Friday, June 27, 2014

Creation in Hand – An Interview with Barbie Swihart about Art in Her Life

The first time I saw a one of her pieces, I was so impressed by the coloring, depth, and character that shone through. I was even more impressed to learn that her paintings were done by hand – and I mean, by using her hands as the implements to bring paint to paper – and that they were created in the midst of a worship service at her church as part of something called prophetic art.

Barbie Swihart is the author of Coffee Talk with Jesus and blogs at My Freshly Brewed Life. Married for twenty-five years, she works as a Pastoral Administrator at the Convergence House of Prayer in Southern California.

As I began collaborating with my co-leaders about who to talk to about Art in Your Life, Barbie was on the top of my list. She had recently blogged her way through A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman – a book that inspired our idea that art was more than a piece in a museum made by someone long ago, it becomes your life and the way you live it as you embrace the glory of creation around you.

In writing about embracing wonder, Barbie wrote,
Part of embracing the wonder of God’s creation is embracing our unique design as artists. It doesn’t matter how you make art. What matters is that you make it. We each have unique giftings and talents to use to display the beauty of God. Whether that is what surrounds you at your job, the day-to-day challenges of raising little ones, the stringing together of words on a page, or the anticipation that awaits you in a blank canvass, it is all wonder. 
It is a wonder indeed. Barbie is a keen listener; a gentle spirit who leans into the Lord to hear his voice; and an artist with vision and talent who puts hope and encouragement on paper. I hope you will enjoy this conversation with her as she answers questions from our (in)courage community group and talks about the art in her life.

Q: How did you get in to Prophetic Art (and how would you explain what that is to people who don't know?) 
I've been blessed to belong to a church community that embraces the arts, in all forms (worship, dance, writing, and painting). About 7 or 8 years ago we began doing 12Hops, which were twelve hours of worship and prayer, with the arts. Artists would paint during these sets and I was always amazed at the paintings. Having no artistic background, I never felt I could do it myself. But, I took a step and attended a class that didn't teach technique, but talked about how arts and worship can go together. After the class I began taking baby steps in allowing the Lord to move through me in this way. I've been painting during corporate worship services on the arts team now for about 4 or 5 years.

Prophecy, in simple terms, is a message from God meant to strengthen, encourage, and comfort others. Most often, prophesy comes through divinely inspired words, spoken to breathe life and hope into another individual, though it can also be expressed in various other artistic forms as well.

But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. (1 Cor. 14: 3) Art is a universal language. I love that art can convey different meanings to each person who sees it. I have had the experience of walking by a painting and bursting into tears as God brought healing to me through it. I believe that God desires to use art in the Church to bring hope, healing, and encouragement. So how do prophecy and art work together? Simply, the Father desires to express His heart to His children. We serve a creative God who is always speaking. God desires to (and does) speak through art. As an artist, He desires to open our eyes and ears to see and hear what He is saying, and then transfer that onto canvass (or paper, blogs, decorating, design). We do this for the Glory of God first and foremost. If no one said anything about any of my paintings, it wouldn't matter. I do it for God. Do I want others to be blessed by it? Absolutely. But I do it out of obedience to what God has put on my heart, and leave the rest up to Him.
Abide in My Love, by Barbie Swihart
(this is one of the first paintings by Barbie that I fell in love with)
Q: What kind of paint do you use for your paintings? I’m curious about how you create them without brushes or other "tools." 
I use medium to heavy bodied acrylic paint on canvas. Because I use my fingers, it's important that the paint is not too thin. I use brushes or sponges for backgrounds or certain effects. But mostly I use my fingers and hands.

Q: Why don't you use brushes? Do you use other tools, or always just your hands? (Do you find that freeing or limiting most of the time?) 
When I first started painting, I used brushes, but always became frustrated because I had a hard time articulating on canvass what I saw in my mind. Not having an artistic background, I had no concept of blending color, shading, or any of the other artistic terms. One day, I heard God speak to my Spirit, "put down the brush and use your hands." At first I thought, "really, Lord?" But I can tell you that being a finger painter for God has given me a unique style and brought so much freedom to my creativity.

Q: How did you discover this technique? 
I remember the day that God gave me permission to put my paint brush down. I was trembling, wondering what people would think. But I did, and I've never gone back to using a brush. God brought the technique. I simply said "yes!"

Q: What other ways do you make art in your life (other than painting and writing!) 
I am on a journey to embracing life in general as art. I have been seeking the Lord, asking Him to open my eyes to the art that is all around me. Emily Freeman's book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover The Art You Were Made To Live, is really helping me. I am discovering that the way I raise my children and help them to see beauty, is art. House cleaning, now that's an art! I recently organized my spice cabinet and put them all in alphabetical order. I would call that art.

Q: I know you self-published your first book. Can you tell us about that experience? Would you do anything differently the next time around? 
Self-publishing my book was a thrilling yet emotional experience for me. It was exciting to see my words on paper, all in one place. Yet, going through the posts, the process of editing, wondering if anyone would buy it, wondering if I had made the right decision, etc. – it was all overwhelming at times. I would definitely choose to self-publish again. There was not a big financial risk involved. A lot more people are self-publishing nowadays and it's a great way to get your product out there. Plus, I had a big blogger support team who cheered me on and helped to make my book launch a success.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration? 
My inspiration comes from the Lord, from His Word, from the pictures He drops into my mind and heart, and from my family. On the days when I feel like I lack inspiration, that is a clue that I need to go deeper or just simply take a break and enjoy what He's placed in front of me.

Rooted and Grounded, by Barbie Swihart
Q: What does “being creative” mean to you? 
Being creative to me means using my God-inspired gifts and talents and partnering with Him to bring about something unique. We are all creative beings, fashioned by a creative God. You may be more of a creative writer than I, or you may have the gift of design. I'm a finger painter, a blogger, and a wanna-be-writer. When we partner with God and allow Him to use our gifts and abilities, we can't help but create.

Q: Can you describe a time when you realized that painting – or being creative – was something that you had to do? 
When I paint with God, especially during corporate worship settings, I can hardly describe the feeling I get while partnering with the Holy Spirit to release His presence into the atmosphere. I don't often have a concept in my mind of what I am going to paint. I pray over my hands, pick color and then ask God to move through me. I never really know what I will create. God will often ask me to put down the purples and yellows and pick up the greens and browns. I give Him full access to my expression. The process is exhilarating. I love standing back and looking at the finished product. When people comment on my art, when they share their stores of how a painting has touched them, I know that this is something I was created to do. But I would do it anyway, because it helps me to feel closer to God.

Q: Are there any creative patterns, routines, or rituals that you have in your art or writing? 
In my paintings, I create a lot of circular motions. I also have been known to paint hearts, eyes, and lately trees. I am an abstract artist, so what you will see in my art is a concept of the real thing. What I love about abstract art is it can be interpreted in different ways. If you turn a canvass a different way, you get a whole new look. What do you see?

Untitled, by Barbie Swihart
Q: What your favourite thing you’ve ever created? 
I have a lot of favorites. This is one of my most favorites. I was going through a really hard time when I painted this one. When I stepped back to have a look after I was done, I saw the appearance of wings and it reminded me of being under the shelter of God's wings. The scripture is also a favorite of mine.

Shelter of His Wings, by Barbie Swihart
Q: What do you strive to communicate with your art? 
I strive to communicate God's heart for His people, His love and acceptance, as well as healing. I give away a lot of my paintings in the hope that they would be a reminder of God's love and faithfulness.

Q: What creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet? 
Photography has always intrigued. I don't own a "real" camera, but have seen so many beautiful captures with SmartPhones. I would love to take the time to be still enough in my day to capture something beautiful. 

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever had about how to be more creative? 
Ask yourself, what makes you come alive? When I paint, I feel alive. Perhaps you aren't sure what makes you come alive. What is it that you feel passionate about? We are each creative in our own unique way. Find something you like to do, or something you'd like to try, and go for it!

Q: What are you reading now? 
I am considering reading Hinds Feet on High Places again and blogging my journey.

I hope you've enjoyed the words and images of this wonderful artist. Be sure to visit her blog, My Freshly Brewed Life, for more inspiration and encouragement.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Release

Five Minute FridayOn Fridays a bunch of brave writers gather here to all spend 5 collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This week: Release


And this is how it happened today. With someone I’ve never met before. Because sometimes when they listen; kindness and compassion will shatter you.

She asked the easiest question: “so, tell me how you’re doing.”

It was physical therapy. A safe place. It’s supposed to be helping me. But this is me. And to be honest, there aren’t many safe places. And I spend most of my time holding it in; carrying on; making it work. That’s just what I do.

But sometimes holding it in and being wound tight like a spring works only for so long. And then the unexpected kindness of someone who actually listens – who actually takes a vested interest in caring about the thing hurting you most – takes it out of you and everything comes out in a rush of tears and squints and apologies that are far more unnecessary than you know.

So after I lost it in front of a stranger. And after she laid her healing hands on me and took me another small step in the direction of healing. And after I had some time to reflect on the pain – the physical pain as well as the pain of not being heard – I realized that I don’t just do this with people – strangers or not. I do this with God.

Yes. With the God of the Universe. Creator of all things. Who knows me better than I know myself. Constantly. Consistently. In spite of knowing better. In my head. All the time. (I need so many reminders)

I am a problem solver. I am a fixer. I am a do-er. I am used to the weight of the world resting on my shoulders. I am not good at letting go.

Yet the passage I have been clinging to for months reminds me each time I look at it, that it is the unforced rhythms of grace that I want. It is the recovery of life that comes from resting in the green pastures the God will lead me to. If I follow him. It is the free and light living I will have. If I keep company with him.

Have you been there?
Perhaps you’re there right now.

Caught in the midst of a struggle – some pain that has plagued you? Some situation that refuses to resolve itself? A weight resting on your shoulders that makes each daily step feel as though you’re carrying a load of stones?

May I invite you to enter into the reminder of release with me? I know you know it. I know I know it. But can we come and know it again together? Let’s walk back to the foot of the cross of the King, where rest and relief can be found. Let’s try to linger there in his presence just a little bit longer this time. I know we tend to wander. But let’s stay for just a little while here; wondering at the gift of grace. Each day, just a little longer.


How to Join 
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you; encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Art in Her Life - An Interview with Kris Camealy

She had been on my radar for several years – as a blogger, as an author (Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement), as an inspiring friend that everyone knew. After I bought and read her book, I got up the nerve to send a friend request on Facebook which she graciously responded to. I have followed her words, her blog, the birth and growth of her vision that has become Refine, the Retreat, and most recently, her exploration into art journaling that she’s been sharing online.

When I began collaborating with my co-leaders for our new (in)courage community group, Art in Your Life, she was one of the first names I thought of when we were dreaming of artists and authors to share with our yet-to-be-formed group.

This past Sunday, I had a chance to Skype with Kris to finally say hello in person; talk about books and art journaling, and what it means to be a creative spirit.

It might surprise you to learn that art journaling is relatively new to her. This summer marks her one-year anniversary of what she calls her journaling adventure. Friend, Christine Heister – who led the art journaling workshop at Refine – created a custom-covered moleskin journal as a birthday gift and gave Kris what she called “the push” to get started. As an already avid journaler, the segue from words to images was a natural one.

As a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom of four, carving out time for art journaling has not been as easy or as natural.

“But it’s become something I share with my kids now,” she said with a smile. “I have this whole space set up with the materials, and if they’re resting, I can have some time alone to do it. If they’re awake, they join me with their own journals. As a busy mom, the spaces fill up so quickly with the things that need to be done – art journaling together allows me to have more time with them and enjoy this outlet."

Our conversation shifted to kids and home, and I found myself telling her about my crazy-long grass and the need to grow something wild and free – in spite of the insanity it seemed to inspire in our neighbors. I asked her how she defined creative, and she spoke of freedom, dancing colors, no rules. I found myself nodding along.

Our group has a basis in faith and Christ, and I asked what she thought God liked best about his creation when we are being creative.

“I think God likes it when we’re willing to ‘go there’ and be creative – whatever our preferred method: music, images, words – he takes pleasure in seeing us express ourselves – no matter what it looks like."

And speaking of what things look like, our group is called Art in Your Life, so of course I had to ask her how she found art in her life. “I find it everywhere,” she laughed. My youngest is very creative – I see her art all over the house. She loves birds (and I get to see one of the more recent creations).” Kris added, “I love photography, so I’m always looking around at the light and how it touches things – I see art everywhere. It’s so easy for us to fail to see it when we put parameters on what art is supposed to look like.”

It was a real pleasure speaking with Kris – what follows are questions from our (in)courage community group and her answers. Thank you Kris for taking the time to share with us!

Q: How did you discover Art Journaling and what difference has it made in your life? 
I was introduced to art journaling by a very dear friend of mine, named Christine Hiester ( I had admired her many beautiful (BEAUTIFUL!) art journals, and Christine surprised me by making me an art journal for my birthday last year, and invited me to start my own art journaling adventure. That was the last nudge I needed. As to the difference it has made in my life? It is a peaceful, soul-sothing practice for me to work in my art journal. I’ve always been an avid believer in the value of keeping a journal, so it wasn’t too hard for me to make the jump from words to including images.

Q: What suggestions do you have for someone who is very analytically minded to 'turn on' the creative side?
I have many analytically minded friends, which must be a show of God’s sense of humor, as I am the complete opposite … ha! But I encourage them to relax and incorporate things that mean something to them. I believe we are all creative, it’s just a matter of discovering what it is that brings it out in us. Is it reading a certain book, is it seeing a film or observing architecture, it is music or dance, or words that spark our own desire to create something? Spend time getting to know yourself, and make a list of the things that inspire you to want to create something of your own. I should add, that by “create” I do not limit that to simply traditional art, drawing, or painting. You can create in the kitchen, in your home, with your clothing, etc.

Q: How did you realize you needed to launch Refine, and how long did it take to go from vision to reality? The journey to Refine retreat is a long one, but the short version is, God told me to do it. That may sound crazy, but He did. It was His vision, not mine. I was simply asked to carry it. The entire planning and preparation took a year. It was practically all-consuming for me, probably for many reasons, one of which was that I had never ever done anything like that before in my life, and it was a true faith journey, a pilgrimage of sorts, you might say.

Q: What is your Must Have supply - or top 5 anyway? 
Top art supplies (besides a quality art journal) Glue (glue sticks, mod lodge, etc), Paint (watercolors/acrylic), magazines (and old books), washi tape , stickers, glitter, tissue paper, scissors, sketching pencils—oh, you said top 5…. Heh.

Q: What is your go-to Color Palette? 
Blues and greens. I am a huge fan of teal, and various shades of it.

Q: How do you stay focused in your art journaling? 
Focused… It depends. Focus is easy when I have a vivid idea in my head already, other times, I get very distracted flipping through old books and magazines looking for things to use. But I don’t worry about it, Art journaling time is wide open space, I let myself enjoy the distractions.

Q: As a busy, work-out-side the home, way-over-committed mom, how can I incorporate simple art journaling into my own life? 
Art journaling will definitely not just happen if you don’t set aside time for it. It is low on the totem pole of priorities here, and as such, any time spent at my table must be intentional. That said, if it’s something you want to do, you will make time. Stay up 20 minutes later (or wake up a little earlier) set aside an early Saturday morning for some time making art. It’s like anything else, if you want to do it, you have to make an effort to fit it in to your schedule. Also, if you’re over-committed, take a look at that because that’s another issue entirely. Saying “no” is really okay. I promise. I am a recovering “yes” girl.

Q: How do you incorporate art or art journaling into your everyday life? 
I believe we live surrounded by art. I find art when I sit on the back patio and listen to the birds, I find art in my kitchen and in the shadows on the floor. Art and art journaling are different in that, art surrounds me, but art journaling is not a part of my every-day. I am busy, and I have to make time for it, and that simply doesn’t happen every day.

Q: What fun projects are you working on now? 
Mmm, should I tell you? I cannot reveal much right now, but I am building something. It will be ready (Lord willing) in October-ish. I’m excited about this new project and the potential it has. That’s my answer-non-answer ;) Sorry to be so coy – I hope you’ll keep up with me so you don’t miss it.

Q: What is your favorite way to make art? (What is your favorite medium?) 
My favorite medium for making art is words. I am a writer, and image based art is my second love. Words are my first.

Q: Do you have a room or area that is dedicated to arts and crafts? (If so - can we see it?) 
I DO! I have this beautiful, but awkward antique table that was passed down to me from my Grandparents. It’s too low to be a table with chairs, it’s about the height of a typical coffee table, but it’s really long—so I have claimed it as my art table, which means I do most of my art journaling on my knees or or on the floor.

Q: What is something artsy that you want to try, but haven't yet for whatever reason? 
I tried calligraphy once as a child and enjoyed it. But never did it after that one trial. I would love to play with that a bit more, because then I could draw beautiful WORDS! ;)

Q: What makes Art Journaling different than journaling? I love the idea, I just don't know what I'd "do" with it once it was done....or is that part of the point, not to have to be practical? 
Art journaling is very different from using words, and then it isn’t. Helpful, eh? It’s simply another form of expression. While I love to use words, I am also a very visual person, sometimes only an image will do, as the words just feel noisy. This is a great way to express thoughts and emotions through images, or say, when the words fail … there is nothing inherently practical about art journaling. That is not the point. Art journaling is for you. It is not intended to be practical or for a specific purpose. it’s a form of expression, release, and worship.

Q: How do you decide what subject to focus on in your art journal? I haven't tried art journaling yet, but have seen many beautiful examples. I just don't know where to start - do you start with scripture or is it more of what's on your heart at the time? Or more of a diary of what's going on in your life? 
Personally, I often start with scripture. (Not always) I tend to get hung up on a verse and just want to flesh it out more. My art journaling is an act of worship. It is a conversation between me and God.

Q: Also, do you ever have to fight the question in your mind of "what would others [insert specific others] think about this?” 
No. I don’t worry about this because my art journal is not for others. If and when I share my work it is because I feel so moved to share it. I don’t care what others think about it. This is a big deal for me, because I am a recovering people pleaser, but I know that my art journal is a personal thing, and yours should be too. Don’t go into it worrying about what others think about it. It’s not about pleasing people – at least it shouldn’t be. The beauty of art journaling is that there are no rules! There is so much freedom in it, that’s what I love. You don’t have to measure up to anything, try new methods, test out various mediums, play in the pages and forget about impressing others or even being understood. Your art journal is your sacred space for expression. Enjoy the breathing room.

Kris also shared with us about MADE - an e-course created by Christian creatives for Christian creatives, exploring what it means to be a person who makes things who believes she or he was, in turn, made by God. Registration will be open: Sunday, June 1st – Friday, August 25th. The 13-week course begins on September 1. This is one worth looking into friends!

I also asked her to share this video that her friend (and MADE leader) Anna Pasquale illustrated for her after Kris shared an exquisite vision with her. This message of redemption and grace is a powerful one. Be blessed.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Hands

Five Minute FridayOn Fridays a bunch of brave writers gather here to all spend 5 collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

Tonight, I write for the one who knows me best. Who is patient and kind above all else. Who might drive me to madness, but loves me with it too. Who has promised and to whom I have promised. And because all things are not equal, stays and fights and slogs through the mess just because. It is his hands that hold me. All the time. Though I may appear soft, and calm, and controlled (and I can be those things too), I am also wild, and furious, and purely elemental. I need anchoring. I need someone who can hold fast to the tenuous string that is my marginal connection to this earth when I fly high. I need strong hands. 

This week: Hands


I have always been about two things in a man: eyes and hands. Since forever. Just ask. Other things came later – and of course they mattered. But I the beginning – the things that caught my eye were their eyes and their hands. Could I see and be seen? Could I be held?

And the last time I stopped looking, it was his eyes and his hands that caught me. That brilliant blue that changed and faded with mood and light. Sometimes grey like a winter’s sky. Sometimes pale like the last egg of the robin’s nest. And only I have seen them flash their pure Nordic ice. Only me. His hands – that finally made mine feel small. Mine that so often felt only large, capable, durable. Nothing special. Nothing romantic. Nothing that needed to be cared for. Suddenly inches smaller; dwarfed in a palm that could easily span a basketball.

Over time, these eyes and hands have seen and held me. They have watched over me. My comings and my goings. All the changes that nearly twenty years can encompass.

They saw the changes in my own hands. When they would no longer flex and bend. When nothing would like it did. When things ached more than they worked, and pain was a constant companion – more than laughter, more than silliness, more than anything else.

And those hands held my hands and wrapped ‘round them and did for them the things they could not do. Jars with lids that would not open. Shoes with laces that would not tie. Steering wheels that could not be gripped. Stacks of books that were just too heavy to be carried. Those hands did that and more. Kitchen sinks that needed to be emptied. Bathroom floors that needed to be cleaned. Dinners that needed to be made. Lunches that needed to be packed. Aching muscles that needed to be rubbed. A hurting, frustrated, angry heart that needed to be comforted, touched, and told that it would be alright in the end.

Those hands did this and more. 

Above all else, those hands have clasped and bowed in prayer – with me and for me. Beseeching heaven for me, for us, for our family: Thy will be done and Father keep us safe and whole.

Not everyone sees it.
I don’t always see it.
But those hands are there.
They hold me.
I will not forget.


How to Join 
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!