100%

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 North American artists created art for the 2020 Engage Art Contest. It was a privilege for our entire team to receive these artworks, and we wish everyone could win. We do provide a page for each of the distinguished artworks in our online gallery. A “distinguished” artwork, for our contest, means that the artist followed all the rules of the competition, including creating art around the topic of the Spiritual Battle. This way, any artist at any level can be recognized for their work.

Firm (Short Film) by Isaac Morantus

But what if you worked really hard on your submission, and you are not on our 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, and that artists get more than their share of it. Even when you are disappointed, please keep creating.

As hard as it is, disappointment is 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).

Sword of the Spirit by Kevin Carden

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.

 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?

Fighting The Battle by Andrea Diaz-Perezache

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, 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!