Meet-up With My Brother at UCSB –
Put me behind my easel on practically any busy street corner, and I will certainly get a stream of curious onlookers craning their necks to peek at what I’m doing. A friendly smile and welcoming nod is usually enough to draw them closer that I might begin a conversation, one that is intended to end in prayer.
I put myself behind my easel on a busy college campus recently; the University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB. Let’s see if I got the same response.
My wife, Peggie and I met up with our brother in Christ, Chris Comstock, director of CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) at UCSB. It was midmorning in Isla Vista, and a pleasant sunny day. First on our agenda was to walk a short distance to the campus where Chris would give me a tour of the campus and suggest sights I might paint. He was mindful to chose spots where there would be a steady flow of students. The purpose, of course, was get their attention so I could share Christ with them.
The first site Chris took us to was near Storke Tower. Next, he took us to the student union. Chris said that there would be much foot traffic during lunch time. From there, we walked out on the balcony dining area of the student union which overlooked the lagoon. Our final stop was at a site where the new library was being constructed.
I decided to start at Storke Tower. The combination of interesting architecture surrounded by greenery set against the San Ynez Mountains made for an attractive painting site. I also liked the idea that I stood next to the University Art Museum. Add to that the foreground of UCSB students working outdoors at their drawing boards, I felt that I wold get some interested visitors. Who better to share my love of art with than art students? Most importantly, to share the love of Christ.
Chris and I briefly prayed together before I went to work. I quickly began with a sketch, which I would then watercolor. Chris stood nearby and took a few photos. We also chatted a bit while I worked and waited for passing students to stop and see what I was doing. Thirty minutes passed and I still hadn’t had a single visitor. Chris had another appointment to keep, so we said our goodbyes as I began to watercolor the sketch.
Near the top of the hour I saw the art students gather their gear and head back to the classroom. At the same time, I heard a voice behind me say, “May I take a look?” “Sure, come on over,” I said. The young man was also holding a drawing board. We chatted about art for a brief moment, then I said, “I imagine you like to take quizzes” He smiled big.
I asked him if he knew much about the Bible. He said he didn’t. I said, “You probably know more than you realize.” I handed him a WWJP pamphlet and pointed to the cover. ‘If he were an artist, where would Jesus paint?’ I said to him, “This is a multiple choice quiz and I bet you get it right.” He answered humorously, “Now you’re putting a lot of pressure on me.”
I opened the tract to page 2 and continued, “If Jesus was an artist, would he most likely (a) paint still life in his studio, (b) stay inside the church walls and paint frescoes in the halls or (c) pitch his easel outdoors and paint scenes while seeking curious onlookers.”
The student thought for a moment then answered, “I think Jesus would paint outdoors.” “Congratulations, you get an ‘A!'” I exclaimed. He smiled broadly. When he looked around and noticed that all the other students had gone inside, he thanked me for sharing with him, then hurried off to class.
Nothing New Under the Sun
I had come prepared to hand out WWJP pamphlet to hundreds of students that day. It turned out that less than a dozen were distributed.
I’m accustomed to more people drawn to my easel, but it seemed that I was the invisible man on campus that day. I wondered why. When I walked off campus at the end of the day, I saw a young man sitting lotus-style on a circular berm playing an unusual stringed instrument. Students on their bicycles, skateboards and on foot passed him without even a glance his direction. Then I saw an older hippie guy holding a cardboard sign with words of encouragement. Even his long beard didn’t conceal his warm smile. Students passed him as though he were a part of the tree behind him. I also saw the female couple holding hands as they walked through Storke Plaza. They didn’t turn any heads.
It seems that an artist who looks like somebody’s grandfather (my granddaughter is actually a student at UCSB) standing behind an easel didn’t much stand out in this open culture. Nevertheless, I thank God for the few people I touched on His behalf, trusting that they are the ones He sent my way.