I had an amazing opportunity to paint during worship – again with my friends from LIHOP – but at a new venue. It was part of a time of worship to “christen” in a way, a new building that Betenbough has nearly completed. I’m not sure what all their plans are for this facility, but it is, without doubt, a beautiful place. As a business person myself, I appreciate the desire of this family and business to partner with God in whatever it is that will happen here.
I’m perfecting my load-in, and I was thrilled that I was able to bring all that I needed in one load! Alas, with the paint not dry, load out does not take just one trip. But I digress…
I’ve mentioned it before, but I often feel as if I’m painting what is being sung…or they sing what I’ve painted. I find that most often is true when I’m painting with the worship team from LIHOP. I don’t know if it’s their style of leading worship – if harp and bowl lends itself more specifically to shifting with the Spirit? Or if it’s because I know these people best, of all that I’ve painted with, as we are friends? I suspect that both play a part, but my guess is that harp and bowl is particularly conducive to collaborative worship.
As always, I began the paintings without any idea what was going to happen. I started just getting color on the bright white surface. I’m finding that I enjoy working on the larger pieces. They are more difficult in some ways, but the size allows the paint to dry in one area while I work on another, which is helpful. As I worked, I began to sense a grove of trees. I was reluctant at first to paint them, as it’s the name of the building and seemed very obvious. However, as so often happens, God just keeps saying the same thing until I paint it. Evidently I like to make things more complicated than they need to be at times.
As I was painting the trees, and filling in the deeper color of the ground under them, I kept feeling like there was an angel somewhere. I never have found it – or possibly them – in this piece. They may be hiding in the trees! But, as I was increasing the blue under them, the singers were singing about the river – and I realized that the grove may be next to the river – and the river may be overtaking the trees. That’s always fun for me.
I finished the piece, or at least I couldn’t think of anything else to do with it, which is my usual indication that it’s done. I looked at the time, and realized that only half of the time had elapsed. I grabbed the other board and began again. This time, I was watching for angels. I generally don’t paint them – they typically show up, and they did. I began painting the piece in landscape orientation, or horizontally. But suddenly, I saw that if I turned it to portrait orientation, there was at least one figure, and maybe several more.
It always seems to startle people when I turn a painting around – and I can see that. Traditionally, painters decide what they are going to paint, and then they choose the size and shape of the surface that will best fit the subject matter and composition. Many do extensive sketching prior to beginning to paint. So, if that’s what you’re used to, it has got to be startling to see such a major shift mid stream. I completely get that – I was trained in that method.It’s just that I have no idea what the piece wants to be when it grows up when I begin, so it often happens that I don’t have it the right way up to start with. And, sometimes I turn them around several times.
After readjusting the easel, and getting going again, I could see that there were several figures coming forward out of the right hand side of the piece. I began to highlight their heads, then their figures, and then increased the complexity of the background. Moving back and forth to allow the paint to dry in the various areas. At some point, while working, the musicians began to sing about “the burning ones”, and I realized that, especially with the red background behind them, this might well be them.
Artwork is subject to interpretation, and with my figures, I always want that to be the case. I deliberately leave them quite abstracted so that they can speak what you need to hear. In this case, I think the figures can be either angels coming bearing gifts and revelation, or they might be a representation of the humans who are on fire for the Lord. Like candles, both burn brightly fulfilling their purpose on the earth and transforming it as they do.