James Ellison
"Struggle Within"
pastel
image size: 18 in x 24 in

This painting began as a demonstration to my students that you can begin a painting with something as simple as the lines in the palm of your hand. It is the second of my Psychological Self-Portraits. None of it was intentionally planned but rose out of my subconscious. It depicts a period in my life when I was struggling with either remaining a pastor of a congregation or going back into the world of art that I had left twelve years earlier. I felt to leave the ministry was to abandon the call God had given me. Yet, God had given me such tremendous gifts of creativity that were not needed or wanted in the institutional church.

Upon looking at the painting your eyes immediately move to the raw nude figure at the foot of the stairs. The figure is me. I am nude because I have been stripped of my worth by the people through whom my attacker has worked. My flesh is raw because of the psychological pain that I am in. The reason your eyes took you here is that I am standing at the center of a radial design. Everything is either leading to it or flowing out of it. This is the crisis point in which I am doing battle with the dark angel inside me. It seeks to drag me again into the black cave below which would separate me from my power source and leave me helpless. I was like David when he sang this psalm in 2 Samuel 22:5-7.

This painting is prophetic in that when I was painting it I was in the midst of a three year depression rather than having broken free. The dark angel had dragged me into its den and was devouring my soul. But, in this painting I have severed the dark angel’s hold on me with a sword. Where did this power come from for me to escape the pit? Where did I get the sword? You will notice that the branch of the tree is under my right foot. The tree is a strong symbol from my childhood thus it rises out of the lower left, the birth corner of the painting. It is an ancient Biblical symbol, The Oak of Righteousness and the power of life for me. Thus it has the yellow green leaves of spring for the power of life returning. The tree is my angel of light that I foresaw delivering me from the depths of despair a year later at Cursillo. The sword is the Gospel that was given me by my light angel.

If you look to the lower right, the corner of death, you will see another branch of the tree is touching an egg shaped rock. In the field across from where I live there are many of these boulders that looked to me like Neolithic eggs. In touching it my angel of light has cracked this egg, this symbol of entombment and resurrection. This was a reminder for me of the prophetic call I had received on my 30th birthday. In that call I had died and rose again to hear the words “I am sending you to those like yourself.”

The upper right corner is the source of divine action. God had not abandoned me as I had thought. Instead, the yellow light of God’s joy shines on me in my struggle against a blue sky of Holiness. God is changing this struggle into a blessing. If you look just to the left you will see the ridge I am on has split. I can not return to the safety of the past but must move forward up the stairs to the upper right corner, the goal of life. But, the stairs are not fully formed. This is because like Abraham I am to go forth not knowing where I am going (Hebrews 11:8). God is creating my future for me as I choose to step forward into it.

The original has been sold.
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