Painting Success

I was interviewed last week by this young man from a local campus newspaper.  I thought he did a good job of telling my story.  Thank you, Robert Burnside, for taking a stand among your peers where Liberalism is the norm.

Painting Success, by Robert Burnside

The word, “success,” can be defined millions of different ways, although the basic meaning is generally understood. It is something everyone desires, something many people spend countless amounts of the most important commodities attempting to achieve. Its price tag frequently causes seekers to look elsewhere for something more affordable, however cheap imitations never offer the same satisfaction. 
In 2008 a middle-aged Christian artist named Jon McNaughton adjusted the typical comfortable subject of his paintings to better meet his personal price tag of success. The content of McNaughton’s art was previously serene landscapes and Christian in nature, however a powerful experience caused McNaughton to add another element into his art… politics. 
McNaughton, whose conservative political views had never been visible in his artwork, sat in his studio on the second floor of the Provo Towne Centre mall during the 2008 Presidential election. He leaned forward in his chair placing his elbows on his knees and head in his hands, with his eyes closed he uttered a silent prayer saying, “Lord, what can I do? I’m just an artist.” McNaughton then briefly opened his eyes, and looked in the direction of his easel to see an elaborate painting containing more than 50 specific figures, “wholly completed, all details. I saw it for about 10 seconds, the name of the painting came into my mind, then I sketched it out as fast as I could as much as I could remember.”  
The title that came into McNaughton’s mind, “One Nation Under God.” The image that accompanied it was much different from the previous landscape paintings he was familiar with. Standing front and center was Jesus Christ holding The Constitution, behind him were multiple historical figures including many of the founding fathers of The United States, as well as multiple U.S. soldiers from different time periods, in the foreground were common relatable figures in today’s world including a student, a mother, a lawyer, a farmer, a politician, and others. The message was unmistakable, The Constitution, a holy document endorsed by Christ, was not being treated as such. McNaughton asks the viewers to place themselves in the painting, where would they fit in the foreground? 
The reaction to, “One Nation Under God” was something that McNaughton never expected, “It stirred up the bees nest,” he said, “which I never planned on happening… I expected liberals to dismiss it, and conservatives to say, ‘right on!’” The painting received international attention. To say liberals dismissed it would be a dramatic understatement.  
“One Nation Under God” has been no stranger to liberal media including the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and the Bill Maher show, all of which criticized the painting in one way or another. The painting has been the subject of many satire paintings, mocking its message. 
“It’s really been a lightning rod to the left.” Said McNaughton, “I think there’s a double standard in the art world… You can express yourself as a liberal painter, but if you express yourself as a conservative painter they trash you.” The trashing McNaughton speaks of stems from the much-debated religious affiliation of many of the Founding Fathers in the background of the painting. Critics are quick to point out that many of the Founding Fathers were deists, and did not profess traditional Christian beliefs. 
McNaughton’s response, “I was not suggesting that there should be no separation of church and state or that all the Founding Fathers were Christian,” he says. “I just meant to say that the Constitution was divinely inspired and that the Founders believed society should be based on Judeo-Christian values at its core.” 

Click on image to learn more

While McNaughton’s statement about the unfair treatment of conservative artists is commonly true among leftists, the painting has received considerable praise from right-wing conservatives, including many that are not part of his typical Latter-Day Saint following. As a result of the painting McNaughton has had the opportunity to speak to many large groups such as the Knights of Columbus. He has been featured as an artist on multiple local news outlets, his YouTube video explaining the painting has reached over three-million hits, and the painting which went on sale in October of 2009 is still the current top-seller among his other successful paintings. 

“One Nation Under God” can also be viewed as the figurative spark that led to McNaughton’s other successful paintings which mingle religion and politics. Another painting by McNaughton that has had its fair share of controversy is, “The Forgotten Man” which portrays a middle-aged man sitting on a bench with his head down, a trail of money and amendments lead to the constitution itself lying beneath the foot of current U.S. President Barrack Obama stubbornly folding his arms, in front of an audience of all the past Presidents of the United States, each with different reactions. 
One angry individual entered McNaughton’s studio and exclaimed, “Whenever you mix religion and politics, that is not art!” McNaughton responded by saying, “I think that’s exactly what art is.”  
McNaughton stands firmly behind his paintings and the ideals they represent, unapologetically stating, “As an artist you have to be true to yourself, and this is who I am, I’m a religious person, I’m a political person, and I love art… I’m not trying to be anything different than who I am.” 
Through the thick lenses of his glasses, the price tag of success for Jon McNaughton reads, “A painting that causes someone to think and feel.” A desire to communicate ideas and feelings motivates this humble artist. Whether you agree with the messages in his paintings or stand in strong opposition, he succeeds.


What Did Obama Do That Is Unconstitutional?

Obama rode into power on the slogan of “change”, and change we have, but is it what the American people had in mind?  Mr. President, you took an oath, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  Mr. President, what have you done?

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(This information was written at the time "The Forgotten Man) was released.  Some statistical numbers have changed and Obama has since added to his list!)

1.  You signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  But now we can see that the administration’s trillion-dollar stimulus plan clearly is not working.  Both the Constitution and history are witnesses that testify that the Stimulus Plan is both a federal usurpation of power and economically misguided.  It may very well cause another "catastrophe." You promised that this plan would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate below eight percent. We are now at about 9.5%.  Americans are asking, “Where are the jobs?”  With 14.6 million people officially jobless, and 5.9 million who have stopped looking but say they want a job, and 8.5 million who are working part time but would like to work full time, you end up with nearly 30 million Americans who cannot find the work they want and desperately need.  The ARRA is primarily designed not to stimulate the economy, but to build the size and scope of government.  Government spending plans do not stimulate the economy. They are based on the idea that feeding “new” money into the economy will create economic growth.  But the money isn’t new—it’s either taxed or borrowed.  It's essentially redistributed from one group of people to another, and no new money is created.  And also, State governors, looking down the gun barrel of long-term spending forced on them by your “stimulus” plan, are saying they will refuse to take the money.  This is a Constitutional confrontation between the federal government and the states unlike any in our time. 

2.  You signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The federal government is now forcing Americans to buy health insurance. Even with the disapproval of the American majority you pushed through what we call “Obamacare.” Over 20 states are now suing the federal government over your health reform law. This law began the process to socialize America's health care system.  It forces Americans to buy health insurance from a private company against our will.

3.  You appointed over thirty Czars without any Congressional oversight to control every aspect of the country.
4.  You intervened in the troubled automotive industry, renewing loans for General Motors and Chrysler Corporation to continue operations while reorganizing. Over the following months the White House set terms for both firms' bankruptcies, including reorganization of GM giving the U.S. government a temporary 60% equity stake in the company.  Where in the Constitution does it say the government can do that?

5.  You signed into law the popular Car Allowance Rebate System, known popularly as "Cash for Clunkers.”  In the middle of our country’s worst financial crisis you give out freebees with taxpayer dollars?

6. You used your executive powers to shakedown British Petroleum after the oil leak catastrophe in the Gulf to create the $20-billion escrow (slush!) fund without any law, legal controls, or binding rules to guide it on how and how much those injured materially by the oil spill (and whom among them) will be paid.

7.  By attacking the forces of Muammar Gaddafi our country has declared war on Libya.  You said it was to protect our national interests.  Unless America is under imminent threat of danger, doesn’t attacking another country require the Congress to ratify such an action? Members of your own party have stated that you have acted unconstitutionally.


8.  You believe that the Constitution is a living, breathing document.  I thought that the only way to change the Constitution was to amend it?  It’s not all your fault, Mr. President.  If Congress and the Supreme Court did their job properly you would have been checked and balanced.


McNaughton Art GIVEAWAY!!!

YES!, we’re doing it again.  In appreciation to our best fans we are giving away some of our most popular prints.  In order to enter this contest only two things are required…

First… Be a new or existing Follower of the McNaughton Blog.  Be sure to leave a comment on the blog stating your real name (blog names can be hard to identify for purposes of naming a winner!)

Second…  Change your profile image on Facebook to one of Jon’s paintings for the duration of the contest.  To prove that you did this, write a comment on my Facebook post stating why you chose this image.

This contest will run until Friday the 25th and the winners will be announced Saturday the 26th!

There will be a first and second prize awarded.  Each print will be personally signed by the artist!

***FIRST PRIZE:  Choose TWO of your favorite McNaughton 10X15 prints from the following list:  One Nation Under God, The Forgotten Man, Via Dolorosa, Peace is Coming, Parting the Veil, Awaiting the Command.

***SECOND PRIZE:  Choose ONE of your favorite McNaughton 10X15 prints from the same list as above. (To view images visit the photos on Facebook)



Road to Emmaus

I wonder what it was like to walk with Jesus on that occasion after His resurrection? In the scriptures there is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As the disciples walked they were joined by a man who enquired why they were sad. One of the men Cleopas answered by explaining some of the events which had recently occurred regarding Jesus of Nazareth who had been crucified and was said to have risen on the third day. The mysterious man began to expound the scriptures and explain the meaning of the great events which had just occurred. They invited the man to eat with them and as he broke bread it says, “their eyes were opened and they knew him and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” 

Click image to enlarge.

As I prepared to create this painting I drew on my memories from a recent trip to Israel. I could see in my mind the Savior walking with these two disciples along the dirt road with the sunlight behind Him somehow cloaking his identity from them. The story says that as he expounded unto them the scriptures their hearts burned within them. I have felt this as I have read the scriptures and have felt the Spirit of the Lord tell me these things are true. On occasion I have felt in a sense that I have walked with Him along the dusty Road to Emmaus.

McNaughton Teaches Classes!

One of my great loves besides painting is teaching.  For six years now I have taught students what I know about creating inspiring art.  It has been more than satisfying to watch the incredible talent that has come out of my workshops.  I believe that I have created a method for teaching that will take a student from a complete novice to a competent professional. 

Some people feel that you are either born with talent or not.  I don’t believe that for a second!  I truly believe that your passion to learn and your love of the craft will determine how good you become.  Remember, there is always going to be someone better than you and also someone less skilled.  This is your personal journey.  My passion for teaching is to see your development as an artist!

To learn more about my classes go to www.mcnaughtonart.com and click on Workshops.


What is a True Christian?

In today’s world, Christianity has become diverse with over 20,000 different Christian denominations; many of which profess completely different interpretations of the Bible.  The Apostle Paul taught, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5) So here we are, many of us trying our best to come to Jesus and be saved.  How are we to know what “truth” is and where to go to find it?

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus spoke of how the shepherd left the flock to find the one.  Each of us is important to our Lord.  If we will call out to Him, He will find us.  We should not put our trust in man, but in our Father who is in Heaven.  If we will do our best in this life to embrace what we believe to be true based on the words of the Master, I believe much of the misunderstandings on points of doctrine will be resolved in the world to come.  God is merciful to those who love Him. 

In my experience I have met with many groups of people as I have traveled.  I have come to know the Catholics, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Evangelicals, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons (this is my faith), the Mennonites, and many more.  One common feature I have seen in every denomination that professes Christ is that there are truly good people who love Jesus and wish to emulate Him in there lives.  But there are also those who are filled with hypocrisy and find fault in everyone else but themselves.  I’m not mentioning this to point fingers…it is simply a fact of the world we live in.

Anyone can call themselves a Christian.  But when has the acceptance of others ever been a prerequisite to entering the Lord’s Kingdom?  I believe the only thing that matters is how we stand in the Lord’s eyes.  In my painting, the suffering Jesus looks back as if to say, “What will you do?  Will you stand as a witness of me?”

I believe God will judge us based on what is in our heart and our actions.  It is true that we are saved by the grace of Jesus if we come to Him and repent.  But to be numbered among the true Disciples of Christ we must truly love Him.  “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)   And then He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.” (Matt 19:37-39) As humans, we often fall short, but if we strive to be more like Him and express that love through our service to others, we will be good Christians.

There is one more element that I believe qualifies one as a “true Christian.”  I like the scripture, “perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18)  As a Christian, we must not fear.  Even if it means that we must stand alone.  And after we have done all that we can do, we must continue to stand.  “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”  (Matt 10:22)  A true Christian’s love for Jesus Christ will motivate him to stand up for his beliefs, to love others unconditionally, and to be an advocate for truth and righteousness…regardless of the consequences.  That we may find the strength do so is my reason for painting this picture.

To learn all about the Via Dolorosa painting click on the image.


Are You Mean-Spirited?

A few days ago I was at an art show where tens of thousands had the opportunity to see my paintings.  I saw two cute grandmothers which looked to be in their late seventies.  I greeted them with a smile, but I was surprised when they lashed out that I was “mean-spirited.”  As I tried to discuss the issues they simply couldn’t get past their own perceptions. They really feel that Obama wants to help us and anyone who is against him simply must not have a heart.  I know that many of these people mean well, but how can anyone be so blind?

I suppose they see Conservatives as “mean-spirited” because we don’t believe in the redistribution of wealth.  We believe that in order to have freedom we must have the freedom to succeed… or the freedom to fail; that the federal government has a limited role in our life.  We don’t believe in heavy taxes and spending our way out of a financial crisis.

It seems to me that part of the problem is that many in America suffer from apathy.  At a time in our history when we are so comfortable, even the poorest among us have more than the middle class enjoyed in the early part of the 20th Century.  Some see the federal government as the answer to all their problems.  I think the federal government is the problem! 

What if your family was on the verge of bankruptcy?  Would you go out and buy a new luxury car and live like you won the lottery?  Would you write checks to all your favorite charitable organizations?  Would you think it appropriate to simply reduce your monthly credit card purchases, even though you had already maxed out the limit!  Would you be “mean-spirited” if you said “no” to such behavior? 

I don’t know how to get my message out in any other way than I am doing.  I hope Americans will wake up…get off your bench!  Let’s make the hard decisions that will truly save us as a nation.

Click on image to learn more about
"The Forgotten Man"