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I'm just a mum who paints

Hannah Dunnett’s watercolour paintings combined with Scripture are sold throughout the UK. She talks to Sandie Shirley about how it all began ...

Hannah Dunnett’s inspiring designs are now available as cards, pictures, calendars, journals and, more recently, a devotional and reflective book, telling the stories behind the artwork. Her illustrations also feature in a new journalling Bible published by Hodder Faith this month.

The Bible verses that have helped mark and shape Hannah’s own journey with God – including a medical career, working with a church mission in Brazil and bringing up a family – are the hallmark of each picture. They include ‘key’ themes – faith, hope, love and comfort, and are available at many Christian bookshops, cathedrals, retreats and the company website.

Nearly six years ago Hannah gave up her job as a busy GP to devote more time to her young family. Her future was uncertain, but as the artistic talent that had flourished as a child re-emerged, Hannah began to pave a new creative path to share her Christian faith.

It began when Hannah was asked to paint two pictures for a public exhibition at the city church she attended near her former home. She explains: “The event was expected to attract lunch time shoppers and business people, so I painted bold colourful pictures that I hoped would draw people in to discover the words of Scripture within them.”

Those initial designs, Creator God (pictured) – a natural landscape – and a cityscape contrasting human power and wealth with God’s sovereignty and wisdom, charted a new adventure. With encouragement from family and friends, she added more designs for a gallery exhibition at the New Wine Christian festival and they sold, igniting public interest.

Soon bookshops began to stock her artwork.

“At first I went to those I had a connection with – one in the Lake District and another at a retreat. Then I telephoned other retailers while the children were at school and painted more pictures to extend the range as new ideas began to flow.”

Further outlets followed 18 months later when Hannah took her designs to a Christian Resources Together event in 2012.

The couple fit business around their family. Musician husband, Ben gave up his teaching job three years ago to help run the company and manage the website after their third child was born.

Although successful, Hannah sees herself as “just a mum who paints”. She works on the kitchen table – alongside Ben and another staff member – after clearing the breakfast dishes and doing the school run.

“My artwork is just a little vehicle to take the Bible to others, which is humbling and a privilege. The God of all Comfort picture has been helpful to people during times of loss and bereavement. I spent a long time on this picture, thinking really hard about which verses would encourage someone in that situation; it took me three attempts to paint it.

“Psalm 139 has been a favourite since childhood. To be known by God, to the core of my being, and to know I am never beyond his reach makes me feel deeply loved and safe. The artwork is an abstract from the highest heavens to the grains of sand on the ocean floor with different coloured blue waves allowing the words to flow as a psalm.”

This summer, Lion Hudson published More than Words, which details the images, experiences, friends and loved ones that have inspired many of her pictures.

“I painted a sailing boat on an ocean because my dad loves sailing. It is also a powerful analogy for faith, trust and prayer during the rough and calm seas of life.”

Hannah reflects: “Medicine taught me a lot, but it was never my real passion. It felt like a pair of shoes that didn’t fit properly, but through it I learnt so much about myself, people and God. It changed my character and my faith, and gave me the confidence to make a new start. I don’t know what the future holds, but I try to make the most of every day, taking the twists and turns ahead with an open mind.”

+ Sandie Shirley is a freelance writer based in Norwich
+ Find out more about Hannah’s work at www.benandhannahdunnett.com

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