John Wesley: a priest and a painter

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Rev. John Wesley talks about one of his paintings. (Contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

The beautiful watercolor paintings of the Rev. John Wesley were exhibited on Sunday, June 5, at the Old Crow Art Gallery in the Heritage Building in Montevallo.

Many of the interesting paintings were of various structures: churches, houses, old barns and covered bridges. At one point, Wesley was in the construction business, and he thinks his enjoyment of painting structures comes from that experience. For a long time, he painted from photographs he found in magazines, but as he became more accomplished he began painting real scenes. He had dabbled in painting since college days, but did not get really serious about it until some 10 years ago.

Along with Wesley’s paintings, there was a display in the gallery of gorgeous jewelry creations by Sandie Wesley. “My wife and I have an amazing partnership in so many ways,” said Wesley. “The things we enjoy doing, our taste in food and furnishings, our spiritual journeys and our hobbies keep us close. Sandie is an artist in her own right, making baskets and jewelry.”

Wesley is an ordained Episcopal minister serving part-time at St. Andrew’s in Montevallo and as the Episcopal campus minister at UM. His last church, prior to his official retirement after serving 40 years in the ministry, was in Pennsylvania, but when he, and his wife Sandi, were looking for a permanent home, they agreed to come back to Alabama where they had been happiest. He found an ad in the Episcopal magazine for a part-time position at St. Andrew’s and felt that God was leading him in this direction. A priest and a painter, an unusual combination perhaps, but Wesley explained that the ministry requires both sensitivity and creativity and that painting helps him develop both. “Watercolor painting is called a ‘fluid’ medium,” he said, “because the colors will run, often in unexpected ways and sometimes those movements of color turn out to be the best part of a painting. Ministry, because it always involves people with divergent personalities, life situations and faith journeys, also takes a minister in unexpected directions. Sister Mary Carita once said ‘A sure sign of God is that you end up where you did not intend to go.’ I think watercolor painting helps prepare me for that journey.”

Wes Cunningham, who operates the Old Crow Gallery, praised Wesley’s work. “I like his paintings and style so much,” he said, “that I bought four pieces for my wife and my mother-in-law.” The gallery is in the Heritage Building on Middle Street and is open by appointment. For information, call 337-3825.

Catherine Legg can be reached at