Aline Lidwell is an artist, illustrator, writer, a qualified and experienced teacher and a pastor. She has been described as a Creative Catalyst. She regularly runs workshops on creativity. In this article she talks about painting with God.
Some might argue that all art is ‘prophetic’ in some way, what makes the art that you do particularly so?
I would definitely agree that most art is prophetic in some way. It is a powerful medium for encouraging and exhorting people. There is much debate about what makes a particular piece of art ‘prophetic’.
I have a very simple approach in this. I create what is beautiful and meaningful to me. I am inspired by my day-by-day connection with God. I rarely label what I create as ‘prophetic’ but am happy for others to call it this if it encourages and strengthens them or opens up their own connection to God. Creative activities can open our hearts to God in a way that rational thought does not allow. What people create, the art itself, is never the emphasis. For me, it’s what is discovered and experienced in the process of creating it.
Occasionally in my art, I have responded to a clear instruction from God to do or say something in a particular way. It might not result in a finished or polished piece of art but I believe that simply because I have done or said what God directed me to, He has been able to accomplish what He had in mind for a situation or person. This is what it means to be ‘prophetic’. It may also go beyond simply encouraging and strengthening a person and may include directing them or bringing healing to them.
Personally, I think this is what God always intended and sent Jesus to demonstrate. Jesus only did what the Father showed Him. Art enabled me to discover this as I learnt to allow God to show me what to paint, how to paint and often whom it was for too.
Powerful prophetic art comes from artists who know and respond to God. Everyone was created by God to know Him and His greatest hope is that we will respond to Him and get to know Him. I think we would be hard pushed to find a human being who is not, in some way, bringing the essence of God into being in their art although they might never know it themselves. So yes it is difficult to find a piece of art without the potential to be prophetic in some way.
How did you get involved in the prophetic art scene and how has it developed?
My Mother was very involved with banner making in the 80’s. I grew up surrounded by praying women who loved to listen to God. Unfortunately, at that time, they lacked opportunity to share with their church community what God revealed to them. This encouraged them to create pictures that would speak for them. They drew me in and raised the expectation within me that God wanted to know me and to speak to me. God often communicated with me through nature and in pictures. This felt very normal to me and was how I read scripture too. So much of it was an allegory or a parable. I became familiar with the symbols and pictures used throughout and, like the many religious artists before me, used them in the art I created.
Later in life I worked in the inner city with young people for whom church was a completely foreign and unfamiliar territory. They had no template for understanding and expressing worship. The idea that God wanted to, and could, talk to them was equally weird. Art, in its broadest sense, then came alive for them. It helped us to explore the spiritual and discover God in a deep way. The art allowed God to access our hearts by bypassing our minds.
Later in life I discovered that what was intuitive to me was something that many others had given a name to, prophetic art. I took time to travel and discover what others were doing and how it was impacting people and our world.
What is the purpose and process of painting prophetic art?
My heart would always be to help people into a secure and confident connection with God. From there I can trust God to show them any purpose He has for their art and any process he has in mind for its creation. I would only add that I hope we never get so focused on knowing and examining the purpose and process of prophetic art that we forget to simply enjoy and embrace the moment of creating and the beauty of great art for art’s sake alone.
What have been the uses of it? Worship/Pastoral/healing? And with whom?
Prophetic art is a tool used with all ages and in many contexts. Art is used to teach, worship, intercede, release healing and evangelise. There are multitudes of books and resources already available and many more on the way that talk about this. As a church we have a huge appetite for resources and programmes that help us in our mission and goals. As a school teacher I understand this more than most. Having stuff to teach people and tools to give them is so important to us. When it comes to helping people connect to God, I find myself tempted to apply the skills and techniques I use daily as a teacher. I want to educate them, inspire confidence and let them know they are progressing well. The difficulty is that when we take this approach to growing people into their connection with God, we struggle. We struggle because we want people to do well. We want them to feel secure and confident in their connection to God but sadly few ever do. Instead we give them tools to examine and assess their progress in knowing Him and obeying Him. What we sometimes create are anxious people who are very self-aware – often cripplingly so.
With this in mind, I love how art opens up the opportunity for us to really hear God Himself. With a pot of paint and a canvas there are few pre-determined answers. I don’t want to create ideas about what art needs to be or how it needs to be done. To stipulate how it could or should be used by Christians. Instead, when asked to lead a prophetic art workshop, I like to ask God what He wants to do and say. Yes I have a few things I often do when I lead one, but I hope I only do these because it is something He has in mind. What I find is that a room full of art resources quickly becomes a meeting place. For many their idea about what God thinks and says is completely transformed.
‘Tree of Life’
Can you give us some stories about its effect?
I have been surprised by what impact giving even the simplest of pictures has on people. I sat in on a counselling session with a friend who was feeling like she was making no progress with a client. She has an idea of what she expected me to do. I felt a lot pressure from her to be the answer for her client. Feeling this, I was nervous but I did my best to stay alive to God and not let my nerves pull me out of that confidence in Him. I began to draw a portrait of the girl, something I rarely do. I was making a real hash of it but then I became aware in my mind of God putting a rose behind the girl’s ear. I then went on to draw a landscape with this rose in it. I did not feel like I had much to say about the picture or how it might impact her. I simply gave it to her and left.
The next week when I saw my friend she told me that her client had asked her how I knew what to draw. She connected the two pictures and saw Jesus picking the flower and putting it in her hair. What I did not know was she had suffered a history of sexual abuse. What happened in that moment was that the picture for her became a new landscape and place where she felt peace and was able to connect to Jesus. A Jesus, who knew her, saw her as beautiful and was safe to be with. It was a turning point for her and a part of a long journey towards healing and a restoration of life for her. I was of course thankful I had been willing to have a go and be available to do what God showed me.
Another was much less obviously art! I was in a situation where I was encouraged to ask God if there was anything He wanted me to do. I drew a line drawing of a pair of dancing legs with happy faces on the knees. I saw myself simply placing the picture on someone’s knees and was confident that God would heal them. Why? Because that’s what He was saying. Yes it felt awkward but the woman I was with was brave in responding to it. She had injured her knees as a child and despite surgery she was still in a lot of pain. The outcome of that encounter astounded me. For the rest of the night and all of the next morning, she was a dancing machine. I have never seen anyone so overcome with joy. She was the embodiment of the lame person who we sing about ‘Walking and leaping and praising God’.
How does creativity feed you personally?
Creativity itself does not feed me, although my soul craves beauty. Creativity is a doorway that draws me into God. It is a significant part of the way I interact with God and share my life with Him. It’s that friendship that sustains me rather than the creativity itself.
How can it be used in the life of the church and in the community?
Art and creativity can be used in the life of the church and the community any way that God directs. I think what matters is, not that we create ideas or programmes, but that we always stay open to the journey. Art has been an important part of our churches and communities since they began. We are still inspired and moved by the music, writing, stained glass, architecture, paintings and sculptures of generations that left them for us to enjoy. Creation itself was designed to move us and bring us closer to its creator. I hope our generation adds to this great collection and that it achieves God’s purpose for it. We can only do this if we become alive to our connection with God and live as Jesus did in union with Him, doing and saying what He reveals to us.
*Title picture ‘Restoration’
Aline’s art can be viewed on her website and the pieces shown are with her kind permission
Chrysalis Creations www.alinelidwell.wordpress.com
Aline will consult on or manage almost any project.
She is equally able to inspire and activate your creativity. A gifted communicator and experienced facilitator for people of all ages – Aline is a catalyst who can help everyone discover and create.
Contact her if you have a project, class or workshop in mind.