Artistic Expression and the Jesus Lover

denise-croppedYesterday I was listening to one of my favorite popular bands from the era of 8-track players, ABBA. A couple of lines caught my attention in the song “Thank you for the Music.”




“…Mother says I was a dancer before I could walk. She says I began to sing long before I could talk…”

Later that afternoon my mother and I were talking on an entirely different subject and we veered into my childhood.

“I remember you coloring and drawing for long periods of time,” she said.

I knew from an early age that I enjoyed the artistic world.

Just as the ABBA song describes a child who expressed themselves artistically in dance before learning the self-controlled movement of walk and singing before the focused disciple of talking, I too learned to express in pictures what later would become purposeful writing.

My father sat across the table from me recently and asked what I liked about writing.

“I enjoy putting in words what I once was able to do with colorful pencils and paper.”

untitled3Under professor Arni Anderson’s watchful eye at Oklahoma Christian, I learned drawing and design techniques.

My pencil drawings were mostly accurate, but a bit light and almost faded into the paper.

1980.Self portrait

Denise Huff McEwen – Self-Portrait.Charcoal (c. 1980)



In retrospect it characterized my shy, calculated and risk averse personality.


1980.Rendering.fellow art student

Denise Huff McEwen – Fellow art student.Charcoal (c. 1980)






Arni – as he asked his students to address him – taught me the technique of notan. I don’t recall much except that he taught me to draw bolder, more three-dimensional looking images simply by emphasizing the stronger points and lines in the image being drawn.

I was amazed at how much my renderings improved.

But Prismacolor was my favorite medium.

Denise Huff McEwen - Magazine model.Prismacolor (c. 1980)

Denise Huff McEwen – Magazine model.Prismacolor (c. 1980)


When Arni introduced our drawing class to Prismacolor, my drawings took on new life. When the Prismacolor artwork is tight, realistic and finished, it shapes the flat surface of the drawing into an almost photographic quality.





It was the closest I ever came to doing the artwork I enjoyed best, the realism of the Flemish painters. Rembrandt van Rijn and his contemporaries were the photographers of their day, memorializing life for the moment and eventually for posterity.

photoSo a few years ago, I had a hankerin’ – a good Texas-ism – to audit an art through the ages class with Dr. Glover Shipp at Austin Graduate School of Theology. It reignited my appreciation for the visual arts, though I now chose to write my art.

I was also reminded how much the Kingdom of God has benefited from the artistic abilities of His own, and how there is not only a place in today’s economy for Godly artistic expression, but a need among so much dark art.

crayons-623067__180For when Christ is at the center of the heart, He too will be at the center of the art.

Something I know about the artistic temperament; it will always manifest itself one way or the other. In church in the teacher’s imaginative abilities to teach children, a VBS director’s creative ability to galvanize a team to serve the children at church and community, the teen who paints the murals in the children’s wings telling the wonderful Biblical stories that stick in a child’s mind.

The light shines brightest in the dark, and my prayer is if you or your children have a desire to express yourselves artistically, that you find a healthy outlet individually or together to do so.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it – Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

michelangelo-71282__180Children are hardwired by God first, and directed secondly by parents’ loving training. How blessed is the parent who discovers their child’s temperament and encourages it for Kingdom use. And even then, it’s never too late to nurture a God-given bent towards art and ask God to help use it for His purposes.

The best artists to me see the beautiful, offer viable solutions and joy in their art and leave the patron both challenged and better for having looked upon their work.

Who is waiting to benefit from an artistic gift God has given me?

Just wondering


2 thoughts on “Artistic Expression and the Jesus Lover

    • Dad, The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You’ve been an artist as well in your sermons, designing and building the AMO camp and being the master gardener you are. Looking forward to the next crop! Love you back, Denise


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