The Journey of an Artist who is a Christian

By Jim Paterson

There is a brilliant book by David Galenson called, Old Masters and Young Geniuses, in which he makes a point for the credibility of those that develop later in life. The ones who take time to mature while coming to effective, if not profound, creative expression a little later than the rest.

James Paterson's Prayer Machine represents a lifelong journey into art.
James Paterson’s Prayer Machine represents a lifelong journey into art.

In a culture that gives popular acclaim to precocity and exults the energy of youth, Galenson makes a great case for those who seemingly muddle along much of their lives in search of, they aren’t sure what, but end up saying something new and valid and true in the end. (The book itself is in-depth, he’s an economist after all; for an easier read, Malcolm Gladwell capsulizes his thesis nicely in his book, What the Dog Saw, in the chapter “Late Bloomers”).

I love what Galenson says, because I feel like I’ve been muddling along most of my life, in search of I don’t know what, but figured if I tinkered long enough something would emerge.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a vision.

From my earliest memories I had this “idea” that I wanted to express. I was aware of an ethereal image, like an elusive shadow, that would float before my mind’s eye that I knew I wanted to capture.

And so I set off on a spacious road for an unknown land.

I called the unknown land, “Art” because on the map I was drawing, it seemed like a place that had a recognizable name. Not many of the people I talked to knew what the place was like or where it was, but at least they had heard of it.

Then came other place names that needed marking on the map of my journey: Career, Faith, Beliefs, Marriage, Family and Evangelical Upbringing. How was I to locate, then visit, all of these diverse locales on one topography?

I had the notion from the start that God was inviting me to make this journey, and I sensed that getting to know Him was important from the outset.

God the Father, I believe, set the course and prepared me for the destination. Jesus the Son has been my traveling companion and confidante in discouragement, confusion and joy along the way. The Holy Spirit inspires me through the hard trudging days and quickens me on the exuberant ones.

I wasn’t sure what “art,” was when I set out and I didn’t know what being an “artist” meant. I knew I had ideas I wanted to express and visual art became my vehicle of expression.

I’ve spent many years and progressed through many phases and genres to learn my craft and find my voice, but by God’s grace and faithfulness He brought me to this place where this body of work I call Prayer Machines has emerged. They have come to embody what I saw in my spirit from the start, but they also resonate with other people and speak to them.

I simply use wire lines, forms, colours and hand-driven motion as elements which morph to become ambiguous machine-like objects that invite reflection, stimulate ideas and interaction.

With these creations I call Prayer Machines, I’m putting substance to the elusive shadows of the ethereal images I saw as a child but didn’t have the tools yet to bring into focus. Now they’ve finally emerged as vehicles of my imagination to convey visually the journey of faith I’ve been on and to give expression to mystery.

Jim Paterson is an artist featured in Faith Today‘s Canadian Creatives spotlight in Jan/Feb. He will be showing his new Prayer Machines at The Artist Project show in Toronto, February 18-21 booth # 327. You can also visit or for more information.


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