Why I Paint

Psalm 23 study paintings proposed for larger mural for RGPC in Livonia, MI by muralist Ellen Leigh
The following is a post from March of 2010 that tells about a turning point in my life. I find myself coming back here periodically to revisit this experience, and think some of you might like to read about it too. This is why I paint:

Lately I have been doing some pretty heavy thinking about changing direction in my life- I haven’t been feeling so very creative, I haven’t really had very many murals to work on, and many of the calls I had been getting about new work never turned into work. I admit that sometimes it’s a real struggle to come up with enough income to keep the bills paid. Times are a bit tough still here in Michigan. I thank God that there are some wonderful people (angels really) who make sure that I have enough. I hate to be a burden on their resources though, and so I was considering just tossing my artistic career, getting in line with everyone else and getting a ‘Real Job’. I was pretty discouraged, and did a lot of praying, then let it go and waited for God to answer me one way or the other.

God doesn’t ever answer directly, He just does His thing and sometimes sends others to show you the direction He wants you to go- that’s what He does for me anyways. So I waited patiently for God to tell me which path to take. He didn’t make me wait long.

A couple of Sundays ago one of my ministers related a story to me about a mural I had painted in my church. She had been working with one of the children who was being confirmed- a special needs little girl with Down Syndrome- an adorable girl, very busy, active, but not very verbal. The lessons were taught through the minister reading the lesson in a picture book, the girl turning the pages and listening, then allowing her some time to draw and color about the lesson. Mostly, any questions were answered with ‘Yes’, or ‘No’. After the lesson they would go spend some time in a different part of the church and she would learn about why that space was important in the life of the church. One day they took the elevator down to the Fellowship Hall- a very large room used for group functions and informal services- the space I had recently painted three large murals entitled ’23rd Psalm’. When the lights went on, she saw the murals and went over to look closer. She ran her hand over the flowers in the first one, and sniffed them. In the second, she gazed at the still water for a bit. At the third, she looked at the sheep, touching them, stepped back and said: “Baa, baa, sheep”, then walked back to the middle of the room and looked at all three together. “Beautiful” she said.

The little girl was confirmed yesterday along with another special needs child, and a part of that story was included in the minister’s sermon. There weren’t a lot of dry eyes in the sanctuary, least of all my own. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to touch someone’s soul with something I’ve created, a sentiment several people expressed on leaving the sanctuary yesterday, and I couldn’t agree more. God gave me this gift, and I will continue to use it gratefully.