His Hidden Signature

The artist does well to copy God’s masterpieces


Earth Faith

A portrait artist and I were strolling arm in arm at a farmers’ market, when she stopped us to view a display of landscape paintings in a shop window. She knew this local artist and wanted to say hello, so we entered to the tinkling sound of a door bell. The faint smell of turpentine and fresh oils on his palette pervaded the small space. His studio was about 15 x 20 feet square with his paintings hung on three walls. Their creator was seated on a tall stool, dabbing at a fresh canvas with his brush. He looked at us and smiled a welcome.

He was a big-framed fellow in his 70s, with blue eyes, a trim beard, and a full crop of white hair. He wore an apron smeared with various green, yellow, and red hues. After our salutations, we noticed another couple scrutinizing a desert landscape of his. That’s when the artist said, “My name is always camouflaged in the landscape. If you search hard enough, you’ll find it.”

The customer pulled a handy magnifying glass from his corduroy sports jacket. He found the hidden signature and nodded to his companion, who scrutinized its lettering through his looking glass. She turned and smiled to us, gesturing that we take a look.

With that magnifier, we could see faint, gray symbols for his name painted inside a bush in the lower left corner of the canvas. Soon after the couple left the shop, I said to my companion, an extraordinary minister at my parish, “God must be doing that, too.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, looking first at me and then back to the painting.

“God has signed the living tapestry all around us that our careless eyes can’t see.”

Her hand tightened on my arm. “And He allows only those to see it who will.”

Her artist friend overheard us. “Couldn’t have said it better,” he nodded, pointing to the lovely arrangement of fresh cut flowers that he was mimicking in his “still life.”

We stood behind him and looked over his shoulder at his work. With another dab of highlight to a red flower petal, he said, “My efforts are but a crude copy of God’s masterpiece in that vase. Then I sign my name to claim it’s all my doing.”

My companion clung more tightly to my arm again, perhaps reality-testing, after she heard his candid confession of masterpiece mimicry—like her own portraitures. Placing her other palm on his shoulder, she closed her teary eyes in whispered prayer, “God created all the stars, the magnificent heavens, the wonders of the Earth, his Name written in all creation, his hidden signature in everything, so mankind has no excuse for claiming otherwise” (cf. Rom. 1:20).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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