Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.
I am beyond excited to introduce you to Suzanne Stovall Vinson owner of Silver Tree Art. Below, in her poetic voice, you’ll hear how she fell in love with praying in color. And, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of her favorite artistic tools!
When I see photos of her studio space pop up on my Facebook feed, I want to transport myself from snowy western Pennsylvania to her light-filled art and gathering room in Richmond,Virginia.
Suzanne’s work is beyond the margins of scripture, but in every image she exudes what it means to “pray in color.” Take a look! I think you’ll fall in love immediately. Here’s what Suzanne had to say about her practice of painting and praying…
Somehow, I got into journaling and praying with paint and color when my hands met my heart, and my head and my health poured forth.
I started reading and experimenting with a mixed media art journaling approach to my devotional time through the great work of books like “Wild Surrender” and “Create for the One Who Made me” by Mindy Lacefield.
My daily practice is distilled into the essence of listening. Reading Krista Tippet speaks of “generous listening” which I find to be luxurious – wrapped in silk and lace – at some point listening becomes a conversation, too, once you’ve listened long enough.
I am inspired by the shapes and colors in nature, and by the interweaving color stories in my imagination as brush moves across paper. I love, love moss and seed pods. Lichen and leaves and ferns. I love blooms and trees. I love rusty things and barn wood.
I process life through my paintbrush. So when I’ve had a trail run or a walk in the neighborhood, the joy of that experience enters the page. When I am feeling fatigued and worn out, I find energy in painting. When I am in a dark space, painting brings me into the light.
Somehow, I meet the right people at the right time. friendships are foundational in my path to wholeness and healing. friendships help me to survive the fatiguing moments of motherhood and life. near my 20’s i was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. i’ve learned in the last 20 years that i need a different pace, a rhythm of work and life that needs to shift according to my body’s needs. i’m reminded again and again through health and wellness ((or the lack thereof)) what i need to maintain a healthy course. most of the time, i want to pretend that fatigue isn’t there, that i’m fine. then i over-do the work-flow and under-do the self care practices. i skip lunch or work through half the night. while my work gives me energy, avoiding meals and sleep isn’t sustainable for any of us.
And I love to dream big. i dream often, setting those hopes and dreams to paper, object, word, art. i put them into flames and let the smoke carry them to the grandmothers. i ask for help. dreaming big these days, i’m aiming to spread the word about the work i do in the world and tell others why i do what i do and what i believe it can do for the world. i make art to care for my sacred soul. i make art that is made to care for others through rituals of healing, receiving care and love, and to release what is carried that no longer needs to be. my wisdom cards are shared from me to you through social media and in my wee etsy shop and Silver Tree Art studio in Ginter Park. those soul seeds of wisdom cards are then carried to our tribes in times of loss, celebration, when cancer shows up, and when we need to be reminded we are beautiful and so, so very loved. my candles and sacred strikes are shared in much the same ways. my prints aim to add delight.
When I started moving from purely abstract into integrating the wisdom I was hearing, I found my art rooted in a place of growth. My art began to grow as I gave myself permission to use the materials I loved the most, watercolors.
The art went deeper as I gave myself permission to trust my intuition and combine ink and pencil into my work. If I did all this in secret, i would be fed. I’ve chosen to share through my blog(s) and social media over the years. Sharing helps me to expand my heart and my art. I love hearing the stories of others who tell me that I made the piece for them, that the message or image spoke to them in a particular way. I believe that’s part of the art-making. The art is something and the sharing and seeing is another art form.
i am an artist, mother, and minister living an intentional life toward wholeness, kindhearted listening, and compassionate care. when i listen to myself and those i trust in the tribe that encircles me, i hear that i am a loving mother who has banked really good times and when i am the too-tired-to-say-the-right-thing-first mama, i slow down and show some forgiveness where needed, asking forgiveness when necessary. i am a mother of two very sweet souls whose lives i’m thrilled to witness unfold. one is 10.75 and the other 3.5. each adds wonder, delight, and levity on the best days. my partner in life is my one-and-only-true-love who i’ve been married to for 13 years. he’s my grounding and my joy. my love for my love deepens in our growing together. as an artist, i create soul wisdom art, which is art that is meant to deepen your experience of life, delight and connection. as a minister, i gather women around the table in circles, mini-retreats, and retreats where we experience ritual, healing, rest, and the creative flow as kindred spirits. my gatherings are said to be “life giving” where “you leave more rested than you walked in” and you experience synchronicity, self care, and a deep soul exhale. i also love the opportunities i am given speak and facilitate retreats, conferences, and gatherings.
I’ve always been a creator from my earliest days of mudpies, and grass and blooming soups in rain water. I’d paint or color and play, play play. I loved 4H as an avenue of exploring through travel, conversation, and the work of my hands. My education was at a private liberal arts school in MS in business education and a master of education in guidance and counseling, then a master of divinity studies and post grad coursework in bereavement care and chaplaincy. I was a minister in the church in some form from the time I was in my early 20’s. Before that, I babysat for families and sold plants at a nursery, which carried me through college. during my first masters and undergrad, I worked within the laboratory preschool at the college – cooking and teaching in the afternoons. I loved gathering the art supplies and creating projects for the 3, 4, 5 year olds to create. I loved it all.
My calling expanded from the time I was 16 until now. Before selling art, I ministered in church, facilitated bereavement groups before moving more into chaplaincy. Then my call reached for a space of my own, and I moved into the studio space so I could welcome groups into my own space rather than relying solely for contract work. I’ve always had a short-term contract outside the studio space to work with folks in group facilitation or chaplaincy. Now I am relying upon the intersection of art and spirituality, the healing work of gathering women together, and showing up for speaking engagements, retreats, and groups and believing something wonderful happens when we’re sharing the same air and space for a period of time.
my business is silver tree art where i make art, lead mini-retreats and gatherings in the studio, as well as travel to lead retreats for organizations, non-profits, and churches. i specialize in working with groups who seek healing, wholeness, and slowing down.
my studio is painted “reflection pool” blue with accents of red, brown, and black. there are 5 large windows and windowed closets. you feel like you’re in a tree house, looking out among trees and rooftops. Within the walls of the studio, there are turquoise ball jars filled with buttons, baskets upon baskets of rik rak, ribbon, paper, paints, and fabrics. the studio functions as retail space, gathering space, and in-action-artist-studio space. after moving into the space, I had 12 or so women gathered around the studio tables for a studio blessing. since then the birthday celebrations and mini retreats continue to bless the space. when you walk in, it’s a wonderland of creativity and visual delight. it’s an artist’s treasure box.
in my studio i hold an evening creativity circle mini-retreat where women gather around the table for a small fee ($40) for just over 2 hours. we have a light snack, a 10-12 minute guided meditation of my creation, a creative project, and conversation woven with poetry and readings. each gathering is unique in theme.
walking you through a mini-retreat :: when you gather at the table, you are greeted with opening words from a poem, a time to light candle(s), and a time to pause and consider what you hope for. we begin with deep breathing and guided meditation as we move into our time of retreat. deepening the relaxation, we create together, with a project suzanne leads us into from the guided meditation. everyone, at every comfort level of creativity from none to great, feels comfortable diving into the creative play. conversation, readings, and poetry and questions are interwoven during our creative play. what is shared is sacred and just right for the evening gathering. you’ll leave more relaxed than you entered, with more energy and care to share with those in your world. there’s magic, too, along with the mystery and soul work that is best experienced than explained.
i also offer private gather your tribe mini-retreats, birthday celebrations, and day long or overnight retreats for groups. i’m available for speaking engagements and workshops as well. my art is made available through silvertreeart.etsy.com.
Micah 6:8 has been especially close to my heart for many years, and I have finally made it art that I keep near.
Growing into a woman, Proverbs 3:5-6 was always in my pocket. So many verses have been underlined and written over the years.
I especially love stories from the Hebrew Bible. There is such rich imagery and lessons throughout – and humor. I love the humor infused in Scripture as much as I love the Wisdom throughout.
My favorite materials include: