THIS painting, I'm particularly proud of. It is a 24"x30" palette knife painting of wintery reflections on the surface of the Harpeth River. It is for the The Chestnut Group'sCumberland on Canvas event. I have painted water reflections before, but this is largest surface I have ever attempted. I'm very pleased with the result. I love how it is recognizable yet abstract, which was my goal for this piece. It shows well in the modern urban exhibit space of the Bridge Building. If you are in Nashville this weekend, I highly recommend that you stop by and take a look.
Here is another painting with the The Chestnut Groupfor the Cumberland on Canvas event.A portion of the show's proceeds benefit the Cumberland River Compact. Event Details below. This is a reflecting pond from Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum. Here is a field shot on location.
I love Sycamore trees. I call them "Lightning Trees" because their stark, white, branches look like a bolts of lightning to me. I have been itching to paint one for some time now. I finally got my chance while painting with the The Chestnut Groupfor the Cumberland on Canvas event. We will be sharing and selling our paintings for the Cumberland River Compact April 17 and 18. Details are in the attachments below.
My first attempt at plein air cityscape painting went pretty good. Although the winter day was not the best of weather, it was a lot of fun to work with all of the different shapes of the Nashville skyline. I painted these with my friends of The Chestnut Group. We will be sharing and selling our paintings for the Cumberland River Compact April 17 and 18. Details are in the attachments below. We painted in a beautiful urban space, just across the Cumberland River, to get a good view of the city. After the sun wend down, I stayed a little longer to get this nocturne quick-draw below.
Riverfront Lights 6"x6" Oil on Panel
with Palette Knife
There was a reporter there form Nashville Arts Magazine to capture us in action. Read the article here. The painter sitting in the top photo is your's truly.
On February 25th, I had the opportunity to preach a homily on the very passage that inspired this painting. Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;repent, and believe in the good news.”
(After) the Baptism of Jesus
One of the joys of working with the Confirmation class is the
opportunity to teach powerful theological concepts like the sacrament of
baptism. In one of our first meetings, the confirmands and their covenant
partners gather around the font. They are reminded of the promises made in
baptism. The promises God makes, the promises the parents make, and the
promises the congregation makes. Everyone is encouraged to touch the water and
mark their foreheads. It is a beautiful moment of exploration with the sacred
symbol. In class, we teach that Baptism is a visible sign of an invisible
reality. It is a sign that points to the nature and work of God. It is also a
seal, a guarantee that God keeps God’s promises. We remind the students that in
baptism, we are claimed as God’s own children, unconditionally loved, and
called to live a life in gratitude to God’s amazing grace. The middle schoolers
spend a year of reflection, study, and questioning. They create their own
statement of faith and share their faith journeys with members of the Session.
On Confirmation Sunday, the confirmands lead us all in worship. Recently, we’ve
added a processional to that service. In the processional, the confirmands
bring a beautiful, blue silk banner into the sanctuary and place it under the
font. It makes the font look like a cascading stream that stretches all the way
to the back of the sanctuary. It brings the confirmands back, full circle, to
the font—the central reminder of their identity and purpose.
Water has always been a sacred substance used by God to wash and
heal the world. Genesis records that in the very beginning of creation, the
spirit of God was moving over water. Later, God saved creation, and humanity
though a flood and an ark. In Exodus, God liberated God’s people by parting the
red sea. In Joshua, the river Jordan was parted to bring the people of God into
the Promised Land. And then there is the mystery of baptism—where water is used
for the cleansing of the soul. As the Confirmation curriculum puts it, “In a
world that says ‘You made the mess, you clean it up,’ God washes away sin and
makes all things new.” And according to our Reformed tradition, God always acts
first, while we are just little babies, before we even know right from wrong.
And the rest of our days are lived out in response to that act.
Which brings us to this story in Mark. If there ever was a gospel
written for today’s culture, it’s the gospel of Mark. We live in such a
fast-paced time of twitter, you tube & vine—all feeding our ever-shortening
attention spans. We multi-task, over schedule, and cram as much into our day as
we can. It’s enough to make our lives feel at times like an uncontrollable
crazy train going exponentially faster and faster. Mark’s rapid narrative
speaks to this culture. He wastes no time with unnecessary information. He
sticks to the essence of the message in each story and then instantly teleports
Jesus to another place, miles away for the next marvel of grace. So in Mark’s
account of Jesus’ baptism, the event is only a couple of sentences long. “Jesus
comes out of the water, he sees the sky tear apart. He see’s God’s spirit
descending upon him like a dove. He hears God’s covenantal words, “You are my
son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
It’s a scene that been portrayed time and time again in art. There
are countless paintings of Jesus standing waist deep in the river, looking up
to heaven and seeing the Spirit dove. Complete with light beams and halos. As
an artist, I love looking at paintings of Bible stories. I love even more
taking my own shot at painting bible stories. And As I thought about how to envision
this story, I was not lead to paint that all too familiar scene. I felt lead to
paint to what happened next—after the baptism of Jesus.
What happened next was quite unexpected. After the Jesus’ baptism,
there were no celebrations, no baptismal certificates, no luncheons with family
and friends. After Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit lead him into the
wilderness—for 40 days of solitude and fasting. Immediately, says Mark, without
so much as a hug or a pat on the back from John the Baptist, The Spirit lead
Jesus into the wilderness, or As Pastor Chris so eloquently puts it, into the wild.
Without change of clothes or even a towel, Jesus walks off the stage.
The painting in you see here depicts that moment where Jesus steps
out of the water and walks off for a wilderness journey, soaking wet, following
the spirit’s call. If we really think about our life after baptism, Jesus’
experience doesn’t seem all that uncommon. Let’s face it. After baptism, there
is a lifetime full of survival, suffering, journeying, temptation and
uncertainty. We are very clear to communicate to our confirmands that, after we
are baptized, there is still life, which can be a wilderness at times, full of
confusion, disappointment, pain & loneliness. God’s grace does not spare us
from hard times, but it does help us deal with it. Though we feel so alone at
times, we can take comfort that we are not alone. Like Jesus after baptism, we
have the Holy Spirit as our companion and guide. We have the assistance of
angels, from simple smiles and random acts of kindness to a loving and
care-giving community of faith. And if we listen, we can still hear the echo of
God’s baptismal claim skipping across the distant water, “Your are my child,
the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
The confirmation curriculum has an interesting activity to help
teach baptism. It’s called “Walking Wet.” The activity involves using
watercolor to paint pictures of what it means to live out a baptized life. The
watercolors themselves lead to a free-flowing expression in color. Students can
express emotions and feelings. The medium allows you to mix color with water,
blend colors by adding water and There’s even a technique were you lay down
water first before applying color. It allows the color to spread and flow in
pre-determined tracks marked by the clear water. And while the painting is
going on, the concept of walking wet—living a life in response to God’s grace
And speaking of water and color, perhaps you’re wondering why the
painting before you is mostly focused on the reflection in the water. About 3
quarters of the painting is water & reflection. In the rippling water you
can see a distorted image of Jesus and a hint of the spirit dove leading him
away. Is it not like how we see
Jesus today—though fragments, short stories, and parables? We can catch
reflections of Jesus in other people’s acts of charity, love, and sacrifice.
Like Paul, looking through a mirror dimly, the church has never had a
definitive, crystal clear understanding of Jesus. There is plenty about Jesus
that is an unsolvable mystery.
But we should not be discouraged about this uncertainty. I contend
that it actually strengthens our faith. It demands that we look harder—to find
the reflections. It keeps us looking for more glimpses of the living Christ in
the here and now, we can find reflections right here, tonight, in this very
room, at this table and at this font. From this very font, there are gleaming
reflections of Christ that ripple on like a cascading stream flowing all the
way to the back—and out the door.
At the end of worship on confirmation Sunday, the confirmands remove
the blue silk banner and take it out through the back doors—into the wild of
life. You see, sometimes wilderness moments just happen. And other times, God’s
spirit leads us to it—to serve as angels, soaking wet with gratitude and grace.
As followers of Christ, we should let our colors follow the water right out the
door and take the wilderness head-on. And it doesn’t stop there. Like Mark’s
Jesus, we should allow ourselves to be transported from this place to the Galilee,
to our workplaces, our schools, our marketplaces, and the streets. We are
called to walk wet in our hectic, fast-paced, crazy train lives. We are called
to proclaim Good News in those places and be reflections of the living Christ.
That’s how God continues to wash and heal the world—with the water—dripping off
of a claimed and called people walking wet.
As the lesson of Lent begins, I'm posting an enlargement of the hymn abstract of "What Wondrous Love Is This". You can see the original 8x10 here. What Wondrous Love Is This American Folk Hymn What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this That caused the Lord of bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul! When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down, When I was sinking down, sinking down, When I was sinking down Beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul. To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing; To God and to the Lamb I will sing; To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I AM, While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing, While millions join the theme, I will sing. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on; And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free I’ll sing His love for me, And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, And through eternity I’ll sing on.