Imagination and Creativity: Making Something out of Nothing | Matt Tommey

Engage Art | Faith, Reflection & Growth | May 18, 2023

Have you ever wanted to unleash yourself artistically? To create without the confines of using reference materials? Are you looking for a key to unlock and tap into a limitless supply of imagination and creativity that informs and inspires your creative process? 

You are not alone, and recently one of my podcast listeners reached out asking for some strategies. Nigel wants to break free from relying on photographs as his source materials and start creating paintings birthed from his imagination. Still, he needs help to make the transition.

If this feels familiar, I get it. I spent many years using reference materials, photographs, other works of art, and even general inspiration to inform, inspire, and shape my woven sculptures. But as I began to understand the nature of creativity in the Kingdom of God and the role that divine inspiration plays in the artistic process, my whole world began to change.

As I pressed into my calling as a Kingdom creative, I began to discover the keys—Biblical truths—to unlocking the power of the imagination and using it along with all the gifts and graces the Father has placed inside me. But before I dive into the "how-to," let's back up and look at how a healthy Holy Spirit-led imagination is supposed to function.

Creative Imagination is a Beautiful Engine

I believe that creative imagination is a beautiful innovative engine God has given us. It's full of emotion and capable of sensing both the natural world we see and spiritual realities we can only perceive. In a sense, it's a divine alternate reality we can explore with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, where we see, hear, feel, touch, and even taste things that are not YET tangible. And it's not just what I believe; it's an idea birthed in scripture:

It is by faith we understand that God's command created the whole world. This means that what we see is made by something that cannot be seen. Hebrews 11:3

Or this classic verse talking about Abraham's faith:

God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. Romans 4:17

Your God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired imagination is how you “see”/imagine those things that are not (yet) part of this world as if they were. As you embrace what the Holy Spirit reveals, you can decide to co-labor with the Father to bring those things to life through your creative expression. You see and agree.

Intentionality Jumpstarts Your Creative Imagination

Pulling inspiration from your imagination isn't going to happen on its own. Just as you've gathered reference materials specifically and intentionally over the years, you're going to have to start cultivating and using your imagination intentionally as well. Believe it or not, you're already off to a good start.

Your divinely inspired imagination doesn't spring forth from a vacuum. As a Kingdom artist, you are called to create from Holy Spirit inspiration and with Holy Spirit inspiration. You create from new things God reveals to you and also from the fruit of everything you've cultivated in your heart and mind over the years. That includes things like the music you’ve listened to, books and poems you’ve read, sculpture you’ve seen, and experiences you’ve encountered.  

God loves to partner with us in the creative process. Start by asking the Holy Spirit, "Holy Spirit, would You blow over me and awaken inspiration that is in my heart from years past? From things that I don't even realize? Would You begin to activate those things in me so that I can begin to pull on them in my creative process under Your inspiration?"

Visualization Fuels Your Creative Engine

I am a big believer in visualization, otherwise known as allowing the Holy Spirit to take your imagination on a journey that fills your heart with inspiration. I believe that when you visualize in your creative imagination with the Holy Spirit, your faith is activated as you come into agreement with:

  • Who God says you are
  • What God says about your art
  • Where God has called you to take your art
  • How God has already provided for your art

It's how you begin to see with new eyes. It's also how you begin to co-create your artwork with the Lord. If this is feeling a bit new to you, don't worry. Let me walk you through your first adventure with the Holy Spirit. To begin, you'll need a few things:

  • Your sketchbook or art journal & a pen
  • A comfy place to sit
  • Some worshipful instrumental music
  • 30 or more minutes of uninterrupted time

So, begin by putting on the music, sitting down in your chair, and closing your eyes. Take time to connect with the Father and to let the cares of the world and the day wash off. Then once you feel ready, just say, "Holy Spirit, take me on a journey and open up my imagination."

Don't be surprised if you begin to imagine some of the source photos or reference materials you've collected over the years. This is normal. But as the Holy Spirit begins to focus you on one idea or location, maybe an old Cathedral you've visited or a landscape you photographed years ago, invite Him into that place and into your imagination. Then begin to watch, look, and listen with the eyes of your heart.

  • What are you seeing?
  • What are you hearing?
  • What are you smelling?
  • What colors are you drawn to?
  • What is the atmosphere like? 
  • What is the landscape like? 
  • What else do you see?

Stay in that place, exploring with the Holy Spirit, until you feel a release. It may take 5 or 10 minutes, maybe longer. Then once you're ready, open your eyes, pull out your journal and begin to capture in words or sketches what you just saw, sensed, and felt. 

It doesn't have to end there. Over the next few days, go back and revisit this with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to highlight and reveal more details, insights, and nuances. Again, finish by capturing what you see in your journal, sketching in additional details to better capture the essence. The goal is to use your God-given creative skills to capture what you're seeing and experiencing with your Holy-Spirit-inspired imagination.

Another Creative Tool for Your Belt

Over the years, these Holy-Spirit-led journeys have become vital to the ongoing practice of filling my imagination with inspiration. I still use reference materials, gather inspiration from my walks in the woods, music, books, and art. But now I allow the Holy Spirit to fuse these together in my creative imagination.

One time, I wanted to create a basket like nothing I had woven before. I was stuck on how to connect the inside to the outside. That night before going to sleep, I asked, "Lord, would you show me how to do that?"

That night I had a dream. Now, this doesn't happen every time, but that night it did. I woke up the next morning, jotted some notes in my journal to capture what the Lord had shown me, and then I went to the studio and did what I saw in my dream. WOW! And why not? If you can ask the Holy Spirit to lead your spiritual life, why can't you ask Him to lead your art life? That is the normal way that the Kingdom works. 

I hope you'll give this a try. Start going on some Holy-Spirit-led journeys in your imagination. As you do, you'll begin to create unique works of art from your creative imagination that reveal the Glory of God.

For further reading on cultivating inspiration, I recommend Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, where she discusses how to draw on what she calls an inner well or artistic reservoir. When used under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, this practice can be powerful for artists.

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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