The Least of These

Last night I finished a piece I have entitled “The Least of These.” I based it on a photo I took of a Christian worker in a Muslim-owned brick kiln in Pakistan.

My hope is to raise funds to help buy people like this brother and his family out of debt and out of this literal slavery.

So many people in Pakistan live in poverty. Of the Christians that live there, the majority of them live in abject poverty. This is not simply a matter of choice, but opportunity. With a near 98% Muslim population in a Muslim country, the Christians are not afforded the same opportunities and are often forced to do the hardest work.

Those who work at the kilns are required to have their whole families live there in horrible conditions. They live there until the debt they owe is paid off. That, of course, is the catch. Most often, even though the goal might have been to pay off a small loan for food or medical expenses (usually no more than $200), families wind up working for generations paying off accumulated fees and additional loans attached to the little salary they receive.

Working with Grace Charity Schools in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, I will be using funds raised from the sale of this and other paintings and prints to rescue these families from indentured slavery and help them start over.

For every gift from $20-$50, I will send you a simple semi-matte print in your choice of size (5″x7″ and up), shipping included.

For every gift OVER $50, I will send you an 8.5″x11″ Sommerset Giclee reproduction print.

For any gift of $75 or more, I will send you a signed and artist-enhanced Sommerset Giclee reproduction (I will enhance the print with actual paint).

Pastor Victor Sammuel, myself, and a family living and working at a brick kiln in Pakistan.
Making the bricks by hand, 1,000 a day, in 115 degrees.
The “kitchen” of the family above.

Please consider helping, and God bless!

Click here to donate. Thank You!

Rebecca’s Forrest

Not long ago, my sister Rebecca sent a photo to me. It was a picture she took while walking through the edge of German forrest near where she lives.

The original painting was done on cold pressed Arches paper, the 150 lb. kind. The size was an 8×10.

So, I did have prints made, but not in the original size. I upped the print to a 9×12 which still retains the look of the original, just a tad bigger.

I sent the first signed artist’s proof print (1 of 25) to my sister. Let me know if you’d like one of the remaining 24.

“Rebecca’s Forrest”

Peaceful Times

Last week I finished this painting of a rocking chair in a log cabin. The chair is sitting outside in on the porch that divides the two sections of the old structure.

What captured my attention and led to this painting was the simplistic peacefulness of the scene. No TV’s, computers, smartphones, game consoles, notifications, Twitter, Facebook, or children’s toy commercials.

Granted, back in those “good ol’ days” there were no air-conditioning, motorized transportation, safety razors, microwaves, or anti-biotics, either. I like those things!

But what I do wish I had, and what this painting reminds us of, is peace and calm.

Even back in then, when most things required far more labor than today, a time came for rest. When the sun began to set, and the crickets began to sing, that rocking chair provided someone with a place of contemplation as a warm breeze wafted away the stress of the day.

Where to we find that kind of rest today? Where can we find that kind of peace? In many ways, quite honestly, it’s nothing more than a sentimental dream. However, even though our bodies may wind up more worn down and unhealthy due to our modern culture’s never-ending rat race, our souls should not have to be stressed or frazzled.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30 CSB

You may not have access to an old wooden rocking chair in a cozy log cabin, but you do have access to Jesus. Crawl up in His arms and let Him rock you a while.

Rapid Progression

It seems like an eternity ago, but it’s not even been two years since the original shutdowns began in 2020. With that in mind, it was only then that I started my painting journey.

When people hear that I’ve only been painting around a year or so, they can hardly believe it. Some think I’m joking. However, when you look at the examples below, you will see that much changed over a few months time.

What really got me started was the fact that, as a pastor, I could not visit with any of our congregation. Not only would they not come to worship together, but I wasn’t allowed to go to their homes. It was sad, believe me. Therefore, I started sending out greeting cards.

But one thing that became obvious early on was the fact that pre-made greeting card companies were not prepared for COVID. They didn’t have anything that said, “Hey, dear church member, your pastor is thinking of you!” So, I ordered some blank cards and started drawing and writing my own.

As I continued to send these cards the little drawings started to get more complicated. They went from stick men to miniature paintings.

The watershed moment came when one of the ladies in our church asked if I could paint a portrait of her sister’s dog. I honestly did not know if I could or could not, but I agreed to try. When I gave it to her she was so excited and asked me what she owed. I had no idea what to ask, so I said, “It doesn’t matter, really. Just whatever you think it’s worth.”

She gave me $50 and a used watch. I was happy with that. I’d never been paid for my art before, so yippee!

But the moment that sealed my fate, the moment that I discovered painting might be worth seriously pursuing, came next.

In our area there are a lot of old church buildings. I went to a funeral at one of them, Balerma Baptist, and thought the setting was so pretty. I went back a few days later and took a photograph of what might look good as a painting. Then, I went home and did my best to duplicate the photograph.

As you might imagine, I was quite pleased with the results! And, like any other normal person would do, I posted a picture of the painting on Facebook.

It wasn’t long before I got a message: “Would you want to sell that painting?”

“Umm, sure, I guess” was my reply.

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

Having no clue, and having only sold one other painting for $50 and a used watch, I replied, “Whatever you think it’s worth.” Wow, talk about an novice response! I had no clue.

I thought I had run the lady off until she replied a day later with: “How about $150?”

I had to think about it, of course . . . . . . . . for as long as it took for the initial shock to wear off. “Uh, yeah. That’ll be fine.”

That’s when I realized I might actually be able to paint. It still amazes me.

“I’ll Paint Your House” Means Different Things

When someone offers to paint your house, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are like most people, you think they want to break out the buckets and ladders, right?

Or, like I have done on several occasions, “paint your house” means taping off the trim, throwing plastic on the floors, and changing the color of the walls inside.

But these days I don’t do walls, inside OR outside: I do paintings.

When I started painting buildings, they were the old kind, the old CHURCH kind. Then, after seeing what I could do with houses of God, some humans wanted me to give it a try with their own houses. Now I do more old home places than I do old worship places.

Below are a few examples of houses that clients have commissioned me to paint. If you would like for me to paint YOUR house (on canvas), give me a call! The average price is between $125 and $150. All I need are some photos.

What’s A Gape?

One of the things I enjoy about going to the farmer’s market is meeting people. As a matter of fact, it’s the people, even the other vendors, that make it worth getting up at the crack of dark.

Another thing I enjoy – and this might be the best part – is getting the opportunity to share my faith through my art, especially when people ask, “What’s a gape?”

Since you are reading and not listening, let me try to sound this out for you. People ask what a “gape” is, like “what is a grape?” without the “r.”

The problem for a lot of people is that they are unfamiliar with the Greek word for unconditional love: agape. It’s pronounced something like “uh-gah-pay.” That’s why they ask the above question whenever they see this painting/drawing I did as I imagined the blood of Jesus Christ flowing from the foot of the cross.

Philippians 2:8 – And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

“Agape” by Anthony Baker (charcoal and watercolor)

The Way It USED to Be

It was such an honor to be asked to do a painting of the way our local electric company’s offices USED to look like.

Actually, I was commissioned to do two paintings for the Washington Electric Membership Corporation (EMC). The other painting was of their first bucket truck … maybe that’ll be my next post.

Unfortunately, I have not met one person who likes the way the building looks now that it’s been remodeled. Everything is now painted in dark browns, which are a stark contrast to the colonial style so common in the historic district of Sandersville, Georgia.

Because I had an idea that the look of the building would be changed, I did something pretty cool. Before they stripped the columns out front, I went by the building and pealed away some chips of white paint. After that, I ground up the white paint chips into a fine powder and mixed it with the white paint I would use for the painting.

So, the painting that is now hanging in the front lobby of EMC depicts the way it USED to look like, but the painting hanging in the lobby is actually painted with paint from the original look!

Was that confusing? I’m sorry. But it’s cool, though, don’t you think?

Washington Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) before remodeling.
16″x24″ watercolor on paper by Anthony Baker

Creating a New Species

Do you like flowers? I do. And I like butterflies, too! But painting them (I’ve never tried butterflies) is not my specialty.

That is why when I decided to paint some flowers I saw on the side of the road, it didn’t surprise me when the final product didn’t look like the picture of the flowers I saw. For some reason I just can’t paint flowers the way I want.

Yet … I’ll keep trying.

So, the flowers in this painting are kinda like a brand new species! That is one of the cool things about art, right? We can imagine, try, make mistakes, but then step back and admire a new thing.

And that is one of the cool things about being a Christian, too! How’s that? Well, so often we try the best we can; we chase our dreams; we fail to reach our goals. Yet, when we step back and look at it all, that’s when we see that God has made something beautiful, anyway … something we had never thought of … something new.

“Original Flowers” by Anthony Baker (9×12″ watercolor on cold pressed paper)

The Old Target

If there is a sight that you’ll probably NEVER see in a big city or suburb, it’s the sight of tall, uncut grass and weeds.

Wait, I think I’ve seen stuff like that in Chicago.

On the other hand, maybe it’s the old 55-gallon drum in this painting that doubles for a burn pit and a target for everything from .22’s to shotguns. You’d NEVER see that in a big city or suburb, I bet, right?

Wait . . . yeah, Chicago.

But back up on the mountain where we used to live in Soddy Daisy, TN, there was a rusty old drum beside my grandmother’s place. Before there was a such thing as trash service, we’d use it to dispose of burnable trash. Later, as it sat there rusting away, it found new life as a target for each new handgun we wanted to show off or try out.

Sights like the one in this painting aren’t that uncommon in the South, at least they weren’t for a lot of us growing up. It was a time when things were a lot simpler – and safer.

Some people would look at this and think it represented lawlessness, disorder, danger, and fear. I look at it and see something – even a time – that’s been left behind. I see an old target where people used to have fun, didn’t fear their neighbor, and nobody got into serious trouble for fear their God-fearing mom, dad, or granny might tan their hide.

Nowadays there’s a whole lot less old targets and a whole lot more of missing the mark.

“The Old Target” by Anthony Baker

Here I Am to Worship

Chris Tomlin will likely never match the number of hymns written by the legendary Fanny J. Crosby, but it would seem he is trying. Honestly, it’s like every time we turn around there are the lyrics of another Tomlin-penned praise song being projected on screens for all to see and praise bands to butcher.

To make it worse, Chris Tomlin’s songs are often nothing more than re-worked hymns turned into catchier tunes. In other words, some of his biggest hits are songs so old they are now in the public domain – can I say “Amazing Grace”?

But there’s one song that, if any, I will not complain about. If anything, I will only complain about the people who usually sing “Here I Am to Worship,” for they rarely, if ever, do what they are singing in the lyrics.

Honestly, think about the words to the chorus and try to remember the last time you saw someone fall on his or her face.

“Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you’re my God.”

Chris Tomlin

Why would they?

Why would anyone “bow down” in the middle of a song and worship God? It’s just a song, right? I mean, the lyrics are just symbolic or metaphorical, right?

“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross. … No, I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”

Chris Tomlin

Well, what if one actually got a vision, a vision to “see my sin upon that cross?”

Several years ago, while visiting a church in Kentucky where we used to attend, this song by Christ Tomlin was being sung by the congregation. As per custom, we all stood there reading the lyrics off the big screens up front (but with an awesome praise band) as we sang the song we had sung and heard a hundred times before.

It was then I received a curve ball, a brilliant move on the part of the tech crew who created the graphics being shown along with the lyrics to the song.

When it came to the part where we sang “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross,” all of a sudden all kinds of sins began flashing across the screens. In a moment of clarity I recognized that I had been guilty of every one of them! Yes, I had been forgiven, but Jesus had to carry those sins – my sins – to the cross in order for ME to have eternal life.

I then became overwhelmed with brokenness and humility! I wasn’t judging anyone else, but I couldn’t believe that no one else was seeing what I was seeing! In that short, glorious moment I got a sense of what it cost, what it cost to save me, what it cost to “see my sin” upon that cross.

I stepped out of the row of seats where I was standing and literally fell on my face with my arms outstretched and wept. Every sin that I have ever committed – or will commit – was what Jesus Christ had to become in order to redeem me, in order to reconcile me with a Holy God.

He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 CSB

With this memory in mind, earlier this year I thought of what it might look like if Jesus had gone to the cross as “my sin.”

This is what I came up with.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. – 1 Peter 2:24 KJV

I may have gotten the Scripture reference wrong on the painting, but the Truth remains the same . . .

Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that You’re my God.

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