I was born and raised amidst the beautiful redwood forests and rocky beaches of Northern California. Fourteen years ago, I moved to Colorado with my husband and children. A few years later, I took my first art class and have not stopped drawing and painting since. While study has been an essential and ongoing means of strengthening my skills, I have also had the privilege of being nurtured by my church. Our artist ministry, called imago Dei, was launched there over 10 years ago with the goal of welcoming artists back into the church as uniquely gifted to minister to the body in powerful ways. The ministry has given me the support and encouragement to step out in faith and be vulnerable in my art. If you’d like more information on how to form an artist ministry in your church, visit www.woodmenvalley.org/imagoDei.
“Artists have the glorious calling to intercede imaginatively for others, to increase perseverance and dispense a simple joy and peace that surpasses understanding.” Letter to a young artist by Calvin Seerveld
Sun Ripened, ©Julie Kirkland, Watercolor on Paper, 20”h x 26”w.
Like many artists, I’m attracted to painting light, and can’t resist the drama that strong contrasts in light and shadow create. Besides having an instant impact on viewers, the light, or lack of it, seems integral in telling a story with otherwise mundane objects. Until recently, watercolor has been my main medium. Its transparency makes it a natural to create the translucency that I desire when light passes through objects. I use only transparent pigments to take advantage of this quality and also carefully build color through glazing to create texture and depth on the paper or watercolor canvas. Luminosity is my ultimate goal.
I’ve recently found myself physically restricted to working at an easel and so have been studying oils and the affects possible with them. I’m finally gaining the ability to create the luminosity that I love in this medium as well. A happy by-product of working in oils is that plein air painting brings me great pleasure. Working in watercolor outdoors in a high desert climate is a herculean task – the paint dries on your brush as you lift it from the palette. Slower drying oils give me many happy hours experiencing God’s creativity in the landscape.
I Can Do All Things, ©Julie Kirkland, Watercolor on paper, 22”h x 16”w.
Stronger Than I Knew, ©Julie Kirkland, Watercolor on paper, 22h x 18”w. In private collection.
What I hope to achieve with my work...
I think I’ve always known that I was an artist, but only began exploring that possibility 12 years ago. I knew from the start that I wanted my paintings to communicate affirmation, restoration, and promise to people who viewed them. How paintings would achieve this wasn’t clear to me until I became comfortable with the medium itself. It was if at that point, God said, “Everything up to now has been about learning to paint. Now, let’s say something!”
While I’ve honed my skills primarily by painting still lifes and florals, I live for the images that the Holy Spirit plants in my mind and soul. These paintings have the power to move people to tears and even to change the course of their lives. They appeal to people from all faiths and all walks of life as they record emotions and struggles common to everyone, everywhere. There is no doubt in my mind that these pieces are God’s purpose for my art. “My people hear My words, but they don’t listen to them. I want you to paint My words,” He spoke into me several years ago. To accomplish this, He’s pulled together everything that has always been an integral part of who I am. My love of whimsy and quirky objects, together with the pain and darkness I’ve experienced combine and create images that I call “Spiritual Realism.”
While my art doesn’t literally spell out God’s words, I think of the paintings as parables that use familiar objects in unexpected ways to help us understand the experience of God’s love, grace and mercy. This is the art that I yearn to create and yet dread as well, because more often than not it is forged by intensely emotional episodes in my life.
The Spiritual Realism pieces come about in a distinct manner. Sometimes the Holy Spirit drops the completed image into my mind, as in the case of “Stronger Than I Knew” but just as often He’ll give me a phrase that I immediately know is the title of a painting, and through meditation and prayer, He begins to piece together in my mind an image expressing what He has to say. At a conference, I heard a speaker say “…the end of guilt and shame,” and wrote that down knowing it was the title of a painting. The image was revealed to me slowly, starting with the lily and its roots rising from a broken pot of soil. The pot eventually evolved into a pile of chains, which seem to communicate a sense of bondage rather than just restriction.
Quite often, I am in the throes of something and the image will end up telling the story of my experience of Him in that journey. The paintings so far share the common theme of freedom, each of them exploring different forms of it, but they all ultimately communicate a sense of victory, or the promise of victory in the midst of the struggle. God uses these paintings in ways that I could never imagine, let alone orchestrate under my own power.
Becoming Who I Am, ©Julie Kirkland, Watercolor on paper, 16”h x 30”w.
For additional information about Julie, such as awards, exhibitions and publications, and to see more of her artwork, visit www.juliekirkland.com.
Open to the Light, ©Julie Kirkland, Oil, 20”h x 24”w.