Archives for posts with tag: cross


The last few days have been really beautiful. As a family we have spent a lot of time together and it shows. All of a sudden we are listening more and understanding more, kinder even. Yesterday the kids and I copied an idea from a New Wine artist, making a cross from barbed wire. Fitted with gloves and armed with paint brushes I was not only humbled by their concentration and focus but also by their conversation. Both of them know Jesus and love Him. Their matter of fact statements, their faith unfaltering, speaks deeply to me. They trust. They have faith in Him.

I am currently rereading ‘A Beautiful Mess’ by Danielle Strickland and in it she makes this observation….. “The trapeze artists are really only free to take the risks they take if they know the catcher is reliable enough to catch them. It’s the trust in the catcher that enables them to be truly free.” This has resonated with me as it links perfectly with the work I’m doing about stepping out, stepping into. And it has occurred to me today, and it is so blindingly obvious, that the more time you spend with someone, the more you know them and the more you know if you can trust them. Blindingly obvious. It’s the same with so many things: family, marriage, church, friends, Jesus. I’ve been challenged today to look at what I invest my time in. In a moment of solitude on this beautiful day I am once again throwing myself into the arms of the Catcher and listening to His reassuring voice as He nudges me in the right direction.

I submitted the small canvases yesterday for the Shrugborough Hall exhibition which starts on Tuesday. Was really pleased with them but something was missing. They didn’t resonate and I found that frustrating. Then something came to me I was thinking about recently and that was to paint blood red on the top and sides of the canvas. The Passover is celebrated just before Easter and it was for the Israelites to remember their deliverance from the Egyptians recorded in Exodus 12 and 13 of The Bible. “When God sees the blood on the lintel and two door posts, God will pass over the doorway, He won’t let the destroyer enter your house to strike you down with ruin.” This powerful image of saving blood, the Old Testament sacrifice of the lamb, is replaced by the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus crucified, but the image of the lintel and door posts being smeared with blood holds power for me. So I painted the sides and top of the canvases with red and this completed the image for me. I think I will use this again in my art work.


It was a little peculiar leaving the canvases in the dropping off room. I think Greg thought I was a little spaced out because I just hovered for a while. Very strange. Deadlines are such a help to me but to complete the pieces and then to have to relinquish them so quickly was quite peculiar, didn’t quite like it. I didn’t even enter the room with confidence, apologetically almost. I unwrapped them and placed them on the floor ready for him to sort and then waited for nothing in particular, not really even speaking, which I must be careful of!! It’s a strange thing. You make something and live with them sometimes for months, even years, and then you let them go and the next time you see them they are on a wall, in different light, almost not yours any more. It’s a peculiar type of grieving.

Four canvases with verse added on horizon line.

Four canvases with verse added on horizon line.

After a few frustrating days when I didn’t have the energy at the end of the day to get into the shed I managed to get down there tonight. Over the past 48 hours I’ve spoken to several people about the canvases and have gleaned their opinions and advice in order to go forward.

Watered down paint on canvas one

Watered down paint on canvas one

I definitely wanted the sense that there were more words being layered on the top of the canvases but I was seriously unsure how that would work. I knew the main verse was to go across all four canvases but under that….. would it work? The main verse went down very easily and only needed a little watering back to get it how I wanted it. The words for below were taken from the initial verses given for each area: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly; go make disciples of all nations; pray to The Lord for it, whatever you do do it with all you heart as for The Lord; I have come that you may have life to the full.

I initially painted the words in watered down paint, then continued the words over the top using water after thinking it looked too messy and unclear. The words cannot be seen but there is a sense that something is there.

Paint and water added.

Paint and water added.

I’m pleased with it and I think having it any darker or more solid would not work.

Now my nemesis!!! Canvas three has been tricky and I’ve thought really hard about whether I should completely change my mind about what goes on it. I discussed using broken pieces of pottery as a symbol of the broken jars that God uses and reforms. I’ve wondered if the roots just need to be smaller. I’ve wondered if I should use porcelain casts I made ages ago in my series called ‘broken pieces’ and either wrap words around them or write the words on. I’ve found the broken jar I soaked in spikenard that I used for the ‘Anointing’ canvas in Lichfield Cathedral. So many thoughts and questions running round my head.

Canvas three - arrangement of bound roots.

Canvas three – arrangement of bound roots.

And then I went back and read through all my notes again and listened to Andrew’s talk on Doing Life Well, and it is rooting our lives in the word of God that is mentioned and featured most prominently. So I gathered together the pieces I’d made and lay them onto the canvas in different arrangements until I had three to choose from, all featuring three smaller pieces of root and arranged horizontally or vertically on different sides of the canvas. And this is the one I’ve selected and will stitch them on tomorrow when the canvases are dry. They will need re varnishing again after my painting tonight but then I think, bar maybe stitching more red thread into the cross to make that even clearer, I will be done. Hopefully they will be complete before New Wine on Sunday.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven't secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven’t secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

It was an interesting day yesterday. Rectified canvas three by rearranging the bible verses bound around the wood so that there are much less of them and it’s more ordered for the composition. But in doing that I’ve realised that there needs to be something more than the scarlet thread to link the four canvases together… a key verse that is written across them all. It needs to be clear and readable but not so solid that it looks out of place. Have experimented on a separate canvas to see if I can get the effect I wanted and I think I’m there with it.

Canvas I've used to try out different techniques.

Canvas I’ve used to try out different techniques.

I just need the verse…. and the kids break up for the summer in two hours!!!! Good job they still go to bed at a reasonable time. Can see me in the shed most evenings until this is finished but stuck until I know what the verse is. I think it’s probably going to be Jeremiah 29 v 7 as I know the church has a passion for and is seeking the peace and prosperity of the greater Birmingham area and it’s a verse that has been mentioned quite a few times but I need to be sure. Excited that it’s nearly complete.

It’s in these moments of stillness that you reflect over the whole process and realise just what a privilege it is to be an artist and to be able to use simple things like canvas and pigment to form something that hopefully reflects God’s heart, even if just a little.

Varnished canvases one, two and four.

Varnished canvases one, two and four.

Spent the afternoon in the shed and varnished canvases one, two and four. Realised that the logo needed work on and made it lighter…. then darker and it seriously didn’t work. Then I made it lighter again and I think it’s nearly there!!! I remember someone saying my whites are always too white and I think this is the case here. Needs toning down a little, but important that light radiates from the Birmingham Vineyard logo. The brilliant thing about varnishing the work is that it suddenly comes to life and the layers underneath come through a little but more.

Been a bit of a chicken with canvas three and ignored it, as you do. Know once I start on that there is a lot of undoing to be done! Many start on that tonight. But the cross is the section I really wanted to work a little more on. I thought that adding the varnish to the scarlet thread would enhance it but it doesn’t at all, in fact it moves it about a little and it loses it’s definition. So by varnishing the pieces and then working into the stitching I think I’ll achieve the effect I’m after. Still wondering if there needs to be a verse alongside the stitching to tie the four canvases together again. I love the verse in 2 Corinthians 12 v 9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” It’s relevant for those who are seeking God’s face in order to do His will but also for those who are seeking His face for the first time. And it keeps the focus on Him and acknowledges that without Him it’s pretty pointless.

Thinking and sketching on top of photo.

Thinking and sketching on top of photo.

One of the most useful tools I have on my iPad is ‘drawing brush’, a free app I downloaded a while back. There are probably loads of programs out there but it just allows me to take a photograph and draw on top of it, and that is what I’ve just done. There are several things I’ve realised: the logo looks better when it is lighter, the stitching of red thread across the three canvases needs to be more prominent, the idea of taking three pieces of the wood/paper and binding them horizontally should, in theory, work, and I think there may need to be one text/scripture that is written across the whole four canvases underneath the red stitching. Much more to do than I thought.

Right, NOW it’s dishwasher time.

Canvas three - wood and paper take one!

Canvas three – wood and paper take one!

Worked hard on the third canvas today, felt it was right, it was secure and seemed balanced. The piece worked. Then I hung it next to the others and it’s not right. Totally gutted. So I’ve just stood looking at it, willing it to suddenly become alright, and my boy comes into the shed.

“It’s not right, is it?” I asked him. “Erm, no, but I don’t want to say that because I know that you’ll be sad,” was his reply. And he’s totally right, on both counts: It’s not right and that makes me sad. The wood/paper stands out too much against the background, and the skyline, which worked before, has become flat and lifeless in comparison. It’s too much when placed alongside the others. So time to undo all the binding and start again. I think two or three pieces of bound paper on wood should be used to build the composition of the piece in relation to the others. They need to be horizontal rather the vertical to balance with canvas two and four, but not across the whole canvas as that would be too much. So time to lay the pieces on the canvas and see which work best where.

Canvas three

Canvas three

Frustrating as I really thought I’d cracked it, but that’s fine. It needs to be right. I’m still holding onto the fact that the wood and paper work, but on a smaller scale. Two steps forward, one step back. Nearly there. Ironically I now totally love the fourth canvas and it’s competing in my mind for favourite canvas with number two after weathering it with layers of paint last night!!! Definitely two steps forward, one step back.

Time to load the dishwasher, make the sandwiches for tomorrow and then go back and look at it again before taking the scissors to it!!!

Canvas two - close up to the mustard seeds.

Canvas two – close up to the mustard seeds.

I had a great day yesterday in the shed. One of the talks I listened to from the Birmingham Vineyard (on the listen again section on their website) on Nehemiah spoke of the breath of God bringing the seeds of the city to life, bringing renewal and revival. I wanted to capture the breath of God in my piece. In another piece of artwork I used wisps of lambs’ wool to capture the sense of Holy Spirit over the waters of darkness at the beginning of time, and I felt it would be appropriate to use the same material, Jesus being referred to as the Lamb of God. I felt the wisps of Holy Spirit should come from the direction of the Birmingham Vineyard symbol, so from the left hand corner the wool has been placed, reaching towards the seeds, a symbol of Holy Spirit surrounding them, nurturing them, encouraging them to grow to become what God intended them to be.

The second development was the fourth canvas and if I’m being totally honest, this one has been the piece I couldn’t visualise…. that is until a few nights ago. I was struggling with how to combine the leadership part with the nations part but I knew the cross was the central to this. Jesus said that those who want to become the greatest must become the servant of all; His washing of the feet, His humility when being beaten, His immense leadership through His mercy and grace. The cross is key and a symbol understood by all nations. But the canvas needed more both compositionally and aesthetically.

Anna Crook - vertical white strip

Canvas four with the vertical white strip.

I asked my daughter recently what she wanted to do when she was older. In this order she said to be a shop keeper, to build wells in Africa to give them clean water, to be a vet and maybe a teacher. This got me thinking: If God has already given her heart and an understanding of the importance of clean water at this young age, how would she draw her heart for investing in other nations? She drew me a well and a toilet, and although she is sadly now coming out of that beautiful age of innocent impulsive drawing, it was still simple and beautiful.  I drew upon drawings by other children of seeds being planted, bikes, trees growing and schools and houses. Using a child like drawing form, using my wrong hand and using the children’s drawing as guides I drew into a vertical strip on the cross all those images which are the basic needs and hopes for other nations from toilets to kisses. I next want to weather it so it looks like stone.

When my boy saw what I’d done he said “but you’ve lost the cross,” so I plan to pull that back by extending the red thread across the new white strip and down one of the sides of the vertical sides. It’s great how my kids are keeping me on my toes!! The breath of God’s encouragement comes in many beautiful forms.