Developing Your Unique Creative Voice as a Christian Artist | Matt Tommey

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | September 12, 2022

As an artist and a mentor to Christian artists all over the world, I love to answer questions! Recently on social media, Karen asked me, “Matt, as an artist, how do I transition from basically copying the work of artists I admire into a place where I’m actually developing my own voice as an artist?”

This is such a great question and one that I hear often. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that if you want to thrive as an artist, you must embrace and develop the uniqueness that God has planted within you. 

Three Stages of Development for Christian Artists

​All thriving artists grow and develop their talent, skill, and voice over time. It’s rarely, if ever, an instant process. This artistic journey often progresses through three distinct stages: Awareness, Awakening, and Autonomy. 

Awareness is the first stage of this journey. It is in the Awareness stage that you’re starting to understand and embrace the things that inspire you artistically. It’s a journey of discovery, where you discover for yourself the new and uncharted shores of creativity, style, and technique that are just begging to be explored.

Awareness is when you begin to wake up to all the possibilities that are out there for you creatively. And over time, as you process through all the artistic options, a transformation begins as your creative voice awakens.

In this Awakening phase, you begin to gravitate towards a style, aesthetic, and creative medium that artistically defines who you are. And with that kernel of creative focus, mastery begins to develop.

As you narrow your creative focus, your skill begins to mature, and you start expressing your talent in ways beyond the mere emulation of artists you admire. It’s during this Awakening phase that the words of your unique creative language begin to form, and your artistic voice begins to emerge. 

As you move from Awareness through Awakening, you eventually arrive in an artistic place I call Autonomy. Here, the inspiration you’ve absorbed, combined with your creative faithfulness and dedication, coalesce into a fully formed artistic voice that is uniquely your own.

Now I know some of you are thinking, “this place doesn’t exist for me,” or “I’ll run out of steam long before reaching this creative promised land.” If this is you, I want to give you four steps that will help you today, no matter where you are in your journey as an artist of faith. 

Step One: Cultivate Inspiration

“I don’t have any inspiration. I get to the studio and I don’t know what to do.” Every time I hear this, it’s a telltale sign that the speaker is not cultivating inspiration in their life.

“So Matt, how do I cultivate inspiration?” Immerse yourself in all things beautiful and creative. Read books, go to the movies, go hiking in the woods, and visit a museum or an art studio. Worship, immerse yourself in God’s presence and turn your heart toward His. Surround yourself with images, songs, experiences, and people that move your heart. 

And when you’re there in that space, feeling the inspiration starting to flow, learn to be a faithful steward of those experiences. Write it down in your journal, flip open to a fresh page in your sketchbook, do something that’s going to preserve the moment and allow that inspiration to start marinating inside you. 

Step Two: Develop a Studio Practice

“But Matt, if I don’t have a studio, how can I develop a studio practice?”  A studio practice is primarily a state of mind and an alignment of your priorities.

The location where you create art, whether at the kitchen table, in the shed, or in an art studio, is much less important than the conscious decision to regularly invest your time in the process and practice of creating, and that leads us to our next step.

Step Three: Create A Lot of Work

So many artists never find their unique voice because they don’t consistently create on a daily basis. I’m not talking about productivity for its own sake, but I am encouraging consistency. Never underestimate the power of a doodle to cultivate inspiration and foster your talent.

Nothing replaces experience when it comes to cultivating your talents as an artist. Experience is born from the intentional and consistent application of your artistic skills over time. There is no quick fix or shortcut to skill mastery. 

Step Four: Review, Refine, and Repeat

“Review, refine, and repeat, what does that mean exactly?” That means when you create a piece of work, you need to look at it critically and ask yourself a few questions like:

•    What did I do in this piece that I loved?

•    What did I do in this piece that I don’t love?

•    What could I have done better?

•    What could take this piece to the next level?

This isn’t about beating yourself up or comparing yourself to other artists. It’s about raising the artistic bar for yourself and challenging yourself to keep growing. 

Then with the “Review” done, it’s time to “Refine.” Intentionally make note of what you’ll keep, what you’ll change, and what you’ll try in your next piece. Then, create that piece and “Repeat” the process. 

Review, Refine, Repeat.

Eventually, you may consider inviting others into this process, people whose artistic opinions you trust. Ask them to speak about your creative process. Now I know that sounds scary, but this process, over time, will cultivate and strengthen your skills and talents while giving you the time to develop and express your artistic uniqueness to the world.


This article was originally published by Matt Tommey in 2020 and is adapted with his permission from https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/. 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 https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/.

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