By Ladonna Paedae Rodriguez
Photography by Jodi Moore
Photos Courtesy Keith Goodson 

In the “art world,” many are familiar with the name Keith Goodson. He has created award- winning art, is well-known for the mural he painted in Lake Placid of the Cracker Trail Cattle Drive, has been featured in galleries, and has sold innumerable creations made with brush in hand. At the tender age of four, Keith proudly painted a mural on the wall inside of his childhood home. While that gesture may not have been appreciated at the moment by his mother, she now realizes the talent that was growing within her young son. That talent was accompanied by his growing faith in God and Jesus Christ.

Goodson grew up in a Christian home, and the church was a regular part of his daily life. As he matured in both his age and within his Southern Baptist church, Keith struggled to integrate his love for painting with his dedication to the church. He was in an environment in which he searched for a balance: being a Christian, but also providing inspiration for people to see art in a different way than they may have previously. Goodson began learning about the art of the 15th century and noticed that much of the art during that period was used to “put the fear of God” into the viewer. It was focused on Heaven and Hell. Said Keith, “For me, the struggle was the religious aspect, the balance between living a Christian life, while also being socially well-rounded, bringing the gifts I’ve been given to everyone to enjoy, and creating art that is not necessarily Christian-based. We attach ourselves to things that we are gifted at or things that we feel are important to us, and hopefully along the way, we don’t get sidetracked.” 

Goodson has reached a point in his life where he doesn’t want to be famous. “I don’t care. I have come into a place where I have a great wife and family. I am searching for how I can be more like Christ.” His goal is to serve others through his art, and in doing so give them hope, especially during desperate times. This is his motto, inspiring others through his life and his art. 

Fortunate to have traveled to Rome three times as an adult, Keith visited the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, viewing the works of Michelangelo. Goodson remarked that “Michelangelo spent two years on his back painting the ceiling. Nothing puts that into perspective until you see it in person. It is overwhelming. Michelangelo began painting murals in his 20s, as did I. Neither of us knew how to do a mural—it was a gift given to us both by God. Murals have become the holistic approach to the culture in that area. When someone goes up to a wall that has been hand painted by an artist and it brings an awareness, whether the art depicts the city, the people, agriculture, or art for art’s sake, there is a connection.” At the end of Michelangelo’s life, he wrote in his memoirs that “everything I’ve done with my hands is in vain, but for the glory of God.” Continued Goodson, “If I contribute one-tenth of that, I am honored to be encouraging the next generation. After I’m gone, hopefully some of these things will inspire them.”„ 

Several years ago, Keith painted a 13’x 36’ continuous canvas oil painting of the Nativity Scene, painted in 15th century style. It was painted at Champions Church in Winter Haven and then donated to The Holy Land Experience in Orlando. He painted every day, 12 hours per day, for 6 months, creating that masterful piece of art. After the closing of the Holy Land Experience, the artwork was returned to Keith, and he has since donated it to a local church. 

Keith is now focused on his greatest artistic passion, which is painting for his church. To the side of the altar, he has an easel upon which is a 5’x7’ blank canvas, and Keith paints during the service and the singing. At times he has forethought about what he will paint; other times he lets the sermon direct him. He donates his time, his talent and his art to the church. Recently during the one-hour service, he painted an image of a young man holding a ship’s wheel while in a storm. In the middle of the ship’s wheel, Goodson painted a cross. The young man had fear in his eyes, and as he looked behind, he saw Jesus walking on the waves towards him. 

At the end of the service, many people approached Goodson and said that they saw themselves in that painting, trying to keep their lives on course during rough waters. It gave them hope. Keith said, “That is my absolute love.” Astonishingly, he has painted over 600 such paintings for the church!

Recently, his church went out into the community to help bring awareness for suicide prevention in Lakeland. There were hundreds of motorcyclists and Jeeps that participated in a corresponding rally. Keith set up a canvas and created a painting of Jesus on a Harley. The church sold the painting, another donation by Keith, for that mission. 

“I never know where my art will lead me. If it doesn’t lead anywhere, I’m fine with it. My mission is to bring hope and healing to people.” 

Relating how his art blends so well with his mission, Goodson recalled traveling to Italy, where he spoke and painted a canvas at a small church. “I spoke, I painted, and then showed them a picture of my ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ painting. I asked if anyone had seen that painting and to my surprise, several held up their smartphones, showing me their screen saver, which was that painting. I later found out that a boys’ choir had been using an image of the painting as their background while they toured. I’ve been told that some of my paintings are in huts in Africa with sticks used to attach the prints to the hut walls.” 

Currently, Keith is in the process of painting 13 sets for a large church in Lakeland, which has 2,000 members, for their Bethlehem production. One scene depicts the “House of Bread.” It is 16 feet long and eight feet high, a sort of three-sided diorama, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. 

Goodson’s wife, Jennifer, is a psychotherapist, and her gift is to help others by listening. Said Keith, “With that comes a lot of hope. Her clients realize that they have a spiritual gift within to get past their place of pain.” Interestingly, Jennifer studied to become a counselor initially to help Keith, who had struggled with depression. She received her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health, and it has helped in all areas of their marriage and family-life. Keith is very grateful for Jennifer’s support and for their kids, who he says are “great kids, super-good kids. I couldn’t ask for better kids. We are so blessed with Michael, Ashlynn and Alyssa.” 

Keith added, “You truly do not know where you will have an impact, what reach you will have. One day, when I’m in Heaven, I’ll look around and see that, hopefully I have affected people. Right now, I’m where my calling is, and if I died today, I would be totally content with what I’ve done.” 

Amen, Keith Goodson. Amen.