Speaking of Faith

In speaking of faith with your art is there a way to make your creations more potent and memorable?

As artists, faith weaves through our work like a fiber in a tapestry. Everything our hands touch creatively expresses our faith, unless of course we preoccupy ourselves with copying the work of others! However, if you are reading this, I'll assume that you are seeking your own voice in art in order to better express your faith.

Are there clues in the Bible or in our world to help us as Christian artists to speak more effectively of our faith?  I stumbled on a concept quite by accident that I'd like to suggest.

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 offers clues to His generous, caring nature and His delightful sense of humor. He provides subtle hints and leaves us to fill in the blanks. And He seems to delight in paradoxes! In vivid examples throughout the Bible, God almost seems to play a game of hide and seek in order to express truths about His nature. He sent One who became like us; One, who because of His very humanity we could completely relate to - Jesus. Even so we had to seek out truths by inviting Him into our hearts and lives in order to guide us to them.

Jesus did not simply state facts about the Father, instead by His actions 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 and developing a vibrant relationship with Jesus can we better understand the Father.

His various parables proffer ideas allowing each of us to draw our own conclusions. In His clever handling of the adulteress we are left with a consciousness of our own sin, as well as a simple remedy to be freed from its devastating shackles.

“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 elusive method of teaching 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. The viewer is deprived of the thrill of connecting the dots and making discoveries for themselves.

What is worse, 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 and leave a few questions in your work unanswered.

Those who've collected my art over the years are now quite comfortable with coming up to me with the "Tell me more about this piece" request. They expect a story with every piece that I create. Knowing what that might be is not essential, but rather 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!

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