Working on my reflection

Last summer at a gathering, a friend prayed with my husband and I because we were facing one of our most difficult challenges as life partners and parents.

 And while his hands were on our shoulders and our eyes were shut and we issued our pleas for divine intervention, our friend received an image of trees, planted by streams of water. “You are the trees,” he said. The image included lots of elements tied up with them: A tire swing, a couple of wooden dories, a treehouse, a dock.

It’s hard being a support system.

Trees don’t have a say in what they’re used for. They can only depend on their firm, deep roots to hold them fast, and a constant supply of water to keep them fed.

I’m not a trained visual artist. I don’t think of myself as an artist at all, really—when I say that, I mean, if my creations end up looking good, it’s completely accidental. I approach painting with less trepidation than writing, perhaps because my motivation is not to make a professional career or develop a fan base, but merely to please myself. I just keep painting until I’m pleased.

Hmm…something to think about, there…

My inspiration photo.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3
First try.

Anyway, the image of “trees planted by streams of water” stayed with me, and late last summer, I bought a huge canvas to paint a version of my friend’s image. I began with much vigour, but my enthusiasm dropped off as I realized my skill level didn’t match my ambition.

This makes sense to me as a writer. We grow by reaching past our capabilities. Arthur Miller said, “The best work anyone ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing them. Always.”

It seems painting water is also beyond my capabilities, especially when the photograph I was using was rather uninspiring — foamy brown water, and gray, green and brown earth set under a cloudy sky.

So the canvas languished in a corner of my spare room for months because I didn’t know what to do with it. But it beckoned to me every time I walked past the open door. I thought about giving it up, but the idea was still too precious. Moreover, I was between writing projects, and I couldn’t seem to move on to something new. I needed to finish this first.

Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:10

In the New Year, I chanced upon a YouTube artist, who painted a spectacular country road in autumn (Chuck Black Art), and another artist (ColorByFeliks), who painted an autumn scene with a stream running through it.  I figured I could adapt these works to my canvas. And voila! My vigour was renewed.

They make it look



Background looks nice, but the water is pretty sad.
Sorry, it’s blurry–cell phone. Here I’m attempting the mirror image,
but I should have planned it from the beginning. Way too complicated.
(Plus, my grown-together-trees look a little bit like an octopus with a tuning fork on top.)

Well, not so fast. Reflections in water are difficult, and realism even more so. Various iterations of my streams of water were disappointing. I figure there’s a bit of metaphor about our lives here. Something about building a perfect reflection in the Water of Life—how it takes time, discipline, patience—something like that. And who’s the artist? Is it God, or me? Maybe both of us are cooperating to create something beautiful.

I thought I was done at this point, but something still bothers me.
Okay, I think I am at peace with it now, despite its deficiencies.
The trees in the foreground looked bare, dead even–just the opposite of my purpose.
Trees of Righteousness: Acrylic on canvas, 30 inches x 48 inches.
Fail. Fail again. Fail better – Samuel Beckett

After many, many, successive tries, I gave up on the realism. An exact mirror image is very detailed work. Oh, well. I like the Impressionists better, anyway. In the end, it’s not the original photo, and it’s not anything like the paintings in the videos, but it’s the best I can do today.

And I am held fast.

Be inspired to try something new, friends. No effort is ever wasted.


  • Carole on January 31, 2020

    This is beautifully … visually, intellectually, spiritually, metaphorically.

    • Rhonda Herrington Bulmer on January 31, 2020

      Thanks, Carole! I hope things are well and peaceful in your world.

  • Karen on January 31, 2020

    Wow. I was captivated by your words as they not only touched a cord in my heart but painted a picture in so many ways. And your painting-to see the metamorphosis and how it changes was beautiful. As the artist you could go back and make it look however you chose. God has the ability in our lives-to shape our lives as he sees fit. Thanks for Sahei f your gifts with us!

    • Rhonda Herrington Bulmer on March 2, 2020

      Thank you, Karen! I am learning to trust God as the Master artist, a far more skilled Creator than I am.

  • Graham Cochrane on January 31, 2020

    It’s articles like this that keep reminding me that I need to read more what you write. Thank you!

    • Rhonda Herrington Bulmer on March 2, 2020

      Love to you and your family, Graham. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”

© Copyright 2024 All Rights Reserved Rhonda Herrington Bulmer