Local Painter Edward Patters Has Created 10 Paintings of Bible Stories at Southland Community Community Church
As a young boy, Edward Patterson used to paint caricatures on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, charging $1 for his paintings. For a period of time he stepped away from his art, but returned to it in the 1980s when he was introduced to “The Joy of Painting” television series hosted by Bob Ross.
“That inspired me to pick up a brush and start painting again,” says Patterson, who traveled all over the U.S. and Europe taking classes to improve his craft.
While studying in the Netherlands and Belgium he was intrigued by larger portraits, and inspired to step up his game and attempt to paint on a larger scale.
When he returned home in 2013, he made plans to paint the Garden of Eden. He rented out Garfield Park Conservatory, hired two models, and took photos of the scene from which to paint. He was all set to work but wondered where he could display the painting once it was complete. Since his subject matter was biblical he thought a church might be interested, but after several rejections he had all but given up. He was on his way home when he saw a small sign for Southland Community Church.
He spoke to Steve Schellin, senior pastor at Southland, and shared his idea. Schellin met with the church elders, and rather than say no to one painting, they said yes to 12. When deciding which Bible stories to depict, Patterson selected scenes that were not only easily recognizable, but also told a story from beginning to end. Ultimately Patterson completed 10 paintings depicting the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Parting of the Red Sea, Ten Commandments, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Sacrifice of Isaac, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Nativity, and Resurrection of Jesus.
“I happened to be preaching a bird’s eye view of the Bible,” Schellin says. “Having paintings that reflected those stories seemed like a good fit.”
Though the plan was to complete the paintings in one year, it took more than eight years because each painting took Patterson roughly 400 hours to complete – and factoring in the time his two assistants put in, the number is closer to 1,200 hours. Through the years, roughly 100 volunteers helped bring Patterson’s paintings to life.
“Some helped out one night, and others helped all eight and a half years,” says Patterson, who wrote a book about his artistic journey titled “Painting the Bible Story” (available through the official Barnes & Noble website). It describes his inspiration for the project as well as his painting techniques.
Work on the paintings slowed when Patterson was diagnosed with motor neuropathy, a condition in which muscles in the extremities gradually weaken.
“I couldn’t stand on the ball of my right foot,” Patterson says. “My entire body was getting weaker. Nerve damage went with it and that slowed me down quite a bit.”
He plugged along and painted as often as he could. At the time Patterson was 90% finished with the work, but because his medications and art supplies were costly, he realized he could only complete 10 paintings rather than 12.
One day when he walked into the church, Schellin said to Patterson, “I prayed for you.” He provided no further explanation. Patterson thanked him and kept walking. At his next appointment with his neurologist, Patterson got the surprising news that his neuropathy was in remission.
“I sent Pastor Steve a note that said, ‘I owe you one!’” says Patterson, who was able to go back to church with renewed vigor. He finished the last painting in the spring of 2020.
The final challenge involved figuring out where to hang all of the paintings so that they are not only in prominent display but also well protected. Ultimately, the church built a library with lighting to accommodate all 10 paintings.
“It’s a place to grow in your faith and to really focus on these Bible stories, God’s stories of his creation and his interaction with humanity,” Schellin says.
Patterson was grateful for the opportunity, as is Schellin.
“He painted it for the glory of God, but we can’t say in words how grateful we are to him for the sacrifices he put forth to provide it for us,” Schellin says.
Southland Community Church is located at 5800 West Smith Valley Road in Greenwood. Patterson’s paintings can be viewed during church hours, Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and before and after services on Sunday mornings. To learn more about Patterson’s work, visit edwardpatterson.com.