womanalive - pg45 - July 2005
How did you get started?
I have been painting and drawing all my life, but it was when I went on a Christian retreat called The Walk to Emmaus back in 1995 that I began to see things differently. I realised that the Lord does not require perfection - just honesty and authenticity, and for me to live my life with what he's already given me. We had to do projects and I was required to do drawings. I realised that what I regarded as 'just a little bit of talent' was really appreciated and even needed by other people. So often we think that our talents are for ourselves, for our own advancement, when in fact they are not ours at all. We need to offer them back to God.
Have you always seen your work as a ministry?
In the beginning, I expected to produce a work, then sell it to a purchaser who saw its worth. I thought I would determine the subject matter and paint what was important to me and what interested me, but the Lord turned that idea on its head when I received a commission to paint an angel.
I was a little sceptical, and I gently explained to the lady that I don't really paint pretty fairies sitting on tulips! But she insisted and explained that she needed a painting for above her bed which would remind her that she was not alone. The painting needed to bring her comfort. I realised that the people commissioning me wanted the paintings for very specific purposes and not merely for decoration.
The success of my art has been painting what other people want. I still have to interpret the commission and I still use my own style, but it serves the commissioner's requirements, not my own, and I'm blessed in the process.
How do you balance your family and work commitments?
Keeping my prayer life, daily devotional and quiet time in place is key to maintaining harmony between all the demands of life. It isn't always easy, but I try to include my family in my work. The studio is very much part of the house - a family place. We're a very close-knit family and are often together in the studio doing homework, work or art. There's no 'my space/your space'.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
As much as I like routine, my painting keeps me spontaneous. It feeds a part of my soul. When I'm not painting or creating, I'm not as nice to be around. Even if I only paint once a week, I seem to deal with stress better. I think more clearly, sleep better and work better.
Highlights so far?
My painting of the archangel Michael. I have had a number of offers, but I refuse to part with him
Does your work always take a Christian theme?
My faith in Christ is at the very core of everything in my life and all of my work, but my art needn't be obviously 'Christian' (with crosses, doves and so on). Even in my abstract work, though, the very nature and spirit of the painting communicates to the viewer all that Christianity is and represents. In the corporate world, I've often had opportunities to discuss a painting which doesn't have a literal reference to Christ (but has a message of hope, direction, light and truth) and so share my faith.
You can view more of Lara's work or chat to her by logging onto: www.walkinthelight.org.za/laramellon.html
Walk In the Light Ministries work with a poverty and Aids-stricken community in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, and Lara tithes the proceeds of her art to them.
~~ Fiona Veitch Smith, is a writer, journalist and sub editor based in Newcastle Upon Tyne