Monday, December 14, 2009


During his senior year of highschool, my oldest son took a couple of art classes at UTM, where he thoroughly enjoyed studying under the instruction of professors Diane Shaw and Jason Stout. Reuben learned a great deal that year and his own art improved noticeably under their influence.

When both of these professors were featured at a faculty art exhibit, I eagerly drove to campus to see the work of the teachers whom Reuben regarded so highly. Through their artwork, they opened little windows into pieces of their souls. Mr. Stout - a self-professed "paint snob" who prefers oils over acrylics - crammed his canvasses completely full of high-energy images painted in eye-popping colors. Crimson, turquoise, black, fuschia,...there was not a square inch of canvas that was not positively electric. His work was the visual equivalent of super-charged espresso!

Mrs. Shaw, on the other hand, painted in watercolors. For this particular exhibit, she displayed a collection of paintings featuring trees and forest scenes. Muted colors and blurred lines created a sense of tranquility and peacefulness. Standing before one of her canvasses, you could almost hear the sighing of a breeze through the trees. I had the feeling that if I could just step into one of her paintings, I would know what it meant to truly rest.

Several years ago, the kids and I had the opportunity to see an exhibit of paintings by another artist, Charles M. Russell. Wow! They were HUGE, and alive, and amazingly realistic, and I was blown away by the depth he created in his paintings. One in particular seemed almost three-dimensional, and the longer I looked at it the more I felt like I was in danger of falling through the frame and into the wild-west scene Russell had created. My wide-eyed son, mesmerized, began to lean further and further over the velvet rope toward the canvas. A nervous museum attendant suddenly barked, "Please! Step away from the painting!"

Kids love to paint, to draw with markers, to scribble with crayons or chalk. You don't have to watch kids long to realize that every child has certain favorite colors, even favorite shapes and lines. We've all known some little girl who insisted on painting ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING pink or purple. Or the little boy who dries up all the black and red markers in the box without even touching the greens or yellows. A very young friend once covered his paper with delicate, multicolored circles. "What are you drawing?" I asked. He pointed to one loop after another and matter-of-factly explained, "This is a rabbit, and this is a house, and this is a tree,...." It's a good thing I had him there to interpret, or I'd have just thought it was a picture of rainbow circles!

I am amazed at how differently each person sees the world in which we differently we process and interpret and then communicate to others the experiences of this life. Some of us "speak" in broad black lines, while others sing in technicolor explosions or whisper with the slightest variations in shade and tone. Each of us sees pieces that tell us something about the whole; each of us shares with those around us a perspective that is unique.

God must love diversity, judging from the variety of painters and singers and poets He has created! There is so much to be learned about God that He could speak to us in a thousand voices, in a hundred-thousand colors, in a million lines and textures, and there would still be more of Himself to reveal. I am grateful that our creative God never ceases revealing Himself to us...through the brilliant, modernistic artwork of Jason Stout or the soft brushstrokes of Diane Shaw, through the intoxicating beauty of a Russell masterpiece or the whimsical doodles of a preschooler named Samuel.

And I have to wonder...what is in my paintbox? And am I using the colors and the brushes He has given me to tell the world around me something about my great God? Drawing on my life experiences, my personality, my idiosyncracies, my I "painting a picture" that opens a tiny window for others into the glory of the gospel of Christ?

Or, do I refuse to paint, petulantly denying my calling, sulking because I don't think I'm as talented as I should be? Or maybe, in a fit of anger or frustration, do I cover the pages of my life with scribble-scrabble? Perhaps in this season of life, God has given me shades of black and gray to work with, and I refuse to use these colors to His glory because, darn it, I WANT RED!

Christ has, through His atoning work on my behalf, set me free...truly free...and I pray that He will knead a consciousness of that freedom into my heart until, with absolute abandon, I joyously and unceasingly paint and sing and write and dance to His glory.

What's in your paintbox?


Jessica said...

Diane Shaw was our neighbor when we lived in Martin!

Anonymous said...

I've seen the paintings of Jason Stout as well. His work is provocative and like you said...electric. You can see some of his latest work at God Bless. This is a nice post.