copy what is already out there. We want “New”. But in our effort to be unique and original we somehow keep going back to the tried and true. We want to hold tight to the familiar. The boring known is better than the scary unknown. I like what Nancy Beach said, “If we are not carful we can do ministry more out of memory than out of imagination”.

Lets face it when we try new things we set ourselves up for criticism. And we are plagued with the fear that the great idea might not work out or worse people might not get it. FEAR! Fear is the enemy of creativity and innovation.

But listen to Psalm 40:3 He put a NEW song, (“he” not us gave the song and guess what, not only did he give it, it’s NEW) a hymn of praise to our God (our creativity is an expression of thanksgiving) Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord (but listen what’s at stake if we don’t give creative expression: many will not see and many will not put their trust in the Lord).

Artists have a duty to seek after the new…the good news is God has already provided it. Us creative’s traverse in the realm of the prophetic. We give expression to what is felt and seen in the spirit. We speak from the heart and God wants to use us. We need to trust God in our creativity and not look outward but ask God to reveal to us what he wants us to say through our art. Only than will our art transcend and speak to the heart. And dare I say even at times transcend technique. We all know we have been confounded by the non-professional when their art, as crude as it is, touches us deep and stirs our spirit.

Let go of the familiar and seek out that new song. A Greek philosopher made this point, “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing onto you”.  This is a word picture of how the Spirit of God moves – it’s fresh water. We serve a creative God who is forever giving us something new. He designed us in his image. The first image I see in the Bible is that of a 
creative being surprising us with his beautiful creative power.

I think many times I don’t partner with God in his creation because I’m doing it my way. Adam and Eve got kicked out of God’s creation for that very thing. We don’t take that new song God has freely given us – the self-expression of what God is constantly doing in our lives. This is always in flux, hence always new.

On A Clear Day

People find their way – they usually do.

I have faith in the human spirit, or the struggle for good in all of us. Even when we’re down we are not out – we come back fighting.

Today I watched as a small group of apparently injured US soldiers were wheeled by me. I’m guessing they were out on a short excursion from the near by Naval hospital.

The scene can’t be more striking - the contrast so clear – I was taking my lunch break enjoying the beautiful San Diego sun and the serene landscape that only Balboa Park can offer – and here is a solider being wheeled by me with his lower leg missing with a compression stocking pulled up around the part that was left. No doubt blown off in a land mine in the Middle East (I imagined a scene like the ones in the movie The Hurt Locker). He looked to be in good spirits as he and the person wheeling him around were exchanging banter and laughing.

As I looked at that I was overwhelmed with emotion and before long I found my eyes full of tears. I gulped down the lump in my throat as my mind was filled with gratitude for this young man’s sacrifice. We get disconnected don’t we? The war is in another world far from us. I wanted to run up and thank him but was caught in a pensive moment…I watched the group grow smaller in the distance fading into the beauty of the park.

How…how does one overcome set backs so life changing…so irreversible?

I had been experiencing a few weeks of stress due to my schedule and commitments but there I sat – embarrassed by my complaints in comparison. I found my stress lift as I took courage from this sight. I think it was God’s way of giving me a poetic object lesion.

(Original 2008 Painting titled: “On A Clear Day – Red Forever” and a thought I wrote to go with it: 

Should I buy the gold or the silver...
This Style looks good on me...
I need the latest...
Did you hear who won the grammy...
I gotta have that car... 
Peace and calm where you are
Destruction where you aren't
Worlds apart
Fear and civil unrest
Unless you've been there
It's hard to imagine 

[Pray for evil to cease and peace to prevail] 

Forced To Jump

What would life be like if we were able and encouraged to be whom God designed us to be? What would the world look like if uniqueness were celebrated?

I know as teens we thought we wanted to be unique, but did we really? Weren’t we really looking to “fit in”? The music and style we wore were more or less just like the group of peers we hung out with. Uniqueness was obtained by wearing the same brand of popular clothing in a different color or maybe, if you were slightly daring, you combined with other articles of clothing, all popular brands of course, so that you were “original”. But the reality was we really didn’t want to be truly unique - those kids were considered freaks. And on the lesson goes - in an effort to be unique we conform.

From our earliest education we are taught to be like everyone else. Our first art lessons were taught by non-artists who instructed us in how to paint, what to paint, and what colors to use. God forbid we get it wrong or forget what color something is supposed to be. One of my acting teachers, Mr. Wells, tells a story of a conversation with his son’s teacher. The teacher gave a red check to many of his son’s paintings. Upon questioning the negative mark given to a painting of the ocean, where his son painted the water black, the teacher responded, “come on now Mr. Wells, we all know ocean water isn’t black”. Mr. Wells said it’s black to him. The painting was a response to a fieldtrip the students had taken to the pier in Pacific Beach on a gray and cloudy day. Mr. Wells said depending on the time of day and the weather conditions the water can look black…so who is more accurate…you asked him to paint what he saw.

As someone who thinks creatively I fought against the voices that started in kindergarten and continued through high school – “Color inside the lines”, “Accurately represent the thing you create”, “Be like everyone else”… Then at some point in college, if you’re lucky, you get a professor who challenges you to be creative, to be unique and dare I say, to be “different”. There it is again, only this time if you copy you will be met with declarations of protest…“Why did you steal my idea” or “he’s not original” or worst yet “You have no talent”. But this is only in the study halls of the art world. Get outside that and you would swear everyone sounds like your kindergarten teacher.

Leave the safety of that quasi-real world of the art department and walk into the hard light of a performance-based world where conformity is valued and expected and before long you find your creative mind has shriveled up. Your soul has been replaced with pleasing the hand that gives you money. And you fight, you fight, oh how you fight! Art becomes a battle and yet you somehow know if you give in that expression that is uniquely yours and God placed will be crushed. If you’re not careful you will wake up feeling violated…raped – all that you stood for, your aesthetic, your vision, your artistic integrity ripped from your very being.

I woke up this morning to hear the news radio announcer describe the scene… a man has held up traffic on the Coronado Bridge (2 mile long 200 foot high bridge in San Diego spanning across the bay connecting to the City of Coronado). On this misty early morning he stopped his vehicle in the westbound lanes, opened the door and went to the bridge's northern edge. He leaped over the 34-inch railing without hesitation, according to a witness who called 911 on his cell phone. The man hit the San Diego Bay at a speed faster than the posted speed on the bridge. The devastating injuries he sustained from the impact with the water did not kill him. Instead, he drowned in the bay. The county Medical Examiner's Office put an identification bracelet on his right ankle, gave him a case number and noted his place of death as "San Diego Bay, N. of Pylon 19."

As I struggled out of bed after a restless night and began to get ready for yet another day my mind wouldn’t leave the thought of this man’s jump. A profound sense of sadness came over me. It was almost like I was grieving for him…or for the family he no doubt left behind…or was I really grieving for myself? As I went through my day my thoughts went back to this scene. I wondered if his life would have been any different if a teacher, pastor, family, friend, someone or just anyone, would have let him be uniquely him. Would he fine room for his place in this world? I’m aware the scriptures that tell us our gifts will make room for themselves but, what if, just what if no one in his life validated his “different ness”? Might he be here, and not only alive but ALIVE! Alive to the things God has placed within him. Alive to the very uniqunessness of himself. The self that is one hundred percent original. The self that God knew what he was creating before the epoch of time. It’s the result of an original God who made an original unique individual out of this man.

As we grapple with our own art making might this example make us take pause and ask ourselves: are we also forcing people to jump in the proverbial sense? In other words, are we requiring the unique around us to conform to our own ideas because we might not understand or even “get” what it is they are about? Or might we be the man on the bridge who indeed feels forced to jump because he has found himself in a world that no longer values the very “diffrentness” God was so proud to create in us?

Fears about our talent…fears about being good enough…fears about our work being accepted… fears about NOT creating the vision God has given you because it will be too weird…all the lament of the artistic soul and all fears I battle with from time to time. But somehow I know my struggle is not alone. I share the voice of the lone funky art student in a corner somewhere waiting for his or her voice to be accepted to be noticed and yet so desperate to be perfect and yes so desperate to be different, unique, weird, and original just as God has chose to make us all. Be reminded that we serve our creator who indeed made us just as he wanted us, not random, but specific with details. And though we often don’t think it – perfect.  The “perfect” that is in Him (not because of Him or in spite of Him). He sees us in our perfected state. He justifies our mistakes. He adds wisdom to our walk. For he is our Master creator and only by Him and through Him can the artist find joy and peace.

Please leave me your response.      

A Longing For Beauty

BEAUTY. What does it mean? Ask a group of women or men what they find beautiful in the opposite sex and you will get varied answers. All of us, whether we are an artist of some kind or just one who admires it, are enthralled by what we call “beauty”. The debate rages in aesthetics classes across university campuses and art criticism as to what exactly is beautiful. On one level beauty is usually understood as that which we can see - that woman’s beauty was stunning, that man is handsome, that painting is splendid, that photograph of the Hawaiian sunset is breath taking etc. Deeply planted within humanity is a desire to recover and preserver beauty.

God is beautiful. Everything about Him is perfect and glorious. God created this beautiful place called earth. In the beginning it was grand…better than an Ansel Adams photograph, or the early American frontier painters (Hudson River School). Earth was a living painting in 3-D. I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to live at the beginning before Adam and Eve screwed it all up. I imagine it to have that smell after it has just rained – clean fresh. It probably had the best of every natural wonder all packed into one vast greatness - Thomas Kinkade only dreams of it. You wouldn’t have to leave on vacation because all of it is paradise – perfect weather, water, natural resources, and breath taking scenery. It’s like walking through a live impressionistic painting by Monet with vivid colors and flowers all around.  Maybe it was much like the Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”. As we walk we hear birds and butterflies everywhere…if we get hungry we just reach out to pick an over sized perfect fruit – no need to wash it it’s without germs or pesticides…yes perfect!        

Christ came to fulfill our longing for beauty, our longing for the perfect, the ideal. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book Till We Have Faces, “It was when I was happiest that I longed the most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from”. Our knowledge of Christ fulfills our empty hollow attempts to bring meaning, happiness, and, satisfaction to our work. Because alone we are not perfect nor do we create perfect things; our efforts fall short. The more we allow our imperfections to show in our life and in our work the more God’s creative truth can shine and refract off the imperfection, much like the diamond, creating a shimmer that never before existed. Don’t cover up the flaws but reveal and heal - allow God’s light to shine on your imperfect works of art.

A diamond starts as a chunk of ugly stone on the outside. A pearl starts as a grain of sand caught in an oyster. So too, our beauty comes from our ugliness (our imperfection). Our flaws are made perfect in God not independent of him. As creative people it is our job to think on these things and give expression to them. An artist not in touch with his frailty is an artist who creates out of a self-centered fog. Clarity of self, of who we are in Christ, gives birth to original and authentic expression. 

We are made in the image of our creator. God is our master art teacher. When the artist comes to terms with the fact that he is not perfect, and he never will be, and it’s okay not to be, only than will God’s truth free us to create in a realm of Godly perfection. We creative people so desperately need to trust God in our art making or our expression will be no different then that of the unbeliever. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “without faith it is impossible to please God”. I want God to "see that my work is good" just as He saw that his work was good in Genesis. We need to understand that God receives our “acknowledged” imperfect expression as pure and authentic praise. Our inadequate attempts at trying to be perfect will indeed be made perfect in him and to him. 

(original painting: "Till We Have Faces". acrylic on cold press paper)