GTPulse: God’s Country – Local Artist Depicts Genesis Through Leelanau County

“When I was a young woman, probably close to your age, I started coming up here every summer. And I would long for this. I would long for this place. I had pictures of it in my office in Texas. I always had pictures of Leelanau. That was my goal, was to have a place up here someday. I think there’s a lot of people with that story, you know. They call it God’s Country.”

And why wouldn’t they? Leelanau is certainly a beauty to behold. Amy Radford has been taken with this slice of earthly heaven since childhood. Her dreams of living in Leelanau have become a reality. She has combined her love of this land with her spiritual faith in a new art series depicting creation in the book of Genesis through places in Leelanau County.

The 12 piece series has just been put up at Leelanau Coffee Roasting in Glen Arbor. Each 8 x 8 acrylic on canvas walks you through the story of creation from the book of Genesis in the Bible. Profits from each painting will go directly to Leelanau Young Life, a youth group for kids and teens. The series took Amy about 40 hours to complete, but this isn’t her first time painting the tale as old as time.

“It wasn’t really until I was a single mom and moved up here that I was able to paint full time,” Amy said. “When I was living in Texas I was a member of a church there and was really active. They had a big children’s education wing that was very large but wasn’t very colorful. Kind of a lot of low ceilings and big walls. I volunteered and painted the creation story as a huge mural, I can’t even tell you how many feet. But that was my first time painting it.”

Raised in the Chicago suburbs, she used to come on family vacation to Leelanau County as a child. She’s had a natural talent for painting from a young age and wanted to pursue art in college, and like many parents, her father didn’t feel that was a sustainable option.

“I’ve been painting all of my life. I did not get an art degree. I studied fashion and interior design and marketing. I remember as a little girl painting a crab apple tree, this beautiful pink crab apple tree and that was one of the first things that I painted, I was probably 7 and that was the first painting that I was really proud of. I won some scholarships in high school and was really encouraged, but I was discouraged by my parents. My dad was a banker her was very practical and he did not want me to get an art degree, but I’ve always painted.”

She was able to use some of her creative talents throughout her in television, advertising, and marketing.

“I loved all of those jobs, they were all great jobs.”

But creatively speaking, none of them compare to when Amy is in her studio painting the natural beauty that comprises Leelanau County. For the Genesis series, different days of creation were represented by different lush Leelanau landscapes. She wanted to revisit depicting the Genesis story as she had years before. 

“What brought me to do it again is that I’ve been wanting to contribute to Young Life for a while, and for the past year I’ve been praying that God would help me with my art. The reason I picked it again is that everyone calls Leelanau County God’s country. I’ve been hearing that for years so I thought what a cool idea to take Leelanau County and use them to show creation. Let there be light, let there be day, let there be birds, all the different ones. So I broke it down into 12 that I could illustrate.”

Things like a fish jumping over the dunes represent the creatures of the sea, rolling autumn hills for the land, and a sunset over water for the sky. 

Part of why she returns to combining her art and love of her faith to benefit children is because she has two daughters of her own.

“Doing it for a specific purpose is really motivating for me. I have two daughters and I did raise them as a single mom. The opportunities I had for them to go to vacation bible school and church and have good encouragement was so important. I just feel like that’s one of the most important things we can do and I love doing that. If they called me and asked me to do it again and paint the retirement home I’d be inspired to do that too.”

The series of 12 is hanging up at Leelanau Roasting Co. until they sell out. The proceeds from the Genesis series will all go to Leelanau Young Life. Amy has artwork separate of the series hanging at the shop as well that will donate half of those proceeds to Leelanau Young Life. Check them out and grab a coffee next time you’re on an aimless fall drive through God’s country.

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Categories: GTPulse