People ask how did I get started in this type of work. My best answer would be that I began by reading books like "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence" by Reverend Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and Saint Claude La Colombiere. I had read the life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and admired the prayers of St. Claude her confessor, which led me to this small book.
Getting Out of the Way
Religious art was never presented to me as a viable career path during my time in the education system. I concluded that it must be a preserve of Europeans, so I took other routes for a while. I put to rest any thoughts of working as a professional religious artist.
Later, when I became a mum, I read the lives of the saints and began to see that saints are just people who do God's will. They lived the words of the Our Father; "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Clearly if God's will were to be done on earth as it is in heaven, the world would be a better place! The hardest part being getting out of God's way and letting Him direct our lives.
I came to the understanding that what I had to do next was surrender my own will to God's. And so that is what I did - from the heart. The rest happened gradually, and I was led by various circumstances into working for the church.
Be Steadfast, Be Faithful
In a society that appears to be drifting ever further from Christian values, it seems all the stranger to me that I find myself doing restoration works in churches, but it gives me hope for the future. The simple prayer "Jesus I trust in you" given for these times is a way of renewing our act of faith and surrender when we cannot see a clear way ahead. And so that would be my best advice to those wondering how their talents and gifts can blossom (Whether it be in the arts or not). Surrender to God's will, be faithful and steadfast, and he will lead you to do that which he created you for.
Painting Church Statues
In the Eastern tradition, artistic monks entering a monastery are not allowed to practice their talents for at least a year, to ensure that they have a true religious calling (and are not there to satisfy their artistic abilities alone).
Similarly, as for statue painting and repair, it is not enough to have a paintbrush and the desire to make improvements. We can easily be de-railed by our pride and passion, then our labours can produce bad fruits (I'm not speaking of privately owned domestic statuary here, but those which belong to and are viewed by a church congregation).
A picture paints a thousand words.
I do not like to post images which undermine the dignity of Our Lord and the saints, yet a picture paints a thousand words. For the purpose of this post on surrendering our heart to God, and the importance of discerning our calling, I present the photos below:
Before: A statue of the Blessed Virgin has been painted with a secularised idea of Beauty. While the work has been done with some care to make Our lady look "attractive" the result suggests she was a Holly wood starlet, hence the result is undignified.
After: The same statue of the Blessed Virgin has been re-painted by us, mindful of her purity, and dignity as the mother of God. She looks upon us with heavenly love, and hopefully this new paintwork directs the viewer's thoughts heavenward also!
Before: A statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been painted with a "Pirate-y beard vibe". The heart has been reduced to a large strawberry, with its seeds blackening from being left too long in the refrigerator (A bad fruit perhaps?). The result is somewhat comical and confounds the message of the Sacred Heart.
After: The same statue of the Sacred heart has been repainted by us - mindful that Saint Margaret Mary's vision of the Sacred Heart was one of his burning love for souls. I should hope that a young child seeing the statue for the first time will now think of Jesus as gentle and majestic, with a heart on fire for us.