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God, paint and my story

Paige Berry is a portrait artist and figure painter who currently paints from her studio/sanctuary in Houston, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Two-Dimensional Design from Abilene Christian University and ---- -

As a child, I struggled to find an outlet for my creativity. I, like many people, believed that talent was only something that you could be born with- not procured- and was positive that I had not been bless with such a gift. I prayed constantly for a means of expressing myself and a skill to master and be proud from a young age.

Some prayers do not get answered immediately. Some take years...

I had long since forgotten of those dreams when I attended Abilene Christian University to study a Biblical Missions degree. Those studies took me all over the world from Honduras to all over Asia. The church I attended in Singapore shared a wall on either side with a Buddhist temple and a Muslim mosque. You could hear echoes of their worship from all directions mixing in with our own in beautiful harmony. Further into my travels I explored Hindu temples and was fascinated by the artwork and depiction of gods. They were so creative and otherworldly. Animal heads on human figures, seemingly unrelated objects tied together in a bright, colorful scheme. Just an outpouring of creativity unbound by rules of reason, logic, or even gravity used to express their devotion.

After some time abroad, I came back to finish school. One day whilst waiting for class to start, I drew a robin on the palm of my hand. I’m not sure what it was about that drawing, maybe the fact that it was better than anything I had been able to create before, but something came over me- an intense determination. It was an risky leap of faith, but I suddenly knew I was in the wrong major. It was a tough decision but I could feel that God was calling me elsewhere. That day, with no background in art, I switched majors to study in the art department.

From the moment that I picked up a paintbrush, I had this burning pull towards creating faces and figures. My classes rarely touched on that subject matter and instead focused on color theory, composition, and abstract art but I was determined and stubborn. Many professors tried to persuade me to focus on different subject matter but I couldn’t help myself. I painted faces on everything around me- class notes, my hands, the walls- over and over until I could do it with my eyes closed. I spent night after night painting hundreds of canvasses, many self-made, trying to pursue something I couldn't name.

It wasn't until later that I realized I was mimicking my creator. I felt such a strong urge and pull to create something, anything, that I could put a face on and make a connection with. As if they were my children.

Even with all of my practicing, inevitably every single one of my paintings hits the same brick wall. They each go through their own puberty- on the verge of something great; something beautiful, but can’t quite get there. This is where what I do becomes something spiritual. In the midst of my frustration, God steps in and moves my brush. He does so in a way that I would have never considered. It’s usually something simple and small, but pivotal into moving the piece towards success. It’s fun to watch God do this. To watch him work as I look down at my own hands.

Now I think much differently about talent than I did as a kid. It’s not always something handed to you. Skill is something reserved for the stubborn few who won’t stop until they find it- and I’m not sure that I quite have yet. It’s a moving target. There will always be more to learn and more growing to be done, but the process of chasing it is so rewarding.

I do not paint to please an audience. What I make is not always perfect for someones living room wall. But what I do make is an expression of myself, my relationship with Jesus, and an exploraive process that teaches me something every time.

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