A PREFERENCE FOR OILS
Overall, I prefer using oils to water-colours, though I derive great pleasure from both, in the use of them and also in seeing the effects. But oils are difficult to organise, as I need so much rest.
If, by a miracle, I could work in any medium I chose, and if I were strong and had a larger studio space, I believe I would make polychrome sculptures. I've always been fascinated by work in the round, and by bas-reliefs, and scale models of buildings and whole forms - and colour. I've been thrilled to come across an occasional piece of brightly-coloured mediaeval statuary, of the sort which once covered the whole of the front of Wells Cathedral. Today, I would probably make papiér-maché or carved wooden statues of the Saints, or figures in a street, shopping - or family groups; and I'd paint them in full colour. But I can't 'go' there now, or I'll become discontented.
I've had to make certain artistic choices, to fit in with my physical weakness and my freely-chosen domestic circumstances; and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that I've been given so many images, and that I can do so much art-work daily, for interested people, even now that I'm 63. Though I've done nothing to deserve it, this is a way of life that is very fulfilling for me; indeed, I am involved every day in sharing my Catholic Faith. I enjoy a combination of art, happy family relationships, friendships, and constant delight in prayer - all made possible through the Lord's kindness to me, and His kindness shown out through other people.
As I said earlier, it's best not to dream of what really cannot be, when we can count on the Lord to give us surprising gifts and opportunities, if we try to follow His Way and wait for His plans to unfold. I don't mean that we must never make plans, just that they should be provisional. We are unwise to be ambitious if it means neglecting our ordinary responsibilities.
72. "What is the thing you love to paint the most?"
A SENSE OF 'IMMERSION'
What do I like to paint most of all? - Either scenes that will make me want to fall to my knees in awe - preferably in oils, on huge boards or canvasses, scenes that I can 'enter', which is to say, with some depth in them - and with everything structured to lead the eye further on, amidst beautiful colours. I mention large boards because the largest size of painting I've ever done has been 5 ft by 4 ft; and it was thrilling to be painting something larger than myself. It gave me that sense of 'immersion' in the subject, though no-one can tell, in reproduction, of course, what was the original size. One of these pictures was 'THROUGH HIM, WITH HIM', which is No. 13 in the set of Mass Paintings; and the other was an impressionistic landscape I did in oils for my daughter's seventeenth birthday, when she had just begun to express a delight in my work. So I know that if I had a vast studio, even larger canvasses, and much more energy, it would be my idea of a 'Painter's Heaven'. But that's impossible, so I must put the idea aside.
JOYS AND DIFFICULTIES
Some aspects of any work as an artist are a bit tedious or difficult. Although I'm glad to receive and record whatever the Lord shows me, I don't find it very exciting to paint space-craft, fishing-boats or cable-cars, which can all be found in His 'analogy' pictures; and it's difficult to paint crowd scenes, because it is physically such a strain; but I love to see the result, when I have managed to paint hundreds of Saints in glory, as if seen from the perspective of a little figure on earth. Light and shade, too, are very important to me. I find a picture less pleasing if it has no drama in it - or if it is monochrome, or full of angular shapes, or semi-abstract. But if you put me in front of almost any German Expressionist picture my heart sings.
73. "Which other religious artists have inspired you?"
A FEW FAVOURITES
I am not so well-educated as to be able to name a lot of religious painters; but I've always been deeply moved by William Blake's work - and by the large canvasses of Stanley Spencer, particularly his resurrection scenes. The brilliantly-coloured images on illuminated manuscripts are also very touching - as are the large-eyed Christs and Saints in what I believe are seventeenth-century Ethiopian Gospel paintings.
It's perhaps a fault, but I am not very enamoured of the 'Old Masters', though I can appreciate their extraordinary skills, even their genius. I have an aversion, however, to the posturing that is evident, with the simplest scene carefully stage-directed so that every figure has its head turned and its wrists at a strange angle, it seems. I find this rather mannered and contrived, and prefer to see more natural poses. Furthermore, the muscular writhings of such figures are not as beautiful, to me, as the serene stance of the plain sculpted Romanesque figures above the main doors of Chartres Cathedral.
That same serenity is seen in some traditional icon paintings; but although they are beautiful they are not my favourite style, because of the un-life-like postures. I know they are meant to be just as they are, with reverse perspective too, and all sorts of symbolism; but if I have to choose a work of art that instantly touches my heart, at a glance, I choose one from the nineteenth century, or the twentieth, not the third, fourth or seventeenth. It might sound like 'heresy', in artistic terms, to say this, but I'd rather spend an afternoon in the Impressionist gallery at the Quai D'Orsay, than spend it in front of a wall-full of Giottos or Leonardo da Vincis, despite their beauty.
74. "How do you feel about being able to share some of the prayer paintings through the online Art Gallery on the Radiant Light website?"
A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
The fact that we now have an on-line Art Gallery of my pictures is all due to my children - principally to my daughter, whose idea it was. She had the foresight to see that we could reach a large number of people with the Lord's work, in this way; and she has had wonderful assistance from our Web designers. It thrills me to know that we have it. I see it as one of the providential ways in which the Lord is bringing His teachings and reminders about the spiritual life to many thousands more people. For that reason, I am awe-struck. There was no Internet when He first promised to make things well-known, to help souls; and now He is fulfilling His promises in wonderful ways, through helpful people, through astonishing new inventions such as the Internet, through the Conferences He's asked me to hold, through the correspondence into which He's drawn me, and the many projects and programmes for which the pictures are acquired from Radiant Light, as requested and organised by various Christian organisations.
To go back to the original question, it's good to know what's happening, through our Website; but in practice it doesn't really impinge on my everyday life a lot. It's my family who deals with the e-mails by which people comment on the on-line exhibitions, and request copyright permissions so that they can use certain pictures for personal inspiration or for teaching and catechesis. Though they are very conscientious about copying and showing me such e-mails, I still feel very much 'at one remove' from it. I mostly remain in my own room, writing, painting and resting, apart from going to Mass and shops, and family meals, and occasional outings elsewhere.
I always seem to have about five or six ongoing projects to deal with, by which I mean tasks given to me by the Lord, or things connected with those tasks. So I'm grateful that other people deal with copyright issues, for example, as I go to Mass and the shops; then I come home to reply to interview questions for an on-line feature, re-check the typescript of a new book, put the last touches to the last painting for my children's book, keep up with written correspondence, pay bills, make 'phone calls, write up daily teachings, and try to record the recent prayer-images as monochrome water-colours. And sometimes I cook a meal - after a good rest. That's a typical day. So we are all doing different things for the Lord, in 'Radiant Light'. People are very generous with their skills and their time; and it all seems to fit together, to fulfil the Lord's plans, so far as we understand them at present.
75. "How is it possible to paint spiritual themes/ideas which were NOT originally images, e.g. teachings given to you which have no visual content? Does it not distort them? Can you explain, too, something about your 'Scripture' paintings?"
IMAGES NOT FROM GOD, BUT PROMPTED BY HIM
Of all the types of religious art-work I've done there are two types I haven't yet mentioned. I have already explained the religious illustrations I did for a priest-friend, years ago before I had had any images given to me in prayer. Those illustrations were composed by me, through using my children and their friends as models. That is what I would call a work of the imagination. I could have grouped the figures in one way, or in another. My choices were dictated by the results I wanted. I literally composed a design, for my own purposes, which happened to be acceptable to me and useful to the person who requested it.
Much later, I was given images in prayer, as I've already described. I receive them still; and they are totally 'given'. Everything necessary for God's purpose is in them. I do not compose or invent them. He has decided what to show the world, through me. Yet there are other 'in-between' images which I have not yet explained, of which I sometimes make religious pictures. Such images as these are a secondary feature of some prayer-encounters with Christ when, first, He has taught me soundlessly, and then He has prompted my own mind instantly to produce an image which marvellously illustrates His teaching. It's that secondary nature that makes those God-prompted images different in type from the God-given images I've already described, such as Christ the Bridge, and the Abyss, and others.
PROMPTED, DURING PRAYER
The important thing to know is that I count these 'in-between' images as true prayer-images because I only had them 'pushed' by God from my mind because I was engrossed in prayer. I did not sit and 'day-dream' them, or compose them. I could not have 'thought them up' by thinking about Christ, or sin, or Heaven, or any other subject. But since they arrive in a different way from the others, I have recorded them in a slightly different way, in my series of accurate monochrome water-colour paintings. I have no wish to confuse anyone, or to pretend that what is an image from my own mind, prompted by God in prayer, is the same as an image directly received from 'above' in a way I don't understand; so when I organised my system of monochrome water-colours I gave the different sorts of images a different appearance. I recorded every 'God-given' image in a large rectangular painting, but I recorded every 'God-prompted' image as a very small image in a narrow area, and with a different sort of code number given, as well as the usual 'teaching' and picture number. All of this is explained in the Appendix to my spiritual autobiography, in an illustrated section which deals with every type of image and vision in prayer; so I won't repeat it all here.
The other pictures that I haven't yet explained are the 'Holy Scripture' paintings of recent years. These are yet another gift from God which I told no-one about for a long time. Indeed, I almost took it for granted - until a time came when images of Scripture stories were needed for a Radiant Light collaboration with a teacher of Scripture, and I providentially had the images ready, in my memory.
What had happened was this: I have been to daily Mass, for many years. Day after day, I have listened to the First Reading in church, and to the Psalm, and the Gospel; and each time I have listened, I've prayed to the Holy Spirit: "Increase my understanding of Holy Scripture," or, "Open my ears to Your Word." And I have found that my prayer has been answered, but in ways I had never expected. Occasionally, the Lord has shown me that through certain passages He was speaking directly to me, to give me a special insight into my own life or work. But the most astonishing answer has been His gift to me of an unrolling of a 'visual Gospel', as I hear the words of the Gospel read out loud, at daily Mass. As I look towards the priest, I am aware that the Lord is placing before my soul's eyes something like a dimly-seen movie of all that the Lord is doing in that particular passage of Scripture.
AN ILLUSTRATED GOSPEL
This is not my imagination at work. I had never experienced this sort of moving, living, 'unveiling' of an incident in Christ's life - and also in the lives of the Prophets and Saints - until a few years ago. But when I grew used to the fact, I decided that one day I would try to illustrate a whole Gospel with the Lord's images, given in this new way. Indeed, I photocopied the whole of St. John's Gospel, enlarged to size A4, leaving a blank page opposite each page of text, for the time when I would be able to fill the blank spaces. That was in about 1998; but I was too busy with other work to be able to complete it. And it was not until a well-known teacher asked my daughter if there were, amongst my collection of paintings, any pictures of Jesus and the woman at the well, for example, that I felt impelled to start painting. That was a moment at which I almost laughed for joy, realising that now I had a special incentive to make time to put down the Scripture images which I had already received, and share them.
It seems that the 'woman at the well' story, with the 'healing of the blind man', and other stories, are used in many R.C.I.A. programmes, and other projects. Frances Hogan, the Scripture teacher, wanted to use some paintings to illustrate her talks on familiar gospel stories for a Catholic television network; so when I was able to produce fifteen 'Gospel' water-colours in a few days, from memory, I was once again thrilled by the Lord's foresight and generosity; and I was pleased to be able to help Frances. These pictures all have a special code, to distinguish them from the images given in contemplative prayer.
76. "How would you like to see your artwork used in the future? How could it be reproduced, for example, in churches and other venues?"
ALL AROUND THE WORLD
Although I've said a lot about not 'dreaming' about the future, things are a bit different when it comes to Radiant Light, because I know it has a future - and a future that will be astonishing. The Lord has told me various things which I am sure will come true, because He is trustworthy. Besides, I've already seen some promises fulfilled; Christ told me, nearly twenty years ago, not to worry about sharing His teachings. He said that if I obeyed His instructions He would spread them all very widely, to help people; and that has now happened to some degree, as the images teach and help people in various countries. So I am thrilled to know that the Work is already proving useful. And I'm happy to entrust the entire Work, in the future, to the Lord.
It seems important here to mention that none of the original paintings is for sale; and I do not make any personal profit from the use of my artwork or from sales of reproductions. Any sales of Radiant Light publications or donations go to Radiant Light, which is a non-profit making company; and they are used by Radiant Light for further printing, and art exhibitions, for example, or other ways of drawing attention to Christ, and to the work of the Church.
If I were pressed to say how I would like to see some of the pictures used, I could make a list of ways, though I'm sure that other people will one day have better ideas. I'm content to have produced the pictures. But it would perhaps be thrilling to know that some would be reproduced, much enlarged, onto the walls of some of our sanctuaries. I would hope to give distracted minds something to focus on, that remind them of God and Heaven, the Saints and Angels, Creation and Original Sin, Christ and Redemption and Judgement.
INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION
It is part of the teaching and Tradition of the Church that we should have images in our churches. I've been rather saddened to observe that some Catholics have built or re-ordered many churches, for decades, in a style which is plain, dull, and not very beautiful – and giving little sense of being in a sacred space. I wonder if some priests and Bishops have been influenced by architects who prefer minimalist designs. Although bare walls are traditional for some monks and nuns who have been called to a special sort of simplicity, I believe parishioners might like a bit of colour, as well as pictorial information, and inspiration.
Maybe the Rosary pictures could be hugely enlarged one day, for a church or pilgrimage area; or a selection of paintings could be made for a 'Stations of the Cross'. It would be wonderful to know that some pictures could be reproduced, too, as large tapestries, or stained glass windows, or as glass screens to separate a side chapel from the body of a church, perhaps. The more obvious uses would be as banners, or Mass-cards, or posters for school rooms, and postcards for retreats, and as religious text-book illustrations. I think some would look beautiful on chasubles – but not such large and loud images as to make our priests look like wizards, as can happen if designers are a bit too adventurous. Perhaps some of the images could be used in missals or other prayer books, or on the altar and the ambo. I'm aware that the paintings might seem a bit too bright and modern for some art-lovers; but there's no end to the places in which they could prove useful to those who like them.
THE LORD'S PLANS
I realise that some of my work is rather rushed, and of poor quality; but as I said earlier, I believe that what is good seems to help providentially to fill the gap between the old and the 'post-modern', in being simply modern, and also figurative and bright. That seems to be why it has so often been requested in past years for Ordination booklets, for example. It is for that reason, but above all because the Lord has promised the work will be widely used, that I am confident it will be welcomed by all sorts of people and institutions in the future. Indeed it is my sincere belief that the Lord already knows how He wants to use the images He has chosen to give me, and that He is already preparing the people who will make the necessary decisions. So I am genuinely happy to leave it all to the future, and to continue living unworriedly in the 'present moment', doing as much work as I can while I have the energy. More importantly, I am trying to do the other things Christ has asked me to do: to grow in charity, more and more, while there is still time, and - at His invitation - to prepare for life in Heaven.
77. "Can you now give us the long list of subjects that you've said the paintings are 'about'?"
I would like to give the list I promised. I mentioned earlier that the images from the Lord which I've recorded in pen, pencil, water-colour or oils, provide reminders to do with very many subjects, on which I have also been given soundless 'teachings'; and I still receive teachings on many of these subjects today. In alphabetical order, these are:-
Care of elderly
Care of the sick
Christ: earthly life
Christ's love for us
Christ's Passion and Death
Christ's Real Presence
Christ's Risen Life
Church: Christ's Body
Church: Feasts and Seasons
Church: House of God
Communion of Saints
Glory of God
Glory, within us
God the Father
God the Holy Spirit
God the Son
Images in prayer
Journey to Union
Life on earth
Neighbours to love
Pope and Bishops
Prayer: General matters
Prayer: Preparation Priesthood
Sacrament of the Sick
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saints in Heaven
Saints on earth
Sin and forgiveness
State of grace
Virgin Mary: Assumption
Virgin Mary: Earthly life
Virgin Mary: Immaculate heart
Virgin Mary: Mother of God
Virgin Mary: Mother of Perpetual Help
Virgin Mary: Mother of the Church
Will of God
Work for God