Steel Sharpens Steel

This morning I received an email saying, “The living and true God makes every one and every thing exactly what they and it are at any given moment, and He is the way to navigate every situation at all times.”

It is in harmony with the several other quotes I keep by my kitchen sink, reminding us that everything is from the wisdom and love of God.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” – C. Spurgeon

G. Edwards wrote, “Again, I am awed by the number of Christians who find it utterly impossible to take this experience as from the hand of God… something that He meted out to them because He loved them, that this experience had divine purpose.”

God’s word: ” …for from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.”

Knowing these things doesn’t make suffering any easier… nor does it make the sword pleasant. Suffering is by its nature very unpleasant, yes? Yet, it IS meted out by the hand of God to those He loves… whom He loves…. and even more, we forget what we know in the midst of suffering, until He gives grace… until we all are surrendered to His will… until He transforms us into the image of His Son….

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Sufferings – 16″x 12″ – Oil

Husbands and wives, workers and friends, things in the world… He uses all things to produce a suffering which produces refinement, sharpening, dependence. It is humbling to be the spur or channel through which another suffers. Every time. Still, I seem to “do better” at causing pain than receiving pain. God have mercy. I would that I did not cause another pain, yet God gives this and may use this to produce “a weight of glory.”

The Spirit of Jesus living through us is “the way to navigate every situation.” We die to our self not by our own will.

 

Couples Portraits

Today I saw a double portrait of the Kroyers from the 1800s. They painted each other on the same canvas. I’ve never done that, but it got me thinking of “couples portraits.”

There have been a few times I painted couples portraits, and quite a few more with multiple people in it – not begun as a portrait, but recognizable none the less. Here are some of my “intentionally painted couples” portraits.

Most of the time, the couples stay together. There is quite a bit of history in these paintings. The top left couple have been married over 30 years; top middle were married  over 60 years until the husband died; top right couple got married after this painting was made of them singing together. This was not painted as a portrait, but of lifestyle, included in a western exhibit I was in. She was especially adoring, I thought.

In the next grouping, the top left couple have been married over 60 years. The middle left couple were engaged in this painting. The bottom left couple were married about two years when I painted this. The bottom right couple were married 20 years at the time of painting.

Really, I love painting portraits as much as I panic while painting them. Capturing a likeness doesn’t always come so easily for me… it can be a very intense undertaking. I work very hard to capture the people. When I’m painting groups of people or painting other people, they sometimes end up looking so much like the people that they are almost too specific to sell as “just paintings.” I do enjoy the people most of the time while painting them, liking them, sometimes loving them.

One time I painted a man who I did not like very much, and it showed up in his eyes. The portrait was true, but it captured something I was not comfortable with. It’s really much better to love the people you are painting.

What happens to these very specific paintings? Well, usually the people want them. Sometimes not. What happens when they split up… and you have a portrait that ended up quite nice, but it is no longer “true”? One time I learned of a couple divorcing just as the painting was finishing. I had worked nearly 2 months on that one. Oh my. Needless to say, even though the painting was very nice, the portrait was no longer needed. I destroyed that one.

Every painting tells a story, but to me, people paintings have the biggest stories… so rich, so varied, so living.

Nio Sleeping

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Nio Sleeping. His little cheek squishes into the mattress below him, his nursing-lips satisfied into fullness, and there is peace and total trusting rest. The sleep of the innocent. The sleep of a well-loved baby.

Nio Sleeping is my latest work, completed just a week or so ago. He is drying, before I send him off to his mother. I loved painting him, trying to capture the baby folds and chubbies. It took a few days to get the squished cheeky just right, and the light defining the curve of the nose shaped for nursing.

Nio’s skin tones are a fine blend of cultures, his hair a soft, yet vigorous, curl, his satisfaction complete. His bedcover was really full of big green frogs and lily pads, originally casting a greenish light onto his skin. I felt a long term portrait would be more enjoyable without all the activities behind him, and his actual mood would be better presented in the neutral blues and grays.  He’s all snuggled in and safe.

Time passes too quickly, this time of chubby folds, soft snuggles  and total trust in shared existence with mother. The closeness is precious, treasured and always kept in a mother’s heart.