Simplicity, Art and Finding Myself
Chritsty (Titus) Thomson, CVV 17
Christy is an artist a runner and connoisseur of chocolate. She is suited perfectly for France where she now lives with her husband Michael Thomson (CVV 17). You can see more of her work, here.
“Jesus, the Lord, expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations” (St. Vincent de Paul). There are moments in life that no matter how long ago you experienced them, they never leave you. For me, it was the moment I heard this quote: St. Vincent’s teaching on one of his favorite virtues; simplicity.
There are many things about my year in CVV that made me become the person I am today, but the teachings on simplicity changed me in a way that I couldn’t shake. The way we lived that year and the conversations we had around the subject changed me deeply. They drew into question the way I lived my life from the small act of purchasing items to the deeper notion of living a life of integrity and being myself; without pretending to be someone that I wasn’t. In the four years since my time as a volunteer ended and I began my life as an artist, I have found that deeper issue, of being simply who I am, to be the hardest and most integral part of my daily life and my work. St. Vincent’s teachings on simplicity have had a profound affect on not only my daily life, but on the evolution of my paintings as well.
St. Vincent’s ideas on simplicity shook me to the core as a new volunteer because I immediately understood that I’d built an intricate web over the person I felt I truly was on the inside. It was the plight of living as a people-pleaser. I had a bad habit of telling people what I thought they wanted to hear, of doing things to gain their approval or living in way that made others happy. I realized that I had started asking not what I cared about or what I was living my life for—I was instead asking how do others think I should live my life?
Very recently, as an artist, I was finding myself in the same place I’d felt I was when I entered CVV; I was painting images that I didn’t care about in order to make an impression on viewers. I began to question what I thought the people around me, or the “art world” thought I should paint, and how they thought I should paint it—instead of painting what was honest to me. I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t. So again, I have found myself coming back to simplicity and the teachings of St. Vincent. Simplicity of a dove. Straighforward opinions. Needless reservations.
As I focus on simplicity of self, I have noticed that it has carried over into my paintings as well. I have started painting simple objects. They tend to focus on one area, one subject. I like simple paintings because they help me focus the things that matter. By getting rid of needless distractions, I had time to look inside myself, to sort through my own clutter so I can better relate to those around me in an honest and straightforward way. Painting calms me, brings me back to what I value, who I am, who I want to be. It helps make me the person God created me to be.
Thomas Merton wrote “our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny….To work out our identity in God.” I will be forever grateful that my time in CVV taught me to be honest and stop apologizing for my beliefs and opinions. I have seen the profound influence it has had on my personal life and my very personal work as an artist. I have learned the importance of living a life devoid of needless items, distractions, and focusing on the aspects of life I find important. And most importantly, I have learned to be simply myself.