In the creative arts, the artist often uses a primer as the first step of her work. Before any color or lines are added, she covers the surface to prepare it to better receive mediums such as paint, pastel, charcoal. Priming readies the substrate to better display the artist’s vision as it allows the colors to shine pure and vivid in color and contrast.

Rather than store-bought primer, I often prefer to prime my artwork with pages of prayers, Scripture, hymns, and books. The words feed my spirit as I compose them carefully on the substrate. Most of them end up covered upon completion of the piece, but I find that this beginning step slows me down and primes my soul to know God through the work and commune with Him as I create. I also sense that laying truth, prayers, praises, and laments, primes the artwork to shine His glory to those that view it.

I am a mixed media artist and work primarily with encaustic medium, oil paints, pastels, and papers. Encaustic is beeswax and damar resin that I melt and paint with a paint brush while it is hot. It comes in many colors just like other kinds of paints. My common tools are a hot plate, a blow torch, a heat gun, paint brushes, and carving tools. I love painting the wax in layers, fusing them together with heat, and then carving back into them to reveal things laid underneath.

Spiritual Truths in the Cover of Understanding Wisdom

The artwork I did for the cover of the Understanding Wisdom Bible study by Maria Currey contains several metaphors that communicate deep spiritual truths to my heart.

The Background:

The bottom of the painting is primed with Bible pages from Proverbs and reminds me that the way to flourish and grow as God designed is to be rooted in God’s Word seeking His wisdom which is a tree of life to those who seek it (Prov. 3:18). Rather than following the wisdom of the world, my flesh, or the desires of my own deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9), my heart is recalibrated to turn towards the life that God holds out for me through His Word.

The roots are carved out of the encaustic that I painted on top of pages from Proverbs. This represents mining and looking below the surface to apply God’s wisdom at the core of our being (Prov. 2:3-5). I cut back the wax with sharp pottery tools in this step. Likewise, often God refines us by cutting out and removing some things that don’t align with His good will for us (John 15:2). This process can be painful, like a scalpel at work in our heart, but our Master Artist has His beauty in mind for us and settles for nothing less (Heb. 12: 11-13). Also, in the painting many of the words are not seen, just as our hearts are unseen to those around us. May God increasingly shape us and write His Word on the secret and unseen spaces that only He can see. Only then will we shine in beauty from our innermost heart (1 Peter 4:3-5).

The Tree:

To create the tree, I used scraps of wax that I carved out from other artworks. I mold and sculpt each piece with my hands into the artwork. This process takes a long time, but brings me joy as I meditate on the ways that God has taken me from the scrap pile of life, and grafted me into His tree, giving me new life, purpose and beauty in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Truly, He does choose the weak and shameful things of this world to show His strength. Even more, He invites us to Himself and makes us His beloved children, beautiful in His sight (1 John 3:1). The scraps also speak to me of all the things in my life that I would rather throw away and forget. In God’s economy, none of it is wasted. Every part of our story— even the places we would rather forget and that seem to painful or shameful to share— will be redeemed by Him and become places of beauty as we come to know His care in the very places we’d rather toss out and be done with (Is. 61 and Rom. 8:28).

The leaves of the tree in this cover art shimmer with gold pastel. The light behind the tree also shines brightly with this metallic hue. This represents the radiance of God’s glory. The tree flourishes and thrives, growing in Him planted deeply in His Word. Though it is curved and bent, it grows tall withstanding the storms of life as God faithfully grows and strengthens it. The golden leaves reflect the radiance of God and radiate God’s faithfulness to the one who plants himself in God’s Word and lets nothing persuade him to live by any other way than the paths laid for him (2 Cor. 3:18, 4:7).

Just as an artist primes the canvas for her artwork, so must our hearts be primed as we seek to walk God’s path of wisdom each day for His glory. We do this in prayer, through time in His word, in music, and even in using our hands to create things while communing with Him. Understanding Wisdom would be a great resource to study the Bible alone or with a group. Prayerfully join us as we seek to prime our hearts using this tool!

Photo by Sema Martin on Unsplash

Lisa Tarplee

Lisa and her husband, Adam, and two sons live in Highland Village, TX. She is a member of Denton Presbyterian Church and enjoys serving in women’s discipleship and counseling at DPC. With a minor in art she is largely a self-taught encaustic mixed media artist and draws inspiration from life and faith in Christ. Her art reflects a journey of lament, joy, hope, and beauty, resulting in a visual parable and prayer. Lisa shows her work in galleries and art festivals and can be found at