Visual Faith Coach Susan Buetow shares some helpful tools and guidelines from the recent retreat that she led in Northern Illinois..
Visual Faith Coach Susan Buetow is brand new to the team. She has been engaged in Visual Faith practices for awhile now. There is something very powerful about moving from participant (or not even engaged) in your circle or tribe-to presenter-leader- encourager. The Holy Spirit is often inviting us to try new ministry opportunities. What moves us to say yes to a new experience? Even though Susan is a seasoned ministry shaper, she honestly shares the story here of leading a Retreat for Pastor’s Wives in Northern Illinois. Read more in this Part 1 post of the story of saying YES- of “going where you have not gone before”.
Michele was the featured artist in August for the Bible Journaling Jumpstart website. We share some of the post here with permission.
Visual Faith Coach Katie Helmreich is our featured artist this month, and we are delighted to have her share her heart and thoughts about the intersection of her life and God’s Word - and how Bible journaling has brought the two together…… Welcome to the blog, Katie!
Stories are incredible. A good narrative knits together snippets of characters’ lives to reveal purpose, understanding, relationships, and love. Shared stories are the highlight of conversations with family and friends! They define us. Little anecdotes reveal who we are and how we’re connected. But what is the main plot in our lives of challenge, triumph, and growth?
When we become a child of God, HIS story becomes our story. He tells us about Himself, about ourselves, and all His children in Scripture. What better place to record these day to day anecdotes that are part of HIS story then in the margins of Scripture?
Although I am a lifelong artist, I’m fairly new to Visual Faith. In a short amount of time, it has inspired a change in the way I frame, tell, and remember my story. I record our normal life across the pages of my Bible. The daily challenges, triumphs, and growth--His story IS our story. There’s always a place where His Word speaks meaning into an ordinary day.
Our family recently experienced a particularly intense season. Mostly just the highs and lows of life with three kids, a long list of house projects, and a newly instated volunteer fireman. Depression and anxiety made it harder than usual for me to hold on to perspective, harder to remember my place in God’s story. My weary soul has found refuge lingering in Scripture and responding with art. On these pages God has reminded me of His faithfulness, His abundance, His love, His grace, and His purpose for me and my family time and time again!
When I sit down to record a story, occasionally a hymn or Bible verse comes immediately to mind. More often, I spend time digging through a concordance for words that speak to the event or a characteristic of God that was evident in the day. The challenge of thumbing through Scripture searching for just the right spot is always a blessing!
Other times, the process is reversed, I encounter a passage that inspires me and then recall memories of the past weeks searching for a story that illustrates the passage. I often snap a photo to reference or look up a similar photo online as I sketch the scene on scrap paper. Then I gesso my page, trace my sketch, and add watercolor! I use pen or colored pencil to complete the illustration, and write a bit about our story, usually as a prayer.
I’ve fallen in love with watercolor for its quick and beautifully loose color. It encourages me to let go of perfection and embrace the impression of the story instead. The point is to record God’s faithfulness and love, so I don’t let myself get hung up on drawing hands or faces correctly. It’s been transformative to process both good and challenging times this way. Taking time to tell His story in my life often leads me to a better understanding of my circumstances. It helps me to hold on to the reality of His goodness and love when life threatens to overwhelm me.
One day, perhaps, reading about our story and God’s faithfulness will bless my kids, but in the midst of this chaos of a young family, it is a real and present blessing to me to page through and remember. My Visual Faith time is prayer, art, family and story, but it’s also been a powerful tool in a time of Spiritual battle, and I thank God for this time with Him!
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Katie lives in Bay City, Michigan and has been in love with Jesus, art, and a good story for a long as she can remember. It was only recently that she began to put all three together! She finds great peace and joy in using art to record His Story in her everyday life with her husband and three kids. Writing and painting her story changes a disaster into an adventure, and deepens laughter into a meaningful treasure. Recording how He is at work in all things gives these memories an even greater purpose! She cherishes nap time when she can dive into scripture and respond with her paints. Katie is a firm believer in the truth that everyone is creative. She’s passionate about teaching and encouraging others to create art that tells His Story in their lives! Follow her on Instagram @dutchcreekstudio.
A highlight here of Holy Week resources by Sally Beck and our team of artists for Visual Faith Ministry. We are so blessed by their contributions.
Time to learn some Gelli Printing techniques with Visual Faith Artist- Diane Marra.
Visual faith practices look different for each person - it might be coloring a prayer card, creating a margin in your Bible, or adding a word to your devotional Bible. Artist Rachel Hinz creates visual faith in a big way with her abstract paintings, inspired by Scripture and deep with meaning. Her first large scale painting was “Redemption”, completed in 2006 when she was a student at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was the beginning of her journey into using Bible verses for the basis of abstract work. We’ve asked Rachel to share her process with us here:
My senior art exhibition, titled "Meditation," featured abstract paintings and other mediums. In each of my paintings, I begin with a Bible verse and - using color, composition, and movement - I proceed to paint the verse. By keeping the subject abstract, I want the viewer to spend time meditating on the verse. "Redemption" is based on 1 Peter 1:18-19- "For you know that it was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ" and also Psalm 103:4- "[God] who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion."
Just like in Bible journaling, I'm picking out the words in the verses (redeemed, blood, pit, etc.) and thinking: what colors would these be? Is the action vertical (God and us) or horizontal (between us and others)? What is changing in the verse and how can I show this? Finally, I love using scale! My paintings are meant to surround the viewer so that they can get the best sense of this visual experience.
In "Redemption," the blood is red and the darkness of the piece is the pit. God's love as seen in the blood of Jesus descends down from the top of the piece and scoops in, out, and along the bottom of the piece. We are "bought back" and returned to the Father above. This happened in Christ's sacrifice, but we can also look at the picture of eternity and how we are daily renewed- hence a subtle infinity symbol that is created in the center of the composition.
After finishing “Redemption,” I was interested in further exploration of color and their transitions. This time, I was captured with the words of the Apostle John, who writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…Through him all things were made…In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. We have seen his glory…” (John 1:1-5, 14b, NIV-Bible).
The idea of God being eternal - without beginning or end - and the imagery of “the light shines in the darkness” are both reflected in the circular shape in the middle of the canvas. In considering how color might cause a movement and dimension, allowing the viewer to interact within the space, the color scheme contains two complimentary color poles - yellow and purple. Blue and orange were also a part of the transition, with green - symbolic of the idea of “In him was life” connecting the warm lights to the color darks. This full transition of color perhaps starts in the circular center and begins spiraling out. Such a movement is due to the transition of colors and the sole hard line that divides the “light” from the “dark” on the right side of the center color. Here is the highest contrast. On the other side of this otherwise symmetrical composition, the light yellows and oranges blend into a green that stretches like a wave into the sea blues. These darken as they spin towards the bottom of the canvas. Like “Redemption,” this darker bottom composition is symbolic of the world, but also gives the piece a platform on which to enter. Whether the light is shining out or receding into the space in “Light” is for the viewer to experience.
The third and final painting of the “Meditation” exhibit is “Humility.” The focus of this painting comes from Philippians 2:6-9 (NIV): “[Jesus]: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”
There are many actions occurring in this selection. However, similar to “Redemption,” the movement is very much that of coming down to earth, dying, and then being exalted to the highest place. Like “Light,” this motion is also very circular, coming down and returning up into the simple form of a line in the center of the canvas.
On the left side of the piece, soft lines and transitions force a descending movement and yet, also the motion of lying down. Towards the bottom, the lines begin to fan out into the darker greens, looking almost like roots - stabilizing the viewer. As it continues up the right, the lines have twisted back, behind the initial line, and then upwards again. This motion is much more direct as the lines are much more vertical. At this point, the greens escape into the gold and white hues. Although the lines are slightly different in direction, the transitions are symmetrical. Still, the green remains as the overwhelming hue, symbolizing the life of Christ who, laid himself down for us in death and then was raised and exalted. Upon further study of the composition, the greens fill over half of the composition, implying a cross composition with the center line. The title “Humility” then, goes to emphasize this theology and focus of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
We asked Rachel what advice she would share with anyone about using abstract painting as a “tool” for visual faith sharing. Here’s what she said:
I would invite anyone interested in painting to consider using it as another tool for connecting to God and His Word. I would especially encourage people to consider working abstractly- it's SO freeing!! Not only can you shed off the pressures of making something look "real" or "representational," but it allows you to just let something as simple as one of God's gifts of color be a way that you can meditate on His Word and how it relates to your life.
Another tip: go BIG! Don't let a big space/canvas/paper intimidate you! Use your hands... get moving... God made art to be so therapeutic.
Your painting can tell a beautiful visual story of a time when you were very present with God in mind, body, and spirit. I can guarantee that such a painting will be impactful not just to the creator, but anyone who sees it. Add an original painting to the visual legacy that you leave, which reminds me of the theme verse for my senior show, "Meditation" :
"Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will mediate on your wonderful works."
[Rachel Hinz resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan - but is in the midst of moving to St. Louis, Missouri! She is a wife and stay-at-home mom to three children. A former Art and Theology teacher, she is a visual artist, and her artwork has been shown in both local and international exhibitions. She also leads her local MOPS Bible Study that incorporates visual faith, creating teaching materials for that group. She believes in the power of art to convey Truth.]
Many people ask me, “How do I begin?” when asking about Visual Faith.......I have to ask myself, “When will I stop?” We are talking about two separate things that actually end up with similar answers.
My “stopping” is with all the little bags I have to organize my artsy tools....how did I end up with so many? I tried to put pencils in one, markers in another, scissors and tools in another. That worked for awhile but I tend to mix up the contents (similar to my worktable!) My dilemma and solution may be familiar to your work habits. So, let me explain what I’m doing now.
I still have my little bags with tools in them but I had to develop something that I could “grab and go” and artist Jane Davenport from Australia solved that problem for me, and she doesn’t even know it! Jane designed the coolest little pocket that has a stretchy strap attached to the back. The strap wraps around my notebook or Bible. A few of my tools are stored inside. When I head out the door to a Bible Study or a doctor appointment, I don’t have to look for anything. Everything is together for me to grab and go. What a timesaver that’s become! By the way, Jane calls the pocket a girdle - mine is shown in the image below. She also has them in a shiny gold. (at Michaels)
(Side note - I used to be a flight attendant way, way back......a girdle was part of our uniform - it’s not one of my favorite words, as you can imagine!!!)
So, where to begin. Take your Bible and/or a notebook, fill the girdle with what you use the most for visual prayer or Bible journaling, zip it up, attach it to your book and off you go.
I have 2 of these handy little pockets, one for my Bible and one for a favorite notebook. One usually has an automatic pencil, eraser pencil, fine point permanent black pen, white pen, small ruler. water brush, and a pen or pencil that holds colored lead or inks. By the way, for longer trips, I usually take colored pencils and/or watercolor pencils.
I may change out the things in the other pocket, adding GelatosTM, scissors, water brush, a tiny watercolor kit, and designate it for my notebook.
One of my very favorite notebooks is the one in the third photo below. This was purchased at Staples, and I love to work up ideas in it. The notebook has 3 sections with 480 different pagers - lined, grid, and plain. It’s called “Markings “by C.B. Gibson There are other cover designs than the CREATE one that I buy.
My new organization method really has helped me stop adding little bags to my collection. Make it easy on yourself and begin your journey in Visual Faith, or at least continue it with fewer decisions to make as you spend time with our Lord.
Blessings on your journey! Candice
p.s. I have no affiliation with any projects mentioned in this article.