Coram Deo in the Studio

The notion of coram deo is a theological and para-theological idea that has been held forth at various times. I’ve even got a pastor friend who has a church named Coram Deo. Essentially, the Latin phrase means “in the presence of God” or “before the face of God.”

Well, I guess some would argue that we’re all always in the presence of the divine, but even the bible says that no one has ever seen God (Exodus 33:20). Elsewhere, however, we note a caveat:

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:12

If we love, we see God. Divine love is manifest in that seeing.


I decided to do a little survey of my studio. Who is here? In loving, where do I see God?

cosplay matt and jesse
…in a Polaroid of me and Jesse all dressed up.
…in a sketch of Norby talking about his art.
…in a bobble-head of Bob Ross.
…in a poster of Anne Harris from one of her The Mind’s I exhibitions.
…in a portrait of me created by my daughter Miranda after my heart attack.
…in a card given to me by my friend Ryan many years ago.
…in a photo of my friend Peter when he was a child.
…in the MFA thesis card for my friend Eric.
…in the face of my cousin Chris, my first friend in adventuring, building, and dreaming.
…in the laid back gaze of ‘Lex in his studio at Northwestern.
…in the portrait of me with Darth Vader made by my former grad student Jane Jun.
…in the raised eyebrow of Alison, way back in that studio apartment in Evanston.

I have a lot more faces and visages and signifiers of people in my studio. These suffice.

Look around… see who you love and who loves you. In acknowledging them – in believing that they are real – you make divine love real. When we don’t believe that others are real – that their desires, experiences, or feelings are somehow not like ours – we dehumanize them. We de-divine their reality. They are miracles. We are privileged to be in the presence of other motes of matter that catch the divine light.

Let’s all recognize that.

Becoming the Student, #2: Glendy

Today, during a visit to some old friends of ours, I had the opportunity to draw a quick portrait sketch of a wonderful young artist named Glendy. I was also lucky enough to sit for her to draw me as well.


Portrait Sketch of Glendy, Graphite on paper, 8.5 by 11 inches. 10 minutes.

Here’s Glendy drawing me:


Originally from Guatemala, she’s got the classic, royal features of the Maya. I love that open-eyed, focused observation. It resulted in the portrait of me below. I sat about 20 minutes for this drawing. I think it’s pretty great.


I also had the chance to sketch Glendy’s younger sister, Larissa. She was a picture of pensive thoughtfulness as she sat for me. Though she couldn’t sit as long as Glendy, I think I actually captured a better likeness. Graphite on paper, 8.5 by 11 inches. 7 minutes.


I asked Glendy to give me some word of wisdom about drawing. She said that drawing people was “just fun!” When pressed for additional information she seemed defiant, as if to declare that obviously “fun” ought to be enough. I think that confidence is an amazing part of her personality. Glendy’s got the clarity of her mom and the practicality of her dad. Good traits to have. Thanks for drawing me, Glendy, and thanks for letting me draw you!

PS: One of my favorite portraits I’ve ever attempted was of Glendy’s and Larissa’s older sister, Natalie. I made this piece back in 2006. I really love it, and was glad to see it again while visiting with the family. Natalie Reading. Oil on linen on panel, 26 by 24 inches.

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