Heart Aflame

Are you hungry, lonely, helpless? Do you feel overwhelmed, weary, unable to carry your burden. Do you crave to fling yourself into someone’s arms and be comforted?

“Come to me all that are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.  And you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden is light.” Matt 11: 28-30

Several months ago a client commissioned me to do a watercolor for the Sacred Heart, modeling it after our chapel’s stained glass version of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. She also requested several symbols of her own life be represented in there, and left me the freedom of how to convey those symbols.

Continue reading to see more photos of and to understand the layers of this painting!

Here are some insights to those symbols and more about the picture:

  • I wanted not only to transmit DaVinci’s Christ and the layout as the client wished, but to also to have a more solemn Christ, one that drew the viewer to contemplation, so I researched Gothic and Romanesque Christs.

  • Jesus Christ, the Panto-Creator in both Istanbul’s the Hagia Sophia and St. Catherine’s monastery on Mt. Sinai both were influences (and both my dream-places-to-visit). A crucifix made by the priests and brothers of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary also influenced me, as well as my own dear paterfamilias  -he modeled for me when I needed more of a study of the human figure. (Thanks, Dad.)

  • Andrew Loomis’ book about the human figure, personally recommend by artist Randal Hasson gave me the confidence and know-how to really make Christ look believable and  made me reverence the human figure. This project really humbled me and made me realize that I could not whip off this idea off the bat. I would have to submit myself to a process and be patient, and ask other people for their viewpoints.

  • Christ:
    • I wanted him solemn yet showing positive body language. I wanted the viewer to feel the protection and security that hungry, lonely, helpless souls feel when they are overwhelmed, weary, unable to carry their burden. I wanted them to feel like they could fling themselves onto his breast as St. John first did and be comforted, but then instinctively be moved to awe and worship as they approached closer to their God-made-Man.
    • I wanted him to look like a real, awe-inspiring man without being too real, and NOT be soft and mushy/pasty like so many representations of religious art are.

  • The Holy Eucharist:
    • The bread is flat bread as you would have seen in that era and still see in that region.
    • The cup is based on what is thought to be the original Holy Grail. The officially recognized grail by the Vatican is “Housed in its own chapel at the Cathedral of Valencia,” Spain for over five centuries (discovering-valencia.com).
    • Archeological studies show that the upper part of the chalice is made of oriental agate stone, and is typical of that era, 4th century BC -1st century AD.  Later the cup was mounted on a gold framework and bedecked with jewels and handles, making into the more familiar chalice. The precious cup, “Used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper was brought from Jerusalem to Rome by St. Peter and used then by him and the successive popes…until the year 258 when Pope Sixtus II commissioned his deacon St. Lawrence to take the cup out of Rome to protect it from the persecution of Emperor Valerian. St. Lawrence brought the relic to Huesa, [Spain] where his parents lived…” from then on it passed hands throughout the centuries from monasteries to the Kings of Spain and then passed back to the hands of the Church in Valencia in1437 and was installed in its own Chapel in 1916 (visitvalencia.com).

  • Out the window you see
    • A femur bone, a symbol of patriarchy and suffering..”flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.”
    • the historical campus of St Marys, KS, the town where the client found peace and now lives.
    • Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham was asked to sacrifice what was most dear to him.
    • The Alcazar in Toledo Spain, where a General was asked to sacrifice like Abraham what was most beloved by him in order to stand for God.
    • St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ, and Feld the world, going out into the desert to be with, hear God…”I must decrease, he must increase (John 3:30).” I painted him in the style of Caravaggio’s St John the Baptist, which you can see in our own Nelson Atkin’s Museum in Kansas City (along with a finger in a reliquary of the saintly cousin and precursor of Christ.)
    • Roads: all roads lead to Rome, the physical symbol of the home of the vicar of Christ, who is “The way the truth and the life (John 14:6).”
    • People on the path: the client is very on fire with the love of Christ and zealously bears witness to Him and his grace: it is my hope that she continues to lead people to Him, our heart’s content.
    • Darkness of the room: (the client herself came up with these connections!) is akin to the darkness of a tomb, where Christ was laid, its also akin to the peace within a tabernacle, and illustrates the “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it ( John 1:4-5).”

Now there’s a lot that I learned from this painting as well too!

  • Prayer before action
  • Ask other’s points of view.
  • Take Einstein’s  seriously “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes things about solutions.” This definitely helped with studying the body with Andrew Loomis, but it is so hard to be patient with this and…
  • Hear what the painting is telling you, revealing to you.
    • This one was saying: SUBMIT to the PROCESS…only in this way can the pilgrim arrive at is destination.
    • Keep studying.
    • Stay humble.
    • Take the time that you need to to complete a project. Multiply that time times THREE in order to ensure proper time to complete the project.
    • One must know the balance of 1) when to be okay with where one is at and 2) working because of overassessing.

 I am very pleased and also very grateful that the primary goal I had in this painting was achieved. A solemn, loving Sacred Heart was painted and all the symbolism was transmitted and easily interpreted. This painting was completed on the feast of St. Luke, the physician-artist who was the first known human artist to paint the Our Lady, the Mother of Christ.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this!

I missed last weeks post because I kept telling myself I’d do it another day. But James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits said  you can miss one time, but the things is, don’t miss two times, otherwise it’s a habit. 

So here I am this week!

If you’d like to know how to make something you’d like to tackle, like a commission, a daily habit easily, check out this book – it has helped me more easily strive to cement virtue and stewardship in my life! When you click the pictures-links below, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for helping me!

#watercolor #watercolorportraits #watercolorpainting #windsorandnewton #stcuthbertsmill #sacredheart #catholic #catholicart #Jesus #JesusChrist #christian #christianart #symbolism #atomichabits #process #pilgrim #johnthebaptist #alcazar #kansas #stmarysks #midwest #kansasartist #midwestliving #suffering #pilgrimage #theway


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