Lynn Yoder’s paintings are more than just beautiful images on canvas. They reveal a deep spirituality and a window into his close relationship with the Lord of his life and his awareness of a spirit world that co–exists with our tangible one.
“Art serves my larger experience of living and not the other way around,” says Lynn, a 29–year–old Mennonite artist from Springs, Pa. “My daily relationship with God and principles that I learn from Scripture are more important to me than any picture I may ever paint.
“Ironically, I use paint to express the things that I am learning. My artwork is an extension of the life I live.”
Salvation Army officers Richard and Stefanie Hathorn “discovered” Lynn a few years ago when he was exhibiting some of his art at Penn Alps, a crafts shop and artisan village in Grantville, Md., off Interstate 68. The Hathorns frequently traveled that route when going from their church in Morgantown, W.Va., to a Salvation Army camp in Hedgesville, W.Va.
The Hathorns mentioned to Lynn that they knew a budding teenage artist in their church, Brittiny Smosny, and wondered if the two could meet. It took about a year to work out, but Lynn and Brittiny connected last year, and he looked over some of her sketches.
“I was able to relate my experiences as an artist as well as some techniques of the trade,” Lynn says. “I encouraged Brittiny to draw objects … set up in front of her to better understand form and structure. Hopefully something I said was able to inspire or guide Brittiny in some way.”
“He gave me some comments that helped me do better with my art,” Brittiny says.
She was so impressed with Lynn’s art that she purchased a copy of “His Tears.” (See sidebar.)
“He is an incredible artist,” Brittiny says. “I thought his work was pretty outstanding. When you look at his art, you can see the message clearly.”
Brittiny, who prefers sketching with pencils to painting, is still active in the Salvation Army church in Morgantown. She may attend Fairmont State in Fairmont, W.Va., to study art.
Seeing the spiritual realm
Lynn, who speaks to many aspiring artists, says he hopes his work helps people “recognize the existence of God and the spiritual world around us.”
As a fan of Christian author Frank Peretti, Lynn says the books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, both of which feature detailed descriptions of demons and the spirit world, “helped reinforce my belief that spirits exist.”
“Peretti fleshed out creative details for a spiritual realm that is mostly invisible,” Lynn says.
“If people can see in my paintings some visual representation of Christ or angels that look as believable or concrete as the natural surroundings of our planet, they may be shocked into a realization that the spiritual world is much more than an abstract idea.” He hopes this heightened awareness will spur people to action to “get real” with God.
Lynn did that when he was 9 years old. He heard some church friends telling each other at what age they had been “saved.” It was a sobering experience for him.
“I realized that I had never actually gone through the procedure of accepting Christ, though I knew what to do, having attended church all of my life,” he says. “Perhaps out of obligation and peer pressure, I went away from this conversation and asked God to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins.”
5 genuine minutes with God
Lynn says it wasn’t until much later that he understood the significance of God’s grace “apart from the good works that I do.”
“For years, I focused on making sure I was living the Christian life perfectly,” Lynn says. “Even reading the Bible and praying was a chore done to help me stay acceptable to God. Now, I believe that five minutes of genuine expression of my soul to God can be better than 20 minutes of trying to think of things to pray for the sake of putting in time.”
Lynn says he utters “sentence prayers throughout the day” as he works as an illustrator, an art teacher, and a picture framer in a quiet area populated by Amish and Mennonite people.
Similar in many ways to the more conservative Amish, the Mennonites are not opposed to some modern conveniences such as electricity, television, radio, and cars.
While Lynn dresses modestly, he does own a computer and a cell phone. Still, Lynn says his family didn’t have a TV when he was growing up and still don’t.
“I’ve had more time to be creative by myself and read,” he says. “It was a little bit more peaceful and slow–paced. I’d say that’s been a positive thing.”
Hooked at age 9
Without the influence of television growing up, Lynn spent his summers riding bikes, swimming, and mowing lawns. The youngest of four children, he also found that he had some artistic talent.
“I discovered an ability to draw at a young age,” he says. “Pencils and paper became more interesting to me than my Matchbox® cars. Art materials have been my toys ever since.”
Lynn was 9 when he attempted to copy an art lesson from a children’s magazine.
“It worked and I was hooked,” says Lynn, who won several awards for his art in grade school.
A few years later, Edna Bender, Lynn’s art teacher at Mountain View Christian School, introduced him to painting with oils, now his favorite medium.
“She interested me in portraiture,” he says. “People are my favorite subjects to paint today and form the bulk of my current portfolio.”
Lynn’s website (www.yoderart.com) also displays landscapes, animals, and a host of other paintings.
“Of my work as a whole, people comment that my paintings are very peaceful,” he says. “Perhaps this is an unconscious reflection of my quiet personality and upbringing. I suppose this is why I gravitate toward nature–oriented images as opposed to urban life.”
At peace and war
Lynn, who prefers the country life, chose local colleges. He first attended Garrett Community College in McHenry, Md., and later earned a full scholarship to Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., where he earned a B.F.A. in painting and graphic design.
Today, Lynn is the song leader at the Maple Glen Mennonite Church in Grantsville, Md., a congregation rooted in the Anabaptist tradition. He also sings at nursing homes, is active in the youth group, and plays in a church basketball league.
While Mennonites typically oppose war, Lynn is certainly attuned to spiritual warfare and believes he has several paintings in him to help people understand it.
“Scripture (Ephesians 6:12) says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,” he says. “We are in the middle of a war. I agree with [Frank] Peretti that prayer and intercession for our friends and ourselves is an essential weapon that allows God to move.
“My goal is not merely to create a spectacle with my paintings, but to have the viewer learn something that will equip him or her for the real battle surrounding us. I speak as much for the paintings still to come as the ones already done.”