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Bonnie Christian ...
Renaissance Woman ... Art Inspired by God

by Kimberly Renate’

“When my first grade teacher announced to the class that I couldn’t draw, I was devastated.” said Bonnie Christian. “It embarrassed me so much that I didn’t draw another thing for many years, even though I had always appreciated art. Growing up, I remember a John Constable print hanging in our home. I would stand in front of it for hours in admiration. I had always enjoyed looking at oil paintings and wondered how someone could create such beauty.”

Despite her traumatic experience in first grade, Christian decided to take an art class in High School. For Christian, taking that class was like opening a sealed vault, rekindling the passion for art that had been imprisoned inside of her. Christian received an “A” in that art class, giving her back the confidence that would jump start her artistic career.

As a young woman, Christian knew very little about producing a painting but was very motivated to learn. She would paint a little each week and then reflect on what she had created the rest of the week. That was 23 years ago. Christian still has the first two paintings she ever made. They are proudly hanging in her family room and she has never even gone back and changed a thing on them.

“Many people enjoy art but with me it was a total joy and a very consuming addiction. I have been so motivated to paint and draw. I have never stopped since I started. It is the greatest addiction to have and I fully recommend it.”

Christian graduated from college with a degree in Elementary Education and taught fifth grade for two years before raising a family of seven children. She returned to take college courses in Art History, Drawing, Watercolor, Creativity and Color.

In a passionate quest to develop her artistic skills Christian sought out some very fine teachers. Each one increased her knowledge and perception of art and she gained new insights and understanding from every teacher she encountered. “I think you can learn from everyone and every situation. My thirst to learn never diminishes and I am always seeking new learning experiences,” Christian said.

She has taken workshops and classes from many prominent teachers, including Frank Covino, an Italian painter from Vermont. For several years, Christian studied under Covino in order to perfect the Classical Renaissance method of painting used by the Old Masters, which is now prevalent in Christian’s body of work. “Mr. Covino is not only a master artist, but also a master teacher,” said Christian.

Christian’s first introduction to Covino was at a lecture he was giving on the method of painting used by the Old Masters. When she heard him say that it took 100 to 120 hours to produce a portrait in this manner, Christian didn’t think that she would have that long of an attention span. When she finally did get the opportunity to take a workshop from him, Christian discovered that every minute of those hours was filled with exciting creativity.

“You can achieve the same results as the Old Masters, if you are willing to go through all of the steps and spend the time and effort necessary.” Christian enjoys painting in the style of the Old Masters and has copied works by Vincent Van Gogh and Adolphe William Bouguereau who was a master “flesh” painter.

Christian is an active member of the Utah Watercolor Society, the Pastel Society of Utah, and Intermountain Society of Artists where she has served on the board for years. Membership gives her constant opportunities for continuing education and opportunities to compete in shows.

“Everywhere I travel, whether in a new city or in a place that I’ve been many times, it is always a new season or a new day. I am inspired to take pictures. My camera is always with me and I often stop where I am to take pictures of something that caught my eye, including the clouds or sunset. I have many shoe boxes full of photographs to use for reference. I want to live long enough to paint it all.”

Christian, a resident of Utah, recently visited The ARTeri Gallery, in the Village of Oak Creek, where her work is being shown. This was her first visit to Sedona. “My trip to Sedona was inspiring; what incredible red rock beauty. I am in the process of painting Cathedral Rock in the Classical Renaissance method,” Christian said.

“There are definitely times when I feel extra help and guidance from our Father in Heaven, especially when I am asked to paint portraits of babies and children who are deceased.”

“One time I was asked to paint a portrait of a four year old girl from the last picture taken of her. It was a small photo, the girl’s face only being one inch long. I could not see a lot of detail in the tiny picture and drew upon God for inspiration. Her mother was very pleased with the results and I knew that I had help in capturing her likeness.

“I also did two portraits of a teen-age boy who died tragically. I had seen him on several occasions and was blessed to recall his mannerisms. When I would get stuck, I would feel his presence very near.”

Christian painted a portrait of former President Ronald Reagan at the request of his staff. Recently, Christian was commissioned to paint a portrait of John Daniel Holladay, the man who founded the city of Holladay near Salt Lake City. He came to the Salt Lake Valley in the 1800’s from Atlanta, Georgia, when missionaries converted him to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He must have been quite a man. He had owned slaves and set them free, but several did not want to part from him so they followed him to Salt Lake. The only picture available was an old brown-tone pioneer picture that had been retouched by the photographer who obviously knew nothing about anatomy since part of his head was missing and his eyes were deeply shadowed and bulging. Christian was able to produce a Classical Renaissance portrait of John Daniel Holladay that I’m sure would have made him smile.

“Oil paints will always be my first love, however, I enjoy charcoal for portraits and life drawings, pastels for portraits and landscapes. I even use acrylics when the situation demands it. Occasionally, when I paint, I am so overcome with a feeling of awe, that tears run freely down my cheeks.

“The one thing that has been such an incredible force in my development and learning is the deep motivation that I have been blessed with. God created us and expects us to become all that we can be. The act of creating something is a very fulfilling experience. Art is incredibly good therapy and brings such exquisite joy that affects every relationship and every part of my life.”

Christian’s paintings have been donated to Catholic Community Services for the “Feed the Hungry and Foster the Arts” programs. “God gave us our precious lives to enjoy and to learn. Our gift to God is to live and learn and serve with all our hearts. We should enjoy the moments of each day and never take anything for granted, but be grateful for all of God’s gifts.”

Christian, whose brilliant art career was almost stifled by an insensitive teacher, is now a teacher herself. Bonnie Christian is truly a Classical Renaissance Woman.

Her work is on display seven days a week at The ARTeri Gallery located at 10 Bell Rock Plaza in the Village of Oak Creek, on Hwy 179 just south of Bell Rock Blvd.

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