Good Zeal

Shades and Shadows

Painting of Chapel and Sunken GardenSome time ago I started taking an art class. We were given a picture and told to look at it to see the various shades and shadows so that we could paint what we saw. The more I looked at the picture the more I noticed the details that previously skipped my attention. It was so easy to look at the picture without really seeing it in all its richness. As I started to look at nature, buildings, and other forms during the week I was amazed at what I have missed.

All of a sudden I thought this concept could be transferred to people. Often times, I just look at a person, make a snap judgment about what I see and don’t take the time to study what makes the person different and interesting. It goes far beyond the shape of their torso, the color or shades of their hair, eyes, skin or even their outward actions. In fact, it is what is not evident, what is unseen that makes each person unique. So how does a person get “under the skin” of another to find another’s uniqueness?

In watercolor it is important to decide what needs to stand out in the end. First comes the wash, then the lighter colors, followed by the darker colors. It is not that different with people. We see what is most evident first, then we get a glimpse of their personality. But if we want to go beyond that to really know the person, we must go deeper and discover the gifts within.

With watercolor, it is important to take your time and let one layer dry before attempting to paint the next layer. Otherwise, all the colors run together and you are left with a mess. It is similar with people. It takes time to get to know the real person, to listen to them, to discover their dreams and fears, their joys and sorrows. A trust has to be built up.

If the painter is patient, looks deeply at the subject with all its nuances, and carefully paints what is seen, a lovely picture can evolve. So too with us. If we take the time and effort to really get to know another, we will see the artistry of God’s work.
By Sister Veronica Ryan, OSB

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