Steve Tadrick spent most of his life painting houses, never dreaming he’d be spending his retirement years putting paint to paper and bringing those who view his works into a closer walk with Jesus.
Although he always considered himself a creative person and worked well with his hands, he didn’t give much thought to painting as an artistic endeavor until he retired a few years ago, nor did his job and family leave much time for the solitude required for artists.
“I knew I had it in me, but I didn’t know how to get it out of me,” he says.
But with retirement came more time and the courage to try, he says. He began by copying a Claude Monet painting that he cut from a calendar, tracing the original and then just jumping in.
“I just began and waited to see what would happen,” he says. “I spent about a month on it and was amazed by how it turned out. I remember taking a photo of it with my phone and looking at it and thinking, ‘this is starting to look like something. Keep going. I think I can do this.’”
Steve grew up in the St. Louis area and graduated from Webster Groves High School. Following a stint in the Army, including a year in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry in 1968, he returned to St. Louis and began a 31-year career as a house painter. Along the way, he married Theresa and the couple had four children and now seven grandchildren. Both Steve and Theresa are members of the Bridges community, and both serve as prayer companions and members of the board.
Working in watercolor, Steve is drawn to pictures of Jesus, especially ones of him in places of solitude. He brings to his work a spirit of imaginative prayer that he learned through the Bridges Retreat, allowing him to put himself into the scene with Jesus. So his paintings are, in essence, both him and Jesus, he says.
“When I see him up on a mountain, I like to consider that we are up there with him,” he says. “I ask myself, ‘if I were Jesus, what would I be doing and thinking?’ Part of my spiritual journey is piecing my faith and life together like a puzzle and seeing how it all fits together.”
Steve says he learned the value of perseverance during the Bridges Retreat.
“I learned to keep going when it gets tough. I learned that something is always developing and that the Spirit is lifting us up, but you don’t learn that in a day.”
By nature, Steve is solitary and introverted, needed personality traits for both an artist and someone who values time in prayer. But he also values community.
“I can live in quiet for a long time,” he says, “but the Bridges Retreat and the Magis Program get me out among people and allow me to share my spiritual life with others. I’ve learned that we’re more alike than we are different. Everyone supports one another in the Bridges community, and that’s not something you get everywhere.”
Since his later-life abilities came as a surprise gift to him, he feels as if they are something that he has to share. Most of his paintings and woodcarvings are reproductions of the work of other artists, so he has no desire to benefit financially from them. He often gives them away to someone who is attracted to a certain piece.
“I hope that my paintings can be spiritual help for someone else,” he says. “I learned through the Spiritual Exercises and my own spiritual director the importance of being open and having courage to allow the Spirit in, to be able to trust.”
More than anything, he is grateful.
“In Vietnam, I was fearful that I would never make it back. So I believe this is my reward, somehow, that God is letting me do something that I never thought I could do. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s part of the mystery and there’s a reason for it. I hope my work touches people in ways I cannot even imagine.”
-written by Steve Givens