A great deal of Christian art is sugar-coated fluff. Off-putting, in the extreme ! I can never understand why? .. Why?.. WHY?
I wince at a lot of it, especially, the sentimental, American stuff ! However, there is some good stuff around, amongst it all !
There is also a lot of pure, beautiful stuff, done as an act of devotion and worship by sincere people, who love God.
So, in all this, I can only tell you about myself.
First of all, I'm not a religious crank !
When I was a young man, I had an amazing experience. After finishing a Foundation Course in Art at Bolton College of Art, I applied, and was accepted on a Textile Design Degree course at Loughborough College of Art.
My wife, Sue and I were very young and we had our baby girl, Rachael, with us as we set off to Loughborough.
We couldn't find a flat or house to live in, so we lived on a canal boat. Before we set off, a Christian friend of Sue told her to look out for a couple who she'd lodged with, as a student in Loughborough. Anna and Dennis Downing.
I wasn't a Christian !
So we set off from the boatyard in Shardlow, near Derby along the river and canal to Loughborough in our boat and un-knowingly moored it around the corner, from, and virtually opposite the back garden of Anna and Dennis.
Sue, went round and introduced herself to them and started going to a house-fellowship meeting at their house, and sometimes, she helped Anna with cleaning the house. Anyway, eventually, I thought I should go and see what these people were like and what the fuss was all about, and what went on at their house meetings.
So, one evening, I duly went with Sue, but when I got there I found I'd forgotten something, so I had to go back to the boat. It was dark as I entered the boat and as I was searching around the boat, I suddenly felt a great presence filling the boat and what seemed like a voice , saying to me, "This is your moment". " Your time to choose" "To choose me".
Taken aback, I said "Yes, I choose, but I don't know who you are ?"
When I got back to Toothill Road, where the house-meeting was, I told Sue, Anna and Dennis about my experience.
I said, " I think I've become a Christian". Over the next days God revealed himself and I asked Jesus to come in to my heart and life.
It didn't end there ! There was a lot more to come !
A few months later I was asked if I wanted hands laid upon me to receive the Holy Spirit, just as it had happened in the early church, in the Book of Acts. (New Testament). The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
So I said yes !
They laid hands on me, I asked Jesus for the gift of the Holy Spirit...................and
I was filled with electricity from head to toe.
It wasn't my emotions or imagination.
It was totally real. Just like the Day of Pentecost in Acts.
They also spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, and a while later I started to, and still do. A language I don't understand. The Holy Spirit communicating from within people. You just open your mouth, start to speak and these amazing words come out. I know lots of people who do. It's quite natural. A staggering proof that God exists - because how can you do it, yourself ? Speak a language you never learned. The Bible says it's a sign to the unbeliever..........to believe !
Anyway, lots of amazing things happened. I saw people healed, lives change, miracles!
A little while later I was on a way to a meeting with my friend Graham and Sue, and a bunch of lads started throwing stones for no reason at Sue. I lost my temper and grabbed one of them by the throat.
After coming to my senses and putting him down, I felt shocked and wretched and said I couldn't go on to the meeting, which I was supposed to be helping to lead.
I wasn't feeling very 'Christian'. I was really upset.
So, I went round to see Anna and Dennis.
They prayed for me and God gave me a prophecy, through Anna. (Another gift of the Holy Spirit used in the early Church)
I was told that, I'd been given a very special gift, but like Moses, I had to lay down my rod ( which was art) and that, one day I would be asked to pick it up again..........and it would change and be used for something totally different !
I was told that the Lord, that most of the time, He walked slower than most men, but every now and then, He would speed up and overtake them.
I wasn't quite sure what it all meant. There was other stuff, that I was told, but I'll keep that to myself, for now.
So, from out of a horrible situation with those lads and me, losing my temper and feeling wretched and un-Christian, God turned it around and gave me a wonderful personal word. I was staggered that God had given me a personal message.
So, after discussing it with Sue, I wrote a letter to the head of the Textile Design Degree course, telling him I'd become a Christian and that I'd been told to give up the course and, I resigned. I must say, at this point, that I was considered by the art lecturers to be at the top of the class, and an innovator.
So I left the course! A shock to my fellow students and lecturers. A shock to my mother ! First thing she said was, "Have you become a Jehovah's Witness "? No I said, I've become a Christian !
It was all a bit of a shock to me too !.................................. I didn't have clue what I was going to do.
I got the first job I could, cleaning the inside of buses and coaches in Loughborough and then I got a job as a postman..
I used to watch my ex-fellow students going to college in the mornings as I posted letters. Wondering, what, on earth I had done !
Eventually we moved back up north, bought a house in the High Peak of Derbyshire and I transferred my postman job to a place called Disley. I posted letters for the next 10 years. I didn't paint for most of this time.
After about 9 years of posting, I suddenly got the urge to paint. To take up the rod again, that was art ! An idea for a story, called The Chonicles of Time plopped in to my head. Such was the urge, to paint, that I would go to work at 5.30 in the morning. Finish at 13.00. Have a few hours sleep, then start painting until one o'clock in the morning. This went on for about 6 months.
During this time, I sold my motorbike to pay for an airbrush, and cycled to work.
It was pretty manic ! I was so driven !
My annual leave was coming up, so I decided to take a portfolio of my work to London.
About this time, Athena, were opening shops and were selling books and posters, published by Dragons Dream / Paper Tiger. I decided, that they might be a good place to start my attempt at becoming an illustrator. So I set off to London for a week. Some friends of a friend let me stay with them at St Margarets, and on the Monday morning I set off to Limpsfield to visit Paper Tiger books.
Hubert Schaafsma, the Managing Director, looked at my portfolio, immediately rejected my work and kindly took me out for lunch, before waving goodbye and putting me back on the train. I then spent the rest of the week being rejected by various people. A woman at Young Artists, a top illustrators agency told me my work was sub-standard and that I should go home and be a milkman ! As I said, this went on all week. It was pretty demoralising.
It came to Friday morning, the day I was supposed to return home. My train was at 4.30 pm. I said goodbye to my friends, put my rucksack on my back and set off, back in to London.
Anyway, Friday afternoon, I had just about had enough, but the thought came in to my head to give it one more try.
So I set off, up Fulham Road and sat on a bench outside Pan Books for a couple of hours, trying to decide whether I should go in or not.
I eventually, went into Stanley Studios, to the reception, and asked to see the Art Director. The woman behind the desk said, he never sees anybody on Fridays !
So, I thought that was that, I'm going back home to my job as a postman. That I'd been a stupid, total, fool to believe I could ever be an illustrator.
She then said, "Could you come back next week "? I said, "no. I've got to get back to my job'.
And then, a miracle happened ! She said, " I'll tell you what, I'll go and ask him what he thinks ". And so, she went off round the back and came back a few minutes later.
She said, " He'll give you five minutes"!
So, I was introduced to Gary Day-Ellison, the Art Director of Pan Books and he looked through my portfolio. Then he flicked through it again. I thought, "Here we go again", and waited for the inevitable, words of rejection.
He then asked me, where I was going and what I was doing. I said, "I'm going home to be a milkman"!
He then said "We can't have that" and grabbed a book off the shelves. He said, "Take that home and do a cover for it".
It was the American, hardback edition of Julian May's The Many Coloured Land. He wanted me to illustrate the UK Pan Books paperback edition. Apparently he'd had it on his shelf for a while waiting for the right person to walk in.
And I had !...........So I did ! ......................Wow !
After a week of rejections, I'd met an insightful, man who saw the potential in my work, that nobody else had, and trusted me to give me my first illustration job. I'd been absolutely, directed to that place, at the right moment and at the right time. It was like Dick Whittington, but without the cat ! I couldn't believe it....... The absolute timing !.... I still get goosebumps !
I still have cold sweats thinking what would have happened if I'd just gone home on that Friday. It doesn't bare thinking, it was so life-changing !
I was given the rest of the Julian May series to do. They became bestsellers, selling 1.5 million copies. I was given more and more work. Awarded the Artist of the Year Award by Pan Books and the phone started going with offers of jobs from other publishers. Within 6 months I had to give up my postman job.
Within a year I had overtaken most of my illustration competitors who had been practising their art for the last ten years.
A fulfilment of the prophecy I'd been given 10 years earlier. I went on to be a top illustrator. It enabled us to move to Cornwall, which is another amazing story!
We were re-united with Anna and Dennis, here in Cornwall by amazing events and coincidences, and supported their ministry of opening a Christian Retreat at Sancreed, near Penzance. Many lives were miraculously changed in that place.
The great twist and wonderful event to all this, was, one day I was sitting in my studio and the phone rang. It was a lady from Paper Tiger books. She said " Is that Stephen Bradbury? Can we do a book about you and your work ?" This resulted in the book, REFLECTIONS - The Art of Stephen Bradbury.
So, the very first publisher who rejected me, now wanted to produce a book about me ! They asked me !
The Lord works in mysterious ways. He gives us our heart's desires. In faith, I gave up the course in Loughborough, when I was asked to, and years later , at the right time, I became a successful, artist and illustrator. All those weary, years posting ! I still can't get over it, the timing, being directed to the right place at the right time.
A few years ago, I went back to college and did a Degree course in The History of Modern Art. So yep ! I did get my degree in the end ! I didn't lose out by giving up my course all those years ago . We never lose out ! We just have to learn trust !
I'll leave you with an amazing piece of music, which sums up everything that I've said. It's really powerful and beautiful.
May God bless you and reveal himself to you
after reading this page.
I hope you got something out of it.
There is an unseen world waiting for you
P.S. A lot of the images on this page, above and below, are from my personal, sketchbooks.