Sense-sational Art

God’s grace allows us to do and be so much in His kingdom. For example, grace enables me to be a daughter, a mother, a wife, an artist, and an art teacher—five major roles all demanding my attention and time. In moments of exhaustion at the end of a day, when weariness takes hold, I am tempted to think that I cannot possibly be all these persons at once. Then God steps in and reminds me to rely on His strength. Through God’s grace, I am reminded of those I have touched, prayed for, brought to the Lord, encouraged, and just helped along this journey. Those lives have been touched because of my five roles.

So, which one would I let go? I always think that it is my role as an artist. How can I set aside time to paint when I have food to prepare for my family or lessons to write for my classes? “Be still,” my heart will then tell me, “creative talent is a gift from God.” Accordingly, the answer is to let go of doubt and discouragement, holding tight to God’s plan. God reassures me that five is indeed a number of grace and my fifth role (as an artist) is vital to my walk with God. His grace allows me to interact with and process the world around me through an artistic lens, and in doing this, I must rely on five gifts of God’s grace—my five senses.

As a visual artist, I depend on my eyes. Sight allows an encounter with the beauty of God’s creation. Through this encounter, I experience awe, humility, and connection. As an artist, I also experience the desire to record this beauty. Colors painted across the sky at twilight become pigment brushed across a canvas, capturing one moment forever. A smile on a child’s face speaks of joy that waits to be captured in abstract color and flowing movement. Grace allows me to experience each moment of life as an artist, fascinated by details of hues, patterns, and texture. Every moment savored, each aspect of what I see, reminds me that God is the original Artist and Creator.

Unexpectedly, the sense of smell is vital to my desire to paint. My students will tell you that we laugh sometimes as I open the acrylic paint for the first time, and take a moment to breath it in and enjoy the comfort of knowing something good is about to happen. As I step into the role of artist, the rich, creamy smell of paint immediately makes me smile. Sometimes, I am positive that each color of paint has its own scent—its own personality—keeping me company.

God’s grace left us the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter, a constant companion through the hills and valleys of life. The presence of the Holy Spirit is like a palette of paint, a unique hue for every moment of life. Some feelings call for the warm, sunflower smell of cadmium yellow. Others for the strong, electric thunderstorm scent of a midnight blue. Translating that comfort into a painting can only happen through God’s grace. For me, the scent of acrylic brings out that desire to set aside time to paint, create, and capture that moment for others who have yet to understand grace.

Moments from college remind me how much the sense of touch permeates the art that I create. I spent several semesters working in chalk pastel, using my fingertips to blend the delicate medium, creating subtle changes in light and dark. The soft, undulating colors created in my abstract work brings feelings and emotions to life on paper, flowing through my fingers and directly onto the page. As the message surges through my fingers, it wears down my finger prints, as if a physical part of me were imbedded in the work that is so emotionally part of me.

But as my fingertips wear down, God is building me up, preparing me to communicate the Christian messages so prevalent in all of my art. Now, years later, when I finish a day of teaching art, the stains on my fingertips cause me to smile, knowing that my hands are doing the work God gives me, using the talent with which He graced me.

Of all the five senses, one would think that hearing would be least valuable as a visual artist. I have found the opposite. God speaks in a still, small voice. I discovered after becoming a wife and mother that what I was hearing influenced my work as an artist. I could not hear what to paint over the noise of the TV, the clamor of toddlers, or even the beautiful sound of music. Now that my children are a little older, I still find myself painting in the wee late hours, between their bedtime and dawn in the silence that allows me to focus. This discipline reminds me to do the same as I pursue God. His grace has taught me the value of silencing distractions when seeking Him.

One must wonder, how can I possibly involve the sense of taste in the creation of art? Laughing still, I recall an argument as a child over who got to drink the watercolor water when we finished painting. I was adamant that each of the pretty colors tasted delicious, like flavors of Kool-Aid. Likewise, as a child, my husband sampled his crayons, swearing each had its own unique flavor. It is through God’s grace that we didn’t poison ourselves eating art materials!

As children, we already connect wonderful things to wonderful tastes. We taste the flavors that go with the rich colors of life, even when they are just wax and pigment. I no longer taste my art supplies, sampling the cherry red or chocolate brown sparkle, but I can now understand through this creative process what it means in Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (KJV). All good things have a good flavor, a unique taste that draws us back time and again. I want to be drawn back into His presence time and time again. What a glorious flavor is grace!

One does not need to be an artist to use these five senses to draw closer to God. So, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Listen to the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Let your fingertips wear down doing His good work as He builds you up for His glory and not your own. Watch for the beauty of His glorious creation, reminding you that you too, have a place in His kingdom. Breathe in the scent of approaching rain, for God is ever ready to pour down His grace on you!

 

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