Caroline had not heard of prophetic painting up until five years ago, but she has recently been developing this creative gift. This is an outline of how God has led her in this direction.
A short time after Living Waters began, I was asked to make some temporary banners – the plan was to use them as a focus during Intercession. I didn’t think it was possible for me, but I very much wanted to help. It was a step of faith, because I was just trusting that each banner – composed of an image and a Scripture – was what God had given me to do. I made twelve and when they were finished, I realised that they were not in my usual style. In fact, there were only two that I liked from a creative perspective, but I knew that they were designed for a purpose. No one called this prophetic painting, but I suppose this was the beginning of my journey towards painting what God wanted.
Soon after this, I was asked to help decorate our pastor’s office. I painted two silhouetted figures walking along a beautiful beach. The minute that Pastor Warren set eyes on it, he said it was a prophetic painting. (I didn’t realise that God had spoken to Warren very powerfully through a beach scene.) My response was, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about, but okay!’ For some reason, I thought my own intellect and ability would be involved. And I also had this idea that, if God was to use me in this way, He would give me amazing painting ability – so that I would be able to create a masterpiece.
I can remember painting from a very young age and my strongest subjects in school were art, drama and music. I really would have liked to become an actress, but that wasn’t encouraged and being an artist wasn’t any more acceptable. Training to be a graphics designer was permitted and so that’s what I did. However, I wasn’t sufficiently competitive for that field of work, so only spent two years going in that direction.
During this time, I continued to paint at home and was surprised when people liked my work. I didn’t really feel satisfied with my own painting, not because of being a perfectionist – more because I didn’t think it was of a high enough standard.
Once I’d married and settled in a small village, I met an old lady who was an artist. She really encouraged me in my work – in fact, we raised money for charity by showing our paintings in the village hall. Then I met Jenny Searle, a watercolour artist, and we held an exhibition together. That was when I learnt that if you set yourself a goal and determine to work hard, you can achieve more than you would expect.
In the early 1980’s, I was invited to hold an exhibition at Rufford Arts Centre and a few people in my village asked me to teach painting. I didn’t really feel very confident, but doing it made me overcome some of my own inhibitions. I continued to teach on and off for ten years, and during that time also held one or two more exhibitions.
I’d been a Christian for nearly ten years by the time I was asked to produce something for the Women’s World Day of Prayer. (Up until then I’d never really seen painting as part of my faith.) My brief was to create something that would honour women and women’s spirituality. So I made a screen shaped as flames, to represent the Holy Spirit, and covered it in collage. The pictures showed women in the diversity of their gifts – nothing was too small or too big for women to undertake. This really was a benchmark for me – I felt I was being brave, exposing my spiritually inspired work in such a public place. It was at this time that I realised that my desire to serve God needed to be, and indeed was, greater than my fear of people’s opinions.
About a year later, I was interviewed for a local magazine. It was during this interview that I first had the idea for an exhibition, which I still hope to hold. It would be entitled ‘God in the Ordinary’ and express my strong desire to always recognise the beauty of God’s creation in everything. Many of my paintings incorporate every day items, such as a line of washing. I have long since felt the importance of people being able to see that God is available in down to earth things. It’s for this reason that I collect and recycle all kinds of materials. Even a bit of rusty metal can be used to create something beautiful.
The way that God has led me has affected how I feel about my painting. I’ve always struggled to hear my painting referred to as a hobby – I felt it was being trivialised. I suppose a hobby could be defined as something you do as a pastime, for your own pleasure rather than for profit. It took me a long time to actually have the courage to call myself an artist. Even though I didn’t make a living from my paintings, I knew that being an artist was part of my identity – part of who God created me to be.
All of this was very key to my understanding of prophetic painting. I had a desire to paint prophetically. At first I thought I should get a verse from the Bible and then paint it, but it didn’t work and I just got cross! For a time, I thought I’d misunderstood God and that He hadn’t asked me to do this at all. I felt very insecure about my gifts. I thought that because I couldn’t produce what I felt was a brilliant painting for God, it wasn’t my gifting. Over a period of time, He showed me that He didn’t separate my own painting from spiritual painting. I had this idea that I couldn’t be doing something for God if I was enjoying doing it. So, instead of trying to do something specific, I decided to just have fun expressing myself on canvas. He confirmed that He is in all of my painting. Once I realised this, I entered another phase. I would hear something – either in someone’s prayer or in a sermon – which would strike a chord in me and I knew I wanted to paint it. I’d start with a blank canvas and check it out with Him at every stage. Whatever came into my head to do, I would just do it. If I wasn’t happy with anything, I’d paint over it. Somehow whatever was a part of the process of reaching the final painting was significant – even if it couldn’t be seen.
I don’t always recognise the prophetic in my paintings. There was one that I thought wasn’t particularly good, but my pastor, Warren was deeply affected by it and he explained it to me. This is really humbling and helps me to remember that the gift can only come from God.
Interestingly enough, I have sold more work in the last two years than ever before. Almost as though, now that I have owned the gift that God has given to me, He has released more of it. I used to apologise all the time for my work, even when someone complimented it. Then someone pointed out that by contradicting their praise, I was actually calling the person a liar. I sought God about my painting and He showed me that this gift will be mightily used. But I have to play my part – by abandoning myself to God in my studio. I know what has touched my heart and what I want to portray. My idea that God would enable me to paint a masterpiece has proven to be wrong, but God has dealt with me as I have painted. I have painted through tears at times and I know that I need to paint. I am an artist and must express myself in that way. Accepting my identity as an artist has proven to be the biggest turning point. He has shown me firstly that I am valid as a person and secondly that I have an identity in Him. It is a great blessing to me that my work blesses and ministers to others.
Prophetic Painting has been given to me by God and is nothing like I expected. It combines my own ability with a definite knowing and flowing that comes from God as I face the blank canvas. It isn’t always easy but I have grown in my relationship with Him as I have striven with the paint.
In the future I would love to be able to paint during worship. At the moment, I don’t like painting when others are around, so that is something else that God will have to help me with. I am doing my best and hoping for something lovely for God, which will, while releasing me, release and help others in our journey to discovering the fullness of Him.