An inspiring theme of hope runs through Peronel Barnes’s landscape paintings. Peronel, who is also a qualified teacher and involved in business, tells Jo Duckles her story.
While her parents didn’t direct her to develop a personal faith in God, Peronel Barnes did grow up in a home where Christianity was part and parcel of life. “I thought God was part of everyone’s family, and it wasn’t until I went to boarding school that I realised it was unusual. My parents’ lives included God in the everyday, such as prayers at bedtime and saying grace before meals.” Peronel remembers a series of interesting visitors through the house as she was growing up. These included a prisoner just released from solitary confinement and a group of nuns who were looking to find a base in the UK.
Growing up in a Christian family meant attending youth camps in the summer, and it was taking part in a dramatic performance of Psalm 139 that helped Peronel in her own faith. “Through that experience I got to know the Holy Spirit,” she says. “As my life has progressed my faith has been a daily working that out."
"Figuring out what God has asked of me includes my life as an artist. I remember my father saying that ‘of those who are given much, much is expected’ and I was incredibly fortunate in the upbringing I had. I went to a school that suited me and gained a place at a teacher training college – all of the things that were right for me at the time.”
After college, Peronel became an art teacher for a couple of years, before going into business, advising micro-companies that employ up to five people or have a turnover of up to £10m a year. She had always been an artist, but her move into professional painting came in 2008 when she lost her three biggest contracts and prolapsed three discs in three days. On morphine and only able to sit for a couple of hours per day, she says that was the kick she needed to change her life. “I was painting regularly and doing a little bit of art teaching,” says Peronel. “This time helped me realise these were skills, gifts and talents that are part and parcel of who I am and I felt I should have been using them more.
“I was on holiday, enjoying swimming in the beautiful, warm Aegean Sea when I felt God say that I should be painting ‘hope’. I started wondering how I could put that into practice."
It’s been about painting in a way that is honouring God – including the beauty of creation – land, sea and sky. I want to be able to allow my viewer to experience God. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong. My painting can express where I am and what I’m feeling. I won’t notice until two years later and I’ll think ‘that was a bit gloomy’."
“I now paint professionally and do training. Training is similar to teaching but the people in the room want to be there. I help people who don’t think they are creative tap into their creativity.”
And when she’s not painting or teaching art, Peronel’s business skills are put to work at 3D Coaching, a company that specialises in coaching and facilitating better conversations for employees and leaders at various organisations and businesses. Clients include churches and the Diocese of Oxford.
Now with 13 godchildren, aged between 14 and 44, Peronel says her own godparents were a major influence. “They were warm, secure and reliable. They were surrogate parents when I wasn’t in a position to talk to my parents,” she says.
Peronel says she enjoys words and a number of writers have been major influences in her life. One of her favourites is Corrie Ten-Boom, the daughter of a Dutch watchmaker who gave Jews a safe place to hide during the Second World War. Another is Eugene Peterson, the American pastor who translated the Bible into contemporary language. His version is known as The Message and in it Peterson explains that he has tried to stick as close to the original meanings of the texts as possible.
Peronel also cites The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson as a favourite. Wilkinson’s book is about Jabez’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 4 vs 10, and encourages Christians to pray for blessings. “I’ve also been influenced by poets – TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, RS Thomas, David Whyte,” says Peronel. One of her favourite poems is ‘Santiago’, by David Whyte.
Peronel worships at St Aldate’s Church, Oxford. See peronel.com for more of her work.
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18TH NOVEMBER 2016