If you’ve ever seen Lance Brown on stage at a conference, speed painting pictures of Jesus in front of a live audience, you’d never guess he has a secret: He’s colorblind. The Arlington, Texas-based father relies on his wife and three kids (ages 14, 13 and 9) to help him distinguish hues, and on his faith to carry him forward in the profession he’s found to be his calling. Since jumping into his business, Painted Christ, full time about five years ago, he’s performed at conferences around the country, including Challenge youth conference, The Bridge conference and Districts Youth Conference. It wasn’t an easy road to get here, however. He talked with Connect Faith about the bumpy journey that led him to spread the gospel with paint.
How did you develop a love for art?
My mom is an artist. As a kid, I’d look through her old stuff, and it inspired me to be able to draw like her. Art class in school was always my favorite. I went to The Art Institute of Dallas for college, and there I learned computer graphics and I started a career in graphic design. A couple of years into that, I noticed I was in a rut—going to work and coming home, watching TV and not doing anything productive outside of work. I thought, “I need to use the talent I have for something more creative, something more constructive.” That’s when I decided to try painting.
Did painting come as naturally to you as drawing did?
I had never really painted before, but when I tried it for the first time in 2000, I found out I was good at it. In 2001, my church in Arlington asked everyone to submit artwork of Christ; that’s when I painted my first picture of Jesus. A few weeks later, the pastor asked me to come do it on stage. I was reluctant to do it, but I did. I decided I wanted to do it again. [Painting] moved something inside of me. I felt like was God leading me in the direction of my purpose.
When did you get the idea for turning this into a business?
At first, I thought, “This is great. I can do this all the time.” I tried to do it full time for about a year, but it didn’t work. I stayed in the corporate world and kept this on the side. Every time I got a chance to paint, it was something special—unlike anything I’d ever done. A few years went by and in 2013, my house flooded, and it left my family and I stuck in a hotel for what we thought would be two months while they were fixing it. Then the contractors caught our house on fire, so we were in a hotel for five months. During that time, I became depressed and stopped painting—I kind of just gave up. I took my [painting] website off the internet and decided I was done.
But that’s not the end of the story. What happened next?
We got back into our house a few months later, and I got a call from one of the largest churches in Dallas: Watermark Community Church, which has about 4,000 seats. They found one of my YouTube videos—I’d tried to quit but forgot to take down the videos. They made me an offer to come paint—was the first time anyone had ever asked me to paint a picture upside down—so I took the challenge, and it really re-inspired me. I started praying and asking God how I could do more and reach more people.
How did you get from that gig at Watermark to now?
In October 2014, my wife and I both worked at the same office and walked out without a backup plan, without any savings or job prospects. We knew it was the right thing to do, but it was very scary. The answer that I got then was a miracle—my phone started ringing for this ministry out of nowhere. When I quit my job, I’d done six painting performances the entire year. Before I knew it, I had more opportunities than I could handle. I can’t explain it; God opened doors everywhere. I know this is my calling, to paint Christ and share the gift that he’s given me—and I’ve been doing it full time the past five years.
Tell us about your performances. What can audiences expect?
In a church, typically I come in and paint while a worship band is playing, or I’ll bring my music with me. They take around five minutes, but I can take longer if someone needs me to and customize the performance. A lot of my paintings tell a story. One picture will turn into another, and it evolves over that time into the final result, which is to have a wow factor when I flip it over and have some kind of reveal. I do a lot of paintings upside down.
What might a conference performance look like?
Sometimes I’ll paint for a session, if time allows, or if they want another speaker, I’ll share my story. I have a 30-minute presentation that I do. I can also do breakout sessions where I’ll talk with people about ministry and using your talent for Christ. This in itself is another miracle, because I used to have a great fear of public speaking. It was something I always thought was impossible for me to do, and now I’m speaking in front of thousands of people.
How does being colorblind affect your ability to paint?
I notice it more with custom paintings. I do custom orders for people who give me a picture and want me to paint it for them, and matching and mixing colors is a real challenge. My wife and kids help me when it comes to that. On stage, I have my colors preset and can read the label of the paints to know what I’m working with. When there’s crazy or colored lighting [at a conference], that messes with my eyes, so I try to avoid that. I know what colors are supposed to look like, but my eyes play tricks on me.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
One of my favorite things is when a kid wants to hang a picture of Jesus that I’ve done in their room. The fact that I can provide that to a youth that could possibly inspire them or influence their life is so rewarding. Having more of those opportunities through conferences would be a real blessing.