Art and Spirituality

by Carolyn Edlund

Art has been often been used as an expression of spirituality. Three artists with different approaches share their inspirational journeys.


"Breaking Through" acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14" by artist Deborah Nell

“Breaking Through” acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 14″ by artist Deborah Nell

Deborah Nell

Painting has a strong faith connection for artist Deborah Nell, who considers the act of making art itself a spiritual practice. Her work begins with an abstract process, poured or applied paint on canvas or Yupo paper. The artist then paints in figurative elements. She says, “These unplanned images emerge from a place of connection I have with the Lord. They, in turn connect with others emotionally and spiritually, as the viewer interprets the expressive images in my paintings. Many of the figures in my paintings are faceless, which lends them to much interpretation by the viewer’s imagination.”

Originally inspired through a dream in 2007, she explained that she is doing the work she feels God has set before her. Today, she does live painting during church worship services. People in the congregation can watch a painting develop from a mass of color to a competed image that reflects a theme or message for that particular service.

The artist says, “Like all my paintings, these live paintings are unplanned, and I rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide me as I paint. Many times I only know the color I am to start with. I see my painting process as an act of worship. Some people play an instrument. I paint a painting.”


"Faith" acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 16" x 20" by artist Kaye Hilde

“Faith” acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 16″ x 20″ by artist Kaye Hilde

Kay Hilde

Mixed media artist Kay Hilde relies heavily on intuition to create her inspirational work. She says, “For me, my intuition is directly connected to my spirituality, so everything I create holds the combined energy of my physical and non-physical (higher) self. The more I tap into that intuitive/spiritual energy, the more my artwork communicates to others in unexpected and serendipitous ways.”

Hilde explains, “I may be inspired to paint dragonflies one day – without any inclination why. Then later (days, weeks, even years), someone will see that particular painting and it proves very meaningful to them. For them the dragonfly represents a loved one who has passed on and they come across my painting exactly when they need that message of comfort from the other side. You can see how creating from that space, waiting for inspiration, influences how and when I paint.”

Life experience has changed the artist over time which is reflected in her portfolio. “When I was younger, my work was usually inspired by my hopes and fears – romantic love, heartbreak, finding my voice, expressing my independence” she says. “When I started sharing my art publicly and selling it, I created more ‘marketable’ pieces. They were still my signature style, but they represented the collective, rather than me personally. Today my art is both personal and universal, always heart centered, and only holds inspired and optimistic colors, words, and energy.”


"Afternoon Stroll" oil, 16" x 20" by artist Bunny Oliver

“Afternoon Stroll” oil, 16″ x 20″ by artist Bunny Oliver

Bunny Oliver

Painter Bunny Oliver expresses her spiritual connection through service. Taking on a humanitarian project with her church has allowed her to paint what inspires her in her travels, and turn the sales of her art into a charitable way of helping others in a dramatic way.

She shares the story of a trip she made to Honduras where the project started. The artist says, “I joined a group from my church to build houses for people who had lost even their meager possessions after Hurricane Mitch, and these precious children were put in my path. Because of extreme poverty, most did not go to school beyond the 6th grade. To break the cycle of poverty, this needed to change.”

“Quite accidentally, I picked up a flyer about a scholarship program for kids in another area of Honduras,” she continues The wheels started turning. Could we provide a way for these children to continue their education? Our group brainstormed, and a plan was hatched.”

Oliver decided to paint scenes from Honduras, with the sale of each one funding a scholarship program for these children. From this small leap of faith, to date over 600 scholarships have been donated. Eleven children are headed to university who otherwise would never have even gone to 7th grade.

She shares the great privilege she has experienced in undertaking the project, saying “For years I dreamed of being a professional artist and was able to realize that dream in the 1990’s. It has been an honor to use my dream to help young Hondurans realize their dreams…children who likely didn’t even know what to dream about before the opportunity to continue their schooling. ‘Blessed to be a blessing’ is a theme at our church, and I have been blessed by this opportunity to share with the children of Honduras.”



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  1. What a fantastically inspiring article I love hearing and seeing the blessings come to life in these three women. Thanks Carolyn for writing and publishing and using your gifts!

  2. Cindy Fort says

    Thank you so much for this article, Carolyn! I am going to share it on my page this weekend!

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