WINGS OF PRESENCE
I had in mind the story of Elijah being encouraged and strengthened by a heavenly messenger (an angel of the Lord) from I Kings when I created this series. Elijah has fled to the desert after overseeing the killing of Baal’s prophets in Israel, an act that has enraged Queen Jezebel. He is afraid, filled with despair and asks to die. God sees him there lying under the broom tree comes to him at his lowest moment.
I learned many of the great Christian hymns as a child. As an adult now, many of those songs and bits of lyrics are a comfort and a reminder of how God does not leave us or forsake us — even now His angels watch over us.
WINGS OF PROVISION
The story of Elijah being fed by the ravens from I Kings inspired this series. God instructed Elijah to flee to the desert after telling Israel there shall be no rain. (This flew in the face of Israel’s erroneous belief that Baal controlled the rain.) God makes sure Elijah’s needs are met while he waits in a place of barrenness.
I learned many of the great Christian hymns as a child. As an adult now, many of those songs and bits of lyrics are a comfort and a reminder of how God tenderly cares and provides for us in amazing and sometimes unusual ways.
I also created smaller wings in a variety of colors to serve as a visual prayer and reminder of God’s eagerness to grant us what we need when we ask. Its wing shape is also a reminder of God’s presence and provision.
He put His arms around him and took care of him; He protected him as the apple of His eye. Just as an eagle stirs up its nest, encouraging its young to fly, and then hovers over them in case they need help, and spreads its wings and catches them if they fall, and carries them up high on its wings; so the Eternal guided Jacob through the wilderness without the help of any foreign god. — Dueteronomy 32:10-12
TREE OF LIFE LEAVES
There is another story of provision that inspired my work in porcelain. It is from the book of Revelation:
My heavenly guide brought me to the river of pure living waters, shimmering as brilliantly as crystal. It flowed out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle and dividing the street of the holy city. On each bank of the river stood the tree of life, firmly planted, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and producing its sweet crop every month throughout the year. And the soothing leaves that grew on the tree of life provided precious healing for the nations. Blessed are those who wash their garments. In the end, they have rightful access to the tree of life and will enter the city through its gates. — Revelations 22:1-2, 14
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their transgression cut them off from the Tree of Life and its many benefits. In the book of Revelation, we are told one day those in Christ will again be free to eat its fruit and access its healing leaves.
I think about that tree. I long for those leaves of healing for our world. I created leaves stamped with individual words: peace, hope, joy, strength, faith, love to serve as a reminder that God provides these for healing of all that is hurting and broken.
ALL this new work came about after an ad appeared in my feed while I was “surfin’ the Gram” (that’s the cool way of saying I was scrolling my feed on the social media app, Instagram) back in September. I love Instagram. I mostly follow close friends and family and then I have a growing collection of visual artists, musicians and writers that are out there creating and sharing their work with the world just like I have been doing. I get inspired, I feel part of the movement fueled by artists around the globe. It really is amazing to me.
As I was saying, an ad pops up and it’s from Sergio Gomez, a visual artist I had been following and watching his show, Breakfast with Sergio, where he gives career advice to other artists. The advertisement is for his annual Small Works Art Sales Challenge and I am interested immediately. His challenge is to create a body of smaller sized artworks and then sell those pieces in the months of November and December. Not being real great at motivating myself (I need all the external motivation I can get) and really not that good at the sales end of things, I saw this as a great way to push myself to new heights so I joined the challenge.
Long story short, I leapt into a new medium, and I sold three quarters of the pieces I created and even opened my online shop on my website. That is a big accomplishment! You see, I do not like promoting my work, myself, or asking for money. If I could just go ahead and pass out all the art for free, I very much would! This would not make for good business practices and I already do a lot of pro bono (no pay) commission work or donate a portion of time spent creating for various church organizations. A little show of income is helpful for balancing the books. Thankfully, Sergio’s challenge included non-sleazy approaches to sales and promotion and a guide for determining appropriate pricing for the things we were making. I didn’t have to feel like I was pulling prices out of thin air like a certain artist who recently duct taped a banana to a wall and slapped a $120,000 price tag on it. Wow. read more>
A main suggestion from Sergio was to host an open studio night, whether than was a private event or a public showing. I chose to hold my first private studio night in November for a select group of supportive family and friends. I was expecting to mostly receive affirmation in the form of people attending and viewing the work. I did not expect to see for instance, my display of Tree of Life Leaves plucked clean! All of the collections sold well that evening. What I had created and shared about resonated with many in attendance. This was a precious gift and a blessing to me as an artist.
THE DAILY GRIND
I have been sticking with my commitment to create and post daily some artistic effort each day. September & October got me working on a mural for one wall in my studio which features a large rose window (like those in the big fancy cathedrals, the tree of life, Elijah and his raven. I am planning to mural all of the studio in due time. The entire project is inspired by one of my favorite Scriptures — a lovely, and quite visual prayer from Paul:
I pray that from His glorious, unlimited riches He will give you mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. — Ephesians 3:16-19
I didn’t complete the wall by the end of the 30 days I had committed to, but it is a good start and its there for me to see every day and calculate next steps for when I’m ready to get back at it.
Going into December and looking ahead to 2020 I found myself longing to get back to my acrylic routine — working with abstract backgrounds and finding imagery to enter into these colorful expressive explorations. I also enjoy looking at what has come from the daily paint session and pairing it with a thought or a quote or a Scripture and then posting these to my social media accounts. Many individuals have told me they enjoy seeing these in their daily feed. Several have told me they consider this a ministry. I’d like to believe it so, I have felt the pull to pick it up again and have committed to making it my daily practice for all of 2020.
HOPE IS FOUND IN A DIAMOND
Going on seven years now, I have been asked to provide a visual for a Christmas card sent out from the conference ministers of Central Plains Mennonite Conference. This has been a challenge I look forward to each November. I am provided with a Scripture passage and possible visual ideas to inform my design.
I was given this Scripture for 2019:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13
There is something about the Advent and Christmas season that draws me to look for inspiration in the work of Celtic Christians from centuries ago — mainly, their illuminated gospels. Taking the time to properly research and explore all possible options with a particular Scripture is a process I thoroughly enjoy. This time I found myself caught up in deeper exploration of both the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The Chi Rho (that’s the Greek abbreviation for Jesus Christ) page of the Book of Kells offered up information I had not yet known — Christ is represented by a diamond shape. It’s there, right at the heart of the page. I learned the diamond has been a symbol for Christ since the 1st century where it is featured in early Christian mosaic designs. And once I read this, I found the symbol all over the place and not just in the Book of Kells. There are wonderful delicate diamond patterns of those special red dots on the fancy pages in the Lindisfarne Gospels too. I admire the genius and cleverness of these past Christians artists.
My design went through a number of phases before I finally found what worked. The diamonds worked beautifully as an energetic background and the opening of the “O” in HOPE provided a wonderful place for the Savior in a larger diamond shape to lodge. The full design featured a hymn lyric from John Morison (1781): To us a child of hope is born. Indeed, Christ is a treasure, a diamond, of infinite worth — one in which we may place all our hope for this life and that which is to come.
WING YOUR FLIGHT O’ER ALL THE EARTH
My own Christmas card design, a personal tradition I’ve been carrying on for more years than I can remember was inspired by the dream journal project I undertook this past summer where I illustrated and set words to some of my most memorable dreams. Funny... there too ravens and angels have made appearances. I designed a special spiral of wings to feature at both the beginning and the end of the journal. Many of my social media followers found that design quite lovely and I decided it would work nicely for Christmas especially when paired with the opening words of the hymn, Angels From the Realm of Glory.