Here's my story:
Today, I am a successful watercolourist.
Even though I have done lots of paintings now, this still surprises me.
In the early 70s, I dabbled with a bit of art. It wasn't a good experience, either for me or my lecturer. The consensus was that it might be better if I explored another area. I kept the few pieces I did for several years, daring to peep and tentatively admire... until I realised they really were awful!
Goodness me! Such vanity! Out! Burn!
Three tough years after Joanne and I were caught up in a vehicle accident on Auckland’s harbour bridge, I became grumpy and despairing of the future. Constant head pain, loss of function, loss of employment, sick of trying yet another therapy or drug, I was on my knees - praying. Nothing elaborate about it. I was simply asking the only One who might be able to help.
I asked, "What is next, Lord?"
I got an answer! Wow!
(Believe me, you never get to feel at ease about God communicating with you! It is always "WOW!")
I got an answer! Straight away!
I heard(?) a response from deep within. Some people describe that experience as a knowing, a certainty that the message comes from beyond own thought. That's what it was like for me. With flashing images of painting, the message was a startling one:
“Let what was go. Now I want you to create for My glory”.
Did that just happen? I know it happened, but ... did it?
Create for His glory?
Ongoing dialogue in my noodle:
"It did happen, eh? Yes, yes, it did happen? But really? Me? Create? Doesn't He know my background in this area is pretty limited? Actually, I guess He does. He's God after all. But..."
Two months pass.
Doubting, aware of old failings and new limitations, I tried to rationalise this away. It wouldn’t go! My awakening thought: God had asked me to paint, and God never asks someone to do something that He has not armed them to do. Has He truly given me a painting ability? Has he given me a gift? And if He has, shouldn't I open it?
I have to do this. It is called obedience. If I didn't want the answer, I shouldn't have asked. It's what I always told my kids.
A quiet night - everyone else has gone out. I pick up one of my children’s discarded paint sets and a sheet of watercolour paper, choose an image which spoke of God's creative heart, combine the mixing of unfamiliar media with words of prayer and surrender, and paint!
It's actually quite good.
It might even be very good.
I rush to show my wife as soon as she gets home. She says:
It's actually quite good.
It might even be very, very good.
(I told you, she's my wife. She loves me. She's allowed the extra superlative!)
In the following weeks, paintings 2, 3, 4 and 5 were completed - and responses started to accumulate: three selected for exhibition; first sales; awakening interest in my work. This is real!
Up Another Level
It gets better. Painting 6 – the first painting in which I painted fully aware of God’s guidance and creative enthusiasm – was outstanding. My first large work, "Peep Show" is vibrant, powerful, and very accomplished. Questions began:
Where did you learn?
Who taught you?
How long have you been painting?
Where did that technique come from – I’ve not seen it before.
Experienced artists talked of skills displayed that usually take many years and a great many paintings to achieve.
I certainly couldn't take the credit myself, yet I have few answers that make easy sense. In a disbelieving world, one that increasingly tenders scorn on those who are Christian - especially those who are Christian, what do I say? All that remains is to offer the truth: no training, no mentoring, no courses or art school, no background, no previous awareness of having this ability. Russell Perry believes that God – for reasons known only to Him – has chosen Russell Perry to paint, with the only instruction being to use it for His Glory. I am in receipt of a gift, and for that I am both grateful and humbled: I have a Heavenly Father who wants to paint with me and He wants me to paint for HIM.
The paintings you see on this site all in varying degrees reflect that gift. There is little doubt that the best of them come through prayer. There is also no doubt whatsoever that those done in my own strength are the poorer for it. Gradually, as my works number through fifty and more, there is greater ease with the gift and with the telling of the story. It is one that has touched many people.
How do I choose what to paint?
My memory since the accident is a wee bit prone to taking time off when it comes to scenes/images I want to paint. That means I have to rely on my photographs as a resource. That's okay - lots of folk work from photos. As long as I'm not slavishly engrossed in recreating the self same image in paint, I'm comfortable. But which photo?
Here's the thing: when I'm out and about, I see lots of "images" I want to photograph, particularly in this amazing Maniototo countryside. I digitally seize gadzillions of piccies, and then I delete almost as many! Almost.
However, some scenes I see out there go straight past my eyeballs and smack me deep inside, usually accompanied by goosebumps or a sense of exultation. It's unmistakably a prompt - "Russell, paint this one!"
I never know when it's going to happen, so I carry my camera everywhere now. I grab a bunch of shots right there and then. Believe me, it is really hard to hold a camera still when your spirit is dancing. Those images form the basis of almost all of my paintings.
Isn't that cool!
...and then there are the other ways He tells me what to paint. He has a sense of humour and He is quite, quite unpredictable at times. But then He is God, so He's allowed to be, isn't He? Anyway, those are stories for later...
If you want to hear and see more, please, make contact.
I'd be delighted to show you the latest offerings off the easel.
More importantly, I'd be delighted to share with you what it really means to know the Creator. His paintings are so much better than mine!
In the meantime, enjoy.