The Painting

A misshapen hand grasps the paint brush with the skill of one who has painted for millennia. The canvas is blank. It is a new piece beginning. Not that it will be all that different than previous pieces. Same colors, same textures, same layers…just in a different order. A new form, an experiment really, as this artist believes in constantly changing things up to keep things “interesting”.  It is his signature. His trademark. His pieces are easily identified to a keen observer, but to those who don’t pay attention, each piece seems independent of the others, like it was painted by a completely different artist. He prides himself on his ability to imitate other artists while holding true to his themes and manipulating his audience to think each chaotic piece is something new. He disguises his strokes so well they don’t even recognize his technique. It is his expertise. His passion.

His eyes take in the familiar color palate. Today he starts with bright red, the blood of the innocents. He slings it across the canvas in what appears to be a haphazard pattern. It looks random. That is his goal, to make the intentionally planned fragments look random. To catch the observer by surprise. He does so love a good surprise. The paint drips and he lets it pool up along the bottom edge so that it appears to be a never-ending pool of red. That is his hope…a never-ending pool…over the centuries. He is particularly happy to brush bits of red in many places at once. His goal, to capture as many as possible to pull them into his work. Certainly, with constant wars, disasters, disunity, racism, and global diseases, he will never run out of blood of innocents, which is fine with him because it is his favorite color.

He steps back to admire his efforts to this point. As much as he wants to continue to paint with this color, he knows he needs to add dimension in order to increase the complexity. All his work is complex. He uses complexity as a diversion. A misdirection. His audience focuses on one section rather than the whole. They are caught up in it, missing the overall theme. The complexity masks the foundation of the piece and makes it seem layered but subtle. He reaches for the color of suffering and smiles to himself. The darkness of the bleak color will cover the blood splatter of the previous layer. Not all of it, there always is a reminder of innocence lost in every one of his paintings. He uses a palate knife to swipe the dark gray in thick lines across the entire canvas. He leaves it thick and heavy, as suffering should be.

Next, he reaches for the deep burgundy. Anger. Deep. Festering. Bitter. Resentful.  He feels particularly attracted to this color in this current work. He uses the brush to fill in the spaces between the drips of red and swipes of gray. He waters it down in some spaces, and uses its full viscosity in others. Yes, in this work, anger is the centerpiece. He spends time swaying back and forth, continuously adding more and more until it is so concentrated in places, it starts to crack under the heaviness of the paint. He sees the spaces of division and grasps the blue of a hot flame of animosity. He carefully fills in the cracks with the blue and as he does the burgundy bleeds into it until the two colors are swirled together and cannot be separated. The pool of paint in the cracks fills to overflowing like lava spilling over the sides of a volcano. The oozing paint gives a 3-dimensional appearance which adds depth to the work.

On the top edges of the canvas he uses the color of despair to cover everything else underneath. It blots out the blood and the suffering. It covers anger and animosity. It smears everything together. The color of concrete, it expresses hardness and stuckness. There are no distinguishing marks, only smears of color. He uses a squeegee so it looks smooth to the eye. No turmoil here. All is smooth. It is his favorite technique. Cover all the hard colors with a bland outer shell. It appears in the painting to be a gray sky hanging heavily over the erupting volcanos below. A sky as hard as the concrete color it is. So hard, certainly prayers could never pierce it.

Sporadically, here and there he adds the orange of self-importance. He enjoys the contrast of the grays with the bright orange. It makes it appear that they are two entirely different colors, but he knows that at their base they are the same. Self-loathing. Self-contempt. Self-focus. Self-righteousness. The colors draw the eyes away from the blood of the innocents and the suffering and puts them squarely on self-love or self-hate…two sides of the same coin. He does so love the texture and layers of his work. The dichotomy is invisible to most eyes which makes his artistic genius so satisfying. He thinks this new piece is one of his best yet. Of course, he thinks that every time.

The best part of his work is that he gets his ideas from his audience. They don’t know it, but he watches them carefully. He caters to their every need. He listens to what they say, because he knows that out of the heart the mouth speaks. He barely has to accuse anyone anymore; they accuse each other without his help. They raise their fists and shake them. Because of this, he knows what’s in their hearts better than they do. It is a simple thing for him to stir the pot. His dioramic paintings do just that. They circle the globe and his audience actively engages in the work. Participates even. It is the beauty of what he does. There is no room for the yellow and golds from the light of the world. The audience is too busy proving their own points to even look for those colors. The artist likes it that he can stay in the same color palate without even a question about the lack of light. There is nothing hopeful in his choices of colors but the audience doesn’t even notice. And when one piece has done its work, he simply starts another with a new form. More layers. More textures. More heartache. It is his passion and he wouldn’t ever do anything else.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… John 10:10


Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

9 thoughts on “The Painting

  1. I so see this struggle in my life, our churches, our world. You’ve captured it in a creative, thought provoking way. May God give us grace to seek His light and set aside anything that hinders it.

  2. Beautifully and intellectually written, Michelle. Masterful insights skillfully depicted. Thank you for this lesson in art appreciation.

  3. Profound – both the artwork, but most especially the words to describe it. Makes me think of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Thanks for sharing, Michelle

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