Natalie Shaw | Painting, Art, and Intimacy with God
In conversation with the abstract artist, exploring the intersection of painting, intimacy, 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, intimacy 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.”
“As believers, we’re in complete union with God, and everything we do comes from a place of being intermingled with him,” she said. “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.”
This divine diversity, reflected in every person and their creative expression, continues to inspire and ground Natalie. Hailing from Chicago, her creative journey has been multilayered, personal, and ultimately redemptive.
From an early age, Natalie was pulled to abstract art. Though she’s maintained this aesthetic, her work is also figuratively informed by a personal history with dance. Her art and creative approach displays a keen sense of the human body and movement.
“I wanted to be a dancer, but the aspect of performance was difficult for me,” she said. “Without an identity rooted in God, the ‘never good enough’ mentality consumed me day after day.”
While engaging in creative practices can glean great joy, our relationship with creativity is also damaged and often begets fear. As small beginnings in dance provided a significant hurdle for Natalie, a new element revitalized her creative process: God.
As she grew in relationship with God, something started to happen. “Getting to know God was the key for me in finding out who I really was,” she said. “We reflect his image. And if him and I are looking at each other, he reflects a part of me too—which is beautiful.”
This eye-to-eye reflection with God liberated Natalie and creative process. Her studio became her sanctuary. The practice of painting filled her with a sense of worship and deep satisfaction. The wounds of performance-driven art healed. And her creative expression was no longer binding or impersonal—but securely rooted and wildly unfettered, blossoming from her newfound identity.
Since building her creative practice from this place of self-discovery, Natalie’s approach to art has changed. Her primary priority is consistency. Her standard for herself is “show up.” This grounds her creative practice, keeping fear and performance mentality at bay.
“As long as you exist, the work is there,” she said. “You are your work. The work is you. This takes so much pressure off from it being an external thing, separate from you, and you being responsible for its existence. But if this is true, then it means that when you show up, it will always be there. Maybe not in perfect form, and maybe not right away—but it’s true one hundred percent of the time.”
And so, Natalie shows up. When she first comes in, she spends up to an hour simply looking. She looks at her recent work, yesterday’s drying painting, or last week’s color studies. She looks, touches, ponders, and picks apart her art to find what piques her interest. And when she finds it, she chooses to explore it more deeply that day.
“If you’re an artist, accept the fact that you’re going to make bad work,” she said. “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.”
No one is immune or unfamiliar to creative paralysis. Natalie’s posture towards “bad” work is seeing it as an opportunity to learn, visualize, and create new things.
“If we can let go of this obsession with the final product and perfection, then we can actually find what’s true.”
And for Natalie, the truth is important. Creative practice is not a pursuit of being “good enough,” but an exploration of truth, rooted in God. While her art isn’t formally “Christian,” it is intrinsically, inextricably, intimately: God. As she plainly puts, “Find out who you are by being with him, and whatever you see—be that. The rest is irrelevant.”
Words: Daniel Sunkari
Images courtesy of: Natalie Shaw
Learn more at: https://natalieshawart.com/