“Lord I cannot just paint any Christian paintings ...my longing is for You, to show me what you would have me paint...” This was my prayer a couple of months ago.
For weeks I tested various ideas of Jesus in different scenarios, but nothing worked in my spirit. But when the picture of Jesus hanging on the cross came to me one morning in stark detail and size, there was no question that this was from The Spirit, The Holy Spirit. He showed me that the painting was to be enormous in size, but also zoomed in: so that the image of the body of Christ would be chopped at the fore-arms and lower chest. Thus the focus would be on the upper torso, face and upper arms. It would be painted and hung in such a way that the viewer will literally be standing in the in the arms of Jesus as they search His face and His wounds…in the intimate place before Him.
How would we pay for such a huge stretched canvas right now? That was the first question, and many would follow, but the phone rang the very next morning.
It was a fellow artist in the area planning to downscale his studio. He asked if I would have use for two enormous stretched frames, (1.5 X 2 m each) complete with specially imported Belgium canvas stretched onto it. Gobsmacked…I mean GODsmacked I said “ sure, I was just looking for something like that” .. There and then the whole experience kicked into gear. Within that week we found a model that is just so perfect ( Thank YOU Abba! ) and my wife threw some things together in the kitchen on my request for “wounds”.
I did special effect make-up for the film industry for a short while many many moons ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Never would I have dreamt that you can make body putty and (very convincing!) fake blood from basic ingredients found around the house. Nothing is worse to a make-up artist than fake blood that looks fake, so I set out to find the exact hue and consistency that I thought would be right. But this was to be the start of the process of going into the wounds of Jesus… have you ever thought of how many times He was pierced, of how many times He bled, of what it would look like if a wound bled and the blood coagulated, got dust on it, bled again, got garments dragged over it, bled again…this was what we had to think about, and it changed the way we looked at Jesus on the cross forever.
The photo shoot was a fun experience with Janine helping with setting up lighting as well as doing the make-up. Chris, the model’s wife is a hairdresser and she helped us with the messing up of Chris’s hair. It was wonderful to hear her say every time she rubbed more dust and gel into his hair ” Love you!” What a blessing to have the wife that God prepared for you! Thanks Nini!
The images were stunning, but one stood out. Good! Now I just had to fit it to the size of the canvas that was given to us… It was prayer time again as I clearly understood that this was not my painting! Amazingly the Lord surprised us again with the image format fitting perfectly on the two given canvases with the split fitting perfectly at the most convenient place…
FINALLY BRUSH TO CANVAS:
All the preparation ran so smoothly that when I finally got the brushes in my hands I was surprised at the level of difficulty of this project. I was used to painting onto big canvasses, but this was still double the size I did before. The bigger an image gets, the more mistakes can be made exponentially… like a sliding scale…so all those mistakes I had to make and the learning curve grew and grew. Finally I had the composition in place, now I had to biggest hurdle to overcome:
The wounds took Janine and me on more than just a little journey spiritually. Emotionally I ended up entangled in the dread of it all, just journeying through the process. Not mentioning the fact that for the first time I was painting things that had absolutely no aesthetic value. Janine was constantly going “yuck!” as she saw the progression of the bloody mess that was so magnified in your face. Students and friends who came into the studio all displayed an array of reactions, and the most interesting was children’s reactions. They were not shocked or scarred as we expected, but rather looked comfortable with the painting. The aspect of large gaping wounds had me take the opportunity to literally write the sins and diseases that our Lord died for inside the wounds, giving the viewer an unforgettable experience. Keeping the work also in a very limited colour scale was important with red to be the most prominent.
RELEVENCE FOR OUR TIME
The painting couldn’t be more relevant for today! Early in this year I heard a pastor say that it is more important now than ever for us as believers to make use of Holy Communion. It is a blood covenant whereby we commemorate what Jesus did for us on the cross. Since the beheadings of Christians is a blood sacrifice against us, we must all use communion much more often to speak into the atmosphere the Truth about the Love Covenant of Jesus. This painting is a fresh and enormous 3 X 2 m artistic statement to everyone, a reminder of what Jesus did on the cross.
I am just left totally humbled by the experience. I never thought I would paint the crucifixion. It was a life changing experience with all the glory going to my Messiah Jesus Christ, praise His Holy Name!