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Man's painting based on 'Passion of the Christ'

December 05, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA.

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA. - When Neville West sees the Crucifixion, he sees a cleaned-up Savior, an image that leaves out the blood, violence and horror of the way Christ was put to death.

West, 72, of Waynesboro, saw actor-director Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ,"

"When I saw the movie, I saw what Christ endured in the flesh as it really happened," West said. "It moved me."

The crucifixion scene in the movie inspired him to paint a realistic version of Christ on the cross, how it would have looked in real life, he said.

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He called the painting "The Passion of the Savior," so as not to infringe on Gibson's copyright. The painting hangs on a wall in the dining room of the home West shares with his wife, Pat, and son, Jeremy, on Antietam Drive.

He said he plans to send the painting to Gibson as soon as he figures out a way to do it.

It won't be the first painting that West has done that ended up on a famous wall.

In October, 2001, about a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, West painted an 18-inch by 24-inch canvas he calls "Compassion."

It shows President Bush speaking at Ground Zero, a flag, a large bald eagle with a tear streaming down the side of its face, the burning towers, the field in Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon in ashes.

West knew a woman who works as an aide to U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who happened to be friends with the woman in charge of accepting gifts for the White House.

"She took the original and said that it hung in the White House for a while," West said. "I received a note from President Bush thanking me for the painting."

West, who grew up in the English Midlands, is a lifelong musician and artist. He started playing piano when he was 4 and considers himself to be self-taught.

"I play by ear," West said. "I only had three months of lessons."

He remembers sitting on the organist's lap in church when he was 5. He was a church pianist at 12.

The oldest of five sons of a house painter, West also developed a strong interest in art very early in his life.

"I started to draw when I was 5," he said. "At 8, I was the youngest student in the Burton-on-Trent School of Art in Staffordshire."

West's British accent is as fresh and eloquent today as it was when he first came to the United States in 1963 to work as an itinerant evangelist for his denomination, the Assemblies of God. His ministry took him to 42 states before he settled in as pastor of the Glen Furney Assembly of God Church on Old Forge Road 17 years ago.

West's talent for art is all over his house. He specializes in reproducing the works of the masters, as well as painting English notables from photographs.

One of his favorites, painted in 1973, is his reproduction of Canaletto's 1750 painting of the Thames River and St. Paul's Cathedral. The original hangs in Windsor Castle. West's copy, painted from an art book illustration, hangs in his dining room.

The walls of his living room are decorated on one side with a large painting of Henry VII. Next to Henry hangs Queen Elizabeth at her Silver Jubilee. Queen Victoria eyes them both from across the room.

He also does speed painting, a skill that helps in his evangelistic work. Since he thinks of himself as an artist, musician and preacher, he uses the experience he's learned from all three endeavors to preach the gospel to his own congregation and when visiting other churches, local civic and fraternal organizations and senior centers.

He begins with an acrylic that he finishes in about 20 minutes. He follows that with some musical numbers on piano - usually old hymns - and follows up with the gospel.

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