Archived Story

Artist coming to FF uses art to spread faith

Published 10:52am Thursday, March 27, 2014

Paul Oman is a man of varied interests.

He attended college with the initial goal of becoming a veterinarian, but he also harbored desires to teach and did that for some time.

Eventually, he became a pastor and served Trinity Lutheran Church in Birchwood, Wis., for eight years.

Among these many different passions, there has always been another constant: a love of art.

In 2011, Oman decided to combine his love for teaching, God and art into one project. He seems to have found his calling.

 

“My mission is to bring the word of God to life before your eyes,” Oman said.

He does this with his traveling “Drawn to the Word” program, coming to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls on April 6. Oman appears at churches, camps, schools and non-profit organizations across the country, painting Biblical scenes at a rapid pace, usually in less than an hour.

Oman, based in Deer Park, Wis., is on the road two or three weekends each month. His first time using art during a church service came on Good Friday in 2006, with 30 or 40 members of the Trinity Lutheran Church congregation in attendance.

Word spread quickly and hundreds filled the church for his artistic services the following few years. Eventually, Oman decided to bring his work to a wider audience.

These days, churches present Oman with an idea for a painting, be it a specific Biblical passage or a broader theme. Oman then spends about 40 hours sketching out and working on the idea before painting it in front of the congregation.

“Some ideas come very quickly to my mind, and some I spend hours and hours imagining what it might be,” he said.

During his visit to Bethlehem Lutheran, Oman will be painting two scenes: “Jesus Feeding of the 5,000” during the 8:30 a.m. service and “Jesus Blessing the Children” at the 10:15 a.m. service.

The Rev. Tom Peterson recruited Oman to paint at a Bible camp Peterson runs each summer with his wife. The children at the camp, along with Peterson, were very impressed with Oman’s work, so Peterson decided to bring him in for the entire congregation.

The confirmation-age kids in the congregation were allowed to choose the themes for both services. Peterson is thrilled with the children’s choices.

“I know it was a great experience this past summer, and I expect this to be very meaningful,” Peterson said. “It kind of touches the heart.”

Since his first public painting in 2006, Oman has gotten much quicker with his work. The key to finishing the works so quickly, he said, is to not stress over small details but instead focus on the bigger shapes in the work.

Although there is certainly an element of performance to his work, Oman shies away from that label. He prefers to think of his work as an interactive relationship with the congregation.

“I want to involve the members of the church as much as I can,” he said. “It’s a shared lifting-up of the word of God.”

Oman recommends people come to one of his services with “open eyes and an open heart.” He has encountered a fair bit of skepticism for his work over the years, but he has also seen the impact it can have on people.

Peterson is hoping to see that kind of impact on his congregation.

“It’s something they are going to remember,” he said. “Every time we look at the mural, we will remember. I want it to be that special.”

 

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