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Photo: Carolyn Seal
It Started with a 'Little Sketch'
Why I Painted Entry 344 of the Diary
By Carolyn Seal
My inspiration to put St. Faustina's vision of the Blood of Christ passing from the Eucharist through the hands of her confessor and then out through the hands of an enormous crowd of people and then back again first began in 2003.
I did not complete the "painting of the rays," as I called it, until the Year of the Priest, 2009 -2010. It took eight-and-a-half years to get to the point of actually putting this image on paper and another seven months to paint it. Maybe the Lord can move mountains faster than He can move His children to whom He gave that pesky gift of free will. Or maybe the timing was just as it should be. Here is my story.
In 2003, I was in Eucharist Adoration at my parish, basking in the warmth of His rays of love and mercy. I thought about how this wonderful Sacrament really brought us the Blood of Christ through our priests. I asked the Lord if I could draw His rays coming from the Eucharist through His priest and His Church to us. So, I drew the Monstrance with a pattern of circles containing little stick people and churches. I smiled at my little sketch and put it away.
Many times through the next years, thoughts of my little sketch came back to me. I wondered if it could be something better than a crude pencil sketch, but I wasn't sure how to make that happen. Then, on June 16, 2009, I went to spiritual direction with a Marian Servant. I told her of my sketch. She immediately said that St. Faustina had recorded this vision of my idea in her Diary. I hurried home and found it easily — entry 344!
One evening as I entered my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus exposed in the monstrance under the open sky, as it seemed. At the feet of Jesus I saw my confessor, and behind him a great number of the highest ranking ecclesiastics, clothed in vestments the like of which I had never seen except in this vision; and behind them, groups of religious from various orders; and further still I saw enormous crowds of people, which extended far beyond my vision. I saw the two rays coming out from the Host, as in the image, closely united but not intermingled; and they passed through the hands of my confessor, and then through the hands of the clergy and from their hands to the people, and then they returned to the Host ... and at that moment I saw myself once again in my cell which I had just entered.
Immediately, I seemed to realize how to draw this vision, and during the next few weeks I put it on an old piece of tracing paper — paper more than 40 years old, from art class in high school. Back then, I had done a few paintings of horses. I had never drawn people. I began to research the kind of clothing the people would wear. I found pictures of vestments and habits from various religious orders. I cut out pictures from magazines, printed others from the Internet. Then I began to sketch the people. I was amazed that some of the little people I wanted to put in my painting seemed to "fall" off my pencil, almost sketching themselves! I drew those not using a picture or pattern! They all seemed like many different little people — with their own different personalities! The drawing went on the paper so well and the rings of little people came out so cute that I began to share it with friends, and they began to cheer me on.
I then worked on part of the rays in pencil trying to make them look like a fountain, recalling the words Jesus taught St. Faustina, "blood ... that gushed forth as a fountain of mercy for us." My son, a mechanic, looked at my effort one day and remarked, "That looks like a magnetic field!"
I then pondered on what medium to use? I decided on oils. I transferred the drawing to the canvas and began to paint in July 2009. The sky was blue, of course, and the earth I made a red clay color, maybe because my late husband loved dozers. Dozing down ugly clay hills to make beautiful fields was always his dream and vision. The field is my place that I dream to be — the heavenly place of peace, joy and love with God.
I was surprised when I looked at the sky outside my apartment door on the day I planned to paint this part of the picture. The cloud formation and the light were exactly what were needed. I snapped a photo and began to paint.
I can mix colors pretty well, and I love the way oils can be blended right on the canvas and can be changed or added to, even days later. But the long drying time of oils lengthened the project. Yet, that seemed to be giving me time to be lead to the right images and ideas as I researched, waiting for what to do next. I understood that I surely didn't know what I was doing and didn't know anything about different mediums. Yet, things "fell into place." My friend told me about Pearl-Ex which when mixed with any medium will be like glitter. I happened on a video of a painter who was showing how to paint sunrays using Liquin. When it was time for the rays, these two mediums worked together to make the rays glow off the canvas.
Painting the little people that I had so enjoyed sketching took a long time, and it grew tedious. I had wished I never started this project. The oil fumes made me sick a few of times, and so I would wear a respirator when I painted. Still, I knew by this point that it was not my project but the Lord's. So I plugged on. Finally, the little people were finished — each with their own personalities, so many different people making up the world. I loved my little people. Or was it the Lord's little people?
Then it was time for the rays. I finished my sketch of the rays on clear paper and placed it on the canvas that now contained the earth, the sky and the people. Oh, my goodness! Oh, my Lord! The rays fell into place! Most of them went right through the hands of the people just as St. Faustina described in her vision. I flipped this tracing of the rays onto the other side, and it fell right in line as well! Okay, it was official! I had nothing to do with the layout of this picture! I could never, ever have placed these little people in the right places for the rays to fall as they did. The rays made the fountain from the priest and went to the clergy, to the religious, to the first row of the little people, and out and around to the others and came back and around returning to the Host and forming a pattern that resembled angels wings!
Next, I painted the rays. I thought I was finished on Nov. 16, 2009. Oh what a feeling! "Maybe it will bring just one person to see Your great light," I thought.
But two artist friends and my spiritual director thought the horizon was too pronounced. The sharp line between the blue of the sky and the earth was too straight and too clearly defined. They wanted me "to blend the horizon." I was scared to touch the painting again, afraid I would mess it up. After a week or so of trying not to think about it, I looked at a digital photo that I had taken of the painting. They were right. The horizon was sharp, and it drew the eye to the horizon, away from the Host and the people.
That week, to relax, I watched a movie. It included a rather intense scene of an accident. A character tried to calm a victim. The character's words grabbed my heart. "If you could be anywhere right now, where would you want to be?" I lifted my hands and envisioned myself in that heavenly field of mine, full of peace, joy, love, no cold, no hot, no pain, with the blue sky, the clayish color field, and the mountains between the two barely visible blending. ... Ah, that's it, mountains blending the sky and the field! Actually it wasn't that quick. Slow as I am, it was the next day when it hit me, and the Lord probably said, "Finally, she got it!" Later, I was reminded that St. Faustina lived in the mountains of Poland.
For one week each night and two weekends I painted the mountains. At first they were small and not at all what I had envisioned in my field. Lord, what do You want me to do here? My spiritual director told me to ask the Lord to take my hands and paint what He wants on the painting. I recalled what I read about "icon writing." It is called "writing" because the artist first has his hands blessed and then asks the Lord to take his hands and use them to write what He, the Lord, wants on the painting. And so, as He has done the whole time, we had no doubt He would lead again now.
One evening, I was pondering how to get the mountains to fit around the people. I looked straight ahead and noticed the horizon that was around me, to my left and to my right without moving my head or eyes. It enveloped me and was going down on each side around me. In my thoughts were the words, "Even though I pass through the valley of death ..." The mountains will surround the circles of people as if they were in a valley! And they did. The mountains came out pretty well and blended the horizon. To prove I have no idea what I'm doing, this horizon project alone took more than 20 hours of work. Maybe it 's a lesson in patience and maybe a lesson in listening more.
All that was left on Jan. 24, 2010, was to fix the rays I scraped off in order to remove the raised line of paint on the original horizon. Can I mix the medium, the pearl stuff, and the color the same as before so that it will match what was now dry on the canvas? Silly me! Will I never learn to take the "I" out of this picture, and pray?
Let us all pray there will be a great soaking of the Blood of Jesus onto His people, and that the rays in that field of grace can pass through each of us, shining "the Way" for others.
Carolyn Seal lives in Bogalusa, Louisiana.