DISCLAIMER: I am not a “painter”. I don’t know color theory. I don’t know (yet) which paint brush is appropriate for which type of paint. Working with canvas is a whole new world to me. If I can guide people in creating something like this, you can too!

My congregation created this 4 foot by 8 foot mural for Advent this year. Our Advent theme was “I Will Sing” and we invited the congregation to think of why they still sing in the midst of it all, and to claim their God-given song. I wanted to create a large community art piece that fit the theme but could be hung year-round (so, not super Christmasy). I came up with the broad design of the words we sing to the world flowing out across the painting and the colors moving from dark to light.

The mural is made of 4 separate canvases, using acrylic paint, paint pens, and metal letters of the Hobby Lobby variety. I set out the canvases and paint in the fellowship hall (our gathering spot) and invited people to pick up a brush before and after worship while they were chatting and drinking coffee. Some people (kids especially! They are great for leading others into creative adventures) dove right in. Others needed some convincing. Still others didn’t want to participate and that’s totally ok. This was a very open ended project, but even with open ended art, some guidelines are useful when working with groups. (see below)

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My guidelines:

  • I drew the shape that would contain their words before painting day. I explained that only words could be written within those lines, and the surrounding area is where they could paint.
  • I asked everyone to sum up the song God gave them in one word, and write that word, using a paint pen, somewhere within the lines.
  • I pre-selected a color pallet for each panel and asked folks to use only those colors on that panel.
  • As for WHAT to paint, I simply asked people to think abstract as opposed to particular pictures. Think lines and shapes… we still ended up with some flowers, but they are really beautiful.

That’s it! Those were the only “rules” I gave them and this is what they created. I was blown away!

If you have some people in your congregation who like to paint or draw, it’s good to bring them in as helpers. They can encourage the people who don’t know they are artists yet, and redirect the 3 year old about to dump the red paint on the green panel. Inevitably, someone won’t follow directions. That’s ok! Everything is fixable or workable. I had to paint over and redo a misspelling and do some color touch-ups later. It’s more important that people feel welcome to join in and create something together than for them to get things right.

Come to think of it, that’s a great approach to church in general…