What a new year!
Our show in Houston, Power & Peace, ended on 6 January and was a great success, breaking a sales record for that gallery. It was a "solo show" but I was never alone in it.
I am so very grateful to our friends and family who were there, before, during, and afterward, making everything work. It was a lot of work! And people came to the opening in spite of the fact that it was the worst weather day in the whole of 2013. I was a little afraid that it would just be a couple of people in that cavernous space, but it turned out to be an exciting and busy affair.
Here are artists Denise Mahlke, myself, and Fran Ellisor, just before the doors opened.
On another front, I just posted an interview by John Pototschnik a couple days ago, and there was an additional one by him around the same time involving 14 artists across the country: 7 women and 7 men, entitled "Faith... A Shield or a Crutch?" I will share that with you here as well:
Faith…a shield or crutch? (Part 1)
In this two-part series, 14 professional artists reveal the important role faith plays in their lives and how it directs, strengthens, and enables them to persevere in their chosen field.
One of the blessings derived from writing this weekly blog for the past three years has been the opportunity to communicate with some very talented artists and to discover so many of them are unabashed of their faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s this time of year that we traditionally celebrate His birth, and special songs such as “O, Holy Night” are ways in which that faith is verbalized. Just a few verses will demonstrate what I mean…
“The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our friend; He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!”When one speaks of faith and its importance in their life, they are often called spiritual, religious, or perhaps a “person of faith”. If they are really serious and actually attempt to live it, then labels are quickly attached such as fanatic and radical.
What we fail to realize is that all of us are “persons of faith”. We all put our trust in someone or something. Some of us have faith in ourselves…in our strength, ability, or intelligence. Some look to others and have faith in them to provide what is lacking. We may have faith in our national power, our leaders, our money, our insurance, our possessions, even science. More importantly, maybe our faith is dependent on what we’ve been taught about God, or possibly we’ve put our faith and trust in what we want to believe about God and creation…a belief system of our own making. Bottom line, each one of us lives by faith and we have built our life on that foundation. The key question of course is, “How reliable is that foundation?” When all the things mentioned above are taken away…and they will be at some point…what is left? That’s the key question; that’s when the ultimate reliability of the “object” of one’s faith will be revealed. There is sufficient evidence for me, and the artists participating in this blog, to entrust our lives and eternal destination to the Rock of Ages and to Jesus Christ His Son…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
It’s an honor to bring you the inspiring words of my friends. First you’ll hear from the women. On 29 December, you’ll hear from the men.
What part have faith, strength, and perseverance played in your life and art career?
Kim Carlton: A biblical definition of faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is what we believe to be true and orient our lives toward. It also says in there that “faith without works is dead.” I believe that I was designed to be an artist, but I still had to exert strength and perseverance in order to actually produce art; otherwise, my faith that I was an artist would have no life beyond my own head. Art is separate from the artist; it is the substance of a vision. Strength involves disciplining yourself every day to align the day toward what you believe to be true. Perseverance requires staying on track, and getting back on track when you inevitably get knocked off. I have always been an artist but it has taken time and patience to be sufficiently trained to communicate my vision well. Carlton website
Dot Courson: Faith leads to strength and perseverance. Art is part of my make-up – it’s what I’ve longed to do since childhood. I didn’t get to take a direct route to become an artist, but persevered because I felt this is what I was meant to do. God has a life plan for us all. He works it out in His time and in His way. His judgment is infinitely better! As an artist, I have had successes and failures, but with each work of art -as in life- I’ve tried to be strong and use my gifts to work hard. In this economy it’s not as easy as it used to be. But in life, struggles made me stronger and I have faith that this is what I need to continue to do. I truly have been blessed and so I feel that in turn, it is my duty to encourage and help others in their lives. Courson website
Judy Crowe: I chose to become an artist but before that, I chose to become a Christian. The loss of my mother when I was in high school had a direct impact on the search for answers, but questioning, studying and reading led me to my decision. I would say my life has been quite a tapestry of events since, which has shaped both my life and my career, becoming intertwined and bittersweet. I feel God has had a hand in all of it, that he’s led me to become an artist and given me the strength to persevere in times of doubt. I am very thankful for this gift of Light and Truth in my life because through it, I find hope and peace in the realization that I am doing just what I was put here to do and that I’m being led daily in the way that I should go. Even when I don’t understand and things don’t turn out the way I think they should, He never gets it wrong. Crowe website
Debra Joy Groesser: My faith guides my life and has helped me get through some very hard times in my personal life and my career: including a difficult, unhealthy first marriage, divorce, the loss of my parents, and having to give up my art career for several years… to name the major ones. As with many artists, I knew from a very young age that art is what I was meant to do…being an artist was who I was. It took a lot of faith, strength and perseverance to hold on to that and to not give up on it over the years that followed. Faith has helped me to look back and understand how the path I’ve taken has helped me in my life and my career. It’s helped me to see something good, or find a lesson, in nearly everything, good or bad. If not for the difficulties, it would be easy to take our blessings for granted. Although they are painful, the difficult, challenging times build our strength and our character and teach us to persevere. My faith guides me in all I do. When presented with opportunities and challenges, I pray for guidance to make the right decisions and for the things I do and the work I create, and to be a blessing to others. Groesser website
Sheryl Knight: All three play a major part in my career and life. My strength and perseverance come from my faith in God and in knowing He is ultimately in control, not only in my life but also in the universe. I believe God sovereignly holds tomorrows pains and pleasures, failures and victories in his mighty hand. I try to focus on what God can do through me, not what I can do myself. That gives me strength and enables me to persevere even when things aren’t going so well, or when it seems I’m in a desert. I find my inspiration in nature and the beauty of it all. I see the presence of God’s amazing design all around me, even in the ordinary. I don’t believe the random events of life are anything less than His appointed order. Living by faith gives hope, meaning, and purpose to my life and art. I have a quest to achieve something deeper through my art, more than just a nice painting. I want to bring joy and peace, as well as celebration and hope. Knight website
Denise LaRue Mahlke: I think God has given each one of us, the gift of creativity and a longing for ‘something more’…When we persevere in faith, in confidence and boldness, not in a spirit of fear, we can move forward, onward and upward towards the dreams and desires He has given us. God’s grace and love are boundless. Committing my way to the Lord as a follower of Christ has led to a closer walk with Him and His best for me. My desire is to please Him by giving back by way of committing the works of my hands to His honor and glory. Perseverance comes daily and dedication and growth is the reward for going forward in faith and the strength He supplies. Faith, strength, and perseverance are entwined throughout and into every part of life, like the vine and it’s branches. Proverbs 3:4-5 has been a guidepost for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Mahlke website
Dawn Whitelaw: My life is too full of “coincidences” for me not to be a believer. When I paint outdoors, I see His presence everywhere, and my faith is affirmed. I know that God loves me in spite of who I am. This realization leads me to live a life of gratitude. I am a work in progress both as a painter and a follower of God. My joy is in the journey. When people tell me I am a gifted painter, I know, that the true gift is not the ability to paint, but the drive and stamina to pursue the craft, and the ability to teach. The people that I can most help always seem to find their way to my door, in droves. In the end, the teaching and mentoring I am able to do will be my best work on this earth and far more significant than anything I can ever paint. Whitelaw website
Faith…a shield or crutch? (Part 2)
As mentioned in Part 1 of this series…we all have faith in someone or something, and we exercise that faith every day. When it comes to eternal matters though, one’s faith is really critical. In whom or in what that faith is placed can mean life or death.
Any statement about God, or life after death, is a faith statement. For many people, what is identified as “faith” can better be described as “hope”. Hope in and of itself doesn’t necessarily guarantee that what is hoped for will actually be realized. That’s why it’s really important that one’s view of God and His relationship to the world is based on what He has to say, not on our hopeful speculation, no matter how sincere we may be.
The Bible describes faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Of the 14 artists featured in this two-part series, all recognize that God has revealed Himself to man through His Son, Jesus Christ…and all the promises given to those who put their faith and trust in Him will indeed be fulfilled, for the Scripture assures us, “You will not be disappointed”.
The one question all humanity must deal with is…”Did God really say…?” If God has indeed spoken, we would be wise to listen. The men and women featured in this series believe He has, and they have taken it to heart.
…and now, let’s hear from the men.
What part have faith, strength, and perseverance played in your life and art career?
Roger Dale Brown: In the beginning of my painting career, I don’t know how much strength or perseverance I had vs. naivety. Whichever it was, it was powered by God. I knew I had nothing going for me when painting came into my life. It was a sliver of light, in what had been a long dark tunnel, and I held on to it with all I had. Talent is a gift. Its up to us to develop it and that takes hard work. I started to study and become a student of art. I turned my life over to God and was rewarded with the awareness, aptitude and passion to discover art. The ability to create is a gift, and to not create would be a insult to the giver…With God’s gift I can make the positive statement that I regard it as an honor and a responsibility. Brown website
Larry Clingman: I cannot imagine my life without my faith. It has provided the *strength* to stand, fall, and stand again. When life has been at it’s emptiest moment, when all opportunities seemed exhausted, when it seemed there was no hope or no way forward, it was my faith that guided me. Many times in my life and career it seemed the only answer was to quit, to give up, yet my faith provided the *perseverance* to carry on. Author Richard Carlson once said, “Obstacles and problems are a part of life. True happiness comes not when we get rid of all of our problems, but when we change our relationship to them, when we see our problems as a potential source of awakening, opportunities to practice patience, and to learn”. *It is my faith that has given me the strength and perseverance to recognize and act upon these observations. Clingman website
David Griffin: Painting has always been a difficult process for me, and surprisingly made even more difficult with age and experience. Consequently the more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually really know. So, with that personal revelation, I began again to remember God’s faithfulness and my own faith in the Creator who inspired the Scripture “that He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion”. My “art life” has had its share of mistakes, failures, and rejections to the degree that I have thought I was not up to the task of being the best steward of this gift I can be; only to be reminded by God’s Spirit that “there is strength in my weakness” and my faith is again restored by God’s grace. I’m trying not to have any illusions about where this “art” will take me, but only daily reconnecting to the One who does know and will carry it onto completion. Griffin website
Michael Godfrey: I have a deep abiding love for God and all that he has done. I am constantly in awe of the wonders of the natural world. His handiwork can be seen in every scale, from the microscopic to the vastness of the universe. Whatever ability I have is God given. I sincerely believe that. I think we give God pleasure when we use our gifts for him. He has put a little of himself in all of us. My work is a journey that expresses the beauty that I find from day to day. Each discovery deepens my love for God and I am thankful that he has given me the senses to experience this wonderful world and the desire to express it in art. My journey in art has been very rewarding, but it has not been easy. I think that God allows challenges in life to strengthen and to reveal what’s inside us. Anyone can rejoice from the mountaintop, but the learning comes from the trek up the mountain. It is through adversity and trial that we grow. I have kept these ideas close to my heart as I have pursued my career. Godfrey website
John Hanna: Faith is a word that I have been familiar with since childhood. My father was a preacher so I heard that term often. Only much later in life did I realize it could apply to something other than religion. Art or drawing became a part of my life around age five. It fascinated me then and that fascination has never left. I copied the work of great illustrators and studied “How-To” books by Walter T. Foster. By the time I got to college, already with two years practical art experience working for small art departments, I came to realize that if I worked hard, I could have a full-time career in art. I began to believe that with faith and my own ability, I could make it. During my senior year, while looking for a job, I met Bill Neale, an art director at a Dallas ad agency. He suggested I go to New York. On faith and the strength of my wife Sherry, we did. My perseverance was thoroughly tested in New York, but I found a job and through those relationships really began to think about what makes art. It’s strength and perseverance that allows you the faith in yourself to succeed. Hanna website
Jeff Haynie: My life and career has been a journey of faith. As a self-assured young artist ready to take over the art world, I fell hard to realize that I needed help to make it through this life’s challenges. So I received God’s grace in the form of Jesus Christ. He became my Friend, Savior and Personal Counselor through this journey. I feel the closest to God when I’m creating art. It’s like an ocean of freedom where anything is possible. My faith is not a philosophy but rather an honest day to day walk with a real Friend and God who understands my weaknesses, fears and insecurities. It started thirty years ago as a choice to receive God’s gift of Jesus into my heart but the reality is that was a necessity for my life and the best decision I ever made. He is waiting for anyone to come to Him and find life. (Romans 10:9) Haynie website
Jason Tako: My Catholic faith in Christ has played such a tremendous part in my life I cannot put it all into words. Belief in God gives everything meaning, including art. In his monumental book on Jesus Christ, The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton said, “Art is the signature of man.” We are the only creatures that create solely for the sake of beauty; the only creatures that express a concept and desire for beauty, and the only creatures that are made in the image of God. I think art, among other things, proves that we are made in His image. This gives meaning to what I paint or draw. Beauty gives a deeper meaning to human existence, and art should reflect this beauty. It should draw us in, and at the same time draw us outside of ourselves and closer to God. Tako website
Thanks to each of you wonderful artists for what you have contributed; may it be a blessing to all and life changing for those who take it to heart. --John Pototschnik
And thank you, John, for your courage and leadership; you are deeply appreciated.