In kindergarten, Barb, announced to her teacher, “When I grow up I’m going to be an artist!” Something inside her young heart found refuge in the joy that came with creative expression. It was that same joy that beckoned her to pursue her bachelor’s degree in painting and eventually took her to Arizona in pursuit of a master’s degree in the same discipline.
It was in that time that things started to change for Barb. “I became frustrated with the art world and my place in it as a believer. Turning to the Christian art realm, I looked for guidance but was met with even greater disillusionment.”
Leaving her degree program early, Barb stepped away from creating art herself. She resolved to focus instead on family and a new career in teaching. She became a high school art teacher and began to awaken in others the passion she discovered as a child. None of this, however, could fulfill her deep longing to again be a maker of art. Even as her hiatus from making art reached two decades, the call to create persisted in her heart.
“About ten years ago, I really began working on my own art again. I started exploring the idea that my art is not just a product for consumption, but actually an act of worship. I have learned to use it as a means of making a joyful noise to the Lord that is unique to me.”
This reawakening, however, was not all smooth sailing by any stretch of the imagination. The first few years of Barb’s return to creating brought with it many difficulties. “I struggled with regrets, depression, and comparison. I did not see myself as a ‘successful’ artist and art became a place of self-doubt. I still have to battle this mindset when I make art today.”
For years Barb’s relationship with God felt separate from her art. Meaningfully capturing the love and wonder she felt towards God challenged her. Outside live-painting during worship sets at her church, she struggled to truly illustrate her relationship with God and all that it meant to her.
“Something has shifted for me in the last year or so, though. As I have spent time fighting my feelings of insecurity and pressing on with making art, I have felt God call me to come away with Him, to actually step back from everything and just be with him. It is in this place of retreat that art has again become an expression of joy in Him.”
Even when she cannot step away for a weekend, God has revealed to her ways to retreat in the moment. “I have kept a prayer journal for years and recently combined it with my sketchbook. This has opened up a whole new world to me! I have been able to practice the presence of God as I sketch. Beyond just honing my drawing skills, I have seen this practice open up a more intimate relationship with the Lord.”
“I’ve started creating art from a place of relationship with God. I feel a sense of freedom in creating from that place. That freedom has started to even translate to my painting in a more natural way. In this way my art is not separate from my prayer time but has become a part of it.”
If you have ever had a chance to see Barb’s art, her talent is undeniable. But perhaps she is in no way more an artist than in her reflection of God’s love to others. As she embarks on a new leg of this journey with God, it is tough not to think of that kindergartener’s declaration all those years ago. “When I grow up I’m going to be an artist!”
I can wholeheartedly affirm Barb’s identity as an artist, and as I reflect on it, an artist she has always been. God planted something in her heart that drew her to grow more and more into who He has always intended her to be. I suspect that she will never stop “growing up” into the artist He planned her to be.
It seems, five-year-old Barb understood a fundamental truth that adult Barb is now able to put into words. “God made us all unique children with special voices intended to be shared. That is who I am. That is who I have always been. And that is what keeps me going.”
We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
What about Barb’s story resonated with you in some way? How can you share the unique voice God blessed you with?
Drew Tilton is an experienced writer, creator, and leader, who is passionate about Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Church. He is the founder of Asio Creative, an organization dedicated to helping others bring their writing projects to life. Follow Asio on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.