Keep Creating

Teresa Cochran | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | June 15, 2022


How many of you get discouraged about the pace of your artistic progress? Or how it is received by others? Or how it supports you (emotionally, psychologically, in your walk with God, financially)? My best guess is that 100% of you would raise your hand.

Creating art is a famously discouraging and difficult process. Almost all our tropes about artists show them as some combination of depressed, lonely, broke, addicted, and misunderstood. Humans didn’t conjure those stereotypes out of thin air. Being an artist is joyful in many ways, but it is also hard.

Any art you make is personal. It carries a piece of you in it. When your art is rejected in any way, most artists feel it as a rejection of them, personally.

When Things Don't Break Your Way

So many wonderful artists have created art for Engage Art contests. If you are one of them, thank you! It is a privilege for our entire team to receive these artworks, and we wish everyone could win. And yet (wonderfully!) each contest has gotten more competitive.

Engage Art is intentionally structured so the contest is only one of the ways your art can be featured. We also feature artists—many of them who did not advance in the contest—on YouVersion, in our app, and on our social media pages. We are beginning to work with partners who will feature contest art in other forums, as well. Each contestant now has an artist page they control and can use to introduce themselves to potential clients and provide marketing and contact information. Also on that page are thumbnails of any artworks that artist has submitted to our contests, which link out to their artwork page(s) in our online gallery, including all their insightful writing about their piece(s).

Every piece of art included in our Gallery has value. Artworks that are passed over by the jurors are sometimes the best ones to illustrate a sermon or help someone out of a dark time. Win or lose, we support and recognize our artistic tribe in as many ways as we can.

Firm by Isaac Morantus

But what if you worked really hard on your submission, and you are not on our Semi-Finalist or Finalist list? Or more generally, you didn’t get the callback or the solo? What if you thought this would be your big break? We know it can be discouraging! But our main message to you is, please, keep creating!

Dear Beloved Artists:

Thank you for making art and sharing it! We need you and we need your art. You can reach people in a way that a pastor cannot. You can encourage people that will never enter a sanctuary. Shining your light—especially when it is consciously a reflection of God’s light—is a blessing and gift to the world. We know that disappointment is a perpetual and challenging reality. We know that artists get more than their share of it. Even when you are disappointed, please keep creating.

Sword of the Spirit by Kevin Carden
Sword of the Spirit by Kevin Carden

Get Back Up

As hard as it is, disappointment can be a shortcut to developing resilience. And resilience is critical. Jesus in Gethsamane, troubled, feeling abandoned by his friends, but ready to press forward into more difficulty? Resilience. The Apostles of a new faith having lost their leader but continuing to preach the Gospel, even though they might get killed for it? Resilience. Resilience is the characteristic that allows us to “bounce back” after stress or hardship. It gives us the psychological cushion we need to know that we can move through a challenging experience without getting stuck there or giving up. Even before we feel like we can no longer depend on our own strength, Scripture tells us to “be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

And Artists, you are uniquely positioned to reach a world obsessed with visuals and video. Please listen to Peter, who writes that “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). That means you. When you feel ready to give up, remember that God gave you artistic creativity for a reason. Pick yourself up. Get back on the horse. Keep creating.

Get Better and Keep Creating

Do you want to get better at your craft? Excellent choice! Consider this tried and true advice:

Consume and evaluate a lot of art. If you keep at it, you will be able to discern excellence at least a little bit ahead of where you can currently create it. And when you get to that higher level of thinking and execution, you’ll be able to see the next level of excellence, just out of reach (but not for long!). No matter how good you get, there are always ways to get better.

Fighting The Battle by Andrea Diaz-Perezache
Fighting The Battle by Andrea Diaz-Perezache

 Identify and learn from your influences and mentors. What does your art do? Some options: express or work through your personal feelings or ideas, reflect on societal/faith/family issues and questions, bring more beauty into the world, etc. Which other artists work in this same vein? Of those, which ones do you like best? How can you draw inspiration from them? What do they do well that you would like to do well? How do you get from here to there?

Be careful with and continually learn the technical aspects of your craft. This is often where artists stall in their progress. We live in a world where technical excellence in media, visual and audio presentation, performance, videography, acting, lighting, etc., is expected. We consume visual excellence every day. Anything less is obviously “less than” what the world has to offer, and God’s people should exemplify the best of the best. There are SO many ways to up your game—many of them free or very inexpensive (community college, youtube, mentorships, etc.). Consider downloading and working through our (free for now!) Choose Your Own Artventure Workbook and eCourse. You’ll find an array of excellent advice on how to become a better artist there.

Be thoughtful about what you are expressing with your art and how you are expressing it. There is certainly a place for making art spontaneously, but most art with lasting appeal goes beyond that. The best artists are also thinkers who care deeply about the topics they focus on. Their thinking, their humanity, and their care shows in their art.

Know that who you are is revealed through your artwork. Always. As Christians, sometimes our best move to be better artists is to focus on walking closer with God. Studying Scripture, praying, journaling, and communing with other Christians and other artists can be excellent preparation for creating art. Please consider downloading the Engage Art App. It will connect you with daily Scripture that is chosen just for you and help you reflect on your faith journey regularly, which is key to growing in your faith.

It’s true that you may decide that your “real” gifts lie elsewhere, but never forget that God has made you in His image, a creative being. For as long as you feel the call, keep creating!

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!