Several times, I have wanted to give up being an artist. The end of last month was the most recent time.
After Thanksgiving, we had our “Small Business Saturday” sales event at Artisan Forge Studios.
But the day before I was very discouraged. The month of October and especially November were slow months, with not a lot of art sales or commissions.
Rent was overdue. Our landlord called, after getting a partial payment on rent, and he wanted to know when we would bring our account up to date. I didn’t know the answer to that question. I didn’t know what to do–and I had already tried everything I knew. I felt like throwing in the towel.
Sharing these sentiments with my wife, she matter-of-factly and truthfully advised:
“God has always provided. He’s not going to stop now.”
Feeling just a tiny bit better, I went to bed.
Artisan Forge Studios, 1106 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire
The morning of the show I prayed, “God you’re a big God, so I am going to pray a big prayer. I pray that I would sell ‘Smoldering Wick’ (my biggest and most detailed painting, a 30″ x 40″ ) today at the art show.”
There was only a trickle of people that came in. But I smiled even though I didn’t feel like it and talked about the painting and the message behind it to whoever showed interest. During the middle of the show, two middle-aged men came in, and drawn to the painting, they asked me what it was about. They listened openly to the spiritual message behind it, and although they didn’t seem to quite share the same perspective I had, they loved the luminosity of the brushwork and the compassion portrayed by the people within the picture.
Then, out of the blue, one man said to the other, “So, do you want to get it?”
My ears perked up. And I thought, What did I just hear you say?
And they discussed where they were going to put it, and if I took credit cards. I told them I could take their card on the spot with Square. So we rang up the sale and it went through! “Congratulations!” I told them as I shook their hands.
After they left, I prayed “Lord, what did you just do? I asked for that painting to sell and you answered!”
Well, needless to say, my family had rent money.
I later learned that the collectors of this painting just happened “by chance” to show up at Artisan Forge Studios that Saturday, the day of the show.
“Smoldering Wick”, 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by artist Matt Philleo of Eau Claire, in collector’s home.
The Lord has done this many times for us. You would think I wouldn’t worry, but I still often do. But my faith is growing little by little, and I’m amazed at what God does. And so, yes, it isn’t easy being a full time artist in some ways, but it’s an exciting ride! This is what I’ve been called to do. So I’m just stubborn enough to stick it out (with some encouragement from the right people) when many people maybe think I should have packed up my brushes a long time ago, and given up on the fantasy of being a full-time artist.
Although I’ve already posted some images of the painting on Facebook, I’ve had a lot of people ask what the painting “Smoldering Wick ” is all about. I will share more about that and the inspiration behind it down the road, but for now, I want to say it has everything to do with the “the Light of the World.”
Jesus is the “Light of the World.”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)
All of us were in darkness before Jesus came. Darkness in our sins, darkness in ignorance, or even willful disobedience. In my predicament here with the financial problem, I was in darkness. Not just the darkness of not having enough money to pay rent, but the despair of the feeling of hopelessness. A lack of faith.
I think Jesus may have said to me, like He said to Peter, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Nevertheless, He answered my prayer. I didn’t feel so confident when I prayed it. But God, in His mercy, answered it.
Now, should I have had more faith?
But, God still answered my prayer, even with the little faith I had. And so it gave me more cause to thank God for how kind He had been to me, as I realized I got far more than my feeble faith deserved.
My wife, who teaches the children’s Wednesday night Bible class at church, used a line as a metaphor for faith. She shot out a line with a sticky end and reeled in the object she desired as the kids watched. As long as she continued to reel, she would get what was attached to the end of the line. But if she set down the line, because reeling it in (or trying to get the object to stick) was too hard, she would never get the object at the end.
This is a powerful picture of faith and I still remember it.
It doesn’t take a rope to reel in a big fish. You just have to keep reeling it in with the line you have and not give up.
But, now, I want to say more about the object of our faith: there are many objects we want to pick up at the end of that line. But whatever the object is–maybe a better job, a nicer car, a relationship restored, healing for a disease, even forgiveness of our sins–and these all may be good things to desire–ultimately the goal of receiving these transient things is to receive the true object of our faith, Jesus Christ. In other words, when we see how good He has been in answering our prayers and providing for our needs in the midst of the struggle, we will see Him more clearly. His generosity, His kindness, His consistency, His love, His power to deliver, His glory will be unfolded to us. When we see Jesus for who He is, we will be amazed. Our natural response will be to thank Him, to praise Him. And I don’t think there’s anything that pleases Him more, than when we rejoice at who He is.
“Smoldering Wick” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas by painter Matt Philleo, with Isaiah 42
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5)
None of us have ever seen God, but we do “see Him” as we experience His truth in the Bible, coming alive as we read, believe, meditate upon, and live it out. We stand upon His promises and we watch them come to pass.
Jesus said as recorded in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus will breathe life into the smoldering wick: the soul with a flickering flame that still yearns to burn brighter.
May God’s riches blessings come to you this Christmas, as the Light of the World shines brightly upon your path!
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If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!
This Thursday, I was excited to see the copy of the local paper, the Leader-Telegram, and the article they did on the book I illustrated, “The Boy in a Tree.” They did a great job in highlighting the main message of the book: being content, trusting God like a child, and seeing the value that people with special needs can offer the world.
The Saturday before, the author and I held a book signing event at Artisan Forge Studios, and we had a great time chatting with people interested in the story, listening to their stories, and eating too many cookies.
Author Pam Boodle and Illustrator Matt Philleo sign copies of “The Boy in a Tree” at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire, December 3, 2016.
“The Boy in a Tree” book signing at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire, December 3, 2016.
It was also neat that I had a chance to see an old friend that I worked with at Sears from years ago and catch up with him.
Today, a woman who had read the newspaper article walked into my studio and bought two copies of “Boy in a Tree” from me. We chatted for several minutes, sharing stories about the children in our lives who have special needs, and talking about how thankful we are that societal attitudes have changed so much in the last few decades towards differently able people.
“The Boy in a Tree” at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire
I can recall a few years ago, when I had take take my son out of the store because he had a meltdown and, while trying my best to keep my composure, someone looked me in the eye and said, “Good job, dad.”
Just those three words made all the difference.
I thought, “this person gets it.” It gave me just a bit more of a spark, and I think helped ease the tension a bit. What an encouragement that person was.
So now when I’m in a store or other public place, and I see a child misbehaving, and I’m tempted to give a disapproving glance, or maybe even say something, I remember I don’t really know the child or the story behind that child. And, although I hate to say I was that judgmental person (I never said anything, but I sure thought it, and maybe I did give that ice cold glance unknowingly) since I’ve been there myself…
…it’s a different story now.
Share Your Thoughts!
If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!