Writing | My Artist Story

“Into Marvelous Light” background painted live at StoneWater Church’s Ignite Women’s Conference January 2015.

In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote describes my truest experience as an artist. I’ve been actively pursuing art as my heart has imagined it since 2006. The pursuit began out of necessity and birthed into passion over time as I have grown in both the arts and my relationship with my Creator. You may know Him as Yahweh or Jehovah, Yeshua or Jesus- maybe you do not know Him at all- still, to me… He is my living, creative being. His life inside of me has awakened my heart like I’ve never known and that awakening birthed a passion to be creative.

If you asked me who I am I would tell you I’m creative. I visited art class my freshman year in high school and passed with an average grade. I considered myself a nominal artist at best and moved on not planning to look back. The lie I believed: My work is not art. I never dreamed of considering myself a serious artist.

My journey to become an artist doesn’t “feel good,” but I pray it inspires. You see, that need I had in 2006 that opened the door to creativity anew in my life, it came at great cost. My oldest son passed away after a car accident just a year earlier. I had been working my way through the pain of grief realizing people who’d lost children needed a place to go to share their pain and their stories – a place to learn about the hope of God’s promises to them and a place to heal.

So after a week of applying two coats of interior latex paint to a classroom in our church, I needed art pieces to decorate the wall. I found a few odd items in my friend’s garage and purchased a few pieces with grant money I’d received. I had about fifty dollars left when I wandered into Hobby Lobby looking for something to fill the space. As I walked and observed, I heard a still, small voice inside my heart whisper: Why don’t you paint them?

I dismissed the thought. After all, I AM NOT AN ARTIST. I made my way through the store, a little lost in my thoughts and not quite finding what I was looking for in my price range. That is until I ended up in the art supplies. Before I knew it I had eight tubes of Daler-Rowney Level 1 acrylic paints, a set of brushes and three canvases. I presented my prize with a coupon clipped from the newspaper, and checked out with a few pennies to spare. My parting thought: If they aren’t any good I’ll just throw them away.

They were “first work” good. I don’t have pictures of them because I left them with the church. Still, I had discovered something that had given my heart wings. I dabbled in my new hobby. Picking up odd supplies and rarely refusing to attempt what I sensed the Lord pressing me toward. I’ve painted the same vision on multiple occasions more times than I care to admit. All along, I heard God whispering to my heart, You are an artist. I made you that way.

It seems the closer I walk with Jesus in my life, the more creative I become. He is, after all, the original Creator – the Master Artist. I’ve noticed my work improving without intention and there seems to be acceleration in my application. I have tried to take a few classes but often receive affirmation rather than instruction.

I’ve painted on stage during worship at various events, created commissioned works based on Scripture and sold more than 20 pieces of original work along with more than 100 prints. Yet still, as recently as two years ago, I struggled to define myself as an artist. I still embraced that lie I believed in high school and disqualified myself.

Then one day I walked the art galleries in Fredricksburg, Texas and discovered that I must be an artist. I saw myself in some of the expression there and realized that my misgivings were based on the lie I had believed all those years ago. I have a book of artist’s cards I collected that weekend and among them I pasted my own business card. A reminder: I AM AN ARTIST!

After returning home I committed to join the Lake Granbury Artist Association and have recently submitted my first work for their non-juried “Red” show that began on August 5th. I’ve frequented the Shanley House on Friday mornings for the open session opportunity working alongside artists who are both skilled and creative. Each of our styles is different, our practice unique… The one thing that is true of all of us is we are growing as artists, and growing in relationship with one another along the way.

It is my personal belief that anyone can create – no talent required. What your heart imagines only you can express. There’s a world awaiting that discovery of creativity that is being birthed in you. The question: How will creativity be expressed through you?  

(Mark Danielson of the Granbury Showcase Magazine used this article as a reference to write a piece on my artwork for an upcoming Art Beat column. It’s a free publication distributed to thousands of readers around the Hood County area. Written 8/5/2016, Michelle Bentham.)

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