The Freedom of Art With Kyle Trudelle
From the Dark To The Light, The Freedom Of Art: Kyle Trudelle
Written by Henry Ortlip
Statistics are shocking when it comes to the development of kids in homes where one or more parent is addicted to drugs. Most numbers point to a life of depression, time in prison, or continuing the addictive drug cycle. But for Kyle Trudelle, art was not only a way to escape the statistics, it also provided a higher purpose and a gifting that he relates could have only come from God. While the passion started at a young age, ironically his parents weren’t the ones trying to kill the dream, but rather the church. Deemed “secular” and “not of God” Trudelle was led to burn all of his artwork. He encountered powerful spiritual warfare that even left him paralyzed for months, only to conquer the enemy, regain full health and become an incredibly successful artist in a number of genres; all without any formal training. Risen met up with this vivacious 27-year-old and his family to learn more about his journey, his undisputable talent, and despite the testing, his now unwavering love for the Jesus Christ.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: When did art become a passion for you?
Kyle Trudelle: To be completely honest, where I grew up, and how I grew up is very different than what my life is today. I was born into a family of drug addicts; my biological father was very abusive and very talented. I remember watching him draw and paint things. I was so intrigued by it and always wanted to create. I would always go outside and take a piece of bark and start scratching on the ground. I think honestly if I were to pinpoint a time that art became a passion, I would have to say, “always.” I always understood color. I remember in kindergarten they gave me blocks and they were all colors and I put them in the order of a rainbow. The teacher said, “Oh you made a rainbow?” And I said, “What’s a rainbow?” She told me about how when it rains it’s the color spectrum. She said, “What made you do that?” I said, “They just looked best this way.” I always understood what form, light, and color were. I really am obsessed with contrast and light.
Risen Magazine: When looking through your work you seem well beyond your years, what age do you feel you came into your own?
Kyle Trudelle: In public school the kids would always notice and wanted to watch me draw and they would try and get me to draw pictures of them. In fifth grade I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Arnett. I went through high school taking special education courses in math, science, and reading. Academically I wasn’t connecting well, but artistically I was well beyond the game. In fifth grade Mrs. Arnett noticed that. She didn’t view me as a problem child who can’t read. Instead she would give me books to teach me in ways that worked. She would tell me to tell her the story based on the pictures in the book. She would spend time with me after class reading to me as I viewed the pictures and even had me draw as she read. She honed in on my skills; she knew the avenue I needed to learn was visual.
Risen Magazine: How has your artistic process developed as you’ve grown in both age and skills?
Kyle Trudelle: It’s neat. Every time I want to paint something I usually say to my wife, “Honey, we’ve got to go to an art gallery.” I used to get in trouble when I was younger for touching the paintings. I can look at a painting and see the layers and see the brush strokes. For me its like how the rest of the world reads a book. I can see it and understand it. I’m reading the painting, I can see the brush strokes, and I can see what the artist did underneath the layers. I love to touch the paints and feel the textures the artist created. When I see this, I can go home and try things myself. There was a whole year that my wife and I lived in Arkansas. She was working in a private school as an assistant to the principal. I was free not to work. So I took an entire year-and-a-half and painted every single day. I tried every single technique I could think of. I didn’t have schooling in this; I just decided to dive in. I would pray and say, “God, you taught DaVinci, you taught Monet, you gave them this talent so please teach me how to work with these mediums. Teach me how to express what You want me to express in beauty and life.” I just did it and from one painting to the next I would grow tremendously.
Risen Magazine: Talk about the use of light and why it is so important in bringing your images to life.
Kyle Trudelle: I’m obsessed with that. When I was a teenager I was in church and Thomas Kinkade was the only artist that was okay because of the religious circle I was in. Kincade was known as the painter of light; he always painted this way. Most artists say not to ever use black in your paintings because it will devalue the color. But Kincade would use black a lot because the way to get light super bright is to get dark, super dark. That contrast is what I learned at a young age. Honestly, it’s all about placement. When I teach, my art class students ask, “How do you get the wave to glow, or the sun to glow?” It really is placement and contrast.
My artwork is my worship. If you look at the Bible, the first characteristic of God is He is a creator.
Risen Magazine: You got married at a relatively young age so how did that shape your goals and priorities?
TK: Randi and I were best friends since we were about fifteen. We met in high school and went to the same church. In my journal, I had written how she was super beautiful and all the teen guys wanted to date her. I had written that I wanted to be her friend and get to know her, and I wanted to see if that would lead into actually marrying her. We were taught in the religious circle we were in that you were to date your wife. We weren’t taught to date people, but rather to look for a wife and that’s the person you hone in on. I wrote in my journal that this woman is so beautiful and the first person that I was actually attracted too. We became best friends and eventually went to Bible College together. We knew everything about each other, and even came from the same struggle. One day we just sat down and I told her I couldn’t imagine my life without her. If we were to start dating other people, we wouldn’t be able to have this close friendship. I told her I loved her for the first time and said, “I truly believe we should get married. We are better together as one, than we are apart.” We decided to get married, and four months later we actually got married. We got pregnant a year after we were married and had Titus.
It’s been so beautiful, because at worst we are best friends. If I’m having a struggle, even if it’s with Randi, I try and bring it back to when we were friends in high school and would talk through the struggles and help each other through everything. We sit and talk about it as friends, and then come together as husband and wife again. It’s been the foundation of who I am and what I am. I have gone through some really dark times in my life and the time in our relationship when we decided to get married was a time where my health wasn’t good. I was diagnosed not with brain tumors, but they found masses on my brain and I had lost a lot of memory. I had paralysis from the waist down. I was hospitalized for about nine months and it was not looking good. I had lost a lot of weight and had cluster headaches, I had lost so much and she was the only one that was there. We come from so much of a conservative background some people were saying, “It must be something you’re doing so God is killing you. You need to change your lifestyle and God will heal you.” Randi believed in me and helped me through that. She was there through everything. She is my structure and foundation. She is the foundation and that beacon that tells me what to do and where to go.
Risen Magazine: Will you share a little more about your health, the spiritual warfare you experienced and the healing you now have?
Kyle Trudelle: I was in a church that was a place of bondage. They [church elders] told me that my artwork was not of God and that artists are not inspired by God saying, “Art is a secular thing.” I was led to destroy all of the artwork that I created before I was 15 years old. I had some great work that I burned and ripped up; I began to die inside. My artwork is my worship. If you look at the Bible, the first characteristic of God is He is a creator. When I realized that, I got out of that environment. As I left the environment I got so much oppression from them. They told me God was going to destroy me. I went to a different church which was a better environment. I started painting again. I started getting letters from home of hate and people telling me I needed to change my life and come back. I started getting headaches and feeling sick. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to move. I woke up one morning and I couldn’t feel my legs. I started to panic. My roommate who was on the top bunk, I was at a Bible College, picked me up and held me like a baby. He began to pray for me as I was hysterical with fear. He took me to the hospital and I started having seizures. That’s when I got scans and they found the masses on my brain. The next day I woke up and didn’t remember where I was.
After some recovery, my legs where feeling a little bit better. I didn’t want to leave the college because it meant having to go back to my home and the church environment that wasn’t healthy. The next scan I got doctors found a bunch of fluid on my brain. I ended up going back home for a bit. When I walked into my old church, many people were friendly and happy to see me but a lady came up to me and said, “God has told me, that if you change your lifestyle He will stop killing you.” She told me that it was God who was doing this. I looked at her and started to weep. I told my sister to get me out of there. I walked out of the church and fell limp. I couldn’t move. I realized that I don’t think this is a sickness of brain tumors. This was a spiritual issue.
I prayed for God to help me to fix this. I didn’t know about healing, but I prayed. “God you have three options. You can take me home, leave me a vegetable, or heal me and give me a purpose. I don’t have an agenda, You can pick. I want You to give me what You want me to have.” I just kept praying. I remember waking up and opening my eyes, I felt good. I felt normal. I went to move my legs and I wasn’t paralyzed anymore. I actually got out of bed and walked downstairs and my mom was shocked to say the least. I told her, “I feel great.” I remember just feeling God’s presence, that He was going to give me a purpose, and that I always had a purpose.
Risen Magazine: Wow. When I hear the things the church said to you in the name of God, it is really quite unbelievable. But yet you didn’t turn from God, or hate God, instead you prayed to God for healing and you have a stronger faith today because of it. Obviously there are different sectors of religion and many claim to believe in God, but how do you view church because of this experience?
Kyle Trudelle: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free…” Galatians 5:1. There are a lot of religions out there that really don’t believe in the freedom of being the body of Christ. With talking to my pastor locally in San Diego about it, he told me there is nothing against what my old church and pastor did to me. They were doing what they believed was best. They just are limited and don’t know, or understand, God’s freedom. Don’t hate your old pastor, or speak against him. My old church does preach salvation and the Word of God; they just don’t understand and know all of it.
The enemy, Satan, wants to confuse us; he wants people to think that church is a place of bondage. He wants the church to put a sour taste in people’s mouths. We are all a part of the body of Christ, it’s not right to criticize other parts of the body; that doesn’t please God. We have to stay humble and realize the body of Christ isn’t the issue, but rather the enemy who is trying so desperately to confuse the followers of Christ. The devil is doing a great job in a way, but I believe God is on the rise in communities all over the world. I try to encourage people no matter what religion or church they are in, to continue to seek after God. It is a continual personal growth. When people put a limit on faith it puts God in a box and I realized very quickly God cannot be put in a box. At the time, I couldn’t live under the teaching of my old church where there was only one way of doing things, and there was only one way to look, and certain clothing to wear. There is a difference in seeking after God and His Word, or seeking after what a man is going to tell you what God says. I can say this with boldness and confidence; no one can sit and say I get my faith from what a man has told me. It has to come from the Creator. I’m blessed to come from where I have come from. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the journey.
In fact in many ways, my siblings and I are better able to see the true meanings of being a father and understanding the sacrifice of the Savior ironically modeled by the men in our lives. You see, my biological father would beat my mother, but during times he was sober he would well up with tears when he realized what he had done. He would leave for days and come back and apologize. I know that he loved me and my mother. The real proof for me to know his love was that he let us go. He let Leo, my adoptive father, take us away. All of my siblings really have an attachment to the Savior because we witnessed the needed sacrifice in Leo. To me, the true love of a father is a man that let us go because it’s the best thing for us, and the true love of a savior is a man laying down his life in his twenties to take on a woman and her four kids. Leo took us in and cared for us when he had nothing but a station wagon. He gave up everything for us.
Risen Magazine: So then what role does faith play in your personal life and work now?
Kyle Trudelle: Absolutely everything. Without faith there is a darkness that every artist will have. Every single artist out there has a place, a reservoir inside of them. They have a place inside where they can tap into darkness and create out of depression and being lost. Most artists whether they are writers, painters, or sculptors have come to a moment where they get stuck or writer’s block. When you are stuck in that moment and you don’t have faith, and you don’t know what you believe in, or where your purpose is, you can spiral so quickly into darkness. I have been in that darkness and have seen so many artists fall into that darkness and get trapped and don’t know how to get out. Their art is saying – darkness, death, war, depravity and suicide. But people purchase art like this because they can identify with it and that comforts them somehow. I want to comfort them with life and beauty; God says our eyes affect our heart. I want their eyes to look at my artwork, even if it’s peaches, and feel God’s beauty and feel safe.
Risen Magazine: Many artists want their work to be perfect, taking excessive amounts of time to have it be just right. You create work at a rapid rate and move on to the next piece following a completed work. What gives you the confidence to release your work so effortlessly and not feel attached?
Kyle Trudelle: When you look at the peaches, the one thing most people say most is, “That’s impressive. It looks like a photograph.” When I painted the peaches I wasn’t coming at it from a place of freedom or a place of worship. I was coming at it from a place of, “This has to be perfect. I have to be the best. I want people to look at my work and be inspired.” That was the peaches painting. When I went deep down, I realized I needed to allow myself as an artist to be free and to have vulnerability; to let my talent be revealed and be naked in front of the world. Other work I do is messy and raw. Over time people would come up to me and say, “Oh, you’re the painter.” Or, “You’re the artist.” I’d say, “No, I’m not the artist; I’m not the painter. I’m so much more than that. I’m a son of the most-high God; I’m an ambassador for Jesus Christ.” I’m not my painting; I’m not my work. So many artists mistake their artwork for who they are. So that’s why the art has to be perfect. But I understand that where my identity is – I am not what I create, but yet I am what my Creator has made. Art is just something I do, it’s not who I am.
Risen Magazine: As you mentioned earlier, you teach art classes. When it comes to amateur artists starting out, what advice do you give them?
Kyle Trudelle: I have been told that I come at teaching with a different attitude. The avenue I come with is freedom. I explain to my students not to approach art with the stress of comparison. I tell them to follow step-by-step what I tell them to do and if they can allow themselves the freedom to step into their painting and not worry about what their outcome will be, then I promise them their paintings will look beautiful. Weather they believe in God or not, they are basically hearing God’s Word, which is freedom. If they don’t paint from a place of freedom, they will create paintings that speak bondage. I teach for them to have fun with it and be free. I have learned that I have the ability to inspire. I always thought growing up in church I wanted to be a preacher, but I realized that is not where my place is. My place is to inspire people through art. I have found that [to be true] in teaching, especially when I see my students create something profound. I have the ability to give freedom through what I love. That is the big thing I think I have learned about myself. Believe it or not, I have always been more of an introvert and didn’t want to have attention placed on me. But now, when I’m painting in front of somebody I’m a completely different person. It’s taught me that I’m truly who I am and who I was created to be – to inspire others through art.
Exclusive Interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Fall 2014