While my father taught me to paint, my parents had no interest in me growing up to be an artist. My father would often tell me how he’d had a scholarship to the Albright Art School but had given it up because of “the War.” Being a graphic designer or an art teacher was OK; being a fine artist was not.
That was further complicated when I became a Christian. Middle-class evangelical artists suffer a lot of doubt about the wisdom of their career choice. Not only do they hear preachers deride visual imagery and beauty as “idolatrous,” they perceive their career choices as frivolous compared to the serious business of being the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Years ago, my daughters attempted to interest me in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic or Haiti. “What can I do?” I asked them. “Paint pictures?” That was really selling myself short.
Pre-Enlightenment painters had it easy: their work was relevant to their faith because it taught others the principles of Christianity. In our day, explicitly Christian art is heavy-handed and often misses the point entirely. And, somehow, we Christian artists don’t really work together to explore the nature of our work as, say, figure painters or landscape painters do.
Mark Altrogge wrote this essay for Christians. Here are its salient points, but it’s well worth reading in its entirety:
- God commanded us to take dominion over the earth.
- Creating means acting in God’s own image.
- Art blesses others.
- Art brings joy.
- Beauty points us to the author of all beauty.
- We’ve been commanded to use our gifts and talents.
- Art looks forward to the new heaven and new earth.
How I wish I’d read that at age 20! It would have saved me years of self-doubt.