From his wrinkled shirt, blue jeans, and wild hair to his conversion testimony of coming to Christ in a Port-a-Potty, London-based artist Charlie Mackesy has a presentation style that is certainly turning heads — and changing hearts.
When Nicky Gumbel, vicar of the well-known Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, said in an interview with CBN News that Mackesy was the “finest evangelist in the UK at the moment,” Mackesy responded with incredulous, explosive laughter.
That’s probably because for much of his life, Mackesy identified as an atheist. He viewed a Christian as “a person who pretended to be good, but judged others … someone who believes in an invisible friend.”
It was actually Mackesy’s own journey as an artist that sent him on a path of spiritual discovery.
“Jesus quietly introduced me into a journey of finding people really beautiful, which is how my [spiritual] journey began. Because I felt like Jesus was saying, ‘Look at how beautiful that guy is there, sitting on that bench — draw him.'”
Mackesy’s drawings, paintings, sculptures and stories would prove to be a place where the Holy Spirit has worked and continues to work powerfully in his own life and in the lives of others.
Mackesy’s account of a surveyor stopping by his home and spotting his painting of the Prodigal Son on the wall, and the surveyor being so moved that he left the job early to go home and hug his own 9-year-old son, is the kind of moment that seems to capture the effect and essence of Mackesy’s profound charism.
The gospel story of the Prodigal Son is one that Mackesy’s expressed in several breath-taking media over the years. It’s a message that Mackesy is especially captivated by, a story of “forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation” that he says speaks to the heart of every man, “even if you’re not a Christian.”
And while Mackesy’s been a respected artist for decades — having lived in New Orleans and focusing on Black Gospel and jazz scenes for a time; and having sold paintings to stars such as Whoopie Goldberg and Sting — Mackesy and colleague Matthew Freud recently expanded their renown even further by winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short for their adaptation of Mackesy’s New York Times best-selling book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse.
This 2019 much-beloved story is made up of 100 black and white illustrations that “follow the tale of a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox and a wise horse who find themselves together in sometimes difficult terrain, sharing their greatest fears and biggest discoveries about vulnerability, kindness, hope, friendship and love.”
The 34-minute, G-rated Academy Award Winning Short is hopefully just the beginning of Charlie Mackesy’s exploration into the world of animation, as this artist’s voice is certainly one that needs to be heard.