Above, Peace in the Midst of the Storm and (right) The Passion Tree
July 2019 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
The Bible’s opening verse attests to God’s artistry. And throughout time, mortal man has responded to that magnificent beauty by creating his own works of art. Leonardo da Vinci contended that “where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
Christian artist Jack Dawson (photo, right) takes da Vinci’s philosophy of spirit-birthed art one step further. He says the only real fulfillment of any artwork, regardless of its size or medium, is how well it communicates the message of gospel truth.
In fact, whether working in oil, acrylic, or watercolor, Dawson refuses to even entertain an idea for a new painting unless it reflects Scripture.
A native of Webb City, Missouri, Dawson is best known for his inspirational paintings centered on faith, family, and American liberty. But early in his career, Dawson created two massive sculptures, The Praying Hands and The Kneeling Miner, both on display in his hometown at King Jack Park.
Since 2000, Dawson’s art has also inspired visitors at The Great Passion Play and the many Bible-based attractions surrounding its outdoor theater in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. His paintings are displayed and available year-round there in the Sacred Arts Gallery.
In an interview with AFA Journal, Dawson discussed his partnership with The Great Passion Play and the Christ-centered motivation behind his paintings, especially his popular Seek and Find series.
The first painting in the series, Peace in the Midst of the Storm, is a somber depiction of a waterfall crashing over rocky crags. As multiple fingers of rushing water hit the stony gorge below, flashes of lightning split a dark and stormy sky. The foreboding scene evokes feelings of peril. Yet, the painting’s fierce beauty draws viewers in for deeper contemplation, despite its intensity.
Dawson said when he first envisioned the stormy scene, he wanted to convey a sense of peace or calm in the midst of turmoil. During his initial sketches, Dawson noticed a profile in the rock cliff that reminded him of Christ.
That unintentional image, along with a dove resting in the cleft of the rock, stood in direct contrast to the storm’s turbulence. Immediately, Dawson was reminded of John 16:33, which offers peace in Christ, despite any tribulation, distress, or suffering.
Seeing the crashing, turbulent waterfall, finding the images of Christ and the dove, and understanding the truth of John 16:33, instantly became something compelling and purposeful for Dawson to pursue. In that moment, the Seek and Find series was born.
Through the series, Dawson began to encourage viewers to seek God through recognizing biblical precepts represented by hidden symbols in his art. Now, with more than 70 titled prints in the series, the Seek and Find paintings continue to offer hidden messages of scriptural hope, creatively veiled in each canvas.
Many of Dawson’s Seek and Find paintings are on permanent display at the Sacred Arts Gallery, one of which is a popular piece called The Passion Tree. More than six feet tall, this stunning painting depicts a fully decorated Christmas tree.
In The Passion Tree, Dawson illustrates the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with 24 colorful ornaments, 12 from the Old Testament and 12 from the New Testament. The tree is accented with a scarlet garland representing the blood of Christ. While 33 candles light the tree and speak of the years Christ spent on earth, a star and crown atop the tree symbolize the glory of God.
In the snow-covered landscape of The Passion Tree, viewers notice a faint map of the world, as well as people carrying light from the tree to those in darkness. Dawson wanted this portion of the painting to serve as a reminder that the gift of salvation was intended for everyone on earth.
The Passion Tree is a dramatic feature in the Sacred Arts Gallery, where visitors often encounter Dawson and his wife Nancy working on their exhibit.
Married for over 48 years, Jack and Nancy Dawson are truly a team, and they are honored to work with the staff at The Great Passion Play. Dawson explained that they were all part of a greater team working together for one purpose, to promote the good news of Christ.
That singleness of purpose has driven Dawson’s art from the beginning. Even now, after 50 years of sculpting, drawing, and painting, his only desire is to make his artwork available for God to use in conveying the gospel message.
“Our prayer is that others will come to Christ,” said Dawson, “according to Jeremiah 29:13, ‘And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.’”
The cover of this issue features Celebrate Freedom from Jack Dawson’s Seek and Find paintings. Browse the entire series at jackdawson.com.
Admission to the Sacred Arts Gallery is included with the purchase of a ticket to The Great Passion Play. For more information, visit greatpassionplay.org.