Roger Hutchison works as a Director of Christian Formation and Parish Life at Houston’s Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church by trade. By faith, he is also a prolific painter who believes life’s journeys must be expressed through art and shared experiences. His latest book, My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color helps people cope with losing someone you love to death and using color to navigate the grief that comes. Hutchison’s paintings and poetry are therapeutic (and popular) for both young and old; My Favorite Color is Blue just launched as a #1 New Release on Amazon.com.
Read our interview below to learn more about how to use art as a tool for recovery:
How do art and verse help people through the stages of grief?
Grief is a full-bodied experience. From touch to taste to sound, grief knows no bounds. I also believe that art is a full-bodied experience. I can’t imagine a better companion for one who grieves than the companionship of art and verse. I believe that color brings light and love into the world. It gives voice to our stories, our sadness, and our joys. Grief will be our constant companion for this world we are born into is filled with love and loss. As hard as it sounds, I believe we must embrace this sadness and loss. My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. does just that by using color to navigate the grief journey – and it does so for people of all ages – including children. It doesn’t try to “fix” anything – it helps us to keep breathing, remembering, and moving forward.
You and your family were affected by the recent hurricanes in Houston. In many ways, the book could be used as a therapy tool after the tragic events there. Why?
Hurricane Harvey was devastating for so many. It is hard to put into words. Life will never be the same for those affected by the storm – including mine. My own family, evacuated from our home, bear the memories of fear, exhaustion, and the unknown. We will never forget the many hours we huddled in our pantry as the threat of tornado after tornado kept coming – or how it felt to drive away from our home not knowing what we would find when we returned. Our home did not flood and for this we are very grateful. This, unfortunately, was not the case for so many. Recovery will take a long time.
A book like My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. provides an invitation for sharing our stories – both individual stories and our common stories. The books speaks to the loss of someone we love, but with a slight shift in how the book is interpreted, it could be about the loss of normalcy – or that which was safe and familiar.
This book paired with a box of art supplies provides an amazing invitation for the reader to begin to find healing and hope.
In transitioning from your first book, The Painting Table, to this book and your forthcoming book next year, how did you carry over some of the primary themes about art and faith?
I am an artist and anything I do reflects my love of color, design, and the creative process. It was at my painting table that I found my voice – both in color and word. It is also where I experienced the voice of the one who gave me life.
There are writers who tell stories with words only. I tell stories with word and art. The Painting Table, my first book, was just the beginning for me. Over the years, thousands of people have gathered around the painting table to share their pain, prayers, and celebrations. My second book, Under the Fig Tree, explored the themes of Lent. I created an image and wrote a brief reflection for each day of Lent as if I were an observer “on the ground.”
In February, I will be releasing my fourth book, Jesus: God Among Us. Inspired by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's powerful statement and call to the Episcopal Church to be the "Jesus Movement" in this world, I created a painting that measures 30" x 40" and illustrates the full life of Christ. Beginning at the bottom with the infant child in the manger, the eye is drawn upward to the boy Jesus, the adult Jesus, and Jesus on the cross.
This book reproduces 16 different areas of the painting, with the final image being the full painting. Each section is matched with a page of Scripture from one of the gospels telling a portion of Jesus's life (birth, baptism, miracle, teaching, Last Supper, crucifixion, resurrection, etc.), followed by a reflection, the painting piece, and finally a story suggesting where the reader can find Jesus today in a similar encounter between ourselves and another person. It is a very personal project for me where I touch on a multitude of themes that include: welcoming the stranger, illness, addiction, fear, love, justice, death, and much more.
In what ways are art and faith tied together?
For me, there is not one without the other. I think we create art out of a hunger and desire for beauty, truth, honesty, and justice. I believe that is the same reason we are people of faith. God is in the beautiful and the ugly, the joy and the pain. It is through the creation and appreciation of art that I have seen the face of God. I am an artist that paints as prayer.
You have established a platform and niche for yourself with art and grief. What is your overall goal with your art and your books?
I never set out to establish a platform, but it seems to have happened. From the moment I pulled into Newtown, CT. six short months after the tragedy that unfolded there, and gathered around the painting table with children, their parents, and educators, I knew I could not remain silent. That experience changed me at a cellular level and I have committed my life and my art to helping provide words, images, and space that invites healing and hope.
My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. is not an overtly religious book, on purpose. I wanted this book to be accessible to all people no matter what their beliefs are or are not. Grief is universal, and I knew this book was needed now, more than ever.
What is the biggest takeaway you want for your readers?
I want my readers to find hope and inspiration in my words and my art – and in their own stories.
I want them to find a companion on a journey that can be very lonely at times.
I want them to know love.
Our world is a hard place to be right now and all I want to do is bring hope and healing into this world.
My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color is available at booksellers nationwide.