Prints

Finding a printer in the Lexington, KY area who is willing to print high quality prints with archival inks, is basically impossible. 

I have been searching for this for weeks.  After a couple of years of lessons from Steve, my art has reached the point where people are interested in purchasing it. However, an original isn't in everyone's budget, so, some people want prints. 

While voicing this frustration, Steve revealed to me that he does this, and does it well.  So, this blog post is a favor to you artists out there, see Steve. 

Below are some recommendations from some other artists who have used Steve for their prints.  They're glowing. It shouldn't have surprised me.  Steve seems to build his career around serving others and helping other artists.  Yet, I was surprised to find yet another service he provides. 

-Allison

 

"I have tried many highly recommended, expensive printmaking services in the past and I have always been disappointed with the way my art prints looked.  The prints were one disaster after another.  I was so disappointed because I had wasted so much money on bad prints.   A few years ago all that disappointment ended when  I found Stephen Sawyer.  In my opinion his prints come out far better than any other.   Also his prices are very reasonable and fair and he is excellent at what he does.  I would not use anyone else!"

-Nancy

 

"I am so fortunate to have my original pastel artwork, that is showing at Art for God Gallery, printed by Stephen Sawyer.  The results are wonderful!  His work is of the best quality, and the Giclee images are virtually indistinguishable from the originals.  He uses the finest quality archival paper and inks, adding to my confidence in the final product.  I also really enjoy working with Stephen, in part because it is so obvious that he truly cares about my art and my art business.  It takes the worry out, to be able to trust my artwork giclees to someone who treats them with the same care that he would his own."

-Debbie

 

"I have been greatly blessed, and forever inspired, to have been afforded the opportunity to work with Stephen Sawyer over the years as he has reproduced several pieces of my art.  Each time, I have been simply stunned with the quality of the final products; often seemingly superior to my original!  With Steve, I have always been provided with much more than just high-quality reproductions.   Having such an accomplished artist give of his time, talent, knowledge, energy and advice in the hopes of furthering this meager novelist's career and work are of a value that I could never put a price upon."
Doug Miller

 


 

 

Posted on November 6, 2016 .

If Life is Not Turning Out the Way You Expected or Planned, Read This

Consider this, an honest observation of the natural world witnesses chaos and violence as an integral part of progress. 

Survival of the fittest is a provable reality. 

Whether it is water tearing through a river basin or reshaping boulders, water wins. Is there destruction in the wake of a flood? Does the serpentine shape of a newly formed river follow the laws of chaos? 

On the open plains of the Serengeti the slow zebra is surely the dead zebra and the fastest most violent self-serving lion will eat at the head of that steaming black and white table all the while reluctantly sharing the feast with other lions.

Considerably farther down the food chain, honey bees are not self serving. Every act of the honey bee is for the sake of the queen and the hive.

Most valid research indicates that these types of creatures existed long before humans. So what did God learn from this?

God was able to verify that life on this planet is and will always be very predictable. The lower orders of life would function selflessly. The higher orders, with limited free will slowly added to the recipe, predictably became more selfish. 

Mankind is now ready to take the stage. Born with a remarkable balance of free will and instinct, man is set to attempt what no other creature has ever done.

History unfailingly tells us who we are and what we are capable of. Even though the winners write history to glorify themselves, the facts lay before us in pools of blood, chaos, and violence. Unable or unwilling to kill other humans, the kind and meek died on the battlefield by the millions.

To the agnostic and atheist this life experience denies a loving God or a god altogether.

And God wonders, "Can my children use their free will to overcome their laziness, selfish fears and violence? Will they allow my spirit to help them overpower their animal ancestry of these very same traits? Will they break through the inertia of the animal kingdom to experience the power of free will dominated by love and thereby learn my true nature?"

I believe there was once such man who accomplished this.
He made preposterous claims that he and this creator were the same and yet he would always yield and say, "It is not my will but your will be done." 

There are written stories that say this man was able to defy natural law. Real physical ailments and diseases were cured within moments. These events, if they were accomplished, weren't done by shouting prayers for healing repeatedly. There are no recorded statements that a collection plate was passed around after the miracles. This man simply inquired if such a healing was the will of the creator, which he called, "Father". If he determined it was he would simply say something like, "rise, take up your bed and walk."

And you might say, "What about my life that didn't turn out the way I planned. When are we going to talk about that?"

This is your life. Whether by accident or intention, every man and woman has been a victim of chaos and violence. Everyone has been taken advantage of by the selfish manifestations of people they often know and call friend.

Some wear these physical expressions of a selfish heart as a Gucci suit while for others they are the sack cloth and ashes of a tormented soul.

As the honeybee lives for the greater good, sacrificing his "self" totally unaware, we are called to sacrifice our selfish cravings totally aware. The honeybee neither dons jewelry or shame.
To whom much is given, much is required.

Every person I have met acknowledges a reservoir of power that lies within the human mind and heart.
And while they rarely agree as to the source of this power and how it should be used, they know this power exists. 

Millions of men and women fawn over those with power and wealth. They want their photo taken next to a famous, powerful or rich person. Even though history shows us that their power and wealth are virtually always acquired by selfish means, we honor them anyway. 

Our churches are full of people who will tell you the famous person they met before they will tell you about the unknown, "unimportant" person they met.

This wreckage of our lives is like the twisted steel of a bridge after a massive earthquake. Our masterful rationalization, for our cosmetically covered selfish lives, now becomes something uselessly akin to a piece of abstract art. 

If I am correct. We are more selfish that we want our friends to know. We have caused as much or more chaos in the lives of others as they have created in ours.

Why should our lives turn out as we planned? We have stolen from others with our mind, heart, hands, and soul. 

Now is not the time to get depressed and think about how horrible we are.

Here is some remarkably great news. This gift of self awareness comes at a price. We are incapable of standing triumphant on the shores of a greater good without having swum through the cesspools of selfishness. It is impossible to triumphantly manifest courage, kindness, and real sacrifice without bearing the crushing weight of self love, self admiration, and the seeds of self destruction that grows from it.

Every one of us has had the opportunity to say, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Precious few have ever risen to such spectacular heights of unchallengeable spiritual power as did Jesus when he spoke those words. And I assure you those words will echo for all eternity and to the furthermost reaches of space as power, love,and hope.

But this much is absolutely and eternally true. 
We are capable of living a self-forgetful existence.
 

To experience the real power of free will and tap into this power is within our grasp. 

Unlike the honeybee, we have been given the free will opportunity to make our life plans and watch them fall apart over and over and over. Unlike the lion, we have been given the privilege of forgiving and asking forgiveness as we ascend this ladder from selfish animal to unselfish man. 

As we climb the challenging and adventurous ladder of life, rung by laborious rung,our backpacks are heavy with potential failure. If we would just realize we strapped this heavy load on ourselves we might just as easily discard it. Even when someone you trust offers you the bag of selfish sorrows and bids you to carry it. Think about the longevity of that commitment.

If you believe in God, thank him for not letting your life turn out the way you planned. If it did you would have no compassion for others. You would pity them for not having divine favor, as you surely must, and you would bask in the magnificence of your reflection.

Thank God for your trials. Thank God for your enemies. Thank God for your friends. And if you have a noble and loving family and spouse cry out in gratitude every day.

Stop giving money to the church if you think God is going to give you more money back.
That is not a sacrifice, that is a selfish bribe.

Stop asking God to make your problems go away. Remember that Jesus, as an kind, unresisting self forgetful man, faced every trial and indignity with the absolute power of human potential, he loved and forgave those who spitefully used him. 

On the eve of his death, while the disciples clamored for seats of honor around the supper table,Jesus deliberately presented himself as a lowly servant and washed their dusty feet. This selfless act represented and still reflects the highest level of spiritual power that any man or woman might attain. 

While we might consciously cast aside our egos and demean ourselves to attempt holiness, in front of others, Jesus' love for his disciples once again found a way to break through their limitations and thrust a new paradigm of spiritual truth upon them. There was no affectation in this act. It was holiness manifested in flesh.

We must find the daily opportunities before us which give us the moments of choice where we can rise to the mastery of life and seize them passionately and lovingly.

Jesus did not run from problems nor should we. Jesus faced every day knowing he would make a conscious decision that his free will would be subject to the will of the Father.

Go and do something that you will be proud of when you lay your head down to sleep tonight.
Should there be a tomorrow, go and do the same again. And do these things without being asked or told to do them.

Life did not turn out the way Jesus planned but he changed the world forever with his loving kindness to a world crying out for holiness while carrying their burdens of selfish desires. Go and do the same.
We have been called friend by the greatest person who has ever lived. Honor his trust in you.

Posted on October 27, 2016 .

The Way We Learn

Everyone learns differently.  One of the often criticized aspects of traditional public education is that many students have difficulty because they don’t necessarily learn the way a teacher prefers to teach, leading them to believe that they are just not as capable, when they truly are. Art is no different.

“I learn better by hearing,” Nancy declares while in class today.  With a sideways smile, Steve responds, “That’s interesting because it always seems to be that you learn best when I show you something.” 

The conversation struck a chord with me.  Steve is particularly good at this, understanding precisely what his students need, even when they don’t.  He’s right, of course, Nancy really responds when she is shown something.  Meanwhile, I ask for him to do something for me on the canvas, and he gives me a sideways glance, knowing it’s better if he just explains it to me and I stumble around for a bit, it’s how I learn. Other students in the class are no different.  It seems Steve finds exactly how they learn and, even when they think they need one thing, he gives them what will truly benefit them in the long run and improve their painting.

As with most of our art classes, the interactions today made me think of my relationship with God.  How often do I expect him to approach me a certain way, and then become frustrated when it seems that doesn’t happen? 

So often I hear someone give a powerful testimony, and a small part of me is sad, “God doesn’t speak to me that way,” I think.  Then, somehow this becomes an indication of God’s love for me, or lack thereof.  I know I have heard others say, “Well, God just doesn’t speak to me.”  Maybe the truth is, God speaks to us differently.  Just like an art class, he gives us each what we need, infinitely wiser than ourselves.  Perhaps we can trust him to love us and have our best interest at heart? He did send his son for us after all, how much more love can he demonstrate?  

Steve has been painting most of his life, he’s sold paintings all over the world, maybe I can learn to trust the way he approaches me too?

Posted on October 19, 2016 .

Advice to the Aspiring Artist

“What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an artist? Or, someone who isn’t sure if they definitely want to pursue art as a career?”  The time came for me to ask Steve a random question, disguising my need for advice with a question I hope will lead him to the answer I am hoping for.  His response startled me, “I would never suggest to someone that they choose art as a career.” 

The answer came as a shock, because only moments ago I had asked him if he could do it all over again, would he still be an artist. His response was, “Yes, definitely!”  Yet, now he was saying that there is no way he would suggest that path to anyone else. 

He explained, Steve would never advise someone to choose art or painting for a career, because the career is more something that chooses you.  It’s something that you can’t not do.  It’s something that you are called to, and despite what you may choose, you need to do it.  Then he says, even though if he had to go back and do it again, he would, if he had known all the sacrifice that would come with being an artist he is unsure if he would have the courage to do it.

“That’s the thing about culture today,” he says “everyone wants to know what the future holds. Whether it’s through intellectual prediction, fortune telling, or even through God, everyone wants to know what is in their future.” 

I thought about it.  I know this is true for me.  Particularly with the political climate of today, it seems anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s as to what will happen tomorrow.  Things seems so unsure, so unpredictable.  Yes, I want to know.  I want to know who wins the election, what the weather looks like tomorrow, if I will ever make it as an artist, if I am doing the right thing for my kids, and how long I have left on this planet to make an impact.  It almost seems that trying to understand what the future may hold has become synonyms with living in this world. 

Then he says, “Where is the fun in that?”

“If we know what the future holds then there is no reason for faith.  And, a life without faith, already knowing what is to come. Where is the fun in that?  What is the point?”

I suddenly became very aware of my paintbrush.  I thought of my preoccupation with how my painting will turn out, rather than appreciating each stroke as it’s made, enjoying the process. 

He’s right. 

So, what I have learned from today, to those aspiring to be artists, or really anyone, do whatever it is that you can’t help but do.  Do what God created you to do, and put your faith in him that he can get you through whatever it is you need to sacrifice in order to do it.  

Young Steve and his Family

Young Steve and his Family

Posted on October 12, 2016 .

Portraits

"The experience of creating a portrait of another human being is a lot like falling in love."   - Stephen Sawyer

Stephen Sawyer is a master portrait artist.  Who else would God entrust with the painting of his son?  As I believe Steve was entrusted.  

Take a look at Stephen’s portrait commissions here.

I’ve been learning portraiture from Steve.  It’s not easy. Capturing someone’s likeness is much more complex than capturing a sunset or a flower.

People see and experience so many things in their lives, and somehow these things are held within their outward appearance.  Especially creating a portrait for someone others may know better than yourself, capturing that likeness can be tricky.

I asked Steve today what his favorite thing is about portrait painting.  “Becoming part of the family,” he responded.  “Every so often you will capture the likeness of someone so well, you will become a close family friend, and that’s pretty special.”

He received one letter particularly touching from one client where in it he says, "Finally he exclaimed, "That's it, That's you." I was still not a believer...until I saw the finished portrait..... I saw me, the real me."

It’s letters like this that make me grateful I am learning from Steve, hopeful that eventually I will receive a joyfully written letter or become a new family friend. 

 

Posted on September 14, 2016 .

Fear and Love

“There’s no fear in Love…” It is a song I have grown to love recently.

“Perfect love casts out fear” it is a scripture I know pretty much everyone has heard.  In many Christian circles this is reduced to nothing more than, because Jesus loves us, we don’t have to fear hell.  While this is a lovely reality, there is so much more to it.  

Art is love.  God in his infinite capacity to love created.  He created the heavens and the earth, and you and me.  He created out of love and in his love gave us the capacity to create, like him.  As I paint, I feel so connected to the creator, like I am tapping into something eternal, something pure.

It doesn’t always feel this way, especially when I began taking classes with Steve.  When I started classes at Art 4 God, I was afraid.  I had been painting for a few years, but I was completely self taught and while I was able to create some things exactly the way I intended, my execution was sporadic and my technique was inconsistent.  In short, I could create the perfect brushstroke in the perfect place, but, I didn’t have the confidence or the understanding to create that same brushstroke again. 

I walked into class excited, but nervous about my ability, or lack of ability, to keep up. I also wasn’t sure how to properly use oil paint. So, of course, I choose the most complicated thing to paint, a portrait.  I was definitely afraid, and my painting suffered for it.

My drawing was inaccurate.  I would carefully look at each piece of the painting, sacrificing the whole for each individual part .  Steve always tells us, “Anything you mess up, I can fix,” with the attention of alleviating our fears from the process.  You just can’t create when you’re afraid. 

A funny story that comes up anytime someone is struggling with something in class painting is about that first portrait.  I worked for hours on this ear.  I just could not get it right.  Every so often I would have this “perfect” brushstroke, so I would try to work the rest of the ear around that one stroke. It just wasn’t working. Finally, desperate for a way to get the rest of the ear to cooperate with the one or two bits that I was happy with, I asked Steve for help. Steve saw the struggle for what it was.  I was afraid.  I was afraid to let go, I was afraid of what I was capable of, I was afraid of missing something. I was operating under the subconscious belief that I had no clue what I was doing and anything that came out well was pure accident, and I had to do whatever I could to protect that accident, and if I did it enough a painting would come out.

Steve approached the easel and I felt the tension leave, he picked up the brush, placing it gently on the canvas, and I watched fully prepared for him to work his magic.  Then, he erased it. He swished the brush around, pulling the carefully applied layers of paint off its surface.  My jaw dropped and without intending to I sucked what felt like all the air in the room in one giant gasp.  All of my work, it was gone, in a flash.

In the back of my mind I wanted to grab my canvas right then and there, and fend for myself at home. The only problem was, Steve was the only one I knew who could fix it, and I didn’t want a portrait with no ear.

Steve explained “It wasn’t right.”  There was no way to finish the painting and finish it well with the ear that was there. He could have worked to incorporate what little bits were okay into the rest of the piece, but it would have taken longer and it would not have looked as good.  However jarring it was, it was the right and gracious thing to do for me to remove the ear entirely and start anew.

After recovering from my initial shock, I gave my full attention to Steve as he, in mere minutes, completed the perfect ear.

You can’t create a good painting when you’re afraid to paint.  You can’t do anything well when you are motivated by fear. Maybe that is why the Bible says not to fear so many times. 

I feel like sometimes God does exactly what Steve did.  He blows a bit to rattle our house of cards to show us just how fragile the construct of our lives is.  He does not do it to traumatize us or break us down, he does it so we can build the confidence to do it ourselves, to watch him move on our behalf, and to let us see where the brushstrokes belong. He does it because creativity and love cannot live in an environment of fear.

I love Stephen’s painting of Jesus laughing. I feel it represents who God is so well.  We like to imagine him as serious and angry, but I believe where we are afraid, he is just waiting for us to trust him and enjoy the ride. 

Posted on September 6, 2016 .

Happy Birth Stephen Sawyer

Today is Steve's Birthday.  To celebrate the occasion Steve would like to offer a rare discount.  25% off everything here at Art4God.com, until midnight tomorrow, 8/31.  Use the discount code: BIRTHDAY

Posted on August 30, 2016 .

How Do I Love Thee?

“This reminds me of a time when I was a child…”  Steve was about to retell a story.  It is one he has told several times in class, because a lot of things can remind you of it.  When he was a child he went to Mammoth Cave and they turned out all the lights and it was very dark.  Young Steve gasped, and the tour guide encouraged him not to be afraid.  To which Steve responded, “I am not afraid, I am just scared.”  It is a funny story; it’s adorable.  However, having been in class for over a year now, I have heard it a few times. 

This time was different though, because Cindy was in class.  Cindy is Steve’s wife.  I am SURE Cindy has heard this story several times as well.  My husband and I have been married only five years and we are constantly unintentionally retelling stories to and in front of one another.  Our five years is nothing in comparison to decades Cindy and Steve have been together, raising 5 kids into adulthood together.  Even so, when Cindy heard the story, she laughed.  Not only did she laugh, she guffawed.  She laughed more loudly and more genuinely than anyone else in the room.   And Steve, he came alive.  He told the rest of the story with more life and more vigor than I’d ever heard him tell it. 

It. Was. Beautiful. 

I think there is something particularly special about the love shared between two artists.  One can’t help but think of the great love stories when looking at Cindy and Steve.  Often I’m reminded of the love between Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning, the type of love that created the infamous poem, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Cindy has been gone for about two weeks now, and she came home today.  I am not sure there is a synonym for the word “miss” that is powerful enough to accurately describe how Steve has been longing for Cindy.  All through class today he couldn’t help but mention her and look at his phone to determine exactly how long it would be before she arrived.

About a month ago I remember asking Steve the question, “What is the greatest thing you have ever done in your life?”  I was digging with the question, fully expecting to hear about an accomplishment of his as an artist.  I was expecting to hear about some of the notoriety received from “Calvary” or having his art on the cover of the New York Times, there is a plethora of things he could have chosen from.  Instead what he said was, “Marry Cindy.”

He explained that marrying Cindy is what made the rest of his accomplishments possible, that having her by his side has given him the courage to step out and the freedom to be an artist.  At the time I felt it was a bit of a cop out, a sweet one, but still.  However, watching Cindy laugh uncontrollably at a story she’s heard many times and watching Steve pace through the studio today, I think he is right.  

Posted on August 24, 2016 .

Ode to Versailles, Kentucky

Steve Sawyer has lived all over the place.  Despite his Lexington, Kentucky upbringing, he is lived many places, from New York City to LA, and he has visited places all over the world, from Paris to Beijing.  Being an artist, a place of residence is a strategic decision.  Living in a place that both inspires you artistically and provides you with opportunity can be a difficult line to walk.

Versailles, Kentucky.   I have always wondered why Steve chose to have his gallery here.  His work is known worldwide, so a Versailles, Kentucky art gallery and class location seemed odd.  Although, being in the space and coming to class every week, it makes sense. 

It’s perfect. 

Art 4 God is located just off Main Street Versailles.  Driving past it, one can see the courthouse and a large church just ahead.  Across the street is the First Christian Life Center.  The window in the upstairs studio overlooks Sassy Nails and everything just feels, small town.  It feels small town, but it feels… historic.

What I asked Steve what he likes about small town, that is one of the first things he said, he loves history.  Versailles, Kentucky has a lot of history, and with the building being at least 100 years old, Art 4 God certainly feels a part of that.  The front door is chipped, with layers and layers of paint showing through, almost a work of art in and of itself.  Areas of the building show the original lath and plaster making the walls.  The woodwork is all original.  It is the perfect backdrop for the beautiful large canvases that are showcased there.

There is a chalkboard in the student studio that is covered with “Steve-isms,” interesting or funny things Steve or one of us have said in class that we just have to write down.  Being in class really makes you feel a part of something, I think part of that is the fact that the class is in a small town.

This past class we talked about the religious aspect of Versailles.  Kentucky is definitely in the Bible belt.  There is a church on every corner here, in most of Central Kentucky.  However, it seems, from what Steve has observed, most of the churches in Versailles are cooperative and friendly with one another.  Steve said that he has a lot of respect for that, for being comfortable enough in what you believe that you don’t speak poorly of or look down on others who may have a different view. Being most well known as a Christian Artist painting Jesus paintings, I thought this perspective was interesting and insightful. 

Having an art class in Versailles, Kentucky is really the perfect setting, there is history, there are horses, there are historic buildings, there’s culture.  I guess if it is the perfect place for an art class, it would make sense that it would be a perfect place for an artist. 

Posted on August 10, 2016 .

A Summer Intensive

“I hate it!”  My classmate Nancy was having some trouble with the still life she’d been working on.  “I’m gonna quit. Don’t tell Steve.”

I watched in horror as she took the cloth she had with her and wiped away the paint on the canvas, rubbing it in, destroying the image she’d been working on for the past 4 hours.  I gasped, “What are you doing?”

Nancy doesn’t like still lifes.  She is comfortable painting other subjects, skilled and familiar with a horse or a couple of dogs, but a teapot on some fabric, forget it. 

This is the beauty of art class, the intensive in particular. Typically our work in painting class is focused primarily on subject matter we choose.  We work on our paintings to the best of our ability, and when we find an area where we are completely lost, Steve skillfully rescues our painting while instructing us on how he does what he does.  Nancy has been coming for two years, and her skills are undeniable, her growth as an artist is astounding, and from an outsiders perspective it would seem that it would be difficult to derail her.

Our Summer Intensive was… intense.  There was something to challenge any artist, at almost any level.  Something to work on, and a weakness to identify.  Nancy was in the throes of it, but I think at some point everyone in the room felt like wiping their canvas. 

The greatest part, we all walked away with a painting. I walked away with two!  Despite the frustration of never having painted glass, or a reflective surface, or flowers for that matter, I walked away with a painting of all of those things.  I learned so much.  I looked my fears in the canvas and painted them out.  It. Was. Wonderful.

Nancy eventually walked away with a painting too.  Rather than rendering the still life with her all too familiar brushes, Steve suggested a pallet knife.  Using an unfamiliar tool allowed her to step away from her expectations and focus on learning what she needed. 

During the exercises Steve said something that stuck with me. “Art is a metaphor, if you can do it on the canvas you can do it in life.” 

If you are in the Lexington/ Versailles, Kentucky area, I really encourage you to take a chance at an art class.  Because, like any challenge, when you find you can overcome it, you become stronger overall.  

Posted on August 3, 2016 .