It is with incredible vulnerability that I share with you that I love this painting! Not necessarily for the way it turned out, but for what I learned while painting it.
If I stand really closely, there are a ton of little flaws I could pick out. Issues with the blending of colors, symmetry, and perspective. Yet when I set it on a shelf and take a good few steps backwards, those small issues seem to disappear. I am lost in the beauty of smeared and smudged paint suddenly resembling something like a building- like a church. It amazes me that, even without being completed neatly, I can still clearly make out the subject of this painting.
I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in college. Learning to paint a canvas was like a sorority rite of passage. With every letter of our motto that I painted, I learned better control over my paintbrush. I loved lettering and made many scripted signs for my home and the homes of friends after that.
I think any girl loves filling her home with quotes and Bible verses that tell of her story, but I found an extra pleasure in filling my home with ones I had personally painted. With such a steady hand, I was good at it too. A local home décor company contacted me to do hand lettering on their products because, up until that time, they had been using vinyl lettering made from a Cricuit. Their customers had expressed a desire for lettering that couldn’t be peeled away. Although I declined- I did my painting just for fun- I was so honored that they had asked.
Just a few months ago though I discovered a Christian artist living in Nashville Tennessee named Deann Hebert. I found a picture of this woman standing in the middle of a beautiful rugged barn surrounded by huge canvases with dripping paint, harsh brush strokes, and rough textures. I instantly felt drawn to her. I had to know her story, and I had to see more of her art. This was strange for me because my home has always been filled with antiques and hand-lettered signs. Never actual artwork.
As I looked through images of Deann’s paintings online, I fell in love with the absolute freedom with which she painted. Her paintings challenged me because they were obviously crafted so differently from the control I had learned to paint with. I decided to try to recreate one of her paintings just for fun on a weekend girls’ night.
I couldn’t believe how frustrating I found the process… how hard it was for me to abandon the control I knew, even if I could see that it wasn’t necessary. As I painted, and then scrunched up my nose and repainted, and then crossed my arms and pouted before I painted again, I realized something really valuable. My current experience with painting had a lot to teach me about the way I had been living my life.
I have felt a need for hard lines in the past. “Without them,” I thought, “how will I be able to see what I’ve made?” In my paintings, of my life… There was no difference to me.
I had been living bound to a timeline that I had made up in my head many years prior. And because of those expectations for my life, I had felt a need for controlled movements too. For each stroke to blend naturally with the next- every endeavor of my life carefully planned. Doing so had prevented me from letting the colors of my life run and swirl with all the passion of true faith…the understanding that it might be a little messy, sure, but in the end it would be even more beautiful.
I began to understand this when the sweet friend I was painting beside noticed my discontentment over the blending of my background’s colors. “Unfocus your eyes,” she said. “Let yourself see the bigger picture.” I don’t think she could have known just how big the picture really was.
As I grow closer to Jesus, I understand more and more that the control I always thought I had to have is futile anyways. A beautiful life doesn’t come from having it all figured out. It comes from knowing the One who does and surrendering everything for His will and His way.
It’s easier to say it than to live it though. Even after receiving my friend’s advice, this painting is still so far from the freedom and beauty of Deann’s art. I look at it and see so many places that I could have picked my paintbrush up and left the lines to the mind’s eye, or places I could have surrendered my control by letting paint run or colors splash. My life is no different. Daily the Lord reveals areas of my life that I am trying to have too much control. I’m still learning what it means to “unfocus my eyes and see the bigger picture” as my sweet friend put it. But I’m learning, and that’s the point.
Like paintbrushes dunked in water cause colors to run and swirl and dance without limits, so I am learning to be overcome by living water. To let it blend every heavenly hue of my life into one beautiful picture of grace.
P.S. I met this precious little one and her mama for brunch today. We were talking about a friend’s timeline for having children, and then she asked me about my own. I just laughed and laughed! When I got to the car, I sent her the link to this post.