Years ago, a painting displayed in the window of a neighborhood gallery stopped me in my tracks. It was a simple composition of a chair by a window. For some reason this ordinary domestic scene drew me in. I wanted that painting.
Trouble was, it cost several hundred dollars, more money than our family could justify spending at the time.
Maybe I should make my own painting, I thought. How hard could it be?
I bought a box of acrylic paints and some brushes, along with a medium-size cardboard-backed “canvas” for my very first painting. Oh, and a book about how to mix colors.
A few weeks later, during a rare moment when I had the house to myself, I opened the box. Admired the pristine tubes of color.
Made myself a cup of coffee.
Came back to the table and tried to draw a chair by a window on the canvas. Very lightly, in pencil—a pencil with an eraser. Did I mention I’m terrible at drawing? Seriously, I’ve never progressed beyond stick figures and balloon-on-a-stick trees.
I drank my coffee and replaced the paints, unopened, in the box. Put the box in a drawer.
Years passed. Every once in a while, my kids would ask when I was going to do my painting.
The truth is, I was too terrified to even unscrew the cap of a single tube of paint. I knew I’d mess up.
Last fall, my daughter and son-in-law were in town for ArtPrize, a three-week event that brings lots of art to my city. Art in all forms, shapes, and sizes—from two-dimensional works to sculptures and installations and interactive sites. Some of these works take your breath away with their beauty and power.
One artist had two small paintings on display on the sidewalk. I walked right by them. My son-in-law stopped to chat with the artist. Then he caught up with me and said, “You should talk to him.” I went back and looked at the paintings—a cityscape and a picture of a woman in red walking down the street on a rainy day. The artist told me he’d been painting for less than a year. He told me he couldn’t draw. He told me he’d never taken an art class. That he’d bought a box of paints 15 years ago and put them underneath his bed. Until one day he finally took out the box and opened the paints, loaded a brush with color, and started applying the color to canvas. No drawing. No preconceived idea. He just started painting and stood back and looked at what was there. And kept on.
Tears came to my eyes as my heart opened up to the possibility that I could overcome my fears. Be bold enough to try. I’ve always felt that God created me with an eye for the beauty in the world. But the notion that I could participate in the Spirit’s creative work by daring to act on what I saw in my mind’s eye took time. Many years, in fact. And a stranger whose story opened the doors of my heart.
About the Author
Judith Hardy is a former associate editor of The Banner. She worships at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.