While on a family vacation to Edisto Island, S.C., I visited the New First Missionary Baptist Church. This active church is listed on the national register of historic places and dates back to 1818.

I loved the simplicity of the structure and knew I wanted to use it in a painting. I wandered toward the rear of the church, where the cemetery came into view. It was well-kept and dotted with a variety of grave markers.

I started drawings and studies to work out the composition for my painting. Initially I was focused on the entrance of the church, but I kept thinking about my feeling when I was near that back entrance and looking out over that grave yard. The contrast of the less formal backdoor entrance and the graveyard was intriguing. So I shifted my focus.

The composition was coming together but showing the back entrance and graveyard did not express the idea this was an active church. I did not want to add a human figure to the composition, but I needed something.

Fast forward to the Sunday morning service that went a little long. I began to daydream and think about the painting. I decided to use a dog as the living element in the painting. Why a dog? No matter how long the sermon might last, a dog would still be waiting at that back door for his owner. Problem solved, and I had the title for the painting too. “Long Sermon.”

Early study. Front door.
Composition and value pencil study
Pencil study of dog that replaced the two dogs in the value study