Artist Honors Robertson McQuilkin with Portrait

March 06, 2017

By Bob Holmes

Like a lot of parents who hope their child will sit still in church, Judee Dickinson’s mom and dad used to let her draw pictures during the service. But instead of the doodles of a lot of children, Dickinson drew the faces of the people around her. It became her life’s passion.

Decades later, she is known professionally as Judith Dickinson, an award-winning artist who owns and teaches at the Art Academy of Colorado near Denver. Some of her recent portraits include Christian leaders who have had an influence on her life including Bible professor Dr. Howard Hendricks, author Elisabeth Elliot and the late Columbia International University President Robertson McQuilkin. That portrait, Dickinson’s gift to CIU, now hangs in the entryway to the McQuilkin Building at CIU.

Dickinson said she wanted to honor McQuilkin for a number of reasons, including his book, “A Promise Kept,” describing his decision to resign as CIU’s third president in 1990, to care for his wife Muriel who suffered from Alzheimer disease and needed his full-time care.

“It was so touching to me in my early marriage,” Dickinson explained. “It meant so much to me.”

But there are other connections between Dickinson and McQuilkin. Her great-grandfather founded America’s Keswick ministry in New Jersey, the center of the Victorious Christian Life movement in the United States, and a founding CIU core value. Also, her grandfather was a close friend of R.C. McQuilkin, Robertson McQuilkin’s father, who served as CIU’s first president.

She recalls hearing Robertson McQuilkin speak at America’s Keswick.

“As a teenager, I was just mesmerized by what he said and his commitment to missions,” Dickinson said.

She recalls a particular week when Robertson McQuilkin challenged those at Keswick to consider their part in world evangelization.   

“I remember that was a time I recommitted my life to whatever the Lord wanted in the future.”

In addition, Dickinson is a 1968 graduate of Ben Lippen School, CIU’s Pre-K to 12th grade Christian school in Columbia. She was a Ben Lippen student when the school was located in Asheville, North Carolina, and its former headmaster Robertson McQuilkin was a frequent speaker.

The portrait of McQuilkin was created based on a number of photos taken of him. Painting portraits from photos is Dickinson’s specialty, commonly known as “Representational” or “Realism.”

“I want it to look like real skin – photos are so flat – I want to create more dimensions to my paintings than you would see in a photograph,” Dickinson explains, describing art as a “spiritual experience.”

“God is the God of creation, and to be privileged to especially create faces – their soul and their personality – to be able to try to depict that on a canvas is such a meaningful thing to me,” Dickinson said.

“When we go to heaven we will ‘look on His face’ – that Scripture struck me that it’s all about faces. The eyes are the window to the soul. The privilege to be able to paint a human being, it just feels like it’s a spiritual experience.”