I Paint to Reclaim My Light

Finding Peace in Nature, Sisterhood, and Watercolors

What is Quakerly about my art? Or would I consider my artwork Quaker art? My artwork’s aesthetic may or may not be Quakerly; I don’t know. My illustration process often involves sitting in silence while I create. Sometimes I paint during online meetings for worship. Perhaps my illustrations are Quaker because they try to prove our belief that there is that of God/the Divine/Jah/Yaweh/Allah/Great Spirit (God has many names) in all of us.

As a Black woman and convinced Quaker, my experience is that some of our lights are allowed to shine more brightly than others; this is unfortunate. I am also aware that some people believe they are more entitled than others (a sense of privilege) due to their skin color or standing in society. Is this because they feel their Light is more important than others or that their Light has more “that of God” within them than does someone else’s? Do other Quakers recognize this?

Anissa New-Walker, Little Ladies with Ladyslippers, ​​7″ x 10″, watercolor and ink.

Whether other Quakers realize this or not, my truth is that I and those who look like me are forced every day to experience the plethora of systems of oppression that belittle our being, our bodies, and our souls. We endure so much negativity: stereotypes, biases, microaggressions, macroaggressions, and blatant racism. So, early in my adventures in watercolor illustration, I decided to only paint Black children. Recently, my work has featured my sister and me together in nature.

My sister and I learned at an early age how difficult it would be to navigate life as little Black girls and then as Black women. We grew up in coastal Maine in the 1970s, supposedly the wonder years of peace and prosperity after the Civil Rights era. Our school life was troubled, sometimes violent, but my sister and I were able to find solace in our backyard, deep in the woods. Even now, as an adult living miles away from where I grew up, I still feel the peace that surpasses all understanding when I am in nature. As it says in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anissa New-Walker, Sisters During Rocky Times, ​​7″ x 10″, watercolor and ink.

So lately, my watercolors and doodles have been of my sister and me embracing the natural world we played in and were part of when we lived in Maine. I understand that the natural world—not the material one man has created—was and is God’s church, temple, and synagogue.

My sister and I are each other’s soulmates. We are each other’s biggest supporters in a world that, with every passing day, chooses to dim our brightness and create our struggle. In real life, our play clothing was never as pristine as depicted in my watercolors. She and I wear little cream dresses and hair ribbons in my artwork to connote our prim Southern upbringing. Our parents were from the South and migrated to the North seeking a better life. I never asked them whether they found what they were seeking.

Anissa New-Walker, Collecting Blueberries for Pie, ​​7″ x 10″, watercolor and ink.

Every morning, my sister and I lift each other up so we can fortify our day with love, affirmation, and strength to face whatever may come. My illustrations are an ode to our sisterhood, struggle, and healing love of God’s natural world.

I paint to quell my fears. I paint to still my soul. I paint to reclaim my Light.

Anissa New-Walker

Anissa New-Walker is a convinced Quaker and member at large of New York Yearly Meeting. She lives on Ramapough–Lenape land in the Hudson Valley of New York. In addition to spending her childhood playing in the Maine woods, another favorite pastime was drawing for hours on end. She is a self-taught watercolor illustrator who prefers to spend her time outside rather than in. More of her illustrations can be found on Instagram: @mainespiral.

1 thought on “I Paint to Reclaim My Light

  1. No one chooses the circumstances of their birth(time, place, gender, race, nationality, health, parentage, etc.). Few people ever realize that. Prejudice, racism, discrimination of all kinds and degrees are taught by the environment in which one finds themselves, fewer people ever realize that. Still fewer make an effort to do improve their situation!

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