For Larry Swetman, art has been a saving grace. Growing up in a broken family in East Point, Ga., Mr. Swetman found solace and encouragement in art classes.

"Art and music classes let me see the world the way that I needed to see it to cope," he said. "Art teachers were always the most encouraging people. I find that the arts gets to the depths of who a person is."

While he found art as a child, Mr. Swetman said he found God as a teenager. In 2008, he graduated from Covenant College with a degree in biblical and theological studies.

Q: If somebody were to look at one of your paintings, what does that express about you?

A: It's everything that's gotten me to this point in my life. You will see change, and that's the whole point; it's change of perspective. I find myself working with red a lot and bright colors when I'm in a good mood because they appeal to me, they comfort me. When I find myself down, I paint in blues and grays and silvers, these things that you just look at and you can feel. That's the whole point of modern art: to feel when you look at it.

Q: You said you became a Christian in high school. Can you talk about the process of how you came into that?

A: I remember it vividly. My past left a lot of scars, a lot of pain. The setting I was in was depressing: a mom who is working two jobs, staying with your (distant relatives), fighting a lot because of it. (I was) looking for a way out. I went to church one night to see my friend play bass. And Jesus found me. It didn't feel like a burden anymore. I wasn't inclined toward those things anymore. And so that's hope given to me, a means to an end given to me.

Q: What is the marriage between your art and your faith?

A: I'm not one of those people who keep their Christianity in one sector and their careers or their lives in another. It's all into one. I can paint because of how I see the world and how I feel about the world. And I can only feel that way because of Jesus. Because of what Jesus did and is doing. Is there a specific example that I can nail down -- this is Christianity and art? No. Because my art is Christian. Because I am my art.

Q: What do you think the risks are for young students as art programs are eliminated from schools?

A: I think in some regards you lose your humanity. I think school will become mechanical. The American education system is already such that kids don't want to go. Kids aren't interested in learning. I found that in my interaction with children, arts as we've been defining it, and the expression that comes out of it is what keeps kids there. There might be somebody else who needs an escape that history can't offer a solution for.

Quick Takes:

Age: 23.

Favorite painting

Jackson Pollock's "Lavender Mist."

Album he'd take to a desert island

The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Dream girl

Audrey Hepburn. "That woman had enough class for everybody in the room."

Favorite movie

"Amelie" or "Casablanca." "How much of a stereotypical artist do I sound like?"

Quote you live by

"He who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long."


"The Lord's" (in Hebrew). "L'art c'est moi" ("The art is me.")