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Bold strokes

This article is reprinted from summer 2007 issue of HOPE.

Paint more!

Sister Jody O’Neil would love to follow the advice of her long-time spiritual adviser.

“That’s his consistent message for me. He said, ‘I wish you didn’t have to worry so much about marketing. Your painting is a gift to the world.”

Like many self-employed artists, Sister Jody creates artwork for show and sale. She searches for places to display her creations; she does the pricing, hauling and promoting.

In addition, she feels the growing pains that artists often feel. Will they like my work? Will they want to spend money for it?

Sister Jody has loved art since her elementary school days when she says good teachers started her on the right path. She studied art in college and became an art teacher early in her ministerial life. But to continue, she would need a master’s degree. So she let art become a venue for relaxation while she served as a college campus minister for 25 years.

After a sabbatical, she prepared a three-year plan to be a self-employed artist, which was accepted by the Sisters of Providence leadership. “I found myself painting more than I had in a long time. I really felt that I needed to listen to that,” she said.

It may not be long before Sister Jody’s artwork markets itself.

At a recent showing by Indiana artists at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, one patron walked by and said to Sister Jody, “Can I just sit in here because there is great energy in this booth.” Another patron said to Sister Jody that her paintings were very spiritual.

“I am intrigued by the unsolicited comments that people make. It really helps shape my path because they are intriguing to me, not what I want to hear necessarily, but what I am surprised with. I think that is part of what Providence means,” Sister Jody said.

The energy in her paintings comes from a mixture of bold, bright colors and strokes. She also enjoys a variety of media, often mixing more than one to create a final product.

“I like seeing what color does to other people. At the Indiana State Museum, I was able to stand back and watch people look into the booth as they walked by. When I would see people’s eyes get huge, that was very heartening to me,” she said.

Sister Jody thrives on the opportunity to let herself become absorbed by her work. But it’s not all a canvas of roses.

“When I have difficult times, I try to stay focused on what gives me energy. If I look at the whole picture, I enjoy going to work. I enjoy the creative challenge. I enjoy making new connections. I enjoy the community building that goes with all of this,” she said. “I also get frustrated at times because the rhythm is different from a regular job, and the income has a different rhythm than a regular paycheck.”

She also looks to the Congregation’s foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, for support.

“When I get really discouraged, I remember one of my favorite quotes from Mother Theodore. She said ‘Humble yourself — that is very good — but do not yield to discontent.’ This whole process has taught me a lot about humility. Every day is a new day that brings new revelations and new challenges,” Sister Jody said.

Even with the challenges, Sister Jody knows her ministry is energy-giving.

“I experience artistic expression as a spiritual energy that emerges from the deepest realms of the soul. This energy with line and form, both initiates a response and responds to the movement of Creator and creation,” she said. “It is important for me to be totally creative and see what emerges. To me, the surprise is to create something, look at it, and see what’s there. At some point you say, ‘Here it is,’ and you just try to be open to what response you get.”

The response Sister Jody has been receiving recently is paint more!

Note: For a glimpse of some of Sister Jody O’Neil’s work, visit her Web site at www.creationsights.org. To purchase her art, contact her at either 812-535-1018 or creationsights@spsmw.org.

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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