It was one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken. We were traveling through Burkina Faso during our missionary days, and the poverty was overwhelming. I found myself, once again, the spoiled, picky, American girl who had trouble eating what the locals would have been thrilled to have. One time at a restaurant, flies were swarming so thickly upon our plates of chicken and french fries that the only way we could eat was to cover our plates completely with napkins, puling a fry or a piece of chicken out from under it the best we could. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
Speaking of flies, the donkey that I painted above had flies crawling all over his eyes that were swollen shut. They looked like two slits– they must have been infected. I had to use my artistic skills to open his eyes and make him look healthy and happy. The boy also was not as healthy and glowing as I painted him to be. The truth is that I had to change the sad realities of this boy’s life in order to create a beautiful painting that people would want to see. I’m not sure what to do with that, and I am ashamed to complain about flies on my fries when so many in that country had so little to eat.
How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world? How can we help? Guilt and shame are not the answer. The answer is probably different for each one of us. If only painting away the infections and the hunger would make them disappear. I don’t know how to fix our broken world, but I do see people helping, one person at a time. Thank you, all of you who are loving, serving, and helping, one person at a time. God sees you.
I discovered oil pastels while studying art in college. I don’t know why I picked them up in the first place, and I remember being frustrated with them in the beginning. One of my early attempts was a ballerina whose face looked like that of an ape, sending my professors into spasms of laughter. It’s a painful memory I’ve probably never shared publicly until now.
In spite of that failure, I kept at it, and I found that if I used a textured board and kept my work large, strikingly colorful portraits began to emerge from the background. The pastels were so intense that I had to mix the colors on the surface of the painting. I’ve found that not having the exact skin colors of pastels forced me to used a mixture of colors that became magic for me, and I developed my own style of portraits using oil pastels. I thought you might enjoy seeing an earlier stage of the work, along with the finished piece.
When God invented grandchildren, He outdid himself — forgive me, but all of you grandparents know what I mean. I couldn’t be more crazy about mine! They have changed my life forever, as a matter of fact, because I wanted to write books for them. After writing books for them, I was able to get a paid writing job for a local children’s book publisher. One good thing led to another, and I have my amazing grandchildren to thank.
Selling an original painting is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. Recently I sold this oil pastel of a young girl we encountered while traveling from Burkina Faso to Niger back in 2005. The buyer is a complete stranger from a far away state who came across the painting in my Etsy shop, but I was happy to hear that she had actually traveled to the region, and has a heart for the children of the area. I feel that God used the internet and my artwork to connect us– two people who have never met, and probably never will. A part of me, an intangible part that is colors and marks and feelings that are uniquely mine, will dwell with her family now, blessing that family, I pray, as I was blessed to see the beauty and the image of God in the young girl at the border of Burkina Faso and Niger.
Getting ready for the Trolley Hop this week! I’ll be there Friday night, June 17, from 6-9pm, displaying original pastels and acrylic paintings, as well as prints, cards, and my books. My booth will be located in front of VIP Quality Awards and Gifts, at 409 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN.