Sam Newton has felt the influence of the Spirit guiding her throughout her life - during good and bad times. The Spirit has helped her prioritize her family and motherhood while still finding time to explore and hone one of her passions - her art.
Sam is one of our seven featured artists featured at SALT this year. Her art, “Tangible Light,” is a bright and beautiful rendering of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Sam shared a bit about her art, and a special story about what God taught her during the creation process of her ethereal piece, “Tangible Light.”
1- Where are you from?
I grew up in Sandy,UT and started marriage to my husband there as well. We have lived all over Utah for the last 8 years, including a 4 month long RV-faith-building journey. A year ago we landed in Wayne County, where we suspect we'll stay for some time. I am learning how to make it home to me by focusing on the beauty found here.
2- When did you first feel the call/want to become an artist?
When I was a kid my mom was always drawing. Her artistic career and enthusiasm for everything she saw me create, created that desire and excitement within me. It dissipated for several years, but returned like a melting glacier when seeking relief from postpartum depression/anxiety. It reminded me that I could feel good again. Creating became an absolute necessity from that time forth. It was my therapy. My definition of what it means to be an 'artist' has ebbed and flowed, leading me to the beginning of my real purpose as an artist now.
3- How does the creative process help you feel close to God?
The part that connects me to Him the most are all the thumbnail sketches. They take notice of the raw feelings and impressions I have. My gospel study greatly influences them! Without that study, they would pale in comparison.
4- How has your art strengthened your faith?
My art journey has truly transformed me and will continue as I stay focused on the ultimate goal of connecting individuals and families to Christ. I started my journey with my thoughts centered around the praise I'd get; the "likes" and comments. My understanding of MY VALUE wasn't clear, and I grasped for something tangible to give me worth and value. I was selfish. With intense personal and family struggles, I was only in survival mode as a mother. So I reached for something that took me away from how bad I was doing as a wife and mother: teaching and selling my art. I pursued this little "business" of mine, investing excessive time and resources. Eventually I was chastened in regards to where I place my personal value and where I spend my time. It was clear that pursuing making money from my art was not working. For me or my family! I admitted to God my desire to create religious art that I had buried deep down inside because it felt so unattainable. I sought help to learn how to LOVE being a mother again! A change began in me to focus on loving my family, learning and living the gospel, and becoming a 'student' of figure and portraiture with the Spirit on my side. Sharing inspirational work that comes was fine, but my goal was not in building a business anymore. I'm in this for the long haul. I'm going to train my hand and spirit for the next 16 + years, as I grow in being a mother. This journey will shape the way I portray Christ and His gospel in coming years.
5- What do you hope for the people who see your art?
My hope is that you come along to learn with me, be enlightened by the Spirit with me, progress with me, and inspire me. We are in this together!
6- Can you share about a time you felt the hand of the Lord in your work?
One day last year, I felt the desire to paint while my baby napped and my other kids were at school. I knew that I had little time and nowhere for an oil painting to dry safely. So I pulled out my acrylic paints (that I had literally never successfully used). I saw an old charcoal drawing I did of Christ holding a child. I liked Christ's face, but not much else. I decided right in that moment to zoom in on His face for another attempt on a small 8x10 canvas board. I worked on it every minute I could that day and the next. On the second day, I backed up at one point to see it further away, and had a burst of emotion well up in my eyes and a swelling feeling in my chest. I knew in that moment that I was doing the Lord's work. The following day, I felt impressed to make a few changes that improved the viewer's ability to focus on Christ's face.
I feel so honored and blessed to have received such divine assistance to paint Christ with ease. I was mom and dad these days, since my husband was out of town. I was using a very unfamiliar medium to paint with, which aided in my recognizing God's hand in it all. God led and inspired the color mixing and every brush stroke. 'Tangible Light' couldn't have been accomplished any other way.
Fast forward to a very humbling experience. I had just finished a fantastic oil painting portrait workshop where I learned some amazing skills. I came home, and looked at Christ in 'Tangible Light' and forgot the goodness of God in it's creation. Instead I saw 'flaws' in my technique, like the rough texture on his skin. I decided to fix it. I picked up the acrylic paints again, and painted over His skin. I instantly felt grief as I realized that despite it being smoother, the color was off, but most importantly the feeling it previously evoked was gone. In a moment, I had forgotten the goodness of God and His hand in this work. I had raised my perception of what "I knew", above that which God had led me to. I could not remove the damage. Acrylic paint dries almost instantly. As much as it breaks my heart to have the most divinely inspired piece I've ever created ruined by my own hand, I'm grateful for what I learned. It stands as a reminder to me that I am not the artist. God is. I am merely blessed to be a paintbrush in His hands.
'Tangible Light' is available to those it inspires. The prints are created from a photograph I had taken prior to its damaging alterations.
7- How do you think someone can come to Hear Him through your artwork?
I believe that connection to God can come through many avenues. A valuable tool to coming to hear Him is eliminating noise in your life. I'm not only talking about finding quiet time away from kids. I'm talking about distractions. Getting over that Instagram addiction, we don't even realize we have, or whatever it may be. I pray that 'Tangible Light' and other art I create will connect its viewers to his or her maker. I want ALL to comprehend that His light truly is accessible and available to EACH of us. 'Tangible Light' is for you to recognize and remember this great truth.
8- What’s next for you?
My mission president, President Bunker, always talked about "repenting to the end". That is what I intend to do. Repent, realign, and refocus each and every day on the Son. While I fall short regularly, I can now recognize how far I've come. I anticipate becoming the version of me even I can't yet envision.
As an artist, I am preparing to release a new version of 'Tangible Light' with a more vanilla toned background. I am hopeful to be creating a series on angels soon as well.
Sam’s piece, “Tangible Light,” is featured in our SALT workbook. You can find more of Sam’s work on her website, www.samnewtonstudio.com, and on Instagram at @samnewtonstudio.