Painting as Prayer

by Suzanne Fowler Palmer

Each session in the studio begins with a prayer. I burn some sage and cleanse the space while I stare at the work to be completed. I feel myself becoming vulnerable to the work.

I meditate and begin.

Many people assume that making art comes easily for an artist. For me it does not. It is a mental and visual obstacle course that demands taking risks. Each part of the process from the empty white canvas or paper to the image- filled result is an act of discernment. Each mark, color, and shape is intentional and directly affects the other marks, colors, and shapes. The result is often unexpected. I paint about the parts of life that we cannot see, and some of those are dark and difficult places. Not all art is “pretty.” I see the darkness as a fruitful place where authentic emotions lie waiting to be seen.

Through painting and drawing I am able to explore the depths of personal experience that cannot be expressed with language. It takes courage to stay bravely in the act of making art that is intensely real. At the end of a session in the studio I again burn some sage and cleanse the space with prayer and intention. I stop to read what is tacked on the wall: a piece of paper that reads, “Do one thing each day that scares you!” For me that is inspiration from God.

Suzanne Fowler Palmer is a fine artist and a member of St. Gregory’s. Her artwork can be seen online at or by calling 415-264-3752 for an appointment to visit her San Francisco studio. She recently joined the editorial board of God’s Friends as an art editor.

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