My first religious painting was a large oil painting of the Annunciation, which I painted while in seminary. It was a reasonably successful work and I ended up selling it some years later. I dabbled with religious works while in seminary doing some that were good, and some that were not so good. The reason I started painting religious works was simply because I was in seminary and I thought I should give it a try.
After the seminary I went back to painting secular work, probably because of the bad taste seminary and the church left in my mouth... perhaps also because I was not so pleased with the few religious pieces I tried. It wasn't until ordination that I went back to exploring religious themes - icons.
Icons were something that I always wanted to try, and since I had to give up my art studio when I got married, I needed something I could do in our apartment that did not have the bad fumes associated with oil paints. So it was partly for utilitarian reasons that I started doing them. But also because I still wanted to explore Christian art. Particularly I wanted a way to aesthetically combine the two great interest of my life: art and religion.
Icons helped me learn to enjoy painting religious works for their own sake. Even if were not a priest or in the ordained ministry I would still paint them as well as other religious works, because now I appreciate them for what they are themselves, and as a way to meditate on and involve myself in the great stories and themes of the Christian faith.