Natalie Shaw | Painting, Art, and Intermingling with God

In conversation with the abstract artist, exploring the intersection of painting, “showing up”, and what makes her art intrinsically God.


 

Natalie Shaw begins the interview with profound stillness—as if keeping one ear to our conversation and one ear to God. For the abstract painter, inextricable connectedness with God is the bedrock of her creative practice and self-discovery. Though her art isn’t formally “Christian,” she insists it is “intrinsically God.”

I. What role does spirituality play (or not play) in your creative practice?

“As believers, we’re in complete union with God, and everything we do comes from a place of being intermingled with him. We’re inextricable from his nature—who he is, what he’s seeing, and what he’s thinking. God is so multifaceted, he’s able to live inside of every single one of us and still be expressed in different ways. So no, I don’t say a prayer or anything before I work. My faith has formed who I am, and who I am comes out when I’m making work, meeting a friend, or doing an errand.”

II. Tell us about your early influences.

“A few years ago, I stumbled on an ‘All About Me’ poster at my parent’s house. I did it when I was 8. In the ‘When I Grow Up’ box, I said I wanted to be an ‘artist or painter.’ But I didn’t remember ever filling it out.

As I grew up, I think I forgot about it because the world makes being an artist feel so impractical. So I pursued dance for a bit. (I know, way better.) But I eventually turned back to what was always there: visual art. The work we make is an expression of all our life’s experiences though, so that time let me viscerally explore some concepts I’d always been pulled towards: the interplay of movement, air, time and gravity. Watching the skythat too. I’ve done that since I was little.”

III. What does growth in your creative practice look like? What does growth in your faith look like? Are those things related?

"Before I knew God the way I do now, how good I was at something mattered way more than it should. But I’ve learned that the more we look at him, the more we see ourselves. We see that our worth comes from the way we were divinely made, without artificial support or 'proof' from the things we do.

So my approach has changed. My main goal is to 'show up.' I’ve realized that as long as you exist, the work is there. You are your work. The work is you. It takes so much pressure off from it being an external thing, separate from you, and you chasing or being responsible for its existence. It means when you show up, it will always be there. Maybe not in perfect form, and maybe not right away—but it’s authentic one hundred percent of the time.

When I’m in the studio, not every minute is spent painting or producing. I can easily spend an hour just looking. I’m looking at half-formed works on the wall, last week’s color studies, whatever’s laying around. I’m looking, touching, and listening. As I once heard, the primary role of your work is to teach you how to make the small portion of your work that soars. So that’s what I’m tuning in for."

IV. What’s one piece of advice you have for other artists?

"I’d say accept the fact that you’re going to make bad work. It’s just part of the process, part of the deal. If you made bad work today, celebrate it. It means you’re one step closer to what you’re looking for. We have an immobilizing mentality of, ‘I’m not going to move, and if I do, it has to be great—and if it’s bad, it means I’ve moved backwards.’ It’s actually the opposite. If we can let go of this obsession with the final product and perfection, then we can actually find what’s true."

 


Images courtesy of: Natalie Shaw
Learn more at: https://natalieshawart.com/

In conversation with the abstract artist, exploring the intersection of painting, “showing up”, and what makes her art intrinsically God.


 

Natalie Shaw begins the interview with profound stillness—as if keeping one ear to our conversation and one ear to God. For the abstract painter, inextricable connectedness with God is the bedrock of her creative practice and self-discovery. Though her art isn’t formally “Christian,” she insists it is “intrinsically God.”

I. What role does spirituality play (or not play) in your creative practice?

“As believers, we’re in complete union with God, and everything we do comes from a place of being intermingled with him. We’re inextricable from his nature—who he is, what he’s seeing, and what he’s thinking. God is so multifaceted, he’s able to live inside of every single one of us and still be expressed in different ways. So no, I don’t say a prayer or anything before I work. My faith has formed who I am, and who I am comes out when I’m making work, meeting a friend, or doing an errand.”

II. Tell us about your early influences.

“A few years ago, I stumbled on an ‘All About Me’ poster at my parent’s house. I did it when I was 8. In the ‘When I Grow Up’ box, I said I wanted to be an ‘artist or painter.’ But I didn’t remember ever filling it out.

As I grew up, I think I forgot about it because the world makes being an artist feel so impractical. So I pursued dance for a bit. (I know, way better.) But I eventually turned back to what was always there: visual art. The work we make is an expression of all our life’s experiences though, so that time let me viscerally explore some concepts I’d always been pulled towards: the interplay of movement, air, time and gravity. Watching the skythat too. I’ve done that since I was little.”

III. What does growth in your creative practice look like? What does growth in your faith look like? Are those things related?

"Before I knew God the way I do now, how good I was at something mattered way more than it should. But I’ve learned that the more we look at him, the more we see ourselves. We see that our worth comes from the way we were divinely made, without artificial support or 'proof' from the things we do.

So my approach has changed. My main goal is to 'show up.' I’ve realized that as long as you exist, the work is there. You are your work. The work is you. It takes so much pressure off from it being an external thing, separate from you, and you chasing or being responsible for its existence. It means when you show up, it will always be there. Maybe not in perfect form, and maybe not right away—but it’s authentic one hundred percent of the time.

When I’m in the studio, not every minute is spent painting or producing. I can easily spend an hour just looking. I’m looking at half-formed works on the wall, last week’s color studies, whatever’s laying around. I’m looking, touching, and listening. As I once heard, the primary role of your work is to teach you how to make the small portion of your work that soars. So that’s what I’m tuning in for."

IV. What’s one piece of advice you have for other artists?

"I’d say accept the fact that you’re going to make bad work. It’s just part of the process, part of the deal. If you made bad work today, celebrate it. It means you’re one step closer to what you’re looking for. We have an immobilizing mentality of, ‘I’m not going to move, and if I do, it has to be great—and if it’s bad, it means I’ve moved backwards.’ It’s actually the opposite. If we can let go of this obsession with the final product and perfection, then we can actually find what’s true."

 


Images courtesy of: Natalie Shaw
Learn more at: https://natalieshawart.com/

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