7; My Painting, “Crucifixion, Good Friday”

It was time to paint a new painting. This painting was inspired by Scripture. I sketched the image I had in mind in my sketchbook so that I wouldn’t forget it … Here it is;

Here is my preliminary sketch for my painting, “Crucifixion” or “Good Friday”.

Now I had some basic notes and the image in mind for my painting, it was time to sketch and research ready to paint my painting. I chose a square canvas for this one and wanted to show Jesus on the cross, looking towards Jerusalem. God the father’s face would be in the clouds. After weeks of work and challenges, my painting was finished. Here it is: 

Here is the text which accompanies my painting: 

‘Crucifixion’ or ‘Good Friday’,

Original Painting: Acrylic, Metal on Canvas.
This Painting was inspired by Scripture. In particular:

Jesus said: “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) and “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) Also, Mark 15;15-47, John 19;16-42, Matthew 27;26-66, Luke 23;24-56 and in over 300 prophecies about the messiah in the Old Testament of the Bible which were fulfilled by Jesus.

This painting is a painting of the Crucifixion of Jesus. Mary and John are looking up at Jesus. Mary Magdalene and another follower are also watching. In the background is the Temple in Jerusalem and a coming storm and darkness. Within the cloud is God the Father’s Face, observing the death of his son and his son’s sacrifice for humanity. God the Father is looking out of the painting to the observer with tears and a question in his eyes; will they take Jesus as their’ saviour?

6; Thinking about the Holy Spirit

A verse in Scripture has been coming to my mind again and again. The verse is John 3:8;

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

Here Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee about being born again and the Holy Spirit. It made me wonder about the Holy Spirit. As I explained in my earlier blog posts, my life completely changed once I repented of my sins and became a Christian. Unusual things were happening to me. I found my dreams were completely different. They became Biblically symbolic and sometimes foretold the future. I couldn’t believe it. In the daytime, I would think a question and get a Bible verse as the answer. I sometimes had visions, though not very often. I also saw Jesus in my mind’s eye giving me a huge hug, again and again.

Amazed and also wondering what was going on, I asked a good friend, an old Christian who was a Baptist explained that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The scriptures also taught me that I had to discern things carefully, because there are many different spiritual forces which affect us… and of course one could also put everything down to a very vivid imagination, or indeed as some in England would tell me; eating too much cheese before I go bed!

So it all came down to a matter of faith I guess and again and again, I had to return to the scriptures for guidance and be very careful to discern things.

The Holy Spirit, featured in my painting, “Holy Trinity in Glory

5; My Second Christian Painting and the Spiritual Danger of Pride

As a “young” Christian (i.e. new to the faith), I was prone to a lot of pitfalls. I still am. I noticed in my scripture reading something curious about the Biblical advice given for those wishing to become leaders in the Churches. Here is 1 Timothy 3:1-7;

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

The part I really noticed was verse 6, where we read “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited”… How interesting. Why would a recent convert be prone to becoming ‘conceited’? I also found other Biblical verses warning against the danger of pride, so I realised it is not just something that is dangerous to a person seeking a leadership position in a Church, but a danger for all Christians.

After all that searching for God, here was a new danger, a new snare, but why? I realised that once a person has found God and changed and become ‘a new Creation’, they might start to make the error of comparing themselves to others who have not undergone such a process and they may start to feel they are more important than other human beings. The person could gain an outward appearance of Holiness, but if, in their heart, they are harbouring thoughts that they are secretly looking down on others, then there is pride in their heart, the very Sin that caused the fall of the Devil! Oh how terrifying!… To think one has escaped the world and found the answer to life and then to actually now be condemned even more! One would also of course be now breaking other laws of God; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27b)

Jesus had some wonderful teachings to illustrate this spiritual danger. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught us very clearly about the need to love everyone, no matter who they are:

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)

So, now I realised that I was back at square one with something new to learn and what a difficult challenge it is. We must always strive to see other people as our neighbour, no matter who they are. This is a very difficult thing to do, but it is essential. No wonder we always need Jesus’ sacrifice. Heaven is simply unattainable without him.

The time to paint another painting had arrived. I was really focussing on God’s love for us; symbolically it is like he gave us his Heart, when He sacrificed his life for us. I painted ‘Sacred Heart’ shortly after completing the ‘Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ’. I need to explain that where I live, here in England I have personally come across the traditional ‘Sacred Heart’ image in both Anglican (Protestant) and Catholic settings; perhaps due to the Oxford Movement, so I personally feel it is quite a ‘broad’ Christian image. I was also reading the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books and I read the book of Tobit, which contains the Archangel Raphael, so I included Archangel Raphael in my painting, (holding the fish which healed Tobit’s eyesight). I also featured Archangel Michael (wearing armour because he fought the Devil in the book of Revelation) and Archangel Gabriel, (holding a lily, Inspired by old Christian Artworks and the scripture where Archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary).

Here are the images of my painting, “Sacred Heart”

Here is the professional text that accompanies my painting, ‘Sacred Heart’;

“This is really the companion piece to ‘The Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; in my first painting, Jesus is on Earth, offering his Body and Blood. In this painting, Jesus is in Heaven, giving us a Blessing and showing us his Sacred Heart which represents his love for us.

This painting was inspired by scripture, in particular, Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.

The painting was also inspired by various scriptures which refer to Jesus being in Heaven: Acts 1:2, 11. Acts 3:21 Acts 7:55, Ephesians 2:6, Philippians 2:10: ‘Our citizenship is in Heaven. We look forward to a Saviour that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ.’

Jesus is also giving us a Blessing as a Priest, explained by Saint Paul, where he compares Jesus to Melchizedek, the Priest who blessed Abraham and offered him bread and wine in Genesis 14, also Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6 and Hebrews 5:10
“He was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.’ Also Hebrews 6:20 and Hebrews chapter 7.

The Crown of Thorns around Jesus’ heart references Jesus wearing a crown of Thorns during his Crucifixion: Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2, 5.

The Angels are inspired by various scriptures, including Revelation 8:2, Matthew 25:31, Luke 4:10, Hebrews 1:6.

The Saints are inspired by various scriptures, including 1 Corinthians 6:2, Revelation 4:10, 5:8 and Revelation 6:9-11

The Crown represents Jesus’ Crown: 1 Timothy 6:15 ‘He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords’, also Revelation 17:14, 19:11-16, Deuteronomy 10:17 and Psalm 136:3. As he is crowned in Heaven, I also painted Jesus wearing Royal Robes.

The crucifix represents Jesus’ Crucifixion, Matthew 27:32-56

I featured a lot of red in the painting to represent Love.”

….

Painting has become a really wonderful spiritual outlet for me. I feel my painting practice is a way I can express my faith in a non-confrontational manner.

4; Nearly dying and my first Christian Art Painting

Sometimes we don’t realise when we are ill and at others we think we are ill, but are fine. Unfortunately I suffered from the former…but more about that in a bit…

As I continued to learn about God, read the Scriptures, Pray and learn about Christianity, my Artwork started to change… Just a bit initially. In my opinion the Bible is a very Sacred Book… It doesn’t feel like reading other books… Jesus talked about taking in words as if it was ‘food’ and I think of reading Scripture as a way to feed the soul.

(Now before I continue I must issue a word of warning… The Bible is strong food for the soul and one must be careful not to over do it as the scriptures are very powerful and spiritual and I find they can be a bit over-whelming if one reads too much all at once. A little bit regularly seems to be best… Unlike when I read my favourite fiction books, which I can read for hours!… relaxing on a sofa… ahh bliss! But I digress…)

There are some fantastic descriptions in the Scriptures and when I read them, I get images in my mind… Being an artist, I guess this is just the way I am made. So I could visualise the scenes I was reading, but what about turning them into Art?

For a while, though I am an Artist and Illustrator, I was very unsure about creating religious paintings, but as I read more and more Bible verses and scriptures, I came to see religious art as illustrations to help us understand God and his word more fully… Like the pictures in a children’s book, I knew that an illustration could communicate many words and concepts and is able to ‘speak’ across language barriers.

I had been reading the New testament and the first image I felt inspired to paint was “The Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”. The format would be in portrait format and Jesus would be holding out the bread and the wine as he did at the Last Supper, offering them to his disciples, however the painting would emphasize him offering them to the viewer of the painting.

I started to plan the painting, gathering reference images, sketching and creating a large pencil visual, however the process was very challenging. I think this is due to the spiritual nature of the Artwork I was endeavouring to produce and I had challenge after challenge. It was much harder than working on my previous secular Art and illustrations. My health was also suffering; I was so exhausted.

A visit to the GP led to a trip to the Hospital which led to an appointment for a little operation. Oh what a shock! As my son is disabled, I care for him I tend to assume he is the one with the Hospital appointments and I tend to ignore my health a lot, so to need an operation was upsetting, but that’s life and one must be grateful if one is able to have an operation.

Whilst waiting for the operation, one morning I collapsed and had to go to A&E… It was all very dramatic. Various tests were carried out and a nurse took a blood test and I could see people walking around with ease and I thought “I remember being able to walk around easily, but it’s such a struggle these days.” I could hear the A&E doctors and nurses saying my name and then they needed to take another blood test.

Next thing, a doctor came to see me and explained that my blood count was so low I should be dead! He had never seen such a low blood count in a living person! Well I never! Well, after several blood transfusions I felt much better and incredibly grateful to the NHS and the people who donate blood.

A couple of weeks later I had the planned operation and Oh, the NHS staff were all so helpful and kind. Some of them stay up all night just to check on the patients, poor things, it must be a very tiring shift … and there was a friendly cleaner who was very thorough. I even got to order my meals. Goodness me. I’m used to preparing food, not being served it. Anyway, I’m still here, I so guess there is more for me to do here on Earth… I guess that’s the same for us all…

I recovered and managed to complete the painting of Jesus holding out the Bread and Wine; in Christianity this represents Jesus’ Body and Blood, so I added DNA above them to represent this. I added Grapes and wheat in the border and had the challenge of painting Jesus’ Halo… How would one paint his Halo? I decided to show light behind Jesus’s head to represent his Halo.

The most important part for me was painting Jesus’s eyes and it took me ages to get the expression correct. Finally I was able to sign the painting and varnish it and here it is… After everything that happened I am very glad I managed to complete the painting;

Here is the professional text I added to explain the Artwork: it’s always a challenge to explain one’s artwork when one tends to think in pictures, so here we go; 

“Inspirational Spiritual Christian Painting, with Gold Paint surrounding Jesus that catches the light.

This painting was inspired by Scripture. In particular, Matthew 26:26-30:
‘26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” 27 He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.’ This painting was also inspired by Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20 and John 6:53-69.

The vines represent the grapes used for the wine, but also have a more symbolic significance: John 15:1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper…5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit…

The wheat represents the wheat used to make the bread but is also symbolic and refers to those who follow God faithfully… Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

I especially paid attention to Jesus’ eyes, I had to get the expression right and wanted them to look bright, clear and expressive. It took a while to get his eyes just right. I had two scriptures in mind:

Sirach 23:19 “They fear human eyes, but they are unaware that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they observe all the ways of human beings and look into hidden places.” … so here is a description of the eyes of God, but Jesus was God within a human, so I was also considering the following scripture… Matthew 6:22 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body…” and I thought about bright, human eyes, almost filled with tears because there is a question in his eyes: will we take his offer of his Body and Blood?

I added the glowing DNA to represent Jesus’ Body and Blood; special, unique, divine, healing.

I was inspired to follow the dimensions of the face on the Turin shroud when planning the proportions of Jesus’ face and I wanted to paint a vital, healthy young man because Jesus was only 33 when he was crucified. I wanted to give the impression of a Halo of light behind Jesus’ head, because he was divine and the light represents the divine.”

Phew. What a challenge. Yesterday evening my husband mentioned a famous chap he likes to listen to on Spotify talking about taking on challenges and how it is good for us … well, I think this painting was a huge challenge! 

3; Baptism, Lindisfarne and my Artwork

I got Baptised as a Christian and got to know some High Anglican Christians. I was still in the process of researching Churches and reading Scriptures at this point and decided to go to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on a little holiday/ Pilgrimage. Lindisfarne is strongly linked to the origins of Christianity on the British Isles and has quite a few different Christian Churches. I visited the Anglican Church and also the Catholic Church, there are also the wonderful old priory ruins, and the remains of a Holy Well. It is a very spiritual place and there are many visitors to the Island. My spirituality was now starting to affect the direction of my Artwork.

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2; Searching for God, part 2

Jen and babas(Image of me with my young Children, during a stay in hospital for my Son)

Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses due to my examination of scripture had led me to a new place in my life. I decided that I needed to take the children to a Church, to help them to avoid all the spiritual searching I’d been through.

Spiritually, I was exhausted. I was coasting I guess; not fully committing myself; we’d go to Church on a Sunday and at home, I’d do Yoga and I also loved Crystals and Meditation.

I became a mature student, studying Scientific and Natural History Illustration , then a PGCE and finally a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration. Here are some images of my artwork from those years:

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(More of my early Artwork can be found on my website gallery page at https://www.jennifersillustrations.co.uk/gallery )

We happily attended various Church of England Churches for years and then, eventually, in 2010, I took my son to a Church we visited and encountered some elderly parishioners who were unfriendly; they did not understand that my young Son’s loud voice was due to one of his disabilities; his deafness. Their coldness really upset me.

(Now, I am actually grateful to them for this because it gave me a push in the right direction; God really can move in very mysterious ways)

I decided not to go to Church anymore and indulged myself completely in New Age Spirituality for two years, however, there was a darkness growing in my life now; just at the edges and I believe it was because I was harbouring grudges against others.

I went on to have a bad disagreement with my relatives and the darkness increased.

My state of unforgiveness towards others gave me no rest and no peace. Eventually, I decided to forgive everything and the difference I felt was immense. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realised that I had applied a Christian principle to my life and it had given me incredible peace.

It was time to pray and I confessed my sins to God. I just wanted to be a Christian now and leave all other Spiritual Practices behind. Following my repentance and decision to become a committed Christian, something completely unexpected happened to me.

I had a profound Spiritual Christian Experience; it was both real and incredibly personal, but also wonderful and terrifying. My conclusion was that God is very, very real and Loves us all very, very much. With such an experience in my mind, I had to find out more about Christianity; I wasn’t sure which Christian denomination God was in, so I set about the task of reading the scriptures properly now; all the scriptures, the Old Testament, the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books and the New Testament. I even read the books of Enoch, Jubilees and Jasher. I researched the different denominations of Christians around the World; Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Methodists, Baptists as well as smaller groups.

The task was vast, but necessary; I’d discovered that God is Real!

1; Searching for God, part 1

young-jen

All my life before I became a True Christian, I was searching for God. I realise that now, but I didn’t realise that was what I was doing at the time. As a family, we didn’t attend a Church, so my first impressions of Christianity came through School Assemblies with Hymns, Prayers and occasional Bible Stories and also visits to Church-going Grandparents. The impression I got of Christianity at that young age was a pleasant one.

Later, as a teenager, I’d pray to God at night and the Gideons visited our High School, distributing their little red New Testament Bibles. I started to read mine, but sadly didn’t continue; simply due to my own laziness.

As I grew older, my interest in spirituality increased. New Age Spirituality was growing in England and I found it interesting; Yoga, Crystal Healing, Wicca, Spiritual Healing, I looked into them all; I even attended a talk about Atlantis. I guess you would describe me as a ‘Hippy’ by this point in my life.

I fell in love and got married. I also encountered the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was very interested in their claim to be “Bible Students”; well, I liked the Bible, so why not have a look? I thought. They were an unusual group of people and, not having a proper grounding in Christianity and the Scriptures, I trusted them.

I was with them for 10 years, I had two Children: a Beautiful Daughter and a Lovely Son who struggles with various disabilities; both absolutely wonderful people. My son’s disabilities led him to need some blood transfusions and it shattered my Faith in the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I realised I had to properly read the Bible now; so I set about reading different mainstream translations of the scriptures, along with translations of the original languages and compared what I was reading with the Jehovah’s Witnesses version of the Bible and found so many differences that I realised that I couldn’t stay with them any longer.

I wished them well, however, because I believe everyone is on a journey in their life; my path was just going in a different direction to theirs…

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