Going Deeper, Stepping out Through Art

Jillian Cheong

I am an artist and mother of three young children. I have been an active participant of Arts Release Creative Studio (ARCS) since it started in July 2020 and have been part of its core team since 2021. I would like to share with you how ARCS has blessed me and been a big part of my journey. 

God’s timing and feeding in a digital format  

It all started in 2020, the first year of the Covid pandemic. All physical meetings had been disbanded and church services were livestreamed. With three young kids at home, I found it difficult to tune in to livestreamed services on Sunday mornings. I felt isolated and disconnected from church and community, and wanted very much to find spiritual feeding somewhere else.  

The ARCS platform really helped me in this area. In our online arts devotional sessions, participants listen to a short 10–15-minute devotional sharing based on a verse or short passage from the Bible, then take an hour to meditate on the sharing and create artworks, before coming back to share in small groups what they created during their art time with God. 

Learning the value of making art for God  

At first the idea of spending an hour to make a finished art piece based on scripture felt very foreign to me. But as I ventured into this through ARCS, I discovered the value of making art for God. Not only was the process of making art meditative, it helped me to go deeper into the word of God. It was a way of having a conversation with God, the image co-created with the Holy Spirit. The artworks made as a form of personal worship and response to God were also a blessing to others who attended the sharing. I started to realize that art can really speak and be used powerfully by God to minister to others. 

Using art to press into the word  

God used ARCS to minister to me deeply on issues dear to my heart. One instance was from a meditation shared from Psalm 126. I was struck by verse 5: “those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” I felt that God was telling me to wait for the prodigal to come home, that I would see the salvation of my loved one. My first response was writing a poem, “Wait for the rain”. It struck such a deep chord within me that I continued to meditate on it, and ended up doing three paintings as an intercession and declaration of this word. 

Wait for the rain (from Psalm 126
The ground hard dry clay 
The land an overheated oven 
The work thankless, seems futile 
What seed could grow 
In this inhospitable place 
What seed could grow 
In this hostile space 
Wait for the rain 
There is life in the seed 
Wait for the rain 
Streams will flow 
The seed planted in faithfulness will grow in good soil 
And soon a lush field will be abloom 
Wait for the rain 
It will come soon 
It will wash your years of tears away 
The painful sowing will be followed by rejoicing 
Wait for the rain 

Art as memorial stones  

In Joshua 4:1–7, God instructed the Israelites to take twelve stones from the river bed to create a memorial of the event of God parting the Jordan river. This was so that they would not forget what God had done for them and would be reminded to testify to others about it. I have found that art plays a similar function. Looking back at the art pieces I have done in ARCS, I am reminded of the things God said to me and the promises he made. The artworks have helped me to remember God’s faithfulness and hold on to his promises, far better than the scribblings in my journals have ever done. The artworks have also served as talking points in my conversations with others, giving me opportunities to share about God’s faithfulness in my life.  

New directions and developments  

God used ARCS to lead me to the life-changing decision to leave teaching and pursue the life of an artist. It started from my first session attending ARCS where I felt God lead me to put myself “out there” as an artist. At that time, art was just a personal hobby. It felt scary to do so, but I stepped out in faith and obedience, creating my Facebook art page and listing my works for sale. As I did so, I began to get commissions for pet portraits and saw my skills improve with the volume of artworks I produced. It was also through contacts in the ARCS community that I was given opportunities to take part in different group art exhibitions. God really accelerated my learning and training though these experiences and the people he brought into my life through ARCS.