My Art Story

For most all of my ministerial career I have been what we call “bi-vocational.” In other words, I’ve always had to work more than one job at a time. Sometimes I’ve had three or more at one time!

Now, all this means is that in order to pastor a small, rural congregation, one usually needs to have other employment to either supplement or supply the primary income for the family. And one reason that I’ve had multiple jobs at one time is because in order to pastor a church, one needs flexibility. For example, hospital visits and funerals don’t always happen at convenient times.

Because since 2008 I have been both pastoring and working other jobs, mainly driving a school bus and training other drivers, I’ve not had time for hobbies. Between Bible study, preaching, visiting, and working 40-plus hours in a second job, one rarely has time to paint. But then came Bethlehem Baptist Church.

For the first time since I surrendered to the ministerial call, I finally was asked to be Pastor of a “full-time” church. In other words, I don’t have to work a second job to pay the bills! On top of that, I have time for hobbies! YAY!

But what hobbies? I’ve never had hobbies!

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic and a year of public quarantine.

It was only when we as a congregation were no longer coming together to meet in person that I came up with the idea to make hand-drawn greeting cards. The ones you can buy never seemed to say what I wanted them to say. The cover art always seemed either too mushy or too sterile. Nothing seemed personal enough.

So, I purchased a box of blank white cards and envelopes and began with Crayola markers and colored pencils. The art I created was nothing more than stick figures.

“YOU, of course!”

But after only a short while the stick figures gave way to more elaborate art, like flowers, crosses, our church building, sunsets, and the Empty Tomb.

He is risen!

Believe it or not, some still have the cards I sent displayed on their mantles!

But one day, on a whim, I decided to see what I could really paint. My late mother had given me a small watercolor tablet, so I decided to try to paint something local, like a well-known building. That painting ended up being a rather pitiful depiction of The Transylvania Club in Sandersville, GA. I was so unprepared for what I was doing that I used Whiteout correction fluid to draw the white lines of a parking lot!

After that I thought, why not try something bigger? Well, what better “something” than the Washington County Courthouse which was right across the street? I believe it was this particular painting (made with cheap watercolor, pencil, and a tad of acrylic on inexpensive cold-pressed paper) that first earned the question that I’d hear over and over again, “Did you paint that?”

Washington County Courthouse, Sandersville, GA

So, it wasn’t long after that when a lady from our church asked me to do a portrait of her sister’s dog for her birthday. I had never done anything like that before, and I warned her that it would not be very professional. She didn’t mind. When I completed it, I offered it to her to review, but she immediately said “It’s perfect!” and paid me $50 and a used watch.

For the first time a fleeting thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if I could actually make money doing this?”

Then, after visiting another local church for a funeral, I decided I would take some pictures of it and see if I could go home and paint it. That is what truly got the ball rolling. After posting picture of the painting on Facebook, a lady called me and asked to buy it. Needless to say, I was pleased, but a little stunned.

Balerma Baptist Church

“Would you like to sell that painting?” she asked.

“Well, I guess so,” I replied.

“How much do you want for it?” she asked.

“How much do you think it’s worth?” I asked. “Let me think about it,” she answered.

The next day she paid me $150 without even blinking an eye!!

I couldn’t believe it! I had just become an artist!

To make a long story short, if it had not been for the recent pandemic and a full-time ministry position, I would have NEVER had the time to develop a gift I never knew I had.

In less than a year I was creating paintings that rivaled others who’d had years of art lessons. I believe it was a gift from God. I praise Him for what He is doing for me and through me to bring Him glory.

Therefore, whenever you see one of my paintings, whether online or at a local farmer’s market, you will see that I sign all my current paints the same. On each piece I write my name, then “Matt. 5:16.”

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16
A day at the Sandersville, GA farmer’s market. I made the shirt, too 🙂
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