Meet the Person Behind it All
I met up with Marisa Gebert, who runs the Picture Books and Peonies website. It’s a fantastic website featuring recommended picture books and art projects geared toward deepening the Catholic faith.
PM: I’m a fan and follower of your Instagram account Picture Books and Peonies. There are so many projects and informative videos on there. In what ways do you hope art and stories will help children deepen their faith?
MG: Thank you for your kind words about my content! My experience as an art teacher has taught me that art can truly engage children in a very special way. In the classroom, I would often use a picture book as a starting point to help children get visually inspired by the illustrations before starting a new project. I saw how beautifully illustrated picture books and the concepts from the story could be unpacked further through creative exploration with different media.
The lightbulb came on for me as a mother trying to help my
children understand Christ and His Church a little better. I
started using this “formula” at home with my daughters and was taken back by the faith-filled conversations that would arise while creating the art. I want to help other Catholic families and teachers provide similar experiences for their children or students.
PM: How long has art been a part of your life?
MG: I’ve always enjoyed art as a child and really became inspired in high school. I also have always loved working with children, so I felt blessed to be able to go to college and study Art Education at a Christian university.
PM: I find that most pieces of art have a story tied to them in some way. Do you have a favorite art story? If so, what is it?
MG: My favorite art story has to be the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The way the Child Jesus is portrayed clinging to Mary, his mother, for what appears to be comfort
because of the images foreshadowing his future Passion takes my breath away.
I have only recently learned of the story behind this piece, but I think it’s very interesting that it is the name of the parish I attended while studying Art Education in college. The nun serving there gave me a plaque with this image on it when I graduated, but I had no idea how powerful the symbolism was. I hold it very dear to my heart.
PM: Your videos on Instagram are creative and educational. How often do you post them?
MG: Thank you! I try to post one or two new tutorials each
month, but shorter and helpful inspiration/tips weekly.
PM: For artwork, do you have a favorite medium to use? Is it a mix of them?
MG: For creating art with children, I love creating collages using liquid tempera paint (or paint sticks like Kwik Stix), liquid watercolors and oil pastels… and a little glitter paint here and there of course.
PM: Your website https://picturebooksandpeonies.com/ is beautiful and filled with valuable art lessons and courses. How long have you been doing this?
MG: I started my website in September of 2020. It began as a storytime arts and crafts blog, but quickly turned into a faith-based art resource for Catholic parents and teachers because I felt like the world needed more activities for our children that are fun, engaging and centered around Christ.
What is “We Believe”
It is a six-week comprehensive program designed to help children ages 4-8 dive deeper into our Catholic faith through picture books and art using the Apostles’ Creed as a guide. It’s full of step-by-step tutorials, video demonstrations, supply organization tips, prayer posters, and more!
PM: Do you have any advice for beginners who are interested in learning about art?
MG: My advice would be to keep it simple. Begin with good quality paper (Tru-Ray Heavyweight construction paper) and paint (Crayola Premier Tempera or Sargent Liquid Watercolor) and oil pastels.
You don’t have to buy a cart full of supplies. Based on my experience, children get a lot more out of their art-making experience when they use these brands. And you don’t need a Pinterest-worthy craft room. A kitchen table with a paper mat will do just fine!
PM: What is the inspiration or story behind your mission of “Helping Catholic families bring their children closer to Christ through books and art”?
MG: Honestly, I was frustrated. I was frustrated with how society continues to push values onto our children that are at odds with the ways of God. So, I decided that instead of feeling discouraged about the types of children’s books and media being propped up as good, I was going to do something about it.
I completely dedicated my passion for children’s literature and art to helping kids get to know Jesus better. And it felt like a giant exhale where all of the roads of my life experiences finally merged in such a fulfilling way
PM: I love how your kids help you with the art. What do they have to say about this wonderful mission you are doing? Do they have a favorite project or book that you have focused on?
MG: Maria, age 5, says: “It is so fun! I love the Mary art project we did because at church I love when the second grade class crowned Mary. It’s so much fun doing art stuff with you. My favorite book is the Bible” (The Beautiful Story of the Bible by Maite Roche).
PM: What else would you like to share about your mission?
MG: A strong foundation based on the love of Jesus is what children need more than anything in order to navigate this world. If we don’t raise our children to be a future generation of men and women who approach life with strong Christian values, then the world will teach them to look at life in a way that is pleasing to man, not God.
I have seen the amazing transformation that takes place when we engage our children in the faith through art. And I am incredibly grateful to be in a position to share my ideas with other Catholic families or teachers who are looking to do the same.
Let’s engage our children through reading beautiful picture books and creating fun works of art that go beyond the book with the most important goal of all in mind-to help our children become saints in a world that celebrates the opposite.
PM: I know a great project like this must have a newsletter to join. Where can we join in?
MG: Go to https://picturebooksandpeonies.com/starterguide to join the newsletter and grab my free Raising Saints Starter Guide as a small thank you for joining. It will help you get started building a faith-filled picture book library, gather kid-friendly art supplies & organize a creative space, and plan for monthly Catholic faith focus topics
PM: Where else can our readers connect with you?
MG: They can find me on Facebook: Picture Books and Peonies or my Instagram: @picturebooksandpeonies
Parables magazine thanks Marisa Gebert for joining us this issue. The mission of Picture Books and Peonies is just what we need!