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
Don’t forget, Part 2 will be posted on 29 December. Do women have a corner on spirituality? You’ll have to wait until the 29th to hear what the men have to say about it.
Recommended reading: “Just how good is good enough?”
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE