PE artist amazed as painting success paves way to share gospel
Port Elizabeth artist Duncan Stewart vividly remembers waking up on the morning of Saturday, September 18, 1998, to an overwhelming awareness of the presence and holiness of God.
Six months before, as a tentative new Christian, he had promised God that if He supernaturally proved that He was real, he would give himself completely to Him. At the time Stewart was working in the advertising industry in Johannesburg. Although he had grown up in a Christian family he had lacked a personal relationship with Jesus. As a young adult truth seeker he had enrolled in Buddhism and Islam courses but they did not satisfy. After deciding to try Christianity again he spent much time praying and reading Scripture and seeking God.
After his overwhelming experience of God’s presence, Stewart said his heart was so ravished by God that he knew he had to restructure his whole life. God provided him with mature Christian mentors, he did a part-time Bible school course, did volunteer work at an orphanage and took extra art lessons, while continuing to work in advertising.
Search for God’s purpose
But he sensed that God had a much bolder plan for him. “I had never had the courage to pursue art for art’s sake. But now that I understood that my talent was a gift from God I was determined to do whatever was necessary to discover why He had given me this gift. ”
Stewart began his quest by enrolling for a two year fine arts course at a top art school in Florence, Italy. He sold his possessions and cycled from Johannesburg to Cape Town to raise funds for his venture. He also hosted dinners at which he surprised his friends with his “zealous preaching”. He accepted in his heart that he may never sell a painting but he believed he was acting in obedience to God’s calling.
Stewart said his time in Italy took him right out of his comfort zone and taught him to trust and depend on God. “Those two years were easily the hardest and the sweetest of my life because God was so near,” he said.
Stewart met and fell in love with attractive young German art restorer, Natalie, who was in Florence with a heavy heart after the recent deaths of her parents who had both died of cancer within three months of each other. After Stewart completed his course he and Natalie married and worked for a further two years in Florence.
In 2005 the couple decided to move to Port Elizabeth, where Stewart’s parents had retired and his married sister lived. They have two small children and are expecting their third in June. In recent years Stewart has had many successful solo and group exhibitions throughout South Africa and he has been invited to speak at numerous events and has been interviewed on various radio and television shows.
Outspoken for God
Stewart said he has resolved to be as outspoken as possible about his faith on every platform that God provided. At the same time he earnestly sought to be authentic. “I constantly pray ‘Lord save me from being a pharisee, leading people into bondage rather than freedom’ .”
“Against all odds God has blessed us and given us incredible favour as I have dedicated the talent He has given me to testifying about Him. He has given me so many opportunities to speak to big audiences and share my testimony.” Stewart said he was constantly provided with opportunities to speak to or interact with groups ranging from wealthy business leaders to children in poor schools. Through his church he had also been provided with opportunities to preach in PE and in Durban.
Right now Stewart is working hard to prepare for a solo exhibition, entitled “Watermarks“, which he was invited to show in a prestigious Cape Town gallery in May.
He said that he did his best to create works that were visually appealing, while prayerfully trusting in God for deeper revelation. At some point in the process he asked the Holy Spirit how to marry the seen and the unseen, the concrete and the abstract, the physical and the spiritual.
“I always look for a truth concept in my work. It may not always show clearly in the picture but may be in the title or what God gives me the opportunity to share.”
More of Stewart’s work can be viewed on his website.
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