David: The Shepherd King
By James Robert Kessler
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalms 51:10 (NKJV)
I want to speak about one of my greatest artistic inspirations, my King David portrait. The life of David has always fascinated me. He is the one biblical character whom God says has a heart like His own. This is a pretty big compliment coming from the creator of the universe.
Yet David is the same King who broke every one of God’s Ten Commandments in one single act. It wasn’t until the prophet Nathan came to him with a cute little story about a little lamb that demanded the king's justice when we discover how very human David was even with a heart like God’s. David’s deed’s had become unraveled and revealed through the judgment he pronounced on another. Any sort of judgment no matter how small, diminishes our capacity to love rightly and the truth is we judge ourselves in the process.
Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! 2Samuel 12:7 (NKJVa)
God had taken a small shepherd boy and made him a mighty King. A warrior unlike no other yet David is revealed to no more human than any one of us. Could this be one of the thoughts that Michelangelo was inspired by when he was commissioned to chiseled his masterpiece of David out of marble?
The Timeless Face of Michelangelo's David
Up until the time of Michelangelo when a work about David was done he would be holding the head of Goliath in triumph. In Michelangelo’s portrayal, David is stripped of his clothing except for the sling he has draped over his shoulder. I find the symbolism to mean that underneath the masks that hide all our imperfections, we are perfectly created in the image and likeness of our creator. And in our hands we have all the weapons we need to be more than conquerors in any given situation.
Michelangelo's David is a Renaissance interpretation of a common ancient Greek theme of the standing heroic male nude. A symbol of character, strength and beauty. A mighty king stripped of his royal garments yet more majestic than any piece of clothing could add to his royal birthright. This is not only the truth about David but it is your truth as well.
The prophet Nathan uncovered David’s humanity thus revealing the true measure of any King. When you discover that housed within in every human being is the divine then you will see that all forms are born of the one life we label as God. The story of David is the story of each one of us. We all face our giants or Goliaths in life. We all can hold the symbolic head of Goliath in victory knowing that nothing holds us back except our own selves
When I comment about art and inspiration, I can only speak from my own artistic and personal experience. By doing so, I can share the truth and depth of its meaning on a personal level. A level or personal journey of discovering the one truth that makes all of creation one or total. This is of the upmost importance because this one truth is universal. How can it be any other way?
Inspiration: the stimulation for the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art. Art in any form. Music, dance or talent of any kind. To be “in spirit” in a place where time no longer exists. Athletes refer to it as being in the zone. This is what makes creativity so very beautiful and life then becomes illuminated by the sacred from deep within our spirits.
My experience or truth is rooted in the Christian faith. It’s all I’ve ever been taught or known since I was a little child. The Scriptures were my teacher and its stories were the guide that lit my life’s journey. A journey whose theme was good versus evil and the one day promise of paradise. Every character and story was literal in their interpretation thus the true meaning behind them were lost.
The garden of Eden, a talking snake, Noah’s giant boat, Jonah in the belly of a whale, Elijah’s fire from heaven and art taught me the true beauty of these sacred stories was metaphoric in their redemptive messages. A half century later through the transformation of art, I have come to realize that true salvation is the kind that liberates us from the prisons of our own mind. What once were concrete concepts have been transformed into the symbols of personal freedom and redemption. Art has taught me all things relative to my own experience and has been my greatest teacher.
When I painted my portrait of David I never once thought of or considered Michelangelo’s masterpiece as its inspiration. The ironic thing is that it was only after it was completed that I discovered the amazingly similarities between the both of them. From the profile of the nose and mouth to the eyes and the curls of his hair, it would seem we both might have been creating from the same inspirational source.
I realize I’m no recognized great master like a Michelangelo or a De Vinci but the truth is we all of us create from the same source. From the actor on stage to the little old lady knitting a sweater, we are one and the same light of creativity. Each of us trying to find our inner Michelangelo.
I like to think of my humble oil portrait of David as putting the flesh on Michelangelo’s marble of David. Compare the two pieces of art. Study them. The similarities are all present. Maybe we have more in common with the great masters more than we can ever know?
My renaissance colleague created from the stillness within himself. The Scripture says it this way. “Be Still and know I am God.” “Be Still and know” a masterpiece is longing to reveal itself through each one of us. Now you know the secret of all the greatest artists.
Now you know your own secret.
James Robert Kessler
Because of Him Art Ministry 2012