Speaking of Faith
In speaking of faith, is there a strategy that will make your art more potent and memorable?
Your faith is something that weaves through your work like a fiber in a tapestry. Everything your hands touch creatively, expresses your faith. (If you are not slavishly copying the work of another!)
Seeking the Source, Oil on Canvas, 16x20"
Yet is there a way to be more effective in speaking of faith? Are there clues in the Bible, or in our world, that will help us as Christian artists?
Here is an effective strategy that God uses to make His lessons potent. I stumbled on it quite by accident but I've found it to be a powerful tool.
I have often petitioned God to simply speak to me in an audible voice - loud and clear. "Talk to me", I've petulantly demanded, "so that I can easily believe." Surely it would be the best way to settle all confusion and build my faith?
Instead, He taught me a different lesson. God is the master of subtlety.
I discovered that He accomplishes His purpose by suggesting and not stating. All that He has created provides clues to His generous, caring nature and His delightful sense of humor. He provides hints and leaves us to fill in the blanks. And He seems to delight in paradoxes!
In vivid examples throughout the Bible, God offers clues about His nature. As if that were not sufficient, He sent One who is like us; One, who in His very humanity, we can better relate to - Jesus.
Jesus did not simply state facts about the Father, instead by His actions, He suggested the character of the Father. His statement, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” Jn 14:7, is a profound example of this concept. Only by searching out a relationship with Jesus, can we better understand the Father.
Jesus’ various parables proffer ideas, allowing you to draw your own conclusion. In His clever handling of the adulteress, we are left with a consciousness of our own sin.
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” Jn 8:11 speaks to our hearts, although none of us are addressed directly.
His game of hide-and-seek is deliberate, because He understands human nature. He demonstrates a vital principle that we can imitate in the making of our art, and in the speaking of our faith.
We only grasp, retain and treasure, what we discover for ourselves.
He delights when we stumble on His majesty, encounter His kindness unexpectedly, or experience His surprising provision. His joy stems from knowing that each experience forms the fabric of our faith.
So in speaking of faith, we must remember to suggest rather than state, as we create our art.
Creating art in a way that describes every detail completely, even if excellently depicted, leaves out the element of mystery. It does not allow the viewer the thrill of connecting the dots, and making discoveries for themselves.
What is worse is, the work may satisfy at first glance, but it will leave no lasting impact. Like the rush of a sugary dessert, it will, without exception, quickly leave you hungry. So go ahead an leave a few questions in your work unanswered.
Those who have collected my art over the years now are quite comfortable with coming up to me with the "Tell me more about this piece" request. They expect a story, they expect that there was a reason for whatever I chose to depict. Knowing what that might be is not essential, but something that enhances their enjoyment of the work.
When you create with the consciousness that you are speaking of faith through your art, every mark on a painting, every choice of color..., takes on greater importance.
Pretend that there is a pesky child peering over your shoulder asking you, "What is that? Why did you put that in? Why did you pick that color?... Of course you could simply turn around and snap "Shut up! I felt like it!" But then your art quietly slipped from being a tool to be used with reverence before God, to a casual anecdote in your daily life - rather like wearing blue simply because you felt like it.
There may be days when all you do is flex your artistic muscles with work that merely responds to thrilling sensory chocolate. That's okay, as long as you recognize it for what it is, and return with gravity to the task at hand - the task of speaking of faith with your art.
As for God, if He ever spoke to me in an audible voice, I know that it would terrify me and I would never believe that He was gentle and merciful as well!