Oil on Masonite
The idea for this painting occurred to me after having served in the Washington, D.C LDS temple. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014, I was passing an office inside the temple when a painting jumped into my mind fully formed. Having experienced this sensation before, I searched for something on which to jot down the image before it went away. That’s another good principle—when given impressions, note them in a way that you can find them, then return to them and act.
A young lady at the desk gave me piece of paper. I quickly sketched the idea and took it home. I didn’t realize until later that the paper I thought was a sticky note was a temple ordinance form, unused.
Here it is. This is a scene of a woman trying to touch Christ’s robe, often called “the woman with the issue of blood”. The story centers on a woman who impoverishes herself over 12 years with doctors who fail to cure her blood loss. Her outreach to the Savior for healing was one of hope, faith, and last-chance desperation.
So bang – there it was, all ready to paint, right?
Well, not quite. At home I made several more sketches, refining the ideas, experimenting with placement, lighting, logic, scenery, cropping, costuming, method, models, size, media, and all the other factors that relate to painting. I had seen the final painting in my head; now I had to make it real.
I did some research. In the New Testament, Matthew describes this woman as trying to touch Christ’s garment, even just his hem; Mark says she touched his “garment” or “clothes”; and Luke says she touched the border of his garment (Matt 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48). Most artists seem to interpret the word “hem” as those garment edges nearest the ground. This meant the woman had to be lying on the ground or bending very low to reach it.
This seemed awkward. The major facts we have are that a woman approached Christ from behind in a dense crowd, touched his clothing and then fell to his feet as he recognized her.
So I explored the physics. Walking my models through the scene and experimenting with close-ups and full-body poses, the on-the-ground-the-whole-time approach didn’t work for me. It made more sense to define “hem” as any garment edge or, more realistically, anything this woman could get her hands on.
And that’s the point to the story, isn’t it, at least one of them? Aren’t we all reaching for some way to touch the Savior? To reach Him, define Him, see Him, touch Him in whatever way we can? Even those of us who don’t believe in him, we are all in that same crowded alley.
One choice aspect of this story is that this is powerfully and intimately a woman’s story. Even without going into the specific physiological concerns that may have caused this woman’s stress, this story is intended to increase faith in women, to provide comfort and hope, and to focus on the Savior’s inclusion of them in His love. He stopped everything he was doing, even his entire entourage who were journeying to save a girl on the point of death, to help this woman. He must have cared for her a great deal. That care is undimmed and universal today.
And so I felt it important to make this image universal, a story any woman could step into. So I cropped away the faces and backgrounds and and other distractions, focusing only on the essential elements, broadening the likelihood that viewers would make the lessons real and personal, which was the Savior’s hope.
Okay, I had the ideas down. So I cropped, transferred, and painted the image.
Here’s a painting of Christ healing that dying girl, by the way. I call it “Christ Healing the Daughter of Jairus”. I tell you—immersing yourself in the spirit, stories, culture, interpretation, history, and background of the scriptures and then encapsulating the result into a single, iconic image is a marvelous way to study the gospel. I was there in the crowd, time and again, trying to touch God. My hope is that you will go there, too.