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Art and the Bible: Part III

It all started, she says, with a question God loves to hear: “What can I do with this talent?” It was a prayer of obedience, but also a request for clarity and wisdom.

Sitting in a mid-town coffeeshop, waiting to meet Faye Spieker, I fiddle with my temperamental digital recorder and realize I don’t know what to expect. I’ve heard second-hand accounts of Faye’s artistic interpretations of biblical subjects. I checked out her blog and saw a few examples of her work. But I really don’t know much else about her – including what she looks like.

Gazing around the comfortable, open cafe, scrutinizing each of the dozen or so faces that are either locked in conversation or focused on their laptops and phones in solitary concentration, I finally decide that I don’t know how to recognize an artist. Will she be wearing a beret, carrying an easel, have paint spattered on her shirt…? That Faye is female is my only clue – and the majority of the patrons this afternoon are female. It could be any of them.

As it turns out, Faye is easy to spot. She enters and greets the barista like an old friend, with a big smile on her face. As she places her order, I notice she is carrying a large, canvas bag with sketch pads protruding from it. Bingo!

When she sits down at another table, I collect my gear and join her. I introduce myself and, with just a little prompting, she explains how she began to visually illustrate church sermons and Bible verses.

It all started, she says, with a question God loves to hear: “What can I do with this talent?” It was a prayer of obedience, but also a request for clarity and wisdom.

Faye had been doodling on her notebooks since she was in school. As an adult, she found herself drawing not simply to pass the time or deal with boredom, but as a means of taking notes at seminars and even in church.

The transition from doodler to artist was accelerated by her career as a kindergarten teacher. Faye honed her artistic talents illustrating lessons for the children.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to explain things to people,” she says, “and because I’m visual, I do that through drawing. I can look down at a drawing and say, ‘Oh! I know what this was about’.”

One day, she began to wonder if this “hobby” might be something that could advance God’s Kingdom. The answer was an affirmation of what she already suspected: He can and does use art for His glory.

As a result, on a typical Sunday, Faye shows up at church with her art bag laden with a wide array of colored pencils and paper. When the pastor begins to preach, instead of scribbling notes, she begins to sketch. Drawing helps her concentrate, she says. And it helps her remember teachings.

Faye’s artistic doodles noting a sermon on the story of Joseph.

When I ask what motivates her work, she adopts a thoughtful expression. After a brief pause, she explains that she starts in pencil, listens carefully, and waits for inspiration.

“Usually what happens is that the sermon itself will inspire me in some way. One thing [the pastor] says will strike me.” This will generate ideas and she’ll start drawing, not always knowing where it will lead her. When she finishes, she shows the artwork to him.

Faye can look at her drawings like other people reference their notes and remember what the sermon was about on any given Sunday. “I know when [Pastor Greg] has done a sermon before,” she says, laughing.

Sometimes her drawings are literal and easy to interpret. Other times, they’re filled with colorful symbols.

An abstract depiction of a sermon on hope.

Interestingly, Scripture itself is sometimes literal and sometimes filled with symbols. And as Faye’s unique style of Bible engagement reminds us, God can speak in a variety of ways. Whether we read it, listen to it, watch it, or draw it, the Word of God has the power to transform and changes us in significant ways.

In answer to the question of why she uses art to interpret and respond to the Bible, Faye says: “It’s something you feel. Half of it is the process – it brings you relaxation, ideas, and draws you closer to God. I’m glad I have it.”

Read more in this series:

Art and the Bible Part 1

Art and the Bible Part 2

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