Creation on canvas
An interview with award-winning illustrator and author, Thyrza Davey
Storm clouds gathered and spread across the sky. Muffled sounds of a thunderstorm soon gave way to plump raindrops. Then came a downpour that caused the Para River to burst its banks and to flood lush vineyards and grape-growers’ homes in South Australia’s Barossa Valley in March 1983.
Thyrza Davey was painting scenes of the Barossa when the storm hit. She captured on canvas the cloud building up over a distant home, and signed her finished painting ‘Davey, Gen. 9:11’. This verse from Genesis records God’s promise to Noah that He would never again send a world-wide flood.
A Bible verse beside Thyrza (pronounced ‘Thurza’) Davey’s signature has become something of a trademark on her paintings. Her painting of dawn breaking over tranquil waters, which she included in her first book, Waiting for May, reminded her of God’s dividing light from darkness. So she signed the painting ‘Davey, Gen. 1:4’.
‘Choosing a Bible verse reference is very important to me’, Thyrza said. ‘I spend a great deal of time searching through my Bible and using a good concordance. I try to tie the verse into both the subject matter of the painting and the theme of my story.’
In case you don’t know, Thyrza’s artwork and writing are highly regarded by experts. She has won the Christian Book of the Year award twice (for her first two children’s books), and one of Australia’s best-known artists, Pro Hart, bought the entire collection of paintings she did for Waiting for May.
‘God always gets the glory!’, she said. ‘But it is nice to have some recognition for one’s endeavours. When you win an award you are immediately flavour of the month. It doesn’t last long, but it’s always a great opportunity to talk about the Lord.’
Thyrza said she has found that the Bible references in her paintings and illustrations are a good way of witnessing for Christ.
‘I have met a few people who have been so moved by the Scripture verses that they have gone to the trouble of printing out the whole verse above the painting for easy reference.’
Thyrza has strong views about creation.
‘I am a creative person, and I see the hand of God all around me—whenever I gaze up into the heavens, whenever I see the moon and stars …’.
She said much of the last few chapters of the book of Job, particularly chapters 38 and 39, parallel her feelings about the Creator and His creation. ‘The evolution theory is an insult to one’s intelligence’, she said.
But things have not always been that way.
Fifteen years ago she was an atheist. She decided to enter a painting in a religious art contest at that time, but soon realized her total ignorance of Christianity was a major handicap. She visited local churches in search of books on religious art. This usually ended up in arguments with the ministers.
So she headed overseas to tour the major European art galleries, and to view and learn from the works of the old masters. On her return to Australia her son Christopher led her to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then tragedy struck.
‘Just two weeks after I was “born again” I was told by specialists at Royal Brisbane Hospital that I had cancer.’ She was admitted to hospital and underwent surgery.
‘My new-found faith and the prayers of my family and friends helped me through all this. It took several years to get over the operation, but I am here today, very well, and still praising God.’
Has this experience affected her writing and painting?
Leading Christian Australian artist Pro Hart has a high regard for Thyrza Davey’s work. He bought the entire collection of her paintings which illustrated her first book Waiting for May, and some others.
He said, ‘The reason I bought the works is because I like her paintings and I consider them an important part of my Australian collection. She is a great painter and an important one.’
Pro Hart has a very large collection of paintings in his gallery at Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia. He said he shows Thyrza’s work to important collectors.
‘My objective in writing a book is basically just to tell a good story that any age can enjoy. I like to give my characters big obstacles to face and overcome, and I hope my readers will be excited and encouraged by this.’
Thyrza’s latest children’s book, Wintersmoke, has just been released. It touches on subjects she feels very strongly about—conservation and domestic animal welfare. It is a sequel to her award-winning illustrated book, Yonderbeyonder.
Thyrza believes Christians should constantly strive to do their best for God. Her venture into book-writing quite late in life is an example.
‘We all have God-given talents’, she said. ‘I pray most earnestly that everyone reading this article would make his or her life count for the Lamb of God. He gave His best for us; we must try to do our best for Him. It may mean we will have to go out on a limb for God, but He promises to meet us at that point.’
The essence of this belief comes back to that painting she did of dawn breaking over tranquil waters, as opposed to the storm before the flood. ‘There’s always another day, and with it new hope’, she said.