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The Annunciation

"Annunciation" by Jen Norton. Acrylic on canvas, 48x48"

“Annunciation” © Jen Norton, 2017

There are a million ways to say “no” to God.

Like Eve back in the Garden, we often listen to that little whispering voice telling us that we’ve been short-changed by God. “I’m not perfect enough.” “My Life isn’t going the way I planned.” “I deserve more.” We blindly take matters into our own hands, chasing things that makes us feel good right now. Born from the spirit but clothed in skin, we’re all capable of that fall. Honestly, I sometimes find it hard to be a thinking human and not know where to draw the line. It requires constant discernment.

But it only takes one “yes” for redemption. Mary showed us “Yes.”

I’m certainly not the first artist to paint the Annunciation. It’s a story that has captured the creative imagination and given hope for centuries. In a violent world, it reveals the power in the feminine quiet. It’s a story that challenges who we are and how much we really trust in God. It’s a story of a young girl, with young-girl plans, whose life was drastically altered by unexpected Divine Plans. It’s a story of God rushing in with all the force of Eternal Spring. Greatly Troubling indeed (Luke 29).

Yet Mary said Yes to God, and it seems she didn’t even have to work through the stages of grief! Maybe because her family got on board. Her parents sent her to a cousin who could comfort and support her (and get her away from village gossip!). Joseph listened to God and moved forward with the marriage. When called upon, he even fled everything he’d worked for and took refugee status. Her people stepped up. They didn’t leave her alone. In my humble opinion, that is a vital part of the story. In our politically-divided culture, it is worth remembering that supporting life as a Christian means not only letting it BE, but also not judging or withholding resources for those who face unplanned, life-altering circumstances. When it comes to Life and Love, God is all in. We should be too. We are called to family.

Be Not Afraid. I am trying.

Contact me to purchase this original. Information and other print products are available here.
Small prints made in my studio are available in my Etsy store here.

Paddy and the Wolves, an illustrated children’s book

I’m excited to announce the arrival of my newest project…an illustrated children’s book and coloring book! Written by Steve Nagel and published in America by Gracewatch Media, “Paddy and the Wolves” imagines the life of young Paddy, way before he became St. Patrick. Unable to sit still for prayers, his mother sends him out to help Barra the shepherd, where he learns to trust Jesus in all his adventures. The book also contains prayers for children, facts on St. Patrick, a board game (back cover) and a recipe for Paddy’s mom’s oatcakes.

Paddy and the Wolves by Steve Nagel, Illustrated by Jen Norton. Softcover and coloring book edition shown. Hardcover version also available.

Softcover and coloring book editions of “Paddy and the Wolves”

I have a limited number of softcover books and coloring books in my Etsy store. Hardcover editions are also available and I will list them in March.

If you are a bookseller or Catholic school and want to order a larger number of books, please contact Gracewatch Media directly for the best deal. They are good people and will be happy to help you out. They also offer a digital download, and full pdf previews of the entire story on their site.

And you can also buy the titles on Amazon, of course! If you do buy on Amazon, we would love it if you can return and leave a review. This not only helps the book sell, but “unlocks” the book-viewing capabilities for other buyers.

And finally, if you would like to own any of the original artwork, I have listed the available pieces in my Etsy store (original art section) here.

May you find God in all your daily encounters, just like Paddy!

 

Love is Patient… (1 Corinthians 13)

Love Is Patient © Jen Norton. A painting of 1 Corinthians 13 done in a floral motif.

First Corinthians, verse 13. We all know how this one begins… Love is Patient, Love is Kind. If you’ve ever attended a Christian wedding, you’ve probably listened half-heartedly to this reading. And that’s the challenge of this verse… to not LIVE it half-hearted. To not practice it only with the people it’s easy to love, but with those we’re not so crazy about. Whole-heartedly.

How would your life change if you consciously chose not to be jealous of others? How would our society be different if no one ever acted selfishly or in a quick-tempered manner (even on social media)? Would you feel more loved if someone let go of a grudge held against you? What if we sought truth, cared about the “whys” behind the “whats”? If you hold someone else’s well-being as equal to your own, you do bear, believe, hope and endure all things for the purpose of Love. Jesus did it best. We should at least try.

Like a flower, Love can be easily crushed by a harsh word. It can wither and die without attention. But it can also be nurtured, gathered, and grown. Give it daily watering and pruning, action and prayer. The harvest is beautiful, something to be held in adoration.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
(1 Cor 13: 4-8)

This original painting will be available through The Sacred Art Gallery after January 23, 2017.
Art reproductions and other gift items are available in my Etsy store and in my Pixels.com store here:
Art Prints

Jen Norton Art at the Sacred Art Gallery, Scottsdale

Jen Norton is one of the featured artists at the Sacred Art Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ

I’m proud to say I am now represented by The Sacred Art Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. The gallery represents a diverse range of art and artists, from the traditional pieces of Italian artist Peter Darro (If you’ve grown up Catholic, you’ve seen his work) to the contemplative and sometimes controversial work of Janet McKenzie, to your’s truly, circled above between Michelangelo and the “Old Masters”! I am thrilled that the seasoned team running the gallery has chosen to put the time and effort into supporting the religious arts and that they have chosen my work for part of the effort. Our Grand Opening is Feb 3, 2017… I hope you can join us!

St. Teresa of Kolkata

Acrylic painting of St. Teresa of Kolkata by Jen Norton.

Many thoughts and ideas have been running through my head in the last week on what to say about our newest saint, St. Teresa of Kolkata. Really, there’s not much I can add that you can’t already find on the internet, said by tons of people more learned than I. So on this anniversary of 9/11, I don’t think I need to add more words. What we still need is peace. Peace in our world, in our communities, in our families and peace in our own hearts. And what is Mother Teresa’s advice on how to achieve Peace? To start at home and love your family. I know that is sometimes much harder than it sounds, at least for me. Love can be a lot of self-sacrificing work! But if you can bring about “Works of Love” with those who you are closest to, you learn and teach each other to live with respect for the other. You raise children who know how to love and respect all people. And you know that to care for the needs of others benefits all.

What can you do to promote world peace today? Go home and love your family, one small work at a time.

My St. Teresa of Kolkata artwork, featuring the corporal works of Mercy in her garment, is available here and here. Do you need a banner for your church or school? I have partnered with Diocesan Publications and you can order yours here!

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The Mustard Seed

Seeing yourself on video is a challenge to be overcome, but I’m doing it anyway. I hope you enjoy my attempt at a video blog, as well as my new painting, “The Mustard Seed”.

Jesus says that we must receive the kingdom of God like a little child or we will not be able to enter it. I think it means to have absolute trust and wide-eyed wonder at the potential of life. Too often we judge or think we don’t deserve God’s blessings. Too often, we willingly let the miracles pass us by. Really, we just need to be open to receive…Like a child on Christmas morning!

To me, this verse is about having the courage to dream and to let yourself believe that God will use you to create something bigger than you can imagine.

Have you ever had a dream for something, whether it be big or small, and thought, no…I can’t do that? I’m not good enough. God doesn’t see you that way. He can take the smallest of efforts, even the desire for effort, and turn it into something beyond your vision. You don’t have to know what your tree will look like in the end. It might need some pruning along the way. But if you’re willing to pick up your shovel and begin the work, clear away the weeds…you will eventually discover the seed God has saved for you. Sometimes it takes years. But when the soil is ready, you plant that one idea, that one little seed…and then you watch with wonder at how it unfolds.

You don’t have to know what your tree will look like in the end.

In the Mustard Seed parable, Jesus was speaking to people of his time with symbols they understood. They knew how small a mustard seed was. They knew how large the tree could grow. They knew the amazing mustard tree was capable of growing from just about any soil, in any climate. When he said that’s the kind of faith they needed, they got it! I hope that in my artwork, painted for modern eyes, you might know this story again for yourself.

You can purchase prints and products with this image by clicking the image below, or by visiting my Etsy store:

Sell Art Online

A special thanks to my friend Cameron Packee for having the patience to help me with this. May this just be a tiny mustard seed on your future path!

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Lamb of God, Have Mercy on Us

Artwork for Lamb of God by Jen Norton

“Lamb of God” 16×20″ Acrylic on wood

 

One of my favorite prayers is the “Lamb of God”, recited just before communion during a Catholic mass. It’s so simple, repetitive, even childlike. Yet it says so much. We might complicate Mercy and Peace, but God doesn’t.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world…Have Mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world…Have Mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world…Grant us Peace.

You can purchase this print from my studio here,
or other reproductions and products here:

Art Prints

 

 

Glory Be!

"Glory Be" painted prayer © Jen Norton

Life on modern earth can be like a hurricane, swirling us one way, then the other. Fear, indecision, conflicting opinions, self-doubt, 24 hours of noise. It can all be overwhelming. And if you “build your house on sand” by trying to navigate it all yourself, it just might crumble you when the hot winds blow. But then there’s this little ancient prayer crafted from the words of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and the apostles (Romans 11:36). The “Glory Be.” Just a short little recitation that lays the solid foundation of the Holy Trinity. A reminder…as it was from the beginning of time and ever shall be. Hope. I find it a very comforting thought.

This artwork is available on prints and products in my Fine Art America store:

Photography Prints

…or on small prints made in my studio on Etsy.

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Thy Will be Done: A Year of Mercy

Painting of the Works of Mercy ©Jen Norton

“The Works of Mercy” 36×48″ Acrylic on canvas

The Pope has declared 2016 a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” in the Catholic church, an opportunity for faith-filled people to mindfully practice acts of mercy among their families, communities and in the larger world. No matter what your belief system, practicing works of mercy has the power to both enrich your soul and help alleviate the hardship of another, if you’re brave enough to take it on.

So what is Mercy anyway? To quote Fr. Jim Keenan of Boston College, “Mercy is entering into the chaos of another person’s life.” It’s acknowledging the worthiness in another and offering hope and healing.

“Mercy is entering into the chaos of another person’s life.”

And why does it require bravery? Because when you willingly step into another person’s chaos, even with the best of intentions, you might be rejected. Or judged. Or even harmed. And to step TOWARD another soul, you often must step AWAY from your own judgement about it. If you’ve ever thought about giving a homeless person a dollar, and then judged that they might not use it in the way you’d like them to, you know what that feels like.

As followers of Christ, we are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. But looking up at the cross, we realize just how hard that can be. In His most passionate act of mercy on our behalf, Jesus’ hands and feet are broken and bleeding. They are pierced with nails and He cries out, “I thirst.” He has been rejected. It’s not pretty or easy; It is the ultimate surrender to God’s will. But He offers it to us anyway, knowing we are worthy of Easter.

Several years ago I was volunteering at Sacred Heart Community Services in my town. I was working in the clothing shop, where families can come in and shop for free from donated items. A woman came through the line who looked to be in pretty bad shape and we had a few moments of conversation during the “check-out” process. She had teeth missing and what sounded like a painful cough. In those few minutes I learned that she had walked several miles to get to the center that morning, and would now be walking back with her cart. It had been raining, so the streets were wet. I must have said something like “I hope you have a nice walk back”…blah, blah, the usual small talk. I don’t really remember what I said, but I’ll never forget her response. She looked me straight in they eye and touched my hand saying, “Bless you and all that you do.” It wasn’t just the words, but how she said it. I really felt Christ in that moment. Truthfully, I wasn’t doing that much. But for those few moments we shared, she probably felt like a regular customer having regular conversation in a regular store, and she was all-present in the moment. I may have “stepped into her chaos” by being physically there in the store that day. But she stepped back into MY chaos and affirmed that I was doing something of eternal value. And that’s what Mercy does. Love and care freely given can offer both parties the hope that they are worthy of God’s compassion and love. Everybody wins. The Kingdom Comes when His Will is done.

So are you up for practicing some Mercy? You’ve got 14 ways to try it out, including…

the Corporal works of mercy (works that tend to bodily needs of others):
• Feed the hungry
• Give drink to the thirsty
• Clothe the naked
• Shelter the homeless
• Visit the sick
• Visit the imprisoned
• Bury the dead

the Spiritual works of mercy (works that tend to spiritual suffering of others):
• Instruct the ignorant
• Counsel the doubtful
• Admonish sinners
• Bear wrongs patiently
• Forgive offenses
• Comfort the afflicted
• Pray for the living and the dead

Even if you only pick one, the world will be a better place. Pope Francis offers further instruction to a modern world saying, “Every word, every gesture, whether in conversation, social media, or email, ought to reveal God’s compassion.”

Let’s get to work!

My “Works of Mercy” artwork and products can be purchased here:

Photography Prints

A Merry Round-up for Christmas

Everywhere I go, people keep asking if I’m ready for Christmas. I am. What I’m not entirely ready for is for my child turning 18 on Christmas Eve! Boy, did those years go fast. Still, as my business grows, I know it’s time for her to fly and find her own way to make her dreams come true.

Looking back over this year, I thought I’d share a few fun dream-come-true moments from my 2015 art life. First, a thank you to all of you who purchased pieces during my recent 50-50-50 sale. Many works found new homes and because of you, I was able to donate $327 to Catholic Relief Services. The poor and vulnerable people of the world thank you too.

So, a few highlights from my art life:

Catholic Gifts by Jen Norton and Dickson's Gifts

• I had the opportunity to work with Dickson’s Gifts this year when they licensed several of my existing pieces (and commissioned a few others) to create a new line of Catholic gift items. These items will be available to the trade beginning 2016, so you might see them in stores later in the year. More on that as it unfolds…

My artwork appeared in several editorial publications and events all over the world this year. Some of these appearances include…

• “Hail Mary”used in a book cover design for Word by Word by Sarah Reinhard, published by Ave Maria press

• “Beloved St. Francis” graced the pages of the September 2015 issue of Tui Motu Magazine in New Zealand

An illustration for a fiction piece about a modern woman finding comfort in St. Julian of Norwich. She is sitting in a rocking chair by the fire with her orange cat, contemplating the words "All Shall be Well" attributed to the saint. Acrylic on paper.

• Franciscan Media hired me for a commission for a fictional story about a woman finding kinship with St. Julian of Norwich in the November 2015 issue of the St. Anthony Messenger

• Our newest Saint, St. Junipero Serra, traveled to the pages of the Winter 2015 edition of Catholic Extension Magazine. I was originally hired to do a cover image…but then got pre-empted by the visiting Pope! Can’t fight that…

• I also created special St. Serra prayer cards for the San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey, CA to be given at an event surrounding his canonization.

 

Mural art by Heather Gentile Collins at St. Andrews, inspired by artwork by Jen Norton

• Over the summer, Chicago area artist Heather Gentile Collins used my “Sacrifice” artwork as inspiration to create a mural in collaboration with the school children of St. Andrews Parish.

Canticle of Mary event banner

• St. Pius X church in Maryland ordered a “shower curtain” from my Fine Art America store to use as a banner at their Advent luncheon. (I was happy to find out no one was really showering with Mary!)

There were many more uses of my work at church events and on church bulletins and you have all kept me busy fulfilling lots of orders on my Etsy store. But 2016 is already rushing in over here and as soon as the Christmas tree comes down, I’ll be working on inventory and new art to take to the LA RECongress event in Anaheim in February! I have enjoyed all the opportunities and people who have come my way and hope to continue on this path for another year…

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Whether or not your wishes came true in 2015 or flopped spectacularly, know that you are loved right in this moment just as you are. If you have managed to lighten someone’s day along the way, even better.

Happy New Year!
Jen

*all artwork was used with permission on these projects

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