Brushstrokes of Love … Thoughtfully Placed
John K. Lee
Q: Describe your journey as an artist. A. My journey is unique. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge. When I was 20, I moved to New York City where I studied business at NYU and worked as an analyst for an advertising conglomerate. After living in NYC for five years, I moved back home and worked as an accountant for a local nonprofit. I did not stay very long. In 2012, I ventured out to southern California where I studied at Fuller Theological Seminary and obtained my Master of Divinity. I enjoyed the dynamic city of Los Angeles. During my time there, I discovered my love for pop culture and my affinity for the arts. After living in California for five years, my journey led me back to Baton Rouge. Throughout most of my life, I worked in financial and administrative roles. But after discovering more about myself and my artistic gifts, I wanted to be an artist.
In the summer of 2017, I painted to discover who I truly was in the Lord. Throughout my childhood, it was difficult to love myself — the ideas I had about myself were false. Life’s challenges gave me wounds that made it hard for me to see myself as worthy of love. But over time, God revealed to me my true identity in Him. He revealed that I was intimately made, made in love, and made in his image. This is true for all of us. Only humanity was formed in this special way. As Erwin Raphael McManus says in The Artisan Soul, “While all creation declares the image of God, we humans bear the image of God.” Being an artist for me is declaring and living out my true identity as God’s child.
I believe in a sense that each of us are artists. God is the main artist. He is “Creator” and because we were all created in God’s image, we’re all fundamentally creative beings. Most people may think they have no artistic talent, but we all have creative abilities that we use in our daily lives. For example, a chef uses his culinary skills when cooking and creating beauty on a plate.
As an artist, what I care about most is how a person sees himself or herself. My desire is for others to know who they are in God, especially younger people. There are so many false messages in media and throughout our society, and it is important to find a confidence in knowing God’s love.
The medium I enjoy using now is mixed media. I enjoy acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas. Abstract art is something I enjoy doing because it uses the deepest recesses of my imagination. Having lived in some major metropolitan cities combined with my southern Louisiana upbringing, I feel that my southern Louisiana upbringing and the fact that I’ve lived in some major metropolitan cities impacts my art, making it contemporary but also intimate and down-to-earth.
Q: What are some of your favorite paintings and why? A: One of my favorite paintings is Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There’s such a peace and purity in Monet’s paintings. Another painting I like is Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night. I love the light in it. As for my own art, well, it remains untitled, but it’s a piece that has actual leaves on it from my parents’ backyard that I spray painted. It makes me think of this verse: 1 Peter 1:24-25: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
My second favorite is called Home. There is great peace in being home after being away for ten years. The white around the image or “blankness” represents starting over and how everything is “blank” in a sense. But even though there’s this blankness, there’s texture in it. The texture represents the experiences I’ve had throughout my journey — smooth terrain and bumps in the road, so to say. They’ve added “texture” or layers to my life. Even though I’m back at square one, those life experiences remain.
Q: Creativity is a spiritual gift. How is painting spiritual to you?
A: Painting is naturally spiritual to me. My parents’ garage is my studio. God is in there and I experience His intimacy while painting. Additionally, I am very passionate about evangelism. The false views and perceptions of God bother me. So many see God as this domineering figure who is judgmental, rigid and mundane. God is quite the opposite, and art gives me a way to draw people close to Him or at least seek the God I have come to know. God is dynamic, diverse, loving, personable, and down-to-earth. God is humorous too. We can see the reality and beauty of God in things like art, food, movies, music, fashion, and sports. This outlet, or rather new beginning, helps me to present God and his attributes.
Q: What is your favorite Scripture and why?
A: One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 139: 13-15: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
This scripture shows just how special and how thoughtfully God created us.
Q: Where can readers find your work? A: In August, some of my art will be displayed in Magpie Café on Perkins Road. I also have a few pieces in Rue Beignet on Highland Road and I hope to display my art in more local businesses. Mid City Rising and Re-stabbed in the Art are local art events where I have showen my work. One can find my art on facebook (facebook.com/artbyjohnklee) and Instagram @artbyjohnklee.
Q: Describe your faith life and the people who have influenced you.
A: I became a Christian when I was a freshman in college. I grew up going to church, but I never had a personal relationship with God. At LSU, a good friend named Phil Koch told me how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Before this, I always thought being a Christian was about following rules and trying to be a really moral person. One evening in my dorm room, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life. I found true fulfillment in life. Because of my experience, I’m passionate about ministry. If it is the Lord’s will, I want to start a church one day and help others have an intimate relationship with God who does hear us, sees us and loves us.
Aside from art, I work as the Connections Coordinator at The Chapel on the Campus. My role is essentially to help welcome and connect people into our church community. Two of my heroes are my mom and dad. My parents have owned a drycleaning business in Baton Rouge for over 30 years. They are the hardest working people I know and the purest example to me of Christ’s sacrificial love. One of my all-time heroes is Erwin Raphael McManus, pastor of Mosaic Church in Hollywood, California where I attended when I lived there. Erwin is an amazing pastor, but he is also a fashion designer, filmmaker, writer, speaker, and artist. His book The Artisan Soul literally changed my life and influenced my views about art.
My dream is to be an influential artist in the world who uses art as a platform to speak about beauty and the Gospel. When people see my art, I want them to see love.
Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, LA and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B. A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.