Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ten Issues All Christian Artists Should Consider: #6-10

Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of posts which present  the essential issues each Christian artist should consider in their medium. I hope to do a post on Painting (and drawing and graphic design), Photography, Film, Poetry, Writing, and Music.

In this post I'm going to continue to lay out the basic ideas that all Christian artists should consider. In later posts I will expand to talk about specific mediums.

6. Study and perfect your craft.

This point seems simple enough, but it is often overlooked. Remember that having a good purpose and a good idea doesn't mean you will make something excellent. Creating unto the Lord means putting in the time necessary to become skilled at whatever medium it is you are working in. Practice, study, learn.

7. Remember that the craft is a tool for expression, not the thing itself.

Whenever a talented and skilled artist of any kind loses themselves in their craft, it depresses and frustrates me. You can be the most skilled painter in the world, but if you have nothing to say, then why paint? You can have the loveliest voice heard by man, but if the words you sing have no purpose, then why sing?

I have witnessed many musicians, singers, and visual artists become consumed with their skill and displaying it, as if the skill was a thing itself.

When I was a teen, I got a Ham Radio license. My grandfather, father, and a good friend of mine were all into the hobby, so I took it up. After I studied extensively to get my license, and after I spend a considerable amount of money for a radio, I found to my dismay that the only thing talked about on Ham Radio is Ham Radio. The act of communicating was the content of the communication.  Needles to say, the hobby didn't last.

As artists we can become like Ham radio operators, expressing only the fact that we can express well.

Typically, I believe this happens to artists when they become too involved in a community (much like the problem with Ham radio) or when they go to school for their skill. If you are in an artist community be very cautious that your conversations don't exclusively surround skill and craftsmanship. Try to involve artists who use other mediums into your community. Talk about other mediums. Read books together. Watch films together. Go to galleries together. Study the Word together. Go watch people in the mall and consider what they do. Just remember that your skill, no matter how great, is not the thing itself.

8. Find or start and community for support--online doesn't count.

As artists we need counsel, advice, correction, guidance, encouragement, conviction, companionship and love; we need community. Find one, or start one if necessary, and edify each other in the faith as you strive to make excellent works to God's glory. Hold each other accountable for what you do and what you make. Help each other financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This kind of help cannot be duplicated on the Internet. You need to have genuine human interaction.

9. Consider, always consider what the medium, genre, and form says.

Whatever vehicle you use to communicate contains in itself a message. Before you paint, sing, write, play, dance, or film, consider how the various forms you employ will shape the content you present.

A simple example: how will a viewer be affected by a cartoon Jesus versus a realistic looking Jesus? What does a cartoon as a genre communicate?

Failure to simply consider how form shapes content has resulted in innumerable, poorly made "Christian"  pop albums, TV shows, and bumper stickers.

For a lengthy discussion of this issue, read one of my first blog posts titled The Struggle of Christian Art Part 1.

10. Pray for humility.

Should God bless you with the talent and opportunities to create excellent works for Him, be constantly on guard against pride--it has brought low many gifted men and women.

It is my hope, and prayer, that artists who are believers would use these ideas to create greater works for God's glory. These lists are not intended to be comprehensive, and as such I would love to hear how you would expand them.

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