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The Christian Palette, Issue #002 -- Are you a reader?
May 07, 2015

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Are You A Reader?

Do you still read books, or is most of your reading limited to skimming online for bite sized nuggets of information? Americans are apparently reading less and less with each passing year. In 1978, Gallup found that 42% of adults had read 11 books or more (13% said they'd read more than 50!). In 2014, Pew found that only 28% hit the 11 book mark! How about you? How many books will you read this year?

Our many shiny electronic distractions seem to keep us from reading as much as we used to. I love to read, yet I find it challenging to schedule time for adequate reading. Taking on the Goodreads annual challenge gives me an added incentive to accomplish as much reading as possible. You can see on my page what I'm reading and what I've read this year. I've set the modest goal of reading at least 35 books this year, while admiring those who will finish 100! Setting reading goals is a way to force yourself to squeeze in reading in your otherwise hectic schedule. Goodreads is also excellent for finding good books of interest in innumerable genres. Check it out and read a few reviews. Some book will grab your attention.

The marked decline in reading among adults is concerning. Reading enhances our ability to analyze, to think logically and critically. It improves our ability to imagine, to dream and to articulate those dreams. Artists need good verbal communication skills even if our visual skills are our greatest strength.

College educated Americans read far more than those who’ve only had a high school education. That should not be surprising. After all, the more exposure you have to a subject the more likely you are to be passionate about it. Being forced to read all those text books does have its advantages!

Art is much the same. The more you read about it, study it, experiment with it… the more likely you are to appreciate it. I’ve often heard people say “ I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That is a limiting mindset. When I’ve heard that, I’ve thought to myself, (and never ever said it out loud!) “That’s too bad, because there is much that you do not know, which if you knew, would inform your opinion of what to like!”

As an artist, I am thrilled with those who stand silently before art; absorbing it, reading the little title cards by the artwork, stepping back and then looking some more. By their thoughtful actions they indicate that each additional bit of knowledge brings insight and eventually appreciation. While some art connects instantly with viewers, there are works that require greater understanding to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. What is the story behind the work? When was it created and what was the artists’ objective? Those are worthy questions. Ask them of yourself as you create your own work.

Studying the artists of the past can significantly impact our own creativity. So read, read, read. Whose work do you enjoy? Get inside their heads by reading about them. What moved them? Reading also has a way of enabling you to articulate goals for your own artwork. Art is more than just putting paint to paper, shaping clay, or whatever it is that you do with your medium. It is becoming skilled in a visual language in order to articulate a perspective that you alone bring to the world.

For our perspective to be expressed in our art, it is crucial that regardless of all the other reading that we do, we spend the most time reading and studying our Bibles. Read it often, read deeply, think on what those precious words say. Commit as much of it as possible to memory.

God will use our time spent in reading the Bible to shape our perspective. Only then will the art we create bear the stamp of our unique world view that was shaped by God and His word.
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