I often come back to this corner when I haven’t been painting on the streets recently. Not that I literally come here to paint the same scene again, but I come here in my imagination to remember the place where God got very involved with my artwork.
The year was 2001. I had been laid off from my job and had to get out of the house for a while. I threw some art supplies in a backpack, hopped on my bicycle and rode to this street corner. I pitched my easel and began to make a pen & ink sketch on watercolor paper. I was rather enjoying myself so I pulled out the watercolors and began to paint.
At about this time, teenagers began showing up at the nearby bus stop as they were on their way to school. One came over, then another. Soon I was surrounded. Initially I did the mandatory artist-en-plein-air routine; ignore them and hope they’ll go away. Then my heart got the better of me, so I decided to engage them in conversation.
I asked them how things were going in school, what plans they had after graduation…plans for their lives. I got the typical teen answers; vague, brief and to the point. Then I asked them what plans they thought God had for them. It was like a cork had popped off a shook-up soda bottle with several of them. They spoke in very definite terms about what they saw God doing in their lives and the big plans He had for them.
What I discovered on that street corner, and have seen confirmed on hundreds of street corners over the past 10+ years is that a lot of people want to talk about God; they just need someone to start the conversation. A greater revelation is that some are not ashamed to bow their heads and make a personal commitment to Christ in that public setting.
I’ve often thought that if more artists knew how transformative their talent could be, they would join in on the fun and reward of bringing life to curious onlookers as they paint ‘en plein air’.
I began teaching ‘Jesus En Plein Air (JEPA) workshops. Summertime is upon us, so it’s time to get busy. If you’re an artist (beginner to advanced, or an enthusiast), I hope you’ll sign up for one of the workshops so God can use you to be a blessing to others.