Faith and the Fiddler


Faith and the Fiddler 40hx30w oil

The concept for this painting started as an entry to a Norman Rockwell exhibit. Entrants were asked to submit works based on Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings. My concept for “Freedom of Worship” was the image of a fiddler dressed in the Stars and Stripes standing in front of a quilt with symbols of religions of the world. I turned in a concept of the poster version of my painting, (which I will post at the end of this article). I got a rejection notice from the Norman Rockwell Museum… but that didn’t stop me.

I will be displaying the working process of the painting in this post. Let’s get started! Below is the embryonic version I turned into the competition. Since then I’ve had time to think…


What does a fiddler and fiddle look like? What does my character wear? I need to feed my head with images. Here are a few.


Here’s Johnny!

I got inspiration for the fiddler from the song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” by Charlie Daniels. It is a song about a fiddler, Johnny, who out plays the devil in a fiddle contest. The wager is a golden fiddle. Johnny wins the fiddle and shoo’s the devil away. The song is the eternal struggle of good against evil with great fiddling! (When I think about where his golden fiddle came from, it would be unwise for Johnny to play it.) The figure in my painting isn’t anyone in the song. He is playing for a higher purpose, though.


Drawing on canvas using charcoal stick.

“Playing Fiddle”

Here are some ideas I played with in fiddle/music symbolism. Some form of music or chanting is often used during worship. There can be a golden light as a symbol of spirit. Mostly, I liked the idea of the golden fiddle and the golden rule. All religions have some sort of, “treat other’s as you want to be treated” saying.


The “logo design” for Golden Rule from my sketchbook.

The writing on the wall …

The fiddler stands in front of a brick wall with the words “Golden Rule” painted on it. Perhaps one needs to practice the Golden Rule to get it right, like practicing a beautiful instrument. Consider the “Golden Rule” to be all inclusive … practice it on people different from yourself.

Here are a few thoughts about brick walls: To come up against a brick wall is to encounter an obstacle or difficult problem/ Unsuccessful conversations result in feeling like one is speaking to a brick wall/ A wall divides/ Beautiful music can be heard beyond walls. I’m sure you can think of more…


This image shows the underpainting. When looking at my reference photos, I saw a lot of blue in the bricks, so that’s where I started. 

It’s an American quilt

I wanted to illustrate that the United States is a country with many religions. The first idea I had was placing the fiddler in front of a church with a stained glass window with religious symbols. I liked the stained glass idea but felt that was too European. The idea of bricks for the church wall stayed, but the glass was replaced with a quilt. I felt that it was more American and that the concept of “Freedom of Worship” was woven into the “fabric” of our country.


Work in progress with props.

Speaking of fabric, here are a few “materials” I either bought, had or created for visual reference. It is so much easier for me to actually look at things rather than make them up. I bought the hat on-line – it’s a beautifully crafted hat made of straw. There was no way I was going to find the shirt from my reference photos and I didn’t want to duplicate it. So, I bought a shirt at the Goodwill and improvised using my limited sewing skills. I couldn’t find material with the stars I wanted, but found a blue field with dots I could place stars. The quilt behind the painting was from my linen closet and helped me look at the dimensionality of a quilt.

First Amendment Serving Souls


To make my point about worship and the First Amendment, I needed it in my painting. I decided that my fiddle player needed to be wearing a dive bar t-shirt – perhaps one he’s played in? I created a logo design – which went through many transitions! I drew the design onto my fiddler’s t-shirt, making it part of the center of my composition.

Holy Hootenanny!

Here’s my poster! As part of my “Circus Real Surreal” series, I’ve been creating posters to hang with or independent of my paintings.

Now go forth and practice the Golden Rule!



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