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Considering Art as Spiritual Experience, Hobby, Ministry, and Vocation | Matt Tommey

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | May 1, 2023

No matter where people find themselves within the spectrum of art, one question remains:  “Is it ok to sell my art if I consider my inspiration comes from the Lord?” More specifically, the question is often, “Is it ok to sell something that God gave to me freely?”   

In short, the answer is a resounding “Yes”!  However, not every artist is meant to sell their art, and herein lies the issue. It really depends on how an artist approaches their creative expression. For this blog , I’m going to focus on artists who approach their work in 4 different ways: for their own personal spiritual experience, as a hobby, as a ministry to others, and as a vocation.

Growth in the Kingdom is always based on stewardship of the gifts a person has been given, regardless of where they find themselves in culture.

Matt Tommey

Art as Spiritual Experience

For most artists, the practice of artmaking is innate. They can’t imagine life without it. It’s an extension of who they are, and when they create, there’s nothing else like it! There’s an emotional release, a rush of pleasure, and feelings of overwhelming joy rarely found in any other experience. Artists often make a deeper spiritual connection with God during this process. Either intentionally or unintentionally, the artist may feel they are not creating by themselves but receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Although this is not an experience unique to Christians, I believe the Father releases more of Himself, His Kingdom, and His nature to creatives who take the time to invite the Holy Spirit into the creative process.

When creatives enter into this process, it’s an intimate place. Art-making becomes a responsive act of worship where their ideas, tools, skills, and processes yield to the movement of the Holy Spirit within them. There’s no faking it because an artist knows when it’s real. For many, there’s no greater place of connection with God than when they are creating: writing a song, painting, singing, dancing, weaving, or just dreaming. To downplay this experience would be a huge mistake because it’s this process of connecting and creating that is so visceral and transforming for each artist. It’s foundational to our experience and essential for our ongoing growth and connection with God.

In this place of “art as spiritual experience,” there don’t have to be any rules or expectations. The experience of creating with God with no boundaries is all that matters. Whatever comes out comes out. It’s all worship. It’s all valid. It’s all important to the artist’s spiritual journey. The artist probably has a vocation that provides income for them and spends their “free time” pursuing their creative outlet. There’s never any pressure to sell or please anyone but themselves and the Lord. For these artists, growth happens as a result of nurturing their relationship with God through the art-making process. There’s no timetable or requirements on how or when that growth happens. It’s art as worship, for the pleasure of creating, and that’s enough.

Art as Hobby

All artists start with art as a hobby, creating from a place of passion, connection, and expression. There are usually no rules at this point, only a love for creating, experimenting, and having fun! You can probably relate, am I right?

The focus for most hobbyists is creating for their own personal enjoyment. You may find yourself pursuing your art at your leisure when you have extra time. Many hobbyists don't necessarily have a dedicated studio space to create in and end up creating in the dining room or spare bedroom of their home (or if you’re like me, the back porch, garage, kitchen, and the shed out back!).

Most hobbyists enjoy the freedom of creating when inspiration strikes, once a week, a couple of times a month, or even a few times a year. They often continue to create because of the spiritual connection they feel when creating.

Being a hobbyist is awesome! When you approach your art as a hobby, you're doing it just for fun. You’re just enjoying the process. The time spent in the creative process is just for you. Sometimes you give art away to friends and family, and you may sell a piece or two every now and again. However, art hobbyists rarely count on the income from their art sales to live. Usually it's about enjoyment and making enough money to pay for materials.

Art as Ministry

It’s rare that an artist creates in a vacuum, without anyone knowing about their creative expression. Most creatives enjoy sharing our creativity with others—friends, family, our faith community—and that only heightens the experience of creating. Nowadays, because of the rise of acceptance of art as spiritual expression within the Church, many artists find they have the opportunity to share their art with others through art shows, painting on stage, performing on their worship team, and many other wonderful expressions of creativity. These opportunities allow creatives to take what’s happening with God in their private studio time and welcome others into that process. Instead of their art simply being a place of personal connection with God, now it also has the potential to become a vehicle for others to experience the transformative Light of God.

As with most things that involve other people, sometimes this can get a bit hairy. What do you do when someone doesn’t understand or respond to your work in a way that’s life-giving for you? How do you receive compliments? What if someone has a major encounter with the Lord through your work? It’s never simple for an artist to put their creative expression out for the public to interact with because it’s not just about the work. It’s baring your soul and allowing others to come into your special place of connection, judge it and many times, judge you. Depending on how you’re wired, that can be exhilarating or a real emotional challenge.

Many artists find real acceptance within their faith communities as they create in the context of worship. Congregants are inspired by their work. Their own spiritual experience is enhanced when they create with others. It’s these artists we work with most inside our artist mentoring program and conferences. They mostly create as worship and for the joy of the experience, have probably sold a few pieces here and there over the years but mostly enjoy giving their work away to others as a way to encourage them in their spiritual journey. 

Artists in this place often struggle with the concept of selling their work because they don’t know if they should sell something that’s such a natural expression of their own heart, has been given to them by the Holy Spirit, and has sometimes been created in the context of worship.

For artists who are creating for their own personal enjoyment and spiritual expression, I say, “Don’t worry about selling your work.”  Allow it to be what it is—a joyful, creative, spiritual experience that you’re sharing with others. Why put the pressure on yourself to sell or not sell when there’s no specific calling to make art your career? For many of these “public hobbyists,” the tension of feeling like they should sell their work causes frustration, which only impedes the creative process. I always encourage these folks to enjoy the process, freely give as you have freely received, and don’t put undue pressure on yourself or your art making practice.

Art as Vocation

Most artists—especially Christians—who have moved into creating as their vocation still create from a place of spiritual experience and desire to connect with God through their creative process. In fact, most if not all, began creating as a response to their inner need to create. I call it the “compulsion to make,” always searching for something to do with their hands. These artists still value the joy, spontaneity and exhilaration of the creative process but at some point began to want to create as their vocation. It may have been the result of a prophetic word, a longstanding dream, the recognition that to improve they needed to give more attention to the art than what they could do as a hobby, or just because their work started selling. However it happened, did this decision to create for money diminish their spiritual experience? Was God somehow displeased with them because they were no longer just creating for the joy of creating? I believe the answer to that question is a resounding “No”!

Growth in the Kingdom is always based on stewardship of the gifts that a person has been given, regardless of where they find themselves in culture. For the artist, this most definitely includes their artistic gifts and their ability to hear, sense, feel, and receive from the Lord. 

Now, I don’t believe becoming a full-time vocational artist means you’ve somehow achieved the ultimate maturity as an artist or as a Christian artist. Many of the best artists choose to create as a hobby, for their personal enjoyment, and they have other vocations to make their living. Many enjoy this arrangement because it allows them to come to their art making with no boundaries, requirements, or pressure. It’s simply art for their personal enjoyment, sharing with others and even worship. But for those who have taken the leap of faith into starting an art business, the benefits can be immense spiritually, creatively and financially.

Other Considerations when Selling Art

Artists who have chosen to move into art making as their vocation however, don’t have the luxury of only creating for personal enjoyment. They have to consider the salability of their work, how it’s marketed, priced, and presented to the public in a way that reflects their values. Vocational artists can’t give most of their work away because for them, this is the primary way they harvest their financial provision. They have to think about things like dedicated studio space, gallery representation or direct retail sales, inventory, shows, and marketing their work. In order to grow and thrive, these artists have to pay attention to who’s buying their work, why, for what price, and to be used in what context. To be successful, a vocational artist has to be both artist and entrepreneur. 

This is where a lot of Christians who are artists jump ship. They have this notion that artists who have chosen the vocational art path have somehow sold their soul to the art devil and have lost the essence of creating from a place of spiritual connection. How ridiculous! No one would think of questioning someone who gets a million-dollar business idea from the Lord. Should pastors not be paid because they receive inspiration from the Lord for their sermons and daily ministry? Yet, as creatives, our motives and intentions are often called into question. As you authentically pursue your creative calling in the context of your vocation, the Holy Spirit will confirm His work in you to others. His seal of approval will be evident in the fruit of your life and art.

Vocational but Still Spiritual

Yes, being a vocational artist requires a different skill set and thought process, but it’s no less spiritual for the artist who approaches their life and work as a Kingdom creative. Being a vocational Kingdom artist is a beautiful collaboration with God in which the artist has the joyful opportunity to see and agree with Heaven, co-create their experience with the Holy Spirit, and enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom in their life while expecting transformation to be the result of their life and work. All along the way, they get to trust God completely for their provision, opportunities to sell their work, and new creative ideas.

I’m one of these vocational artists. What I do now as my primary source of income was a hobby for 15 years. For me, this journey of becoming a full-time working artist has required so much more faith and connectedness with the Father than anything I’ve ever done. I have opportunities each and every day to listen, trust, and cooperate with the voice of the Holy Spirit—not only as I create art, but as I create a life and business that God is using to take care of my family financially. I love the adventure of being a vocational artist and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Enjoy Your Art

No matter where you are as an artist—creating for the love of the spiritual experience, using your art as a part of your ministry, or pursuing creativity as a vocation—realize that God will find joy in the simple fact that you’re doing what He created you to do. As you grow and dream with Him, the ways you express and present your art will change. That’s ok!  Enjoy where you are now and enjoy the growth process without putting undue pressure on yourself to be someone you’re not. God has an incredible plan for your life and art whether you sell it for thousands of dollars around the world or offer it to Him as worship in your studio space. Just build your relationship with the Father, create with Him, and follow His lead.

This article was originally published by Matt Tommey in 2020 and is adapted with his permission from Matt Tommey is an artist, internationally-known Christian speaker, and the author of 7 books who is passionate about helping artists thrive spiritually, artistically and in business. He is a mentor to artists around the world through his Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program and also hosts The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast. Find more resources from Matt at

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