How to “See” My Art, Part 1

I have recently come to a greater realization that I have, in fact, learned a great deal these last few years about prophetic artwork. It’s been such a gradual process for me, that I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that everyone else knows at least as much as I do about it, if not more. For some of you, this is most likely true. You’ve been around the prophetic art world for years and years and have learned from people who have been doing this seemingly forever. But, given the questions I’ve received when I’m painting live, there are lots of us who haven’t been around this realm, and it’s new to us.

In this post, I’m more wanting to give you: the viewer, admirer, and/or collector more of a grid on which to hang the prophetic art that’s out there. Or, at least, my perspective on it… I’m sure there will be many different opinions out there. But, right now, I’m not noticing a large number of people who are talking about what I do, specifically. Or really, anyone. I see work that is more non-representational, like mine, and frequently there is a “word” associated with it, but no one that I’ve found is telling people why the painting means what they’ve said.

In no way do I wish to be critical of other artists and their chosen expression of what God is saying to them. I’m not writing this to say that my work is the best, or better than anyone else’s. I’m just trying, as I read in an article by Makoto Fujimura, to help you know how to “see” my work. And, hopefully, how to hear from God for yourself and your situation as you do so.

I’m sure most artists get asked the question of their piece, “What does it mean?” Maybe the rest have an excellent grasp on this, but it always feels so awkward to me. Not that I mind the question. I understand why it’s asked, and I’m never upset or offended by it. I just wish I had a better answer to give.

And, in that, I think, lies something that is different and possibly unique about what I’m doing while I paint. It’s ever evolving, and an adventure like no other. Let me share with you the story of the development of my artwork, and then, perhaps you will better be able to picture what I mean.

I grew up in a household where creativity was encouraged and expected. The words, “I can’t” were generally followed by, “Have you tried?” We dabbled in all kinds of crafty activities, and I learned to love to try new things. Creativity was also encouraged at school. I remember doing some sort of precursor to animation with drawings and photographing them sequentially. I also remember doing a claymation video when I was in Jr. High. I was involved in the band, where I learned to play several instruments, and took piano lessons.

Because I loved math and science, I decided to pursue medicine in college. I had a great time, and loved all of my classes. It was a small school, and there were only 5 of us with my major, so we were a little family of sorts. But, it was an intense program of study, so I didn’t have much time for outside pursuits. In my senior year, some one made a comment to me that I took to mean that I couldn’t do art because I was a science major. I don’t remember the exact words, and I don’t think this person meant much by it, nor do I think that I replied. However, I knew it was wrong, and I knew that the thought that art and science were incompatible was ridiculous. I’ve matured some, but then, just about the surest way to get me to do something was to tell me that I couldn’t for some stupid reason. I’ve not been highly rebellious historically, but a stupid reason is something that I do rebel against.

I shifted my focus for graduate school, and so needed to take certain classes to get into the course of study I wanted to pursue. I went home, and took those at the local community college. There were also classical drawing and painting classes. I took the beginner class of both. I discovered that I really enjoyed the drawing and painting exercises. I wasn’t able to do much, however, as I entered graduate school which consumed the next 2.5 years.

After graduation, I was able to take more drawing and painting classes. But, it wasn’t until I took a weekend class taught by my now friend, and mentor, Helen Gwinn, that I discovered the basic technique that I now use. All of my artistic education up until that point involved choosing something to paint or draw, and then set about drawing and painting it. With this new technique, you begin by playing with the paint and layers with collage, stamping, textures, and all kinds of things. After a while, the painting reveals itself to you.

What a complete departure from anything I’d ever done! It was equal parts horrifying and delightful. Delightful, because I was always disappointed in the pieces I had created, because they never looked like what I was hoping they would. Horrifying, because I didn’t have a goal to shoot for. I had minimal control over the process.

Part 2 here.