The story behind "I Knew You"
This painting has been huge on my list of life experiences. At only 11” x 14”, ‘I Knew You’ is one of my smallest oil paintings yet has had the biggest impact on both my faith walk and career.
In my last blog, you were introduced to the first painting, ‘I Sure Like Walking With You’. Shortly after completing it our pastor came over for a home visit. It was a visit that would forever change my life. He saw the ‘I Sure Like Walking With You’ painting, was very complimentary and asked if it could be displayed at church as part of his sermon. That alone was far more encouragement than I expected. He then recommended presenting it to pro-life organizations to see if they would be interested in using it.
This really got me thinking about the sanctity of life and how I felt about it. Quite honestly, I was riding the fence simply because I hadn’t given it much serious thought. I wouldn’t likely have considered an abortion, but I wasn’t sure I was 100% against it either. To offer the painting for such a cause challenged me to look at the issue head on. I prayed about it, studied the issue and concluded that yes, I too wanted to take a stand for the sanctify of life and no longer be a reed blowing to and fro in the wind.
When Pastor displayed my ‘I Sure Like Walking With You’ painting during his sermon, the church members really liked it. This was further confirmation to consider approaching organizations about it. But instead, another painting idea took hold. A photograph of my husband and daughter when she was a baby came to mind and seemed more appropriate. When snapping the photo, something about it had felt so sweet and special. It would be the perfect reference photo for a tender painting of Jesus and a baby enjoying each other’s company. Just a little artistic liberty would be needed to change my husband’s hair to brown, add a beard and wrist wound.
After completed, now what? Do I sell the painting somehow? Do I keep it and donate a license to the reproduction rights? I decided to do the latter with various ministries and pro-life organizations. It was amazing how the painting took on a life of its own that I never dreamed was possible. It certainly wouldn’t have happened nationwide had I kept the painting to myself. And the results were all God! The blessings in return were far better than anything monetarily I could have held out for. I do sell prints on my own so it’s not that I gave away all monetary benefits. But the stories from the ministries have blown me away.
This little 11” x 14” painting was enlarged to billboards, as murals on buildings and on the side of trucks. Some of those billboards was the “last straw” that nudged undecided young women into choosing not to have an abortion. One was even on her way to the abortion clinic! Wow! They wrote to the organizations to thank them for sponsoring the billboards and explained their stories. The outcome of God using the painting to have that kind of impact was always the hope. But the reality of it actually happening still stuns me to this day! In addition as a fundraiser, it has been sold as prints, on baby blankets, postcards, bookmarks, magnets and even mouse pads back when we still used mouse pads. There have been calls of people finding peace in the painting after a miscarriage or the loss of an infant. Others buy prints for baby dedication and baptism gifts. The postcards, one of several items made by Lutherans for Life, found their way into a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. Someone testifying distributed a postcard to each Congressmen at the end of the hearing. I found out about it years after the fact and it leaves me wondering what else has happened in connection to the painting that I have not yet heard about.
It is ironic to remember a fellow artist who had at one time insisted that Christian themed art was no longer relevant. She felt paintings of people being kind to each other would have a greater impact than anything “religious”. She couldn’t have been more wrong!
It's all been such a surreal experience that it’s hard to wrap my mind around at times. Never did I think God would use art as a tool in this way. But He can use whatever He wants. Sometimes we just need to be willing to loosen our grip on things. Surprisingly it was only my second Christian themed painting, so I certainly wasn’t an established, sought-after artist. But isn’t it just like God to do things a bit differently than the rest of the world? The painting’s impact definitely planted a desire in me to keep painting for the Kingdom. With my prayer request to create paintings with meaning, this was sure a prayer answered! Plus, it has taught a great lesson that financial sales aren’t always the determining factor of “success”.
Now I enjoy creating faith related images like other artists enjoy landscapes or wildlife. It’s not something I feel obligated to do as a Christian. Someone has even asked if I am trying to prove something. No, I just want to. It’s a calling. I feel free to paint whatever I want. Funny thing is after all these years, some childhood sketches have reemerged that include angel statues and my pastel copies of children’s Bible illustrators. That means the first seed was actually planted many years ago. Little did I know what the future held!