Westmont Magazine Artistic Inspiration
Stephanie Smith ’06 uses her exceptional artistic gifts to praise God and to minister to the communities that surround her. Last summer she felt inspired to create a series of eight powerful watercolors that explore the beatitudes Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Images of Third World poverty — where innocent children suffer — bring life to each lesson. But vibrant hope and color illuminate the pictures as well to illustrate God’s eternal presence in times of trouble.
Stephanie didn’t realize that her first piece, “Blessed Is He,” would end up being part of a series. She created the painting in a watercolor class during her first year at Westmont. There was something different about the process and the way the image touched her heart.
“The painting just flowed out of me so easily,” she recalls. “It was the first time I wasn’t creating something for myself. I felt like these pictures needed to be painted.”
When her pastor began preaching on the beatitudes last summer, she knew she had to add to the painting she had done in class. The rest of the images poured out of her with such urgency that each detailed painting only took two days to complete. To obtain photo references for inspiration, Stephanie searched the Internet, books, and magazines such as National Geographic to find the perfect images to capture each verse.
“Before I began working on each painting, I attempted to meditate on the verse to understand what it meant,” she says.
Since her pastor’s talk on the Sermon on the Mount originally inspired Stephanie, the series went on exhibit at her church, Trinity United Presbyterian in Santa Ana, Calif. A free-lance writer visiting from Chicago saw the show and asked Stephanie if he could write an article about her.
His first piece appeared in the March/April issue of Campus Life. The editors at Brio & Beyond, a popular Christian teenage magazine from Focus on the Family, were also interested in Stephanie. Brio published a cover story about her in the May 2004 issue. The article triggered a flood of positive feedback, and many people have asked to buy one or more of the paintings. However, Stephanie believes that breaking the set apart would make its ministry substantially less powerful and plans to keep it together.
Strong support from the Westmont community has encouraged Stephanie to continue with the project. The series on the beatitudes appeared in an exhibit in the college library during the spring, where students, staff and parents saw the colorful and inspirational paintings.
In the fall, Stephanie will participate in Westmont’s new semester-long program in Queretaro, Mexico. Not only will she study art and Spanish language and culture there, but she will paint what she encounters.
“I believe that God is calling me to do missions work,” she says. “I hope to support the people I visit by selling paintings inspired by their culture.”
This summer she plans to take on a new artistic project: interpreting the fruit of the Spirit. She hopes this work bears fruit of its own.