For me, since I picked up a crayon, I have always been an artist. It’s how I interpreted my world, and how I expressed myself long before I learned to read or write, or even communicate well with others in words. It has been one of my most loyal companions in my life. When there was no one, or I was having a hard time, I would draw or paint. For me it helped me to feel less invisible in this world. I would draw all the time, everywhere. It was the one thing I had control of that would make me feel better, and I could make a little bit of sense of my life, at least on that piece of paper. Sometimes, it was copying cartoons and things that I had seen and other people would easily recognize. Often it would be things that were right in front of me. I would document the view I had from my desk in Math class, or practice drawing my hands and feet. And sometimes, I would paint the things inside my heart and in my head. So sometimes my art got really morbid, dark, and filled with angst. In college, I tried to address some big things in my heart, like pain and fear, on a large scale so that I and others couldn’t just look away. Those paintings I had to really examine the emotions for months that I worked on these paintings. Throughout my young adult years, I would do a lot of my processing through art.
For the longest time, I thought it was art that had healed me, and held me. But that was before I really knew God. Before I understood that God was the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That God never leaves or forsakes us.
So where was He all these times, when I felt alone? Where was He when I felt invisible? Where was He when I needed Him? He was in my sketch book! I have a visual reminder of an invisible God documenting the times where He was there. He was teaching me how to dump all that darkness, all that angst, and misery on to the paper, and into the canvas. Some paintings, I can look at they will trigger in me the very night they were created and how I felt, and see where God was.
My portfolio is a visual testimony of where God has delivered me from. When I felt alone, and I would be sketching, often a random stranger would approach me and praise me for my gift. In Proverbs 18:16, it says, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” God gave me this gift to be able to draw and to create, so that He could show up in my life. Or maybe He gave me this gift so that He could draw me in.
I am such a visual learner. Some things I just don’t grasp until I see it, or do it. God knows this about me. There are times now, when I am paying attention, that I am drawn to different things, symbols, colors. He knows that I don’t just like to sit down and read a book cover to cover or to read my Bible throughout the year like some other people. But He knows that I am a collector of things, and adventurer who likes to go on journeys through books and scriptures sometimes stopping to chew on something for over a week or a month. To dig into just one word, and how it is used in several scriptures. So that’s how God and I hang out and get to know each other. It’s much like a treasure hunt. He gives me a picture, a dream, a vision while listening to music, and I use it as a treasure map, to try to figure out what it is that He is trying to tell me.
That makes it sound so glamourous and exciting. Sometimes, it really is the best thing and makes me feel so completely alive and so close to God. Others, I just wish He would just tell me. Sometimes, I don’t paint or pray because I don’t want to hear what God has to say; or I am not ready to face the pocket of pain He wants to heal. There are many times, when I would be alone in my studio painting, and unearth some pain in my heart, or some deep darkness or wound I didn’t know was there, but God did. I would just cry and let it out, and keep painting and He would comfort me.
Often times, lately, because I haven’t been devoting a lot of time to painting, I get to do this process with Him, on stage in front of people, or walk it out with a group of artists, or through the art that I donate. When I do, commit to stepping out and create, in front of people, God always shows up. Not only is the work usually healing something in me, but it’s often for someone else, because God knows. For me, nearly everything I paint or draw, God’s soft voice is whispering to me about something in it. And if I quit running and hiding, I can hear His voice, and feel Him breathe into me new life.
Jennifer James is the founder of James 222 Studios. James 222 Studios is a community of artists who believe that Faith and Action go hand in hand. Every creative journey begins with a leap of faith and a call to act. Whether you are just beginning your journey or have been on one for a long time, this is a place where you will build your relationship with God and develop the gifts that He has given you.
Come 2nd Mondays for a challenge, theme, or tutorial teaching and then come 4th Mondays to share with the community what you have been doing!
2nd & 4th Monday of each month – 6:00-9:00pm.