Recently, two men flanked a series of speakers at a Christian revival. Evangelists came and went while these men worked intently and alone, at the front of a vast room of observers. Both were painters with a common mission: to worship God through the medium of visual art – and to do it live, in a busy corporate setting.
Nathan Rhoads is one of these men. He produced a series of striking paintings related to the themes of the revival, calling them “prophetic paintings.” Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Rhoads is a graphic designer, long-time Christian, and father of two. He agreed to speak to WND to explain his motivation, and what it means to be a “prophetic painter.”
Marisa: How long have you been working in the arts?
Rhoads: I’ve wanted to be an artist as long as I can remember. I have an art degree and worked as a graphic artist for years. I also love painting (especially oils) and feel certain this is what God called me to do.
Marisa: So how did the “prophetic art” thing come into being?
Rhoads: About 2010, some artists came from Bethel Church in Redding, California, and taught on prophetic art. I was excited about the idea, and wanted to do this myself.
Marisa: What kind of subjects do you paint?
Rhoads: At first, I did only abstract work, but later I wanted to connect more with people and used representational art. My subjects are all over the map now – really everything. I was an artist-in-residence at Imago Dei Community 2014 through 2016, and also teach classes on prophetic art myself.
Marisa: How do you see God using Christian artists?
Rhoads: God is the ultimate Creator – so we co-create with Jesus and have fun. When I do prophetic painting, I’m in dialogue with the Lord. It’s not like He consumes me and takes over my body. It’s 100 percent me, and 100 percent God participating. I have the right to offer my opinion in the creative process, because we are working together. It’s the Lord’s joy to do this in many things in life, not just with art.
Marisa: Could you please explain what “prophetic art” means to you?
Rhoads: Well, the first prophetic artist was Bezalel [reads from Exodus 31]: “See, I have chosen Bezalel … and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” Prophetic art is different than artists just painting during a worship time – and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. The Holy Spirt gives me images, words – or a verse will pop into my head. I feel it’s just another way to prophesy. When I’m done, I ask God for an explanation – and make these into statements I print out with my work. I like to ask people, “What do you sense God telling you through this piece?”
Marisa: You seem to have no doubt of your calling in life.
Rhoads: Yes, that’s true. Regardless the subject, as my brush touches paint, I feel that God’s presence is being woven into the canvas. And wherever they hang this type of painting, I like to think that there’s a little area where the presence of God still resides.
Marisa: Give a few personal examples of how prophetic art has changed or affected someone.
Rhoads: I don’t make prophetic art just to make pretty pictures. I’ve seen people affected in many ways – even healed. At this last revival, two women were standing near a finished painting. One of them asked me, “Who are you?” She said she felt polyps in her throat disappear, as she stood looking at the painting. Another time I felt I should go to a car repair shop, give them a specific painting of a lighthouse, tell them this: “God sees this business as a lighthouse to the city. Just as a lighthouse warns ships of rocky shores, and shines brightly in the darkness, you are a light in this city. The light that shines out of you is golden. It is a rare light in this city and is very attractive. Not only is it attractive, but it shines so very bright. … Keep fighting the good fight. ‘You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.'” Matt. 5:14) I had no idea why I was to do this, and didn’t know the owners personally. The shop owner called everyone in to listen to the word. He was crying as I read it, and very appreciative. This is just one example of how prophetic art can impact a city.”
Marisa: That was a very positive message.
Rhoads: Yes, I believe prophetic words should be uplifting, exhortive, or somehow helpful to the hearer, or viewer.
Marisa: You mentioned teaching prophet painting. Who can learn to do this?
Rhoads: It has nothing to do with skill levels – even stick figures can work. Skill level can make a difference, but intimacy and partnership with the Holy Spirit is key. My goal is for God to move supernaturally though my art, because He is with me, and so He is in it.
Marisa: What mediums are you working in?
Rhoads: I prefer oil painting, but use acrylic for live painting. It’s easier. Also, I use watercolor, and pen and ink at times.
Marisa: How long does it take you to finish a piece?
Rhoads: I generally complete a work within the session – which could be an hour or longer.
Marisa: Do you have any thoughts about art in the Church in general?
Rhoads: Through most of our history, especially the Renaissance, almost all art was God-related. I’ve personally never felt any opposition to my art, but the enemy has his claws in the arts now – and it’s kind of the last thing that needs to be redeemed. This has been on my heart since 2003. But the church gets stuck in “religion” and there is a certain amount of fear [about art] too.
Marisa: What are you working on at this moment?
Rhoads: Now I’m working on a surreal painting. It’s not a commission, I’m just doing it for myself.
Marisa: I guess almost all art is done for ourselves, at least at first. If there is any overall message that your prophetic art gives, what would that be?
Rhoads: Well, there is always encouragement first, but usually a charge given as well. Something like, “Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone, willing to touch someone with the love of God – or just remain stuck and comfortable?”
Nathan Rhoads can be found at: