I meet God in art.
When I don’t want to say or pray, when I can’t articulate the questions or joy in my heart, Art has been my sacred translator. I feel known, understood, and not alone when I encounter beauty on a canvas or carved in stone. I buy the postcards, calendars, and coffee table books of my favorites artists and their work. I use them when I pray. They help me listen and speak to God.
I first saw Dawn Waters Baker’s work on Facebook. Scrolling on through the people’s quiz results and baby pictures on my feed, Dawn’s grand, majestic work stopped me. My heart raced, and then quieted. I knew I should pay attention. I was beckoned to stop my rush and contemplate the night sky on my screen. I got lost in the colors. Then the scene. Then the Creator of it all. I whispered worship at my kitchen counter, “thank you, God.”
I asked Dawn if I could feature her and her work on World Changer Wednesday because her work is important. We forget that art is transformational. We forget that art heals. We forget that when we’re lost, art can call us back home. I love Dawn’s passion and humility. I hope you enjoy learning her story and getting a tiny taste of her big work. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Dawn!
How did you get started in art, Dawn?
My father would paint as a way to relax. He worked as a missionary/pastor and he found that painting nature was a joy. I can still remember sitting on the floor watching him paint and the smell of the oils. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old when he patted the seat next to him and said, “Come up here and do one too!” He was my first art teacher and inspiration.
How are your art and faith woven together?
For me, there is no such thing as “Christian Art.” Art cannot believe in Jesus only human beings can do that. There are Christians who are artists. I believe art is just a window into who I am. Hopefully, you see that I believe in a higher power, in beauty, and goodness.
Are my paintings sermons? Absolutely not. I don’t believe that art is meant for that purpose. Ravi Zacharias says that “Art’s purpose is to create a longing in people’s hearts. A longing that only Christ can fulfill.” I try to paint the things that my heart longs for: my true home, Jesus, real beauty.
What are you focusing on this season?
I just came from a National Park Residency in November of 2015 at Big Bend National Park. Through the National Park Artist Foundation, Big Bend Natural History Association and the National Endowment of the Arts I was granted one month to be the Artist in Residence at this beautiful Park. This year I am working on Big Bend pieces to go into a solo show that is scheduled for September 2016 here in Dallas at the Mary Tomas Gallery.
2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and so this is really a kindness of God to give this wonderful opportunity to me. All my work is very large, ranging from 55×55 to 60×72. I just felt that these works had to be BIG to help the viewer experience a little of Big Bend.
What is your favorite part?
I really love to paint, so anytime I can be in the studio and NOT on the computer is really my favorite part. When I’m in the process of a painting the very first part and the very last part are my favorites. The first part because of all the possibilities that could happen and the last part because I’m coming to a close on what I was feeling.
What is the hardest part?
The hardest part can be the balance of artist and Mom. My painting begins when the kids are off to school but what happens if they have a Field Trip or they are sick? Then I need to be Mom first. When they get home after school I am usually in the middle of washing my brushes for the day because I know I cannot get anything done once they get home. I love them and want them to feel they are more important than art but it is hard to juggle everything. Some days I feel like a lousy Mom and other days I feel like a lousy painter. Ha! God’s grace covers all and I find my joy in Him.
Do you think painting helps you understand God better? Do you think it helps you understand people better? Is there a compassion component/effect?
Painting is my way of delighting with God and in God. I am a landscape painter and so I gain great joy out of being outside in His creation. I like all types of weather (yes, even rain). I find that God is more wild and vast than we give Him credit for in our church buildings. He is awesome and to be feared and also so beautifully creative and wondrous. I see the things He has made their design and beauty and I marvel at the kind of God He is.
I believe man has a deep connection to the earth. By being a landscape painter I believe I am tapping into those ancient feelings and truths that the earth expresses through its colorings, typography, mood etc. Although most of the time I don’t paint a single person in the landscape they are still a part of my fellow man. We are all connected to this planet through our bodies. From dust we are created and to dust we will return.
I find that the ever changing landscapes and weather are a great symbol of what is happening in our hearts at times. I’ve had people connect to the works saying things to me like, “That is how I feel.”
Some people may think I’m a “tree hugger” and I won’t argue that I love trees. I don’t see that as something opposed to Christ but instead something that agrees with Him in the beauty He has made. Art is my “Amen” (so be it) to His creation.
What advice would you have for other people considering a similar path?
- Humility goes a long way. Be humble enough to take criticism well and to accept it as a help to your skills.
- LISTEN and be slow to make a judgment on anyone else’s art.
- You can learn from the most skilled painters but you can also learn from the risk takers too.
- Be kind and use your art to love. There is a scripture in the Bible I try to live by: I Corinthians 16:14 “Do everything in love.”
- Stop comparing yourself and get over yourself (stop dwelling on you and your failures and stop dwelling on all your accomplishments! Just get on with it).
- Paint because you love it not because you love recognition. Paint because that is your language not because you want to “arrive” at a certain level. Success will find you if you are willing to work really hard. Make sure you have defined success for yourself (i.e. what is success? What makes a person successful?)
- Don’t forget to help the hurting world. It needs beauty, love, grace.
How can we join you?
You can pray for me in the works I am doing for the Big Bend show. I want to do right by it and give it the best I can. I believe that’s all God asks of me. Pray for me to do the work in a timely way.
You can also follow me on my blog and let me know your thoughts from time to time. I can feel isolated at times in my studio and do try to get out with family and friends. It means a great deal to me when I can connect with others — more than selling art or having them hung in galleries.
I believe one of my greatest joys is to connect with another human heart through landscape (it doesn’t have to be my art!). You are also welcome to come to the show in September. I would love to meet any of you!
Thank you, Dawn!
Dawn’s counsel and paintings deeply ministered to my heart today. I’m not a landscape artist, but I, too, need to remember the value of humility, listening, risk-taking, and loving in the work I do with words and relationships. I need to remember that comparing myself to others, and having a nebulous view of success will steal my joy. Do you need to remember that, too?
Painting is Dawn’s way of connecting with and in God. Sometimes I can work for days and not be connected with the Lover of my Soul. Are you able to do it with your daily work?
Dawn’s last words of counsel are: “Don’t forget to help the hurting world. It needs beauty, love, grace.” This brings me to tears. How am I giving beauty, love, and grace to our hurting world? I pursue compassion and justice for the world in a lot of ramshackle, taped-together ways, but I really am trying. In my own ways I’m longing to point to the beauty, love, and grace that’s so easily found. How are you sharing beauty, love, and grace?
You are loved.
- www.dawnsartsite.blogspot.com (where Dawn talks about her paintings more)
- www.dawnwatersbaker.com (the main website of Dawn’s works)
Artists and teachers that inspire Dawn:
Galleries featuring Dawn’s work:
- Marshall Gallery (Scottsdale): http://www.themarshallgallery.com/
- Gierek Fine Art (Tulsa): http://www.gierek.com/index.php
- Mary Tomas Gallery (Dallas): http://marytomasgallery.com/
- Waterfall Mansion (New York): http://www.waterfallmansion.com/
- White Stone Gallery (Philadelphia): http://whitestonegallery.com/
To learn about more amazing World Changers please check out this page.
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.