My father-in-law Jerry is 100 years old and over the years has produced some of the most stunning watercolors I have ever seen. His seascapes and Yosemite mountain scenes are some of my favorites and cover the walls in our home. My kids took painting lessons from him when they were little. The paintings in the photo above display the works of “Master Gramps” and our son CJ when he was around 7 years old (he is 28 now). A few years ago, Jerry had to curtail his craft due to impacted eyesight, but even then, he tried new techniques, ones that were more colorful and abstract and less precise in detail.
This week’s Advent devotional and today’s blog are about the Light and Love that came to us through the birth of Jesus. Here are two lessons I have learned about good watercolor technique and some of my reflections on how they might inform us spiritually during Advent:
Watercolor Lesson #1: The most important part of the watercolor painting is the white part of the paper. You must begin by visualizing what part of the painting you want to remain white. Some artists apply rubber cement to these areas before they apply any color. It is a good practice to pay attention to the light you envision peeking through the trees or cascading in a splashing wave or coming up with the sunrise; anywhere you want the light to be reflected in the painting. Then you can build the color and shadows around it.
Spiritual Reflection #1: Keep your gaze on the “True Light”. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world!” What are the things that take you away from the Light? To what do you give your best and first attention? What can you do this Advent to prepare to let God’s light in? Begin afresh by purposing in your heart to seek Him first. Park yourself at His table of grace and listen to Him speak through His Word Let the Light get into the cracks of your heart. Our best decisions and perspectives flow out of our time with Jesus.
Watercolor Lesson #2: Watercolor is very unpredictable. The paint, the paper, and the techniques you use all work together to move to a finished product. Using salt or rubbing alcohol can provide neat and interesting textures, but, in the end, not everything is within the painter’s sphere of control. Colors “bleed” and change depending on the amount of water and pigment that is used. Stay committed to the process and use the failures to improve your technique for the next painting.
Spiritual Reflection #2: Surrender desired outcomes to God. If this season has taught us anything, it’s how little we actually control in this life. Let God illuminate and redeem all the places of struggle and darkness you may be experiencing. Ask Him to come into the space. The experiences (colors) of our lives do not always make sense and often feel messy. We start with a clean white slate every time we go back to the cross. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). In the midst of all that’s happening around us, it’s difficult for many to continue to hope. C.H. Spurgeon called the interruptions and disruptions of life “the hard providences of God that we’re called to endure.” You are a beautiful masterpiece! Be open to the change He may want to initiate in your life. Let Him sit with you in your discomfort. Confess places of mistrust and disobedience. Keep short accounts with Him and others. I admire my father-in-law for the beautiful way he has pivoted amid disappointment. I hope I can pivot as well! When difficult circumstances come my way, will I still paint pictures of God’s goodness, righteousness, and truth? Encourage one another with the lessons you are learning from the Master during this Advent season. We need each other on this journey.