Joni's artwork, The Run

The Run

Horses have always inspired Joni. Growing up on a Maryland farm where she became a skilled equestrian, she grew to understand the anatomy of a horse. Although her quadriplegia prevents her from horseback riding, Joni still gets engaged with horses through her drawings and paintings.

This pastel pencil rendering was originally intended as a preliminary sketch for a watercolor. “I cropped the outline of a horse as close as I could, while preserving the grace and dynamism of his run,” says Joni. “If you take your thumb and cover the eye of the horse, he lacks life – he looks like one of those Greek statues with no arms or legs. But when you take your thumb away, it’s clear how much life and vitality is communicated through the eye. Whether in horses or humans, the eyes are truly a window into the soul!”

The Run never became a watercolor. Joni decided it should remain a pastel-pencil drawing. “Besides, after chewing through almost 70 pencils,” she says, “I felt I had invested way too much in this drawing to simply have it stay in a drawer in my art files.”

Joni presented The Run to her husband, Ken Tada, as a wedding gift shortly after they married in 1982. The framed original hangs in their home in Calabasas, California. On display here is a limited edition of The Run – this limited edition, and others, are available through our store.

Heaven…Your Real Home

In 1994 when I wrote my book on heaven, the publisher asked if I would like to create a design for the cover of the book. I jumped right in!

When I think of my ‘mansion in glory,’ I picture wheat fields, mountains, and a little ranch house under a big sycamore tree. And so, I drew this rendering using nothing but pastel pencils on an illustration board, 21” high and a little over 16” wide. Blue and gold are the predominant colors in this pastel pencil sketch – colors of the King.

The peaceful horizontal lines contrast with the exalted, vertical lines of the sunlight – communicating two wonderful aspects of heaven: serenity and exaltation. In heaven, we will both be at complete peace, while being active in service for our wonderful Lord.

A limited edition of this original was created and at the bottom was printed:

2 Peter 3:13 – “but in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Forget that I chewed through 72 pastel pencils to render this drawing. To me, I just want the viewer to enjoy thinking about heaven when they admire this work of art. What will our mansions in heaven really be like? Who knows?! I’m just grateful that our eternal home will be in the city of the great King!

Drawing with My Mouth: My First Effort

It was my first week in occupational therapy, shortly after the diving accident in which I broke my neck. I was so demoralized at the prospects of being a quadriplegic for the rest of my life. Whatever in the world would I do with myself?

My OT asked me to grip a wooden dowel between my teeth so I could practice ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ on a damp piece of clay shaped in an oval.
I did not like the idea, but since there wasn’t much else I could do…
I gave it a try.

I drew my favorite subject: a horse. You can imagine my surprise when, after a few minutes, I finished my cowboy on his bucking bronco. “I can actually do something,” I thought, “The talent isn’t in my hands; it’s in my head!” It was the beginning of my love affair with drawing and painting!

View Clay Art

The Sermon on the Mount

Early in 1998, Ken Tada committed to memory Matthew chapters 5-7 known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Later that same year Ken and Joni toured Israel – one sunny afternoon, their visit took them to a high hill just above the ruins of Capernaum. They wandered through a field to a natural amphitheater tucked on the side of the hill.

It was late in the day, all the tour buses were gone, and the hillside was quiet. Ken turned to face the Sea of Galilee and began to recite the Sermon on the Mount – all three chapters!

It took almost 15 minutes for Ken to recite the chapters. And as Joni listened, it was easy to imagine the crowds gathered there to hear those same words from the Savior. That day became one of the highlights of their visit to the Holy Land. When Joni and Ken returned home, she was inspired to paint the scene as it may have looked over 2,000 years ago.

The result is this stunning landscape in oil of the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee and Jesus preaching to the people. Joni employed a compositional cue – she intended your eye to follow the line of grazing sheep until you, too, ‘sit’ at the feet of Jesus. The painting required over a year to complete. “A long time has passed since that day Ken and I stood on the hill above Capernaum,” Joni says, “but the memory of Ken reciting Matthew 5-7 remains crystal clear… and this painting helps keep it fresh. All of it reminds us to keep following Jesus’ lessons from the Sermon on the Mount.”

Joni's New Life Art Print with autumn leaves and a butterfly

New Life

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

This Bible verse perfectly describes the meaning behind Joni’s ink and watercolor, New Life. First, we see a lifeless butterfly pinned to the board; then, we see a caterpillar. Within the shade of a leaf, we spot a chrysalis containing the pupa. Next, there’s a brand new butterfly with wet, weak wings emerging from its chrysalis; and finally, after its wings dry, the lovely creature sits on the tip of the branch ready to fly.

Many have observed that a butterfly’s wings are made strong through its struggle to break free of the chrysalis. Our growth in Christ follows the same path. We need to go through many struggles in order to become the person God wants us to be. We learn in Acts 14:22 that “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…”

In this painting, Joni used two types of ink – one that would smear, and one that wouldn’t. The paint on the butterfly’s wings is almost transparent – this is why he looks so ready to fly. Altogether, Joni used half a dozen pens, brushes and other implements; including a 2″ wide brush for the sky washes. New Life was featured in the movie Joni and remains her signature piece.

Joni's Art, The Nativity

The Nativity

In early 1980, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was in the midst of planning a Christmas television special for later that year. Mr. Graham wanted to offer a gift to his viewers – he had the idea of an original art print of Mary holding baby Jesus, but he wanted it to be unique. The following week, BGEA called to tell me that I had been selected to create this unusual rendering!

I was extremely honored, but wondered, There are a million paintings of Mary and Jesus. What could I possibly do that would be different?! I had an idea! Why not draw Mary lying down and holding her baby… then, make her legs become the hills that lead to Mt. Calvary? That would really anchor her to earth, I reasoned. I even experimented with compositional lines to place baby Jesus on another plane – a heavenly one bathed in divine light. That would be different!

I asked Diane, one of the secretaries at World Wide Pictures in Burbank (where Joni and Friends had its first office), to pose for me. The next day she brought in yards of fabric and her neighbor’s baby. After a few hours, I had all the preliminary sketches I needed.

At first, I thought the drawings would be the basis for an oil painting; but I liked the line-quality of my charcoal pencils so much, I decided to leave it as a museum quality sketch.

Stand back and take a look at The Nativity. I pray that you, too, will “see” something different. Take a moment to reflect on how Jesus’ birth must be celebrated in the context of his death and resurrection. For only then does his Advent into our dark world have meaning.

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21