Painter pastor shares work of the Spirit

"Light in a Dark World" by Tom Atkins

March 07, 2023

As pastor of the Rupert (VT) United Methodist Church, Tom Atkins delivers a sermon just about every Sunday. But those are not the only way he shares messages of faith.
A part-time local pastor, Atkins is also a painter, and an exhibit of his spiritual paintings, titled “The Amen Corner,” is on display now.
Pastor Tom Atkins

Atkins has been creating art since college when an ad in magazine featuring a drawing of a castle caught his eye. He thought it would look nice on his wall, so he bought some materials and started to draw. 
Though he’s been an artist for many years, this is the first show to exclusively featuring his spiritual paintings, which he said make up about a third of his work. There are 35 paintings, completed over the last three or four years, in the current show. 
Asked about his creative process, Pastor Atkins, who is also a poet, said: 
“The things that I write, the things that I draw, the things that I paint, I think of them as a way to express what's going on in me. I'm a pastor. I don't think it would be any surprise that things that have to do with Christ would show up.”
The process of creating this spiritual work “seems to come easier,” Atkins said. “I have no explanation why that is,” he said, but those works are often done more quickly – “in one or two sittings.” 

While the inspiration for the paintings’ content comes from within, he gets ideas for techniques from many places – including Tik Tok. Pastor Atkins said his wife is a fan, and often shares videos with him. 

About the exhibit

“The Amen Corner”
faith-based paintings
by Tom Atkins

The Equinox Village Gallery
49 Maple St.
Manchester Center, VT
Open 9 am to 5 pm daily. 
Show closes 3/13/23  

See Pastor Atkins’ work online ​

When he saw one using gold leaf, it “intrigued me,” he said, “so I bought some gold leaf, and I started experimenting with it and learning how to work with it.”
“It seems to add, I think particularly in the spiritual paintings, that brightness, that richness …,” he said.
Even his studio space has a spiritual connection: It is a former Presbyterian church owned by a friend. The large space and tall ceilings have allowed Pastor Atkins to start to create bigger works, which is a new direction for him. 

He refers to the area where he hangs works in progress as his “Amen Corner,” hence the name of the current exhibition. 
"Pentecost #3" by Tom Atkins

Realistic black and white drawings of subjects like castles, old buildings, and European city streets made up most of his work, he said, until about 14 years ago when he moved to Vermont and began to do the abstract colorful work he creates today. 
Pastor Atkins said he’s not really sure what changed, but, “I just trusted the Spirit and took off.”
And, he says, it will be the Spirit that shapes how people see and respond to this work.
“They will get something spiritual out of my spiritual art, because it's very clearly spiritual art,” he said. “But beyond that, it's going to have to do with what the Spirit does for them.”
That the viewer plays a role in shaping a piece’s message applies to his secular representational work as well, Pastor Atkins said. “Whatever I think I’m putting down on paper, other people see something different that sings to them.”
And that’s okay, he said. “I think anybody who creates anything, anybody who expresses anything, knowing that it touched somebody, even if it's not the way you thought it was, knowing that it touched somebody, that's valuable.”
And it’s “not unlike doing a sermon,” Pastor Atkins said. 
“You think you're preaching about this, and somebody comes up to you afterwards and says, ‘Oh, what a great sermon about [whatever]’, and it wasn't even on your radar screen. But that's where it touched them. And then just to know that you did; that's really special.”