#3 Culture Care Series-Acrylic Painting of Starry Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

 Supplies:  a blank canvas, sponge brush and other brush, blue, red or orange, white, yellow, and black acrylic paint. [Chapt. 7,8 & 9. Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura]

Youtube Video Link


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Welcome to The Maker’s Space! This is a place where you can come out of your busy, chaotic world and slow down to listen to your Maker.  We use art as a tool to learn new things.  It’s good to make our brains uncomfortable because it kicks us out of automatic pilot, like when we are binge watching tv….into a learning mode, where we are ready to learn new things about ourselves from our Maker with the goal of change and being transformed.  I want to change and grow into my better self—-don’t you?  What better way than to hear from the One who made you and loves you and wants you to become your best self? Sounds like work and self-help books, right?  However, we really don’t have to do a thing except focus our minds on God and get to know Him.  The more we get to know Him, we supernaturally transform.

We are also using the book Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura to explore new concepts to help us grow.  Our theme this series is how can we bridge our divided cultures with our own unique beauty?  Why does there have to be winners and losers?  Why can’t we work toward the goal of all flourishing?  Then, ideally we can live in a place where we all thrive not just survive!

This time, we will be painting a copy of a famous painting by Vincent Van Gogh called Starry Night. I know it looks hard, but I will lead you step by step.  And as you know now, it is not about the art product, but letting the doing of the art or making something with Jesus as the goal.  We will be talking about Van Gogh and how he sought beauty in the ordinary and how he was on the outskirts of culture.

But first, let’s pause and invite God into our painting.  He loves to be with us and we learn more about Him and more about what He thinks about us when we pause and intentionally invite Him into the process. He also can use our art to show us things.

Close your eyes to block out the distractions around you and take some slow, deep breaths to slow your heart and body and mind down to a pace where you can notice thoughts going through your mind. Brain science says that pausing in a stressful situation and taking even 10 deep, slow breaths, can slow your heart rate. We are practicing being in the presence of God, but to start, you have to believe that He is there. After believing that He is here, you need to think about Him so that you can get to know Him.  If your mind wanders, keep training it back on Jesus.  After some deep breathing, I will read a passage from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. Imagine Jesus speaking to you.

LET ME TEACH YOU how to spend more of your time in the present. The future, as most people conceptualize it, does not really exist. When you gaze into your tomorrows, making predictions, you are simply exercising your imagination. I alone have access to what is “not yet” because I am not limited by time. As you go step by step through each day, I unfurl the future before you. However, while you’re moving forward through time, you never set foot on anything but the present moment. Recognizing the futility of gazing into yet-to-come times can set you free to live more fully in the present.

Becoming free is a demanding process because your mind is accustomed to wandering into the future at will. When you find yourself caught up in such thoughts, recognize that you are roaming in a fantasyland. Awakening yourself to this truth helps you return to the present, where I eagerly await you, ready to enfold you in My unfailing Love.

Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?


“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”


Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

—PSALM 32:10

Take another deep breath and stay enfolded in His unfailing love.

 Lord, I love this reminder that even though you can show us things in the future, You meet with us only in the present.  Imaginations are good things, what if You gave us our imaginations in order to connect with You? We invite you to be with us and do art with us to show us about You. Amen.

#1Start by taking your canvas and a plastic plate, and pour some blue paint on the plate.  Take your sponge and get it a bit damp, and cover the the whole canvas in blue.

So this time, I would like you to reflect on the question, “If you had all of the resources you needed to get started, what non-profit organization would you start? Something that you feel passionate about to better society? As you paint, I would love to hear about your passions.

Last time, we made the connection of Culture Care with Soul Care.  How can beauty be a bridge for our clashing cultures? What are we inviting people into? Beauty as food for the soul and why would beauty attract others? What sort of food does the soul need?  What is beauty and how does it feed that part of us that is more than instinct and appetite?  Any thoughts?

Let’s talk a bit about beauty as we let our first layer dry.


“Beauty is notoriously hard too pin down, and it is often spoken of together with other ultimate concerns, the true and the good.  It has also be described as “goodness made manifest to the senses.’ “Experience shows that lack of either truth or goodness,[in workmanship or in the moral sense] detracts from the beauty of a given artifact.”

“Beauty is the quality connected with those things that are in themselves appealing and desirable.  Beautiful things are a delight to the senses, a pleasure to the mind, and a refreshment for the spirit.  Beauty invites us in, capturing our attention and making us want to linger.  Beautiful things are worth our scrutiny, rewarding to contemplate, deserving of pursuit.  They inspire, or even demand a response, whether sharing them in community or acting to extend their beauty into other spheres.” Fujimura

Beauty can be connected to Culture Care in four ways: gratuity, stewardship, justice, and our response.

Gratuity:  “Beauty is a gratuitous gift of the creator God; it finds its source and its purpose in God’s character.  God, out of his gratuitous love, created a world he did not need because he is an Artist.  But even if we would agree that beauty is not necessary to our daily survival, it is still necessary for our flourishing.  Our sense of beauty and our creativity are central to what its means to be made in the image of a creative God.  The satisfaction in beauty we feel is connected deeply with our reflection of God’s character to create and value gratuity.  It is part of our human nature.  This is why our soul hungers for beauty. When we encounter beauty, we want to slow down and partake of its refreshment, and let it connect us to our deepest selves.

Stewardship: “Since beauty is something that is given to us in nature and culture, we can add to it and cultivate it.”

Justice: “Beauty, sooner or later, brings us into contact with our own capacity for making errors.  An encounter with beauty can open the door of perception to turn from our errors and begin a journey toward the authentic. Christians call this repentance, to turn back, often sparked by an encounter with the beautiful.”  

Our response:  Considering that we are all artists as we were created to live creatively, what is our response?  “In Isaiah 61, the prophet makes a connection between beauty, suffering, and justice that speaks directly to a role the arts should be playing.  Those who receive crowns of beauty are those who have been poor, broken-hearted, captive, mourning, grieving, and despairing—and the result of God’s intervention is that these same people are to be called oaks of righteousness.  They are called to rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated. An encounter with beauty can show us what could be, and can make us rightly dissatisfied with the way things are.”

#2 Take your black and your brush, and we are going to outline the hills and mountains in the lower third of the canvas. Make a mark at the left, and a mark on the right a little higher. Draw the left hill, and right hill converging to left hill. 2nd right hill converging to center. 3rd right line making a triangle pointing to center.  When you are done, rinse your brush and let it dry.

Artists in history, have functioned in society to reveal brokenness, but they can also lead the way toward reconnection, reconciliation and reintegration.”

Artists are often called “Others” in society and can read culture and interpret culture for change.  Artists have a great capacity to see someone who is “other” as their “neighbor.” Artists are instinctively uncomfortable in homogeneous groups and are often “border-walkers.  In history, they were and are individuals who live on the edges of their groups, going in and out of them, sometimes bringing news back to the tribe.

Two artists that lived on the borders of their society, and were considered “other” because they did not fit in with the mainstream of society were Emily Dickinson, the poet, and Vincent Van Gogh, the painter.  Both lived in the 1800’s and struggled to fit into the context of their churches. I encourage you to read further into their theological struggles that influenced their art. Two recent books that address this subject are……”Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh-A Portrait of the Compassionate Life by Carol A. Berry, and Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief by Roger Lundin. 

Emily lived reclusively but her struggles with faith, placed her at the edge of faith and cultural discourse and is precisely why she is valuable to society today as it goes in a different direction than the time that she lived.  Vincent also struggled with societal norms of faith, and was rejected in his life desire to be a pastor.  He, like Emily, rejected the “God of the clergyman,” but did not lose his awareness of God’s presence in the lives of the poor, nor his sense of God urging him to love others.  He turned to art to express his and God’s love of people. His art training began because of his rejection of what he thought he was called to do, and began to study drawing and painting as he studied the poor and peasants around him and their lives which were different from his own.  “His paintings are color-filled parables of genesis moments.”  By the time of his tragic death, after all of his searching, for his purpose, he only had 3 years of devoting his life to the paintings he is known for all over the world.” Fujimura

Observe Vincent’s Painting while we let our first layer dry a bit more.

“Time spent in consideration of his famous Starry Night can become a journey into the heart of  a border walker.  The painting is not set in Arles, France where it was painted.  At the very center of the painting is a white Dutch Reformed church.  Vincent imported a church building from his childhood, pasting it into the French landscape to create a parable of his own life.  If you observe the church by placing a finger over it, the painting falls apart visually.  The church is the only vertical form, aside from the dominant cypress tree on the left, which juts out to break the horizontal planes.  The tree and the church are the two forms that connect heaven and earth.  Without the church the cypress takes over the swirl of movement and there is no visual center to hold the painting in tension.  Notice, too, how the homes surrounding the church are lit with warm light.  The church is the only building in the painting that is completely dark.  Herein lies Vincent’s message, particular to the reality of being a border-stalker:  the Spirit has left the church-at least the building-but is active in nature.  If you follow the visual flow of the painting.your eye will cycle upward, still anchored by the church building.  Your gaze will come to rest in the upper right corner, on the Sun/Moon.  This is not just a moon, nor a sun but a combination.  Vincent wanted to show that the Spirit of God transcends even nature—that in the Resurrection, in the New Earth and New Heaven, a complete new order will shape the things to come..  He developed a visual dictation that serves as a bridge between our current condition and a future transformed, genesis condition.  He envisioned the transformation and by faith painted the world to come, as a border walker walking the borders between earth and heaven.  He also depicted a world that he was intuiting, a world in which the church still holds things together structurally, but one in which the light has gone out of the church building.” Fujimura 

Now that the first layer is a bit dry, let’s start our starry night!

#3  Let’s mark off the swirl and the lower stream of wind, with black broken line using your small brush.  The first swirl goes halfway and the second connects where the first finishes.

Mix some blue, equal parts of blue and white and paint in the swirl and bottom wind.

These swirls of wind do not look like a night sky as we see it, but the different blues draw you into the depth of the universe and the recent photos from the Hubble telescope depict swirls around the stars and spiral shaped galaxies. Awesome!  His insight?  What did he see? 

#4Mix white for the circles of moon and stars in the sky.  Start with the moon in white since it is the largest circle. Look at the original and notice the bottom star is a bit larger, and is considered to be Venus or morning star. Start by making a more solid circle and then make feathery brush strokes around the circles. After the stars are all placed and feathered, make some white dashes throughout the whole wind. Continue around the stars depicting movement, turbulence and vibrancy and pulsating nature of the wind.

As we said before, this orb is a combination of a sun/moon.  Every time that Vincent would depict the sun, it was a symbol of the divine, “the source that empowers creation. He felt that beyond everyday reality, there existed a font of inexhaustible love and light—a light that permeates all the shadows and dark corners of life.  The inner beauty, the inner light, the capacity to love inherent in all people came from the same source.  Nothing was too insignificant or too lowly to not have within itself the divine spark of light and love.”-Carol Berry

#5 Let’s take some of the light blue mix and add a bit of white and start outlining the hills in stripy downstrokes.  The middle hill is mostly black, as well as the flat ground.  Make stripes on the flat ground using the black.  Mix some green, using a bit of yellow and blue and a bit of black, and make some half circles in the triangle corner. Now mixing some orange and black and green, make flat brush strokes on the flat ground.

Supposedly, this painting and these hills could be seen from the monastery asylum sanctuary not far from Arles that he checked himself into after his hospitalization after his ear mutilation.  The people of Arles had asked him to leave and boarded up his house,  His dream of a community of artists painting in Arles was dashed.  However, his doctor realized that painting was necessary for his healing and restored balance and gave him a studio and room to store his paints.  A time of intense creativity ensued, and in the year he was there, he painted more than 140 paintings and sketches, even though he felt a loss of independence and increased seizures.  He was in a safe , structured environment and his creativity increased.  He continued intense reading and writing letters to his brother Theo.  He also felt the cries of other patients and spent much time comforting them.  He was thriving in a different way in spite of his personal struggles.  He painted so much of nature, because nature soothed him and calmed him and spoke to him.  Despite his barred windows, they did not barr his creative spirit and he continued to paint nature.

#6 Let’s paint in the cypress. Mix together some blue and yellow to make green and add some black to make it dark.  Even though it is traditionally planted in cemeteries and is associated with dying, it bridges the land and the sky and its pointy branches points to heaven and to hope away from the pain of earthly existence.

#7  Now lets go back to the sky and make sure we have light blue, blue and white, dashes in the wind, around the stars and moon.  After you are satisfied with that, take some of your dark blue and do the same.

Vincent painted this in the Saint-Remy monastery, and would often “contemplate the deep blue night sky with the sparkling lights of moon and stars over Saint-Remy.” Carol Berry  He wrote to Theo, “The moon is still shining and the sun and evening star, which is a good thing— and they also often speak of the Love of God, and make one think of the words, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

#8 Take your yellow and make circles in the moon and in the stars.  Make a few feathery lines around the moon and stars.  Make some yellow dashes in the wind as well.

#9 Now it's time to paint the church. Make a white line for steeple of the church in the middle of the painting, center it, where the hills converge, starting at the sky and drawing straight down to the top of the village. It is a Dutch reformed church in the French countryside, signifying his journey and his history.  Widen it at the base, and leave a small space between the shapes where you will outline the shapes in black later. Make a square for the building or cube.  Now make rooftops and building shapes around the church, going towards the bottom of the village the buildings get larger as they get closer to the viewer. Use different colors on your palette for the roofs and buildings. Some can be a roof with a building covered with a bush of green.  And after that, you can paint windows in the buildings using your yellow and painting the windows of the church black.  What was he trying to say by doing that?  That even though it seemed that the light of the Spirit had gone out of the church establishment for him, it was alive and present in the homes of ordinary people blowing through out the world. You can finish outlining the buildings and steeple in black.  It can act as a clean up to your buildings.  You can simplify and not have as many buildings as Vincent had. It is your painting, do as many as you want. You can pause this until you have the village as you like it. You can outline the buildings in black as he did or not, as you wish.

#10 Mix red and yellow to make orange and make a crescent moon or a letter C.  In every single star add a little dot of orange so that it shimmers. Add some of the orange dashes sparingly around the moon, stars and in the wind.

#11 Fill in any negative space with the dark blue dashes around the wind and the moon and stars and clean up any points on the wind.  This will make the sky seem like it is vibrating and alive as nature in its pure state is alive and vibrant, waiting for Jesus to release it from the confines of sin so it can burst forth into the original colors of creation praising God.  Step back and take a look at your painting and add any more that you think that it needs.

In summary, Vincent’s vision and dream for his life was realized but not in the way he thought.  He wanted to be a pastor to show people God and explain God.  Instead, he became a painter and his paintings expressed emotions and speak to us about God’s love and about the holiness of everyday life.

His dream of a brotherhood of artists in Arles, was not realized in his lifetime, but exists in the asylum now to promote the therapeutic value of creating art. This painting was in a group of paintings where Vincent was dazzled by the beautiful nights in Southern France where the sky was a blaze of activity.  Though he thought his interpretation was a failure, it spoke of his life, his experiences and had a visionary component of his years of developing his theology that intuitively came through in his composition.  As always, God can use art to speak to us, sometimes unknown to the artist, but always using the artist that searches after the heart of God, as Vincent did.  If you seek Him, you will find Him, for He wants to found by you and be with you. Be assured…that He sees you and cares deeply for you.

More pictures from the Colorado Mom/daughter VCHS group


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