I was asked today if I would consider painting another nativity for this Christmas Season. Well, initially I thought, "Been there, done that", several times in fact. But, I love Christmas, and I love my Savior, so I said yes.
Each painting I have done surrounding the birth of the Savior I have loved. It still amazes me that when I see one of those images, all the feelings I had in their creation rushes back to me. They are wonderful memories. So, I am hoping this project will again raise my consciousness about this sacred event.
October 9-11, Monday -Thursday
I have spent the last several days pouring over the images I have of the birth of Jesus Christ. Thousands I suspect - but what wonderful memories.
The first photoshoot I did of Mary and baby Jesus was in a neighbor's backyard that had huge boulders surrounding their downstairs patio. I thought it would be perfect to create the setting of a cave. Artists and authors have referred to the birthplace of Jesus as a manger and that's true in part. He did enter this world and on his first night here, he slept upon the hay in a cave in the hills of Jerusalem where travelers would keep their animals.
I remember my friend Susan Easton Black was there at the shoot and commented on the scene unfolding before us, "You know, I have taught the birth of Jesus Christ for twenty years and never once did I register how young Mary and Joseph were.”
Looking at this scene you get a greater understanding of how young these kids were! She opened my eyes that day and would forever be guided by them as I created more scenes from that sacred night. I have several ides, but still not there.
October 12, Friday
I know what I am going to paint. It's a departure from my usual approach but I feel strongly that this is the one.
I have always painted from my own photographs photos. I do a photoshoot with my photographer and using neighbors and friends as models, -and recreate scenes from whatever event in history that I am going to paint.
This time I feel strongly that I want to paint a scene from a movie I saw years ago, The Nativity Story. I must have watched it hundreds of times by now and it is one of my favorite movies of all time. I came across a photograph from that movie that completely entered my heart and I want so much to paint it, to give it life again.
Often movies have a short life and are brought out from time to time, but for the most part they are set on the shelf and forgotten. This movie should live on in our hearts. Of course this will require permission from the movie company, but I will work on that as I paint and hope they will grant my request.
October 15, Monday
What a great way to start the week, painting the birth of Jesus Christ. I bet not everybody can say that. I started 'The Greatest Gift' today and it went very well.
I made great progress. The lighting is exquisite! I love that moment when you become a parent. The wonder and fear of it all. I grew up in a neighborhood where there weren't little kids and I didn't have the babysitting experience most young girls had so I wasn't around little kids much.
Having my first child I was instantly in love with him! His tiny little hands and feet, (well, his feet weren't so tiny. He had to be blessed in stockings feet because I couldn't find a pair of newborn shoes that would fit him. He grew to be 6'6", size 16 shoe.)
I digress...that moment when you realize that you are now responsible for another life. I remember so well the fear I felt. I was afraid of dropping him, bathing him, feeding him and everything else my wild imagination could dream up. How could I ever teach him about life when I hadn't figured that out myself!
As you can see, my thoughts today were on mostly on half of that parentage: Mary. I was 20 years old when I gave birth; Mary was about 14.
October 16, Tuesday
Worked on the other half of the parentage, Joseph. With both of them now on canvas I am more focused on them as a family.
This depiction is so wonderful. You can see that moment when they together felt not only the love and miracle of the night, but the love and trust they had for each other. They were a family and that is truly a miracle given that Joseph was not his father.
What an extraordinary man he must have been. To trust that he had seen an angel, trusted the angel’s words when he learned of Mary's innocence and obedient enough to take on the role of step-father for God's only begotten son. What would have been going through their minds that night?
Surely she would have looked to Joseph as their protector. Having never been with a man and now having to trust and depend upon Joseph to help deliver her baby!
Remember, she was still a child herself... I find that I have to simplify this in my mind; put it on a level that I can understand. Accept the fact that our cultures are vastly different and that she was chosen by God to carry His son.
Heavenly Father trusted these two people to raise not only His son, but the Savior of the world. They both had to be extraordinary people even as teenagers.
October 17, Wednesday
Worked on both Mary's and Jesus' faces. I had a difficult time capturing the perfect look on Mary's face. Still a child and yet a mother. Perhaps that is why it was difficult.
Her childhood ended the moment she conceived. All of this would have been frightening, and amazing. I would like to think that in her culture she would have been far more prepared than I was at 20 in mine.
Her people had been taught about the coming Messiah for centuries, that a virgin would be the mother of Jesus. She would have been taught all of this in her home, still, I can't help but wonder if there was still the little girl in there
October 18, Thursday
Worked some more on the faces of Mary and Jesus. Feel much better about it today. I also continued to work on the center background. I -really like the subtle rays that seem to testify of the divinity of this child.
October 22, Monday
Joseph took most of my time today and a little time spent on Mary. I love this stage where the painting details start to emerge. I am a 'noodler' at heart. I love tightening the painting.
I like the suggestion of livestock in the background. The thought of giving birth in a cold cave that sheltered animals us something that is hard for me to get my head around.
October 23, Tuesday
A long day of final strokes and glazing. I warmed it up through glazing. Softened edges and popped the whites and darks.
October 24, Wednesday - 4:54 pm
Finished! I love it! My hope is that people will love it too and that it will give them a chance to stop and reflect on the miracles of this divine birth.
I hope they will see the love of this little family with all their challenges ahead of them now. I hope they will consider the role that step-fathers as well as fathers play in the lives of the children they raise and, of course, Mary.
This young girl, barely a woman, chosen by God to bare his son and with Joseph, to raise him. Even more amazing, the calling they both had to raise a perfect child and human being.
Most of all, I hope that people will realize the greatest gift and miracle that we each have been given through this birth is the chance to return to Heavenly Father, to live with Him and our Savior again.