Beauty, Sorrow, and the Artist

Painting: All Thy Works With Joy Surround Thee (for Tyler)

To begin, I’m really proud of this painting. I like the mists of the waterfall and the depth and layers of foliage; it came together nicely, in my opinion (which is biased).

A friend I’ve known for several years asked me to paint this, modeled after a photo he took of a waterfall in Guatemala. I know that photo like the back of my hand now (better than the back of my hand, actually). It’s lovely; the kind of picture that, had I simply stumbled across, I might have decided to paint anyway. I love the details of the way the light dances on the leaves on one side opposite to the shadow of the other, and how the foliage creates a frame for the majesty of the waterfall. I marvel at the Artist who created this scene that shadow-artists like me only attempt to replicate

This painting has caused me to ponder the beauty in this world. There are such breathtaking scenes in nature, like this one: a waterfall, bright and violent, framed by the brilliant greens of the jungle. There are afternoon thunderstorms that turn the whole sky dark; rain pours down and washes the earth, while lightning streaks across the sky, illuminating the world for a brief moment before the darkness covers it again. It’s beautiful. 


What about the beauty found in the arts? There are lyrics that stir such emotion that your heart swells; melodies so beautiful that every part of you aches with longing to somehow be one with them. There are paintings that expresses in colors what words can’t and help you understand love, hope and life deep in the core of your being. There are stories that carry you through their intricate plot-lines to reveal what courage, friendship, and sacrifice truly are.

Yet, at the very same time, in this beautiful world there is such sorrow. I don’t have to give examples to illustrate this. We all know this deeply.

Loss. Grief for what was, and what can never be the same again. Aching loneliness that threatens to tear your very soul apart. 

We all know this.

Why is there both? Why beauty and sorrow? 

And how in the world do we manage to feel both at the very same time?

We humans like to break things apart and simplify them down to a level that makes sense to our finite minds. But we are complicated beings; we don’t understand our own hearts and minds. Nor can we fully grasp the both-and of beauty, sorrow, and how they interplay with one another——how they contradict yet coexist.

Any good artist plays with both light and dark colors. When showing friends this painting, a response I’ve received is “Wow, how did you do the foliage around the waterfall?!”

I started with a dark green background—so dark it was almost black. Then I added layers of highlights, making it brighter in some areas and in others simply letting the dark remain. And the result? Something lovely. A painting with depth and dimension that would not be there had I simply painting with light green.



Here’s the tie-in: The same Artist that created this waterfall that Tyler took a picture of created these complicated human hearts of ours. 

He is a good Artist, the best Artist. And beauty is in the contrast of darkness and light. Are not the most beautiful things birthed out of the worst pain and sacrifice? Look no further than the cross, where the Innocent One was abused, mocked and slain. And see how death could not hold Him—how the Father raised Him from the dead and through His very suffering brought many sons to glory. 

So take heart, dear friends. Even though we can’t fully understand the sorrow of this beautiful world/the beauty of this sorrowful world, we can trust the Artist

Even if the Master is painting with dark colors on your canvas, know that when all is said and done, your life will be all the more beautiful because of the dark colors painted there.


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