Posts Tagged ‘speed painting’

I’ve been called upon to do a 6 foot by 8 foot live painting for a camp here in PA. This is a different situation for me in some ways, because usually when I do a live painting I am also the speaker, so I’m also there to talk the viewers through what I’m thinking. This time I’m only doing the painting. My first run at a sketch just didn’t work so for the next run, I went classic. Their theme is on finding fulfillment, so I just did a straight up Jesus, since He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, He is the fulfillment of the OT law, of Scripture and, at least in my view, the ultimate source of fulfillment.

Why am I cross posting this one? Art is communication. If we want people to get our meaning, we need to make it speak clearly. My first run at this was misunderstood or maybe more correctly was just not understood and while, as I stated above, had I been the speaker, I would have been able to explain the piece to the audience and they would have gotten it. That’s all well and good if that audience is the only group to see the piece, but this piece will be kept and displayed probably for quite some time to be seen by people who were not in attendance when I made it. They need to get it too if I want the art to fulfill a greater purpose. Sometimes it’s best to keep a piece simple so it can be understood. An open armed Christ speaks volumes.

Today was a blessed day of ministry. I was privileged to lead a deacon retreat for a church here in my area this morning (Little Swatara Church of the Brethren). A few of the deacons in this church are people I went to High School with, and working with them always reminds me of the 180 Jesus has done in my life from when I was in HS ’til now. Great group of people. While I’ve done leadership workshops before, this one was the first in this format. The people were very kind and participatory, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and pray they were blessed and that the Lord uses the things he laid on my heart to build up the body at their church. Because it was groundhog day, I built my theme accordingly.

Then this evening, I traveled to Middletown PA for my second trip to the Rock Cafe. It was a rock band called Testimony, a rapper named Constant Battle and his crew and me. I really enjoy this type of ministry as well. The music is always great and the ministry is better. I brought a message based on Mark chapter 2 about the man who was lowered through the roof to see Jesus. I’m still working on a title for this message, at least in this format, but I’m thinking of calling it “The Greater Miracle.” This format gives me the opportunity to pare things down and work with shorter messages, which at times comes in very handy. Well speaking of shorter messages, it’s midnight and time to cut this one off and go to bed. I should be back on the regular schedule Monday, Lord willing. If you’re a person who likes rap and rock, get yourself to Middletown, PA on the first Saturday of the month. It’s always fun.

Thanks to everyone who gave me the opportunity to minister today, and to God be the glory. Good night.

I just saw this video and it blew my mind. An artist speed painting the Iwo Jima Monument while singing the National Anthem. This man is quite a talent.

P.S. Please don’t ask me to sing while I paint, no one wants to hear that!

People often ask me how I can painting a painting in six minutes. The short answer is, I can’t. Oh, I stand before a congregation and do that very thing night after night, but the truth of the matter is the reason I can do it is because I’ve done hours of work in advance.

There’s no substitute for experience
The first reason I can do it is because I have been making art for nearly half a century. You might say, “You’re only 52.” Of course, I would then say, “I didn’t say professionally, but all the work that I’ve done has led to what I do now, even the bad, amateur stuff.” I’m not saying you need fifty years of experience, just that you need to make a lot of art, even if it’s bad art, to build your skills.

I rarely paint a painting live for the first time
There have been times over the years where I have painted a painting for the first time before a live audience (never in six minutes though). Sometimes I was even pretty successful, but for the most part I have sketched and then worked a painting out several to many times in my studio before an audience ever sees it. For example, these two paintings are pieces I worked out this week. They are rough sketches for two presentations I am working on.
They’re not exactly right yet, but they’re a start, I’m working out composition, getting the facial expressions right, etc. These were not six minute paintings. I spent close to an hour on each, because at this point, I’m trying to get the image right. They’re not beautiful, their painted on old canvasses, I’m just working it out. From there I…

Break it down
One of the first things we learn as artists is breaking things down into their basic shapes. This is crucial for live painting. I don’t do an advance sketch on a live painting, i.e. there are no sketch lines on the “canvas” before I begin (with the exception of a few guidelines on a piece that I do where two pieces come together at the end of the night). All the “drawing” is done with the paint, so the basic shapes are crucial.

The performance is important
When it comes to ministry, people cringe at the word performance, so I better explain myself. People like to watch me paint, but the main reason I paint is to draw people into the message. (Your reason for live painting may vary, but this is mine.) For this reason, I work to make my painting process intriguing. I want the people to be guessing for as long as possible. I’m working on a painting on grace right now, for example, and I am trying to formulate a way to write the word “grace” on the board and use it as the basis for the painting. When I paint a face I line up the eyes and nose by painting a cross on the board. I always want to keep the people guessing as long as possible. I also try to paint something very meaningful but not always totally obvious. I want people wondering why I painted what I painted so they are engaged when I tell the story.

Leave perfection and detail behind
The first step in a six minute painting is “done.” Translation, the first thing you need to do is have a recognizable finished image at the end of your allotted time. Once you have that you can perfect and detail the piece in the time remaining, but the first thing you need to be is done. It’s best to keep it simple and try to be as effective as possible. Remember, this is not the best painting you can do, it’s the best painting you can do in the time allotted.

These steps will help you have a pretty successful speed painting. Don’t do it the first time before an audience. Practice, practice, practice!

A lot of what I do in my ministry would be called performance painting. Some would disagree with the term performance associated with ministry and yet, I’m not sure how else to describe it. The creation of the painting is part of the process. It’s more than just making a picture. It’s the attempt to make the creation of the painting entertaining, drawing people in to the message to follow. It involves keeping them guessing, misdirection and working very quickly. The following artists are some of the best (and after them… me).

David Garibaldi

Denny Dent

Dan Dunn

and here’s one of mine…

As a speed painter, this is so vital to my ministry. It’s a sort of visual slight of hand that gets people engrossed and engaged. Simply put, you keep them guessing and it’s not just for artists, virtually any communicator. The idea is pretty simple, you make people think you’re heading in one direction, then at just the right time, you throw in a twist. It’s a beautiful thing.

As an example, in my presentation Pictures of Jesus, at the very beginning I tell the congregation I am going to paint five pictures of Jesus. Then just past the middle of the presentation, I paint a picture that looks like Satan. The people are now misdirected. I say something to the effect of, “I thought he said he was going to paint pictures of Jesus… and… well, that ain’t Jesus!” Now the painting is done very quickly and it is done just before I give my testimony. At the point of my conversion in the story, I turn the painting upside down and reveal that it is also a picture of Jesus. Things like this really keep people guessing and when they are guessing, they are engaged. They want to see and hear what is coming next. It becomes an amazing tool for the Gospel.

This technique is nothing new. Paul Harvey kept audiences spellbound with his “Rest of the Story” broadcasts for years. We would listen with baited breath waiting for the twist we all knew was coming. The surprise, the anticipation of the reveal and on and on help the audience to receive what is about to be said. They simply must know what is coming next.

I deliberately try to design and construct my paintings in such a way that people have to guess what I am doing as long as possible. It’s always fun to hear the whispers of people trying to guess what I am doing, and the “wronger” they are, the happier I am, because I know their curiosity is piqued. Why would I go to all that effort? Because the most important thing in the world to me at that moment is not that the people think I am a great artist, but that they are engaged and ready to receive the Word of God. Frankly, I can do much better art in my studio all by myself, taking my time, but the point of this is not to make great art, it is to “draw” people to Jesus.

Keeping them engaged is key!

promophotoI got a call recently from someone who wanted to bring me in to be “entertainment.” Some folks in ministry would really kick against that. I don’t. Here’s why:

  1. I don’t care what you call it as long as I get to bring the Gospel.
  2. If we think there is no entertainment in ministry, we’re mistaken. If we are trying to reach the world and meet people where they are, especially people from outside the church, we need to make it interesting. We don’t change the message of the Gospel, but we do need to think about how we deliver it.
  3. If we want people to remember the message, we may want to work on being memorable. I’m not talking about being irreverent or silly, but I believe there is room for being God honoring and interesting simultaneously.
  4. Bringing a different element to the worship service, such as the painting I do, has one purpose. It’s another entry point into the Gospel. It’s a tool used to “draw” people in. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it’s various forms.” Our gifts and talents are invested in us by a loving God whose desire is that people would come to Christ and receive salvation. When we put those gifts to work in service to the Kingdom we become instruments of God’s grace. What a great thing to be.

Sometimes I think we need to be less concerned with what people call what we do and more interested in doing the very best we can with what we have. I don’t see myself as an entertainer, but rather a minister of the Gospel, but if God chooses to open a door, I want to walk through it.

I want to know Him and make Him known.

tablepaintinglrWhen I first started painting in churches, one of the questions I was asked fairly regularly was whether or not I was a prophetic artist. At the time I didn’t even know what that meant so I guess that means no. These days though, I not only know what it means, I sometimes do it or maybe I always do it, depending on your perspective. Basically the idea behind prophetic art is pretty simple. You pray and ask God for an image or a message and you allow Him to speak through your art and the images He lays on your heart. It is very fulfilling to connect with the Lord in this way and I highly encourage it. I’m not sure it’s viable for speed painting though, at least not as expressed above. God leads as He wants, when He wants, which does not always lend itself to a very short time frame. For example, the painting on the left is an example of prophetic painting. The owners of that table asked me to pray and paint what God showed me, there was about six hours of painting plus all the time it took in prayer and meditation.

It reminds me of a time where I was talking to a loved one about my preaching. This early in my ministry. At that point, I wrote my messages out in full and would read them very emphatically and passionately. I mentioned that I really wanted to get away from my notes, and she made the comment “…and be more Spirit led.” She was trying to be helpful and encouraging but I din’t think she totally understood the process. My messages were Spirit led. I committed them to much prayer although the study and writing process as well as the preparation process and the final delivery. The Spirit was all over those very planned messages and frankly, you could tell it. God was at work in me.

I think the same holds true with (ministry) speed painting. It all starts with prayer. From the original image and message, the process continues. Once I have an image, I usually need to simplify it. Six to ten minutes with very wet paint does not lend itself to a lot of detail. From there, I may sketch some ideas in my sketch book or set up a practice canvas and work it out in paint. To me the latter is preferable, but that’s just how I work. I always break the image down into basic shapes first and then shade and often outline (more on the actual painting process later). All these things are a matter of prayer and so it’s Spirit led all the way through, leading to a finished project I can do well in a very short period of time. Also, as I am preparing to go to a church, I ask God to show me which presentations to use or to lead me to a new one that will accomplish His purpose in that venue. Then I always pray before and during the presentation itself. It’s Spirit led, but also usually thoroughly planned. There have bedtimes whereI have felt the leading to totally leave the plan and go somewhere else, but this is not the norm. I think in these times God is pushing me to trust Him, but more often than not we have collaborated through the process and we go with what He showed me when the planning began. The video below is a planned piece that originated in much prayer and design to get to the point where I can do it in such a short period of time.

The truth about speed painting is it’s not often spontaneous. It usually requires a good deal of planning and preparation. People sometimes ask how I can paint so fast. The answer are three fold. 1. God helped me. 2. I prepared and practiced a lot and 3. I can paint a painting in six minutes because I have been painting paintings for forty years. You don’t have to be painting that long to do speed painting but you do have to spend a lot of time perfecting your gifts.

Prophetic or planned, they’re not mutually exclusive. What matters most is involving God and the Holy Spirit every step of the way.

I’ve been posting these posts (1,2,3,4) to tell you about how to do the actual paintings and there is more to come, but I wanted to take a moment and talk a little bit about content. Before I go on, it is important once again to point out that our motivations for speed painting may vary. I, for example, do my paintings to lead into what I will be speaking about. This article comes out of that motivation, but I think it is helpful for any speed painter, working in any context.

Because my motivation is to use art to “draw” (see how I did that) people into my message, I want to keep them guessing. Because of this, I try to make the painting somewhat misleading in the process of creating. I want to keep them guessing about what I am painting for as long as possible. The reason for this is pretty simple. If they are guessing, they are engaged. They are wondering what I am painting, so they will want to know more. The question “Why?” is also powerful, as in “Why did he paint that?” I don’t always go for the obvious image. What I am looking for is engagement. I want to draw them in. I want them to really want to know more.

devilpaintingAn example of this is when I do my Pictures of Jesus presentation. As I begin the presentation, I tell the congregation in advance that I am going to paint five pictures of Jesus over the course of the evening. I have one part of the presentation I call The Other Lion. In that presentation, I paint a picture that looks like a cartoon image of Satan. Of course people are dying to know why I painted a picture of the devil in a presentation called Pictures of Jesus. I rightly point out that there is another lion in this story. “Be self controlled and alert, your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour.” I then give my testimony to the point of coming to Christ, at which point I say, “Jesus turned my life around.” I flip the painting upside down and it becomes a picture of Jesus. The painting gets attention and draws them into the story I am about to tell.

This, behind any kind of aesthetic response is the goal. I am more concerned with an engaged audience than I am with a beautiful painting, though I try to accomplish that as well.

Which brings me to quality. I will often tell people these are not the best paintings I can do, but they are the best paintings I can do in six minutes. This can open the door to helping people leave that “If only I had…” mentality. Life following Jesus often involves doing the best and being faithful with what we have.

I hope these posts have been helpful. Speed painting is a great tool to communicate the Gospel. If you’re interested in trying it, I would love to help you out. You can contact me for more information at

dweiss2We’ve looked at materials and a lot of other background information, now we need to look at our intent in painting. What do you want to accomplish? Who are you trying to teach? Are you trying to teach? Will you be bringing a message with the piece or does the message come from the piece? Are you doing the painting in support of someone else’s message?

One thing I am hoping you will see is that public painting, especially in a church context, is often bigger than making beautiful art, though of course we always want to bring our best. The painting tells a story or at the very least supports a story. The feel of the piece is important as is the message behind it. For example, I recently did a weekend of meetings at a church in Virginia. It was part of my Close Encounters With Jesus series. This is a brand new series and I am still perfecting it. One of the messages is about the transfiguration, and with it, I paint a picture of the transfigured Jesus. To be quite honest, the painting is giving me fits. Trying to speed paint the glowing Jesus in six to 10 minutes is just not easy. I am trying to keep shadows to a minimum and yet have a clearly defined image has created some issues. Another issue, is the paint does not dry quick enough to layer well. I came up with a pretty good practice piece in my studio, but it did not translate well live. I decided to move to a closeup using only his face and one hand. Afterward the pastor, asked me why I positioned his hand as I did. He felt that it looked a little standoffish, and I had to agree. What worked well in a three quarter body painting, did not translate to close up. The feel was off. (It still came together with the message well, but I need to do a little more perfecting on this piece.)

Know Your Audience
Have you been asked to do your piece for the whole congregation or just a segment? This matters. There’s a reason the animals are all smiling in the nursery Noah’s Ark Mural. They’re not ready for drowning people clawing at the door o the ark. Likewise the context you’re working in is important. The purpose of the piece is to draw people (your audience) into the story. This requires some thought and planning in advance (more on this in the next article).

What Are You Trying to Accomplish?
This goes back to feel to some degree, but there is usually more to a story or a message than just giving the story cut and dried. Different passages are taught in different ways for different reasons. This is in no way advocating a departure from the truth of God’s Word but more like we emphasize the points of a passage that speak to the point we’re trying to make. It is really important that we think on this in the planning of the painting. The goal in a service is for all it’s elements to draw people to the point being made. We have to make sure we are not distracting.

Who Asked You?
I know that sounds a little rude, but what I mean is “Who invited you to paint?” If you are painting in support of your own message, then you know the point you are trying to make and it is easier. If someone else, like your pastor, asks you to paint in support of something he or she is doing, it is pretty imperative that you give them what they want. This is more important than your artistic ideas or creative impulses. What you do needs to support what he or she is trying to accomplish.

At the end of the day, speed painting in a worship service context is a tool to bring people to the point of the message, so that they will go out and apply the teaching to their lives to the glory of God. It’s a big responsibility and a great opportunity to use our gifts to do some good.