I talk a lot about journaling. It’s true. Journaling has been a big part of my spiritual life and my artistic life for years. Many people have asked me about journaling over the years, but most recently, Myra, one of my podcast listeners, reached out to me, looking for some guidance as she embarks on her own journaling journey.
What is a Journal, and why should I have one?
Unlike a mere diary, which is usually a record of events that have happened, a journal is a powerful tool for exploring new ideas that are still taking shape. It’s the physical manifestation of your creative headspace. It’s where your next big idea will be born, grow, and played with before it makes the leap off the page and onto your workbench or canvas.
It’s also a safe place. A judgment-free zone where you can push the boundaries of your creative process before committing your time and resources to flesh it out. For visual artists, this may be sketches, for poets, prose lines, for songwriters, lyrics. Not all of the ideas and notions committed to your journal will see the light of day, but that’s not the point.
Finally, for so many creatives, an art journal is a vault for stewarding creative ideas. The concepts you’re exploring in your journal today are the seeds of inspiration that will bear fruit in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.
What do I put in my journal?
The easy answer is “Whatever you want.” After all, it’s your journal, your tool for doodling with intent. I started journaling as a part of my spiritual processing with the Lord. It started with me writing and recording my prayers, and the dreams I felt came from God. That quickly evolved to include inspiring ideas, scripture verses, prophetic words, and quotes that meant a lot to me.
I realized pretty quickly that the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. Today, my journal lets me capture the creative interactions that take place between my spirit and the Holy Spirit during my quiet time with the Lord in the mornings and sometimes before I go to bed.
Over the years, I got into the habit of dating every entry to track how these ideas, inspirations, and promises from God played out over time. Just this past month, I reached a major membership milestone inside my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. We were in the middle of our latest membership launch when I realized that one of these God-given dreams had just come to pass.
Back in January of 2017, while spending time with the Lord, dreaming His dreams, and receiving His vision for the Mentoring Program, I wrote down the following divinely inspired goal…
Now while it took a few years longer for that original vision to come to pass, the point is it did! We’ve linked arms with over 2000 Kingdom-minded artists from all around the world, and we’ve been blessed with the tools and the team that made this dream a reality. And having the ability to pull an old journal off the shelf and see the faithfulness of God in action was an affirming faith-building moment I’ll always remember.
Do I need separate journals for my creative and spiritual journeys?
This is a great question, and in the end, the answer is just a matter of personal preference. I actually keep two journals at any given time. I have a journal that stays with me in the studio. This volume is more of a traditional artist’s sketchbook where I work through ideas, concepts, colors, sizes, and connections for my current and future projects.
At home, I keep what I would call a prayer journal. I continue the regular practice of recording the prayers, dreams, ideas, and visions I feel come from the Lord in this book. I’ve even developed my own set of marker codes to help me quickly find the goals I’ve set for myself and remember the inspired gems the Lord speaks to me in those early morning hours. It’s not anything fancy, just some rudimentary lines, scratches, and dots that help the important things stand out to me.
Now without fail, I’m sitting at home in the morning with my prayer journal when artistic inspiration strikes. Instead of regretting that my sketchbook is at the studio, I simply record that initial Holy Spirit inspired stream of consciousness there at home and transfer it later when I’m back in the studio. That seems to be the most natural process for me and allows me to get the thought out and record it when the inspiration strikes.
I’m ready to begin my journaling journey. How do I start?
Listen, if there is one practice in my life that has made the biggest difference in my relationship with the Lord and my ability to stay moving forward, it has been journaling. And now that you are ready to embark upon your own journaling odyssey, I encourage you to go out and get a great one.
A journal can be as simple as a $1 composition book from an office supply store or as fancy as a leather-bound journal from your local art store. I have a local artist fashion me a few hand-made journals each year. I love them because they are beautiful and they all match. At $60 to $70 a piece, these journals may seem like an indulgent splurge to some. But in reality, I see them as an annual investment in something that yields immense returns in my creative and spiritual life.
I sure hope this has been helpful. So if you are a long-time journaler or just starting on this journey, I’d love to see what your journal looks like. Post a picture of your journal, or journals, on Instagram, and tag me @TheThrivingChristianArtist.
Thanks for reading.
One of the things that makes art sales a lot of fun and a lot easier is having a unique, creative voice. It’s that recognizable style and aesthetic that makes people go, “Wow!” when they see a piece of your art. It’s the thing that lets them instantly recognize that work as yours when they see it at a store, in a gallery, or online.
My unique artistic voice helped me develop my reputation as a fine artist and become known in the marketplace. It has allowed me to stand out in a unique, profitable, and very fulfilling way.
So, how do you do this? How do you find your unique creative voice?
I don’t believe that your unique voice is something you find as much as I think that it emerges over time. It comes out as you’re in the studio, as you are doing the work, filling your creative well, and cultivating and nurturing your creative talents.
Over the years, I’ve found that artists journey through four phases on their path towards uncovering their unique creative style.
Emulation - We All Start Here
All of us start our artistic journeys in a place of emulation. We look at Pinterest, take classes, and find art and artists that inspire us. This process is as true for painters and potters as it is for sculptors and basket makers.
In this phase of your quest, you learn some initial techniques and start creating works inspired by what you’ve learned from a specific artist, class, book, or online video. And you stay here a while honing your skills, but then something begins to itch inside creatively speaking and you begin to take things a little further.
Exploration – Having a Look Around
Standing on the foundation of confidence and experience you’ve built up emulating others, you, like so many other creatives, begin to yearn for more. It begins with a single step out of your artistic comfort zone as you start exploring different artists, techniques, tools, and materials.
You move from the relative safety of copying others into an era of fearlessly exploring and pushing past your creative bounds. And as you do, you begin to discover and develop a cohesive expression of who you are as an artist that expresses itself through your creations. Your art’s tone and nature start to mature as you create beautiful, unique works that resonate with who you are as an artist.
Once I mastered several different basketry skills, I got bored. That began a quest to find that something more, that missing piece that would take my art to the next level. I explored different materials, treatments, surface designs, positioning, and shapes to incorporate into my baskets.
Even if I didn’t know it at the time, this creative quest’s goal was a unique creative aesthetic that told the world who I was as an artist and resonated with buyers out in the marketplace.
Maturing – It's Gonna Take Some Time
Now I’d like to tell you that the exploration phase of my journey was a safe, quick, and uneventful trip. It wasn’t. It took several years of working, testing, and pushing the boundaries of all that I had known artistically. Sure, I was turning out some beautiful pieces, but I made a lot of ugly ones along the way. The key was that I was always pushing, always exploring, always honing my skills, and cultivating the talents God gave me.
You have to understand that your journey of artistic exploration will, at times, be uncomfortable. You’ll spend as much time, energy, and resources discovering what you don’t like, don’t excel at, and are not called to do as you do finding what you do like, excel at, and are called to do. The secret is not to stop and not shortcut the process of growing, learning, and discovery on the way towards defining yourself and your artistic voice.
Autonomy – The Promised Land
But eventually, you move through emulation, complete your artistic exploration, mature creatively, and then you arrive at a place I call autonomy. Here is where your uniqueness begins to emerge. Everything starts to fall into place.
The techniques, materials, and inspiration you’ve worked with for so long just begin to click and work together. Suddenly, you start to recognize and embrace your unique creative voice, and so do your clients and potential clients in the marketplace. Your artistic individuality springs forth, and a maturity of skill and vision emerges in your work. That’s really how you find your unique artistic voice and style.
Trust the Process
I know this journey intimately. For me, it started back in the mid-90s when I started making baskets at 19 years old. I did that for 15 years just as a hobby, playing around with traditional patterns and materials until 2009 when I started exploring ways to create something unique and special.
Even though I started from a place of traditional basketry, my artistic autonomy began to emerge as I embraced unique materials, techniques, and shapes for my work. It took a couple of years, but all of that inspiration, exploration, and studio time began to pay off.
So to anyone ready to embark upon this epic quest, I would say this: Trust the Process.
But most of all, I think, just listen. Listen to your heart, listen to your materials, listen to the results of what you are creating, listen to the market and other artists that you respect. Give them all permission to speak into your work. Over time, as you do this, your unique voice will emerge.
This Will Help You Get Started on Your Journey
I’ve put together a great mini-course called “Developing Your Unique Creative Voice.”
In this 6 part series, I teach you how to:
Normally, only the members of my Creative To Thrive Artist Mentoring Program would have access to this teaching, but you can have lifetime access to this series that has helped so many for just $39. Click Here To Learn More
I pray that this has been an encouragement to you as you set out to discover and find your unique artistic style.
One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Matt, how do I find my artistic uniqueness and express that in the marketplace?” It’s a great question and a real sign that the artist asking it is ready to take their art to the next level. Why, you ask? Because differentiation and uniqueness are what set you apart from other artists in the marketplace.
Art, after all, is a language. It is visual, auditory, and it speaks to the soul of all people. Like the spoken language you use every day, your artistic vocabulary doesn’t just appear overnight. Here are three essential things you need to know about developing and refining your creative voice.
You’ll Know It When You See It
One of the things that I really believe about finding your unique, artistic voice is that you don’t find it; you recognize it. You uncover it. You allow it to emerge over time. However, one of the things artists often neglect is being in the studio enough to ever see that emergence happen.
As you pursue this process, just start by doing the things that come naturally to you. Then, get in the studio and create tons and tons of work. Develop that masterful competency that only time and practice brings forth. And as you do, you’ll start to see themes and styles come out as your unique creative voice emerges.
Consistently Cultivate Inspiration
Creating lots of work over time forces you to cultivate continued inspiration in your life. As a creative, you must keep your artistic eyes and ears open all the time. As you receive that inspiration, you respond through your work. And then the inspiration/creation cycle starts all over again.
As you cultivate inspiration, you start to recognize what you are interested in and drawn to as an artist. You begin to gravitate towards a preferred medium and limited palette of materials and supplies you’re using. You begin to recognize the things in life that inspire you the most, and you start to purposefully pursue that source of inspiration.
One final thought on cultivating inspiration; be consistent, be intentional and be faithful. Get serious about cultivating inspiration in your life regularly. Then, faithfully steward those ideas by journaling them. (Need more tips on this, check out this podcast episode that is all about cultivating creative inspiration.)
Don’t Rush the Process
Creating tons of work and developing masterful competency while consistently cultivating inspiration takes time. One of the biggest roadblocks to artists developing their style happens when they pressure themselves to sell their work too quickly.
Investing time in your art is the key. There is no shortcut to gaining experience and building skills, both of which contribute to developing your creative voice. Allow your voice to emerge, over time, then refine it. As you do this authentically, people will recognize your uniqueness and respond to it, giving you an excellent opportunity to connect with those people when you make your move to the marketplace.
A Resource That Can Help
I’ve taught on this subject many times over the years. Recently I put together a 6-part mini-course, Developing Your Unique Creative Voice. This course helps artists define and refine who they are and what they do as artists. If you are ready to start showing the real you through your art, then click here to learn more.
I hope this helps as you continue to pursue the development of your own unique artistic voice. If this article has helped, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
You know, if you love making art as much as I do, it’s really easy to wonder, “Hey! Is my love of art and creating art crowding out my passion for Jesus and my desire to worship Him? Is it becoming an idol in my life? I don’t know if you have ever thought about that, but recently Tina, one of our Podcast listeners, asked me that very question.
Fear By Any Other Name Is Just Fear
Sometimes the enemy will disguise himself as wisdom when it’s just plain old fear. When I hear a question like this, I find that it’s often rooted in a place of fear: Fear of messing up, fear of not doing it right, fear of disappointing God, and others.
It’s born out of a wrong mindset that is all too prevalent in the church and the Christian art community. This false idea that “Unless you do it exactly like this, or get exact permission to do this much but not that much, then you are somehow going to do it wrong.”
Bottom line, God isn’t like that. I really believe that God cares so much more THAT we create than WHAT we create, or even how much we create. I believe that it brings God joy when we do the thing that He has called us to do.
It is like the quote that I included in “Unlocking The Heart of the Artist” from Saint Irenaeus that says, “The Glory of God is man Fully alive.” That is, as you do the thing that God has called and created you, nothing else could bring greater glory or greater joy to the Father. So instead of a fear-based approach that is borne out of a faulty mindset, I want you to embrace this confident heartfelt belief in your art that says, “Yeah! When I do this thing, it is what God designed me for,” and that brings Him glory.
Art Is A Vehicle for Grace
If you are struggling with this question, then I want you to embrace the fact that art is a means of grace. It’s one way we can experience the grace, love, and manifest presence of God in our life. This grace is not only for ourselves but also for others as God uses our art to reveal and release His nature in and through us.
Always keep in mind that it’s God who created and called you to be an artist. It’s His artistic expression that He desires to bring to life through the talent and skill He gave you. The Father desires to bring you into this Spirit-led creative process, one that impacts and changes not only you but others as well.
Again, nothing brings Him greater glory than for you to be able to do the thing that He has called you to do. That, my friend, sounds like the exact opposite of idolatry.
Keep Your Eyes on The Creator, Not the Creations
For all of us who are believers, art should never be the entire focus of our lives. Art for art’s sake isn’t why you were endowed with your unique set of creative gifts and talents. Rather, art is a vehicle through which we experience the love of God, hear His voice, and allow His beauty, life, and life to flow through us to others.
When anything in life becomes an idol, three things come to mind:
If the thing you create and the artistic passions you pursue begin taking on a life of its own and separating you from God, then yes, that could be a problem. Anything that supplants your relationship with Jesus and His Lordship in your life absolutely can become an idol.
The secret to staying on the right path is to want to make sure that you see these beautiful things, these gifts that God gives us not as an end in themselves. Art, as I shared earlier, is a vehicle God uses to draw us close to Him. He uses it to transform our lives while He moves through us and the works of our hands to transform others. Art that accomplishes this is not an idol.
I hope this helps as you continue to create with Him. If so, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading
Choosing someone to walk with you on your own artistic journey is probably one of the most important choices you'll make as an artist. Why? Because who you choose determines what seeds you're going to plant in your life and ultimately, what fruit is going to be produced. As you consider choosing an art mentor to help you on your journey as an artist, let me offer a few questions you need to ask:
Do you ever wonder how to keep the inspiration going when you feel just a little creatively dry? A lot of people struggle with that, and I am going to dive into this subject and give you some real help on how to keep the inspiration flowing.
You know, we have all been in this situation, right? You get into the studio, and creatively you just hit a wall. Inside you are like, "I've got nothing! No inspiration! Nothing is flowing here! What's going on?" As artists, isn't being creative what we are supposed to do anywhere and at any time? Yet somehow, we all have found ourselves in this place, but the good news is none of us have to stay there.
Fill Your Well
As artists, we all create from the inspiration that we're continually collecting, cultivating, and curating in what I like to call our Creative Well. Think of your "Well" as an internal reservoir that frequently needs to be filled so that it is always ready to release a fresh flow of inspiration when you need it.
A common mistake is to assume that your Creative Well is just going to fill itself. In reality, you have got to be as intentional about cultivating inspiration as you do about creating the expression of that inspiration. Find that thing that fills you up inspirationally and focus on it. Make it a daily priority in your life. Be intentional about this so that you can release that fresh flow of creativity when you do get in the studio.
Focus On The Journey
The second thing I would say is that you have got to prioritize your own personal creative journey. True artistic growth requires so much more than merely mastering the tools and techniques of your chosen genre. Maturing as a creative involves integrating everything you learn along your journey into your unique creative expression, voice, and style.
It's the nuance of how God speaks to you, how you fill your Creative Well, and how you interpret those things through your life and art that grow you as an artist. The secret to keeping your creativity fresh is continually looking for and focusing upon those divine teaching opportunities God puts in your path. Intentionally making this a priority in your journey will keep your art and your creative outlook fresh.
Don't Forget The Fun
The last thing I would say is this: You have got to get back to the joy of just creating! I still love nothing better than to be out in my garden, pruning back plants, picking up dead leaves, and using those scraps to sit down and just start weaving. I'm not focused on any tools or techniques as I'm sitting there on my porch. I'm just having fun with the materials.
The funny thing is that after the countless pieces I've created and sold, this simple act of weaving yard clippings is still a huge rush to me. It's creative joy unleashed and unrestrained. It's a simple process that keeps me grounded creatively.
If you're not regularly experiencing this, then ask the Lord to take you back to that place where creativity was something you embraced with child-like joy. Let those times of prayerful and playful artistic meditation revive your sense of awe and wonder in the creative process.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
You know, everybody wants a clear, focused, no drama kind of life, but very few people know how to actually get that done. In this article, I’m going to share with you a “lost art” that has supercharged the focus in my life, something I like to call the Art of Subtraction.
Having been an artist and a business owner for over 25 years, I have participated in and learned from one of the biggest misconceptions that keeps creatives from genuinely thriving in every area of life. That misconception, or lie, is the idea that if a few great things in life are beneficial, then adding a whole bunch more to your plate must be the way to grow and succeed in life and art. If this mindset sounds way too familiar, then let me dismantle this falsehood and give you some insights on how to move forward.
As I was starting this thriving journey, I really wanted to have a clear, focused life. I wanted to avoid the drama-filled life and live a life that was pleasing to the Lord. Not knowing how to do this on my own, I dug in and started to read good books, take good classes, and seek out good ideas to help me grow in business and in life. And it WAS all good, and I was learning and growing, but before you know it, all this stuff started to pile up in my life. You see, my life became full of what I would say was GOOD stuff, but it really wasn’t full of the BEST stuff.
I find that this happens a lot in the lives of people who are experiencing success in their life. Maybe you have been on the road to thriving for a while now. Perhaps you are starting to experience some success in your life as an artist, and you just think, “WOW! That works.” So you head off, and you do more of that. That course works, so you add three more. That show works, so you do one every month. You keep adding and adding and adding. Before long, though, what happens is you end up with a bunch of GOOD stuff, but not the BEST stuff in life.
Know What You Are Called to Do in This Season of Life
For me, it began back in Atlanta on the floor, crying out to God after I felt like I hit bottom in my professional life. It was from that time of being real and honest with God that He pointed me towards my life’s calling. If you know a bit of my story from then until now, the Lord has had me on a wild journey. From pulling up our roots in Georgia and settling in Asheville, to launching a world-wide Artist Mentoring Program.
But several times during this journey, I’ve had to pull over in order to take stock of where I am in the journey towards fulfilling God’s plan for my life, my family, my art, and my business. I had to go back to that place of being real with God and ask Him to show me where I was on the “map” at that time. His answers always provided me with the context I needed to do what had to be done next.
Evaluate and Eliminate
I’ve actually been in this process for the last few years in my life and in my business. It’s a process of determining what the BEST things God has for me are, and what are just simply GOOD things. I’ve learned to evaluate each opportunity and open door by how it will potentially impede or expedite the things I’m called to do in this current season of life.
The really crazy thing is that yesterday’s best often ends up being today’s good. Things that were life-giving and fruit-bearing in previous seasons of life are now just GOOD things keeping me from the BEST that God has for me today.
Recently for me, yesterday’s best was teaching basketry classes. I did this for years, and it was a great source of income for me when I was starting my art business in Asheville. But as the Lord began to move me more towards mentoring other artists, this formerly great thing, teaching classes, morphed into something that ultimately needed to be eliminated.
Say No to the Good and Yes to the Best
This concept is the heart of the Art of Subtraction. Begin by taking a look at all the things you are currently doing in your life, business, and art. Then ask yourself the following questions about each of these things:
So listen, I don’t know where you are right now in life, or if this is even resonating with you at all, but if it is, I want to encourage you to go for it. Take some time with the Lord. Take a hard look at everything that you are doing in your life, in your business, and your art. Ask yourself the hard question, “Is this producing the fruit that I want, or is it not?” If it is not, then ask yourself, “What is producing fruit?” Then take the bold step to double-down on the things in your life that are actually producing the fruit and momentum in your life, your art, and your business.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading.
There’s a fresh wind blowing through the arts right now, all over the world. Many have called it a New Renaissance of sorts and as an artist, that’s exciting!
For many artists, it's brought a new vitality, a resurgence of buyers and the opportunity to significantly grow their businesses through new tools and technology platforms, but is that it? Is that the end game?
I believe there's much more on God's heart for artists.
More than Marketers
During this current resurgence of the arts, God is highlighting artists, our work and our creative process. It's an exciting time but God's not simply interested in raising up more talented artists and better marketers for our own sake. This move is not just about creating great art and making money as an end in itself (although both of those things can be the fruit of following Gods lead)! He’s actually waking up our hearts, drawing us into wholeness, transforming our minds and raising up an army of creative sons and daughters who know who they are and what they are called to in the Kingdom.
This is definitely a God-inspired movement - a tidal wave of creativity in our generation - but to simply see it only as a renaissance is to miss the essence of what's going on. This move is very different and if we don’t recognize the differences, we will miss the central focus of what’s Gods really doing in this hour. Here’s why:
3 Philosophies of the Renaissance
During (and as a result of) the Renaissance, three main philosophies emerged that have guided artists for generations since:
These three systems formed the basis of how most artists approach their work and business - Christian artists included - even today. It goes like this: pursue my artistic expression (because that’s who I am), make it all about my desires, my talent, my expression and then find others to support me through grants, donations and sales. For some that works, although not long term. For many, it doesn't work, resulting in a starving artist mentality on one side or a success-focused art marketer on the other.
The ugly side of patronage during the Renaissance of the past was that the artist became dependent on and was at the mercy of the patron (rather than a healthy identity in the Lord), adding a complicated (to say the least) dynamic to their life and art. Today, being a slave to the market or latest marketing trend can yield the same frustration.
More than an Arts Renaissance
In this season, God is using this renaissance to lead us to revival and ultimately, thriving in His Kingdom. He's also raising up an army of artists who operate in three wholly different ways:
Lasting Success, Grace to Grow
As an artist myself and one who’s had the great privilege of walking with thousands of artists over the years as a mentor, I know this:
artists who seek the transformative power of God in the context of their life, art and business will always experience more lasting success than those who simply seek after the latest artistic fads and business trends.
Further, artists who center their art and business in their relationship with God also have the grace to grow and mature over the long term, building what Proverbs calls “wealth without sorrow.”
I want revival, not just renaissance. Revival starts in the heart - my heart - and flows out to others by the Spirit of God through my art, my business and my life.
Revival awakens and empowers me from within.
Revival centers my life, work and business in hearing Gods voice and following His lead.
Revival calls me to community and lasting impact, for His glory.
Sure, becoming a better artist and a better marketer is a part of this process for artists but it’s when God shows up that everything changes. That kind of lasting transformation will never happen as the result of my own effort.
When God shows up, transformation is released.
When God shows up, my life and art has meaning.
When God shows up, then the world is changed.
Pray this with me: Oh God, raise up an army of artists - sons and daughters - who know your voice, follow your lead and release the beauty of your Kingdom in the earth! Here I am, use me.
Overcome the 5 Biggest Roadblocks Every Christian Artist Faces So You Can Thrive in Your Creative Calling!
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Enjoy this live video from a recent Facebook Live. We has some connectivity issues for a few moments early on... just scrub through them and keep going :)
Many artists have dreams of creating a business from their art. Even more have dreams of growing their current art business beyond a trickling side hustle into a real part-time or full-time business that can provide then the financial and time freedom they desire.
Well, if you're one of those artists and you're tired of spinning your wheels then I hope this article will be an encouragement to you!
For most artists, one of the first big hurdles to overcome is the concept of being both an entrepreneur and a creative. I know, I can hear you now "But Matt, I'm not good at all the business stuff... I just want to create!" If that's you, then wonderful! I'm happy for you. You, my friend, have a wonderful hobby you can enjoy for many years to come. But here's the truth: you can't have business results with hobby habits. Either you learn to embrace both parts of the journey, or you come to terms with the limitations of not doing so. There's no right or wrong answer, but you can't have it both ways.
Entrepreneurship and creativity are what I like to call "harmonious opposites". On the surface, they seem like they are the antithesis of each other but in realty, they actually fuel each other when held in a healthy tension. Living in and cultivating that tension is your job. Let me explain.
Creative expression in and of itself is a wonderful pursuit for every person, regardless if they feel they are called to be an artist or not. However, for those who want to grow in their capacity, skill and function as an artist, a few things must happen, right? Mastery of skills, techniques, material usage, design, composition, the list goes on. Without these fundamentals, creating can become limited and boring. However, with this foundation artistic expression becomes and ever-expanding world of possibility. In essence, skill development is the runway for artistic freedom and I bet if you've been an artist for any length of time, you've probably experienced this reality in your life.
The same is true with entrepreneurship and the fundamentals of business. Unless an artist embraces the fundamentals of marketing, sales and running a business they simply limit their capacity to thrive in this modern world as an artist. Gone are the days where an artist can rely on one gallery to sell their work. Buyers want interaction with the artist more than ever which requires artists not only to be makers, but to be great marketers as well. It's simply a required part of the package. Otherwise, you've got to be ok with creating art as a hobby with no predictable way of seeing sales.
The Juggling Act
Now that you're (hopefully) starting to embrace the harmonious tension between being both an entrepreneur and a creative, realize that functioning in that world is not a singular path. Rather, it is much like a juggler, who starting with a single item, then adds other items to their act and keeps them all in the air. Skill and experience make that easier as you grow.
The big question for most artists is "what things should I be juggling and what things should I be leaving out?" That is, what are the really important things that I need to know - especially starting out - and what are the things I can grow into? Without knowing this, most artists will spend hours, days and months spinning their wheels doing things they think are important yet not having any data to confirm their suspicions.
A Blueprint for Success
Over the years as I've developed my own thriving art business and helped thousands of other Christian artists do the same, I've discovered there are some key elements you need to be focused on in order to start or grow your art business.
They include things like:
✅ Having a simple, clear pathway for your purpose
✅ Knowing where to focus your time, attention and resources to accelerate growth
✅ Understanding what habits make success easier
✅ Clarifying God’s plan for your life and art
✅ Discovering why people aren't buying your art
✅ Transforming lookers into raving clients
✅ How to build a personal brand that attracts buyers both online and offline
✅ Knowing the key elements every artist website should have to start making sales
✅ Feeling confident in creating a simple artist marketing plan
✅ Knowing how to handle the business side of being an artist without being overwhelmed
These key elements are the beginning of starting or growing your art business to the next level. While the details of each of these items is way to much to go into within this one blog article, I've created a special one-day online workshop called "Jumpstart" where we'll be walking through the details of each of these items (and a whole lot more) in order to give you a simple 30-day plan to get started. Not only that, I'll also be sharing my favorite tech tools for artists so you don't have to wonder about which technology solutions to use as you start out on your journey.
If you want a step-by-step pathway to start or grow your art business so you can start thriving spiritually, artistically and in business, then join me for Jumpstart, August 14, 2020 from 11am - 6pm EDT. It's 100% online and anyone is welcome to attend.
When you register for this live workshop, you'll also get 3 bonus resources including:
✅ The Thriving Christian Artist Success Blueprint
A simple blueprint to help you understand the 7 things every artist needs to focus on in their art business to help get started and grow. (a $17 value)
✅ The Thriving Christian Artist Starter Kit
A 26-page PDF and Walkthrough Video explaining in detail the 7 topics in the Success Blueprint plus my Tech Tools for Artists list and a 30-Day Planning Guide. (a $37 value)
✅ Sell Your Art & Make Money Quick
Over 60 of my best ideas and strategies you can use right now to start selling your art both online and offline. (a $97 value)
Have you ever wondered what to focus on as a creative when you love to do so much?
Often as creatives, we tend to be multi-focused and multi-interested most of the time. That is kind of a normal part of being wired for creativity.
But while this is perfectly normal, this can hinder your ability to grow an artistic hobby into a part-time or full-time business or ministry. The key to finding artistic focus in your life lies in knowing what season of life you are in.
The Bible teaches us there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Over the years, I’ve continually returned to this truth in my own life asking, “Lord, what season am I in? How do I respond right now creatively, financially, and in business?”
Discerning the Times and Seasons
When I got out of college, I felt strongly that the Lord was calling me into a season of full-time ministry. And for several years, ministry was my primary focus. I served as a Worship Leader and did my baskets on the side as my hobby.
I would sell my baskets at shows a few times a year, earning my Christmas money and that sort of thing. In that season of my life, my baskets really weren’t a big deal. I didn’t put a lot of expectation on making or selling, I enjoyed it as a pastime and that worked for me at that time.
As I transitioned out of ministry a few years later, I moved into a season of serving the Lord in the marketplace. I loved doing marketing and graphic design, so I started a marketing company. And for a season, that was very successful. Again, I was still doing my baskets as a hobby and leading worship on the side as a volunteer at church, but those things were not my primary focus, especially in terms of generating dependable income for my family.
Then in 2009, the seasons began to shift for me again. God called me to be a father to artists, to raise up an army of artists, and to do what I am doing right now. During that season, my focus began to shift again. I started writing books for the first time, and I started speaking on the whole idea of what it means to be a Kingdom Artist.
But that wasn’t the only shift that happened. The Lord told me that He was going to start using my baskets. Yes, that creative escape I embraced during my college years and had evolved into a serious hobby over 15 years was now ready to become a significant focus in my life.
The Lord began to open doors of favor that were incredible, using my baskets as both a source of income for my family and as well as a big part of what led us to move to Asheville, North Carolina. His plan for me in that new season was to bring me to a seat of influence in the arts (Asheville) and to a position of authority in the Kingdom (to raise up an army of artists).
As I look back at my 25-year artistic journey, I’m genuinely amazed at what God did in each season of my life. Each season was uniquely focused on a passion the Lord had sown into me that grew into my main focus for a time.
Again, for me, the key to knowing what to focus on in any given season of life has been a commitment to commune with God regularly. I challenge you to do the same.
Get alone with God. Ask Him the questions,
Before I go, realize there are many other things I’ve shared over the years on creative focus, but two free resources I would love for you to check out are:
Thanks for reading!
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.