A question I hear all the time goes something like this, "Matt, how do I start charging more for my work? I seem to be around a lot of people that don't want to pay anything for what I create."
I always answer with, "Listen, that's really not your issue. That's their issue. You're just in front of the wrong people." This of course leads to the obvious follow up question, “Well then, who ARE the right people and how do I get them to pay me what my art is really worth?”
I remember hearing years ago that the price for anything - your time, your artwork, any business that you have - is really based on two things:
And it's this second point that I want to focus on for a minute. The difficulty your clients or potential clients will have in replacing you - what you do and the way you do it - really points to the whole idea of uniqueness in the marketplace.
Ask yourself a few questions, and be honest, like your art depends upon it:
Over the years as I would think about increasing my prices, I would take a look at other artists who were able to really get top dollar for their work in order to learn their secrets. And the one common denominator I saw in play every time was uniqueness.
Uniqueness for Artists is a Two-Sided Coin
Artistic uniqueness is comprised of many factors, but in the end you can break it down into two major categories. The first of course being the individuality that you express through your art, but the second layer of uniqueness that seems to key for so many successful, thriving artists is the depth of connection you cultivate with your potential audience.
You see, the more people know, like, and trust you, the more they're willing to let price be one of the least important factors when determining a potential purchase. Unique artwork left on a shelf in a store will eventually sell, but unique artwork combined with a personal relationship with the artist turns an art buyer into an art lover and art lovers into raving fans of your work.
That's where selling art and being an artist becomes really, really fun. And this way of bringing together my artistic uniqueness, combined with a personal relationship with my clients keeps me free from the never-ending cycle of price wars played daily on Etsy and other similar websites. Sure, you can play the game of trying to put your art on as many online portals as possible in order to get the price down as low as possible with the hope of making it up on volume. If you are called to be a “production center” or an “art machine” then I say go for it.
But for me and most of the successful artists that I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring, we long to create beautiful and meaningful works of original art that are appreciated and purchased by people who love us, like what we do, and are willing to invest in those relationships. This only happens when artistic uniqueness is intentionally connected with developing relationships with your clientele or potential clientele.
So if you're struggling with trying to get people to pay top dollar for your creations, then I would encourage you do a little self-assessment:
The more you cultivate mastery, quality, uniqueness and relationship, the more you'll be able to raise your prices over time. And the best part is your clients will be glad to pay because they'll feel like they're getting something really special. Guess what? They are, YOU!
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! For a detailed explanation of pricing artwork, check out my guide to How to Price Your Art: The Definitive Guide for Pricing Artwork for Visual Artists.
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, then you have to embrace and develop the uniqueness that God has planted on the inside of 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. Most often this artistic journey 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 where you begin to wake up to all the possibilities that are out there for you creatively. And over time, as you begin to process through all of the artistic options, a transformation begins to take place as your artistic voice begins to awaken.
It’s in this Awakening phase of your journey that you begin to gravitate towards a style, an aesthetic, and a creative medium that starts to define who you are artistically. 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. This is where all 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 who loves Jesus.
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 they are 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, 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 on the inside of 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, at home, 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 jumping into striving 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?
You get the picture. This isn’t about beating yourself up or comparing yourself to other artists, this about raising the artistic bar for yourself.
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.
Eventually you may consider inviting others into this process, people whose artistic opinions you trust. Ask them to speak into your creative process. Now I know that sounds scary, but this process, overtime, will cultivate and strengthen your skills and talents while at the same time giving you the time to develop and express your artistic uniqueness to the world.
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!
I’ve encountered many artists over the years who really struggle with stepping into thriving because they don’t understand one foundational concept: convergence. Thriving isn’t simply doing one or two things well, but rather doing the right things well at the same time, over time. Although that might seem like a juggling act – and it can feel that way some times – it’s not as out of reach as you think.
Here’s what typically happens with artists. They get two out of the three areas but forgetting that third, continue to struggle. For example, artists who are great artistically and have a strong spiritual connection end up having only a hobby or ministry because they don’t pursue the development of their art business. Artists who are great artistically and have a strong business sense often flourish in the marketplace with their sales but sometimes lack a deep spiritual connection and sense of life in their art practice. Then there’s artists who are deeply connected spiritually and have built a business but their artwork is lacking, leading to immature work and frustration.
For artists who want to pursue their art in the marketplace in the context of their relationship with God, thriving happens when they are growing artistically, spiritually and in their businesses. Each feeds the other and provides momentum for the journey. This place of convergence is what I call your “sweet spot” and it should be a goal for every artist who wants to thrive spiritually, artistically and financially.
This place of convergence is the focus of my artist mentoring program, Created to Thrive. Click here for more information on how to be a part.
I was talking to a friend the other day who happens to be quite an accomplished artist and a real spiritual father to many creatives around the world. We were chatting about our mutual passion to help artists thrive and, knowing I work with many hobbyist and emerging artists, posed the following question:
"How do you tell someone who is mediocre and not really called (or ready) to make his living with his art (simply because it will never sell) that perhaps God gave you the passion for art just to enjoy and glorify Him with, but it is not your calling to make it your financial sustenance?"
It's a great question and I'm sure the reason no one talks much about it is because it can be a really sensitive issue for the artist... No one wants to have that hard conversation with an artist who's thinking they are ready to take on the world when in reality, they are still stumbling around with the basics. And then sometimes, there are those really hard cases that almost seem like the American Idol auditions where someone thinks they are God's gift to art when in reality, there's not much there but desire and belief.
As I've thought about it, I hope these ideas will help you navigate your own artistic calling and season in that journey.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
I was sitting in a gallery demonstrating my work at an art walk in Waynesville, North Carolina... Just minding my own business, when all of a sudden this guy walks up to one of my pieces and said with a gasp "It's like the hands of God are reaching out to me saying I've got everything under control."
I wondered to myself "What just happened?" and then all of a sudden it hit me. This guy just had an encounter with the living God through one of my baskets. I thought "Woo hoo, Jesus loves kudzu, too!!"
Is that even possible? Absolutely!
When you invite the Holy Spirit into your creative process, He will literally come move through the work of your hands. Your work becomes much more than just the sum of it's parts... it becomes an intersection point where God can show up and release the light and life of His presence!
If you've never experienced this kind of demonstration of God's love through your work, there's no time like the present! The next time you create, invite the Holy Spirit to be present, in and through your work. Create with all your heart, listen for His voice and then respond. After you're done, watch what he does with the work of your hands.
When God shows up, things change and He wants to use you to release that transformation.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Share your story of transformation below and let's encourage one another!
Since I have the great honor of working with hundreds of Christian artists in my artist mentorship program, I'm always getting questions. One of the most common questions I get from newbies is "what can I do right now to start thriving?" Here's 12 things you can do right now to start thriving as a Christian artist:
1. Just show up & do the work
There’s just no substitute. It’s been said it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at your chosen artistic medium. So whether you’re a painter or metal artist, potter or basket maker you’re going to need to put in some serious studio time. The beautiful thing about it is that for the artist, the process of being in the studio can be the reward. Yes, we’re all after fantastic art that we can sell and make a living from, but for the artist, the magic of creativity happens long before the sale happens. It happens when we walk in the studio, turn on the music, prepare our materials and just get in the zone.
2. Push through the ugly
Many Christian artists I’ve ever known, including myself goes through periods of creating crap. Sometimes its for a week, or months or a year or sometimes it’s in every piece. If you stop in the ugly phase, you’ll never get through to the place of creative resolve and resolution. Keep pressing, reworking, walking away and returning until you know that you know it is finished.
3. Encourage yourself and silence your inner critic
The voice of the inner critic will never go away by itself or by wishing it would stop. The voice must be silenced by a greater voice; the darkness pierced by the purity of light. The dominant inner narrative in your soul can be guided, not by your emotions but by your choices. Who are you and what do you want? Practice some creative visualization, create a treasure map, journal your personal and creative affirmations daily and listen as the critic is silenced.
4. Take time to rest and renew
It’s been said that creativity happens best on the edge of order and chaos. That being said, we can’t live 100% of the time in that tension. You need time to reflect, rest and renew your physical body and your inner life so that fresh ideas can clearly come to and through you. This is not a luxury for the artist, it is essential.
5. Fill your imagination
When it’s time to create, artists create from the heart. And we go inside our imagination to draw upon the inspiration and understanding that lies within. If we’ve not invited the Holy Spirit into our creative process and intentionally filled our imagination with inspiration, then the work becomes mundane; studio time only makes us and our experience in creative bored and anxious. What exhilarates your spirit? What makes you stand in awe and wonder? Movies? Music? Sculpture? Great art or theatre? Whatever feeds your inner life should be on your regular menu."
6. Don’t eat seed
Over the years I’ve found that emerging artists have one main question they are always asking: “How do I make money with my art?” The better question is how can I keep the money I’m making with my art. Becoming a successful Christian artist for most people is able building a bridge to a dream; transitioning from a 9 to 5 job or even beginning to sell your work to the public for the first time. Regardless, all of that takes money. I always encourage artists to take the money that’s coming in initially from selling or teaching and put it away in your business envelope. That way, when a big show, marketing need or other opportunity comes along and you need capital to invest, you have it. Money invested at the right time in your business can be valuable seed to produce the harvest of success you desire.
7. Create what you love
We’ve all done it. You sell a couple of pieces that are similar and you start thinking “If I make 1000 of these, I’d be a gagillionaire... so I better get to work!” Only to find out that at the next show, you only sell a grand total of zero. While we must always keep an eye on what’s selling and what our clients are genuinely responding to at the end of the day, we must make what we love. Otherwise, we become robotic craftsmen just replicating patterns with wrote skill instead of creating out of the place of inspiration and passion. Create what you love and trust the money and opportunities to follow.
Fulfill Your Calling as a Christian Artist!
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8. Reach up and reach back
None of us have gotten where we are in life without those special people God placed in our life at the right place and time to teach us, lead us, guide us and inspire us to go to the next level. No matter where you are in your creative journey, you can do the same for someone else by reaching out in genuine relationship. In addition, there’s always someone who’s further along than you are in whatever creative endeavor you find yourself. Continue to purposely reach up to them as well and become a river of inspiration; both receiving and giving the abundance that’s flowing through you.
9. Tell your story
Art is not a commodity. No one buys great art or fine craft because it was the cheapest or it was on sale. People buy fine art and fine craft because they desire connection; connection with the maker, the process, the materials and ultimately their own human experience. Your personal creative story is a huge part of that because when people connect to you they connect to your work. It’s no longer just a basket, mug or painting, but rather a reflection of the story of the maker who poured their heart and soul into the piece. Art becomes like ancient cairns, pointing the way and commemorating significance in the journey.
10. Dream Your Dreams
Most Christian artists I’ve met over the years are so completely overwhelmed with where they are right now – creatively, relationally, financially – that they’ve lost their ability to dream and imagine outside of their current life experience. What happened to the kid on the playground who believed he could climb to the top of the highest tree on the mountain? What happened to the little girl who wanted to be a famous fashion designer in New York City? I’ll tell you what happened. Life happened, they got bogged down in the details and lost their dreamer. Without dreaming and imagination, we become robotic manufactures of commodities. With dreams, desire and imagination become artists who allow all of life to converge in the studio where we create beautiful objects that help others to live with wonder.
11. Say No to the Wrong things and Yes to the Right
You’re an artist, yes, but you’re also an entrepreneur, shipping department, marketing department and custodial staff in addition to whatever personal and civic obligations that may find their way into your life. If you say yes to everything, you allow everyone else’s emergencies, priorities and passions take precedence over yours. Design your life. Dream your dreams. Create what you love. Life a beautiful life with beautiful people and allow your priorities to be the measuring stick for everything else you allow into your life. That’s not selfish, it’s healthy.
12. Connect to Your Source
If you’ve been an artist for very long, you realize that your creative gift is not your own or even the result of all your own hard work. Pure and simple it’s a gift from the Creator and we simply have the incredible opportunity to collaborate with that Creators process, inspiration and gifts in order to reflect His beauty. Without that connection we die creatively because we cut off the source of our inspiration. With that connection, we go further than we ever could on our own good ideas and hard work. With that connection, we simply lean into the process of creative collaboration that’s already been designed especially for us. With that connection, we always prosper because that’s the design of the Creator.
Don't let another year go by without stepping into your creative calling!
This year can be your breakthrough year! Find out how...
As I've reflected on my own journey and the journey's of the literally hundreds of artists who are a part of my Created to Thrive Artist Mentorship program I now understand there are basically stages an artist goes through on their journey of creativity. Most artists stop somewhere along the way but for those who refuse to give up, they reap the rewards of perseverance.
All artists start here, creating from a place of passion, connection and expression. The focus for the hobbyists is creating for their own enjoyment. Hobbyists pursue their art at their leisure and don't always have a dedicated space to create. Hobbyists enjoy the freedom of creating when inspiration strikes - once a week, a couple of times a month or even a few times a year – and often continue to create because of the spiritual connection they feel when creating. Main challenges facing these artists include frustration with lack of skill, perfectionism, dedicating time to create, connecting with other creatives for community and beliefs around their own identity as artists.
After creating for some time as a hobbyist, these artists begin to develop a passion for more focused pursuit of their art. They are serious about developing more skill, spending more time on their artistic development and are starting to sell their work to others. Emerging artists are beginning to develop the basics of their art business including things like website, printed materials, professional photography, dedicated studio space and applying for shows. Main challenges facing these artists include renewing their mind to align with God's Word rather than their own experience or beliefs, building healthy relationships with other artists who are on the same journey and balancing time to create with relationships and administrative tasks required to launch an art business (marketing, bookkeeping, communications, social media).
The professional artist has moved through the stages of hobbyist and emerging artist after several years of honing their skills and developing their unique creative voice. This artist usually has a dedicated studio space, spends time creating on a daily basis and regularly pursues selling their work via social networks, shows, commissions and other venues. They have developed their own unique marketing brand and are working to connect with those who connect with their creative voice via their website, social media, printed media and referrals. Main challenges facing these artists include cultivating fresh creativity while building upon the success they've experienced, asking for help from professionals in order to grow their businesses to the next level, cashflow and time management. Also, as an artist experiences success, it's even more important to keep their life and art centered in a vital relationship with Jesus.
This artist is living the dream, having moved from hobbyist to emerging artist, professional and now thriving in their chosen pursuits. Thriving artists create what they love in a dedicated studio space while selling their work for top dollar to clients who seek out their work. Their life is marked by creative fulfillment, financial abundance, meaningful relationships and spiritual connection. These artists have developed a niche of clients who authentically connect with them and their work as reflected by their willingness to purchase and refer them to their circle of influence. Main challenges facing these artists include balancing time with family and friends vs time given to their business and art pursuits, cultivating a thriving relationship with the Holy Spirit and taking time to give back to others along the journey who need to know what they've learned over the years.
No matter where you are on your journey as an artist, God wants to use you for His Glory in order to release His Life and Light into the world. You can be the thriving artist God designed you to be... if you're willing to start aligning with Him.
If that's you, I'd love to show you how I've helped hundreds of artists just like you achieve and surpass their goals and live the life they were created to live. Find out more...
Check out this podcast interview I just completed with my friend and colleague in ministry, Stephen Roach on his podcast "Makers & Mystics". Just click the image to go directly to the podcast recording.
I make my living as a full-time vocational artist, speaker, author and leader of an artist mentoring group. Because of that dynamic, I get asked one question a lot in almost every situation I find myself. It goes something like this: "I'm a (fill in the blank) artist and I want to start selling my work (or start making money, start thriving, etc) but I just can't seem to choose a direction. I like everything. What should I do?"
This question and ones like it encapsulate the dilemma in which many emerging artists find themselves; that is how to go from the proverbial here to there. How do I move from being a hobbyist to a more serious part-time or full-time artist. It's a big frustration for many that keeps them up at night, causes confusion and even anxiety about their purpose in life. However, it doesn't have to be that way.
I want to compare and contract the way hobbyists approach their art practice vs the way professional artists approach theirs. This is not to say that all hobbyists are immature or that all professionals have 'made it'... However, in my experience in working with artists and from my own journey, these attributes are true for many. Hopefully this comparison will give you some insight into where you are now and how to start moving in the direction you want... to be a thriving artist!
Find out more about my Created To Thrive Artist Mentoring Program where I'm helping artists of almost every creative medium learn to thrive creatively, spiritually and financially.
“Why is Christian art so bad?” This question was posed to me on live radio several years ago when I was doing a book tour for The release of my first book, ”Unlocking the Heart of the Artist”. There I was, live before millions of people around the world on a big time morning radio show in downtown Chicago. I was trying to encourage artists and at the same time felt that punch-to-the-gut sort of feeling that said “what in the world am I going to say to this?” Fear, anxiety and anger and a little bit of laughter all bubbled up at the same time. I’m not even quite sure what I said at this point but throughout the years, that question has stayed with me and informed everything we try to do in equipping artists at The Worship Studio.
What would lead someone to even ask that question? I mean frankly, we don’t like to ask such hard questions in the Christian community. Most of the time, we like to stay all positive. It’s kind of like those kids on American Idol that can’t sing. Think about it. Somebody’s mama told them they could sing. Their whole life they’re thinking “Wow, I am awesome” and then they get up on national TV and everything changes. (Just in case you need a break, here’s the 10 worst American Idol Singers. Enjoy!)
In church, it can be like that for an artist. All you hear is how anointed, talented and called you are but rarely do artists hear really great constructive critique that can enable them to grow. Sure, we all like to edify, encourage and strengthen each other but sometimes we need to have a little bit of iron sharpening iron. Sometimes, somebody’s got to call a spade a spade. I guess today, that’s me.
You see, I believe if we’re honest we know the answer to this difficult and sometime offensive question; “Why is Christian art so bad?” Much of what is deemed Christian art or “prophetic art” today is much more spiritually-based, spontaneous expression or spiritual processing than it is skillfully created art. (That is not a slam on spontaneous expression or spiritual processing through art by the way.) In that context, the artist may seek to communicate passion, desire, vision and prophetic unction but because of immature artistic skill that only comes with time, preparation, creative development, mentoring and creating tons of work, the result does not carry the transformative power which the artist seeks to convey. The result is not inherently bad, it’s simply the immature expression of an emerging artist.
The challenge for all of us artists who are Christians and who desire to have our work release the light and life of God – to release transformation and change the atmosphere – is to move beyond the simple transcription of spiritual inspiration to the place where we treat those inspirations as seeds; seeds of promise, seeds of potential, seeds that must be planted in good soil and go through the maturing process before they can bear fruit. Believe me, as you mature both creatively and spiritually, your interpretation of inspiration changes drastically.
Unfortunately, that process of development is often looked down upon or minimized because of the tendency to over spiritualize this creative process. I call it “playing the God card”. Sometimes if an artist inherently feels that the inspiration they carry is from the Holy Spirit and that their responsibility is to communicate that inspiration through their artwork, there can be a real resistance to constructive critique. You’ll hear defensive responses like “God gave this to me” or “This is what the Holy Spirit said to do” when in reality, that is the artists’ interpretation of what the Holy Spirit said to do based on their own spiritual and creative maturity. When any of us lose the ability to be teachable and what we do whether it be creative or otherwise and we miss the opportunity to mature. Believe me, as you mature both creatively and spiritually, your interpretation of inspiration changes drastically. Why? Because you have more options; more techniques, mediums, processes and ideas. As your creative capacity expands so does your ear to the Spirit.
The question for all artists is “How do I skillfully create art and grow in artistic maturity while nurturing an authentic spiritual connection?”Here’s five things that I hope all artists will incorporate into their artistic development as they grow into creative and spiritual maturity:
I was a 1 talent artist looking for 5 talent results (Matthew 25).
“Go Back and Re-Learn Your Craft”
When the Lord began to speak to me about the next season of my life in 2008, the first word I got was not about raising up an army of artists or being a father to artists or writing books or speaking at conferences around the world. The first word I got was “go back and re-learn your craft”. Although I have been making baskets for probably 15 years at that point, the Spirit spoke a very clear Word to me. As I interpreted that Word, it became clear that even though I had done basketry for a long time they were key things that I was missing, key techniques that I had not mastered, core understandings that I had yet to incorporate into my creative process. Until I gained mastery in those areas, no matter how much passion or desire I had to release the light and life of God through my work or to have influence as an artist, it just wasn’t going to happen. Why? Because I was a 1 talent artist looking for 5 talent results (Matthew 25). Yes, I could have rebuked the devil and prayed for a miracle – and that may have made me feel better – but as I have found throughout my whole creative and spiritual journey, God is more concerned about the process then he is about the outcome. He’s concerned about stewardship, faithfulness and tenacity. I begin to understand that if God could trust me with the responsibility to develop his creative investment in me then he would trust me to pour out his Spirit through my work.
Plant the Seeds of Inspiration
Creative inspirations are like seeds. In and of themselves, they are worthless unless they are planted in good soil and allowed to come to maturity. The tendency for many artists is to paint the seed, sing the seed, give away the seed or even try to sell the seed rather than plant the seed and wait. For seeds to come to maturity, they must be planted in good soil, die and then give way to life. You must also die to your own preconceived notions of what the art should or should not look like based on how you interpreted the seed.
You must give inspiration the soil it needs to mature into fruit. You must also die to your own preconceived notions of what the art should or should not look like based on how you interpreted the seed. Rarely does the seed look like the fruit and unless you allow the seed to die and then come into maturity, you’re probably missing much of what Holy Spirit is actually trying to speak in and through your creative process.
What does this mean practically? Leave room for mystery. Journal your inspirations, record them on Pinterest, create a vision board, meditate on them with the Holy Spirit. Allow them the time and space to come to fruition. Otherwise, you’re giving away simple seeds or fruit that’s not yet ripe.
Find a Mentor
Hello! This is huge and yet so many people resist this part of the journey. All of us need people to speak into our creative journey and they don’t always have to be Christians. Yes, I said it! Can you believe it? Consider Bezalel for a moment. Yes, he’s an incredibly talented, Godly, Spirit-filled artist in the Bible but more than likely the skills he developed came from a lifetime of faithfully creating and walking in community with other artisans, not just as a singular, supernatural download. God can and will work through anyone he wants to in order to build us into the mature artists He’s designed us to be!
Most of the mentors in my own creative journey have been people whose work inspired me. I paid – and continue to pay – attention, asked the Spirit for opportunities to connect with them and then before you know it, our paths intersect. Follow the breadcrumbs and the favor. Expect divine connections.
“Christianese” messaging overwhelms and weakens the creative expression.
Create and Let God speak
Artists should quit trying so hard to ‘say something’ with their art and simply create. Create with skill? Yes. Create from deep inspiration? Yes. Create with the Creator? Yes. Just create and believe me, the work will speak for itself. So many times overt “Christainese” messaging overwhelms and weakens the creative expression. The creative process is about trust; trusting yourself, the materials, the mystery all the while believing that the work will live and give life to you and the viewer.
In my own journey. most of what God has used to speak life and light to others has usually been in spite of my creative intention going into a piece. Because of that, I always encourage artists to let the work you create speak. Let the process speak. Don’t always come into a piece of art thinking “this is what this is about” or “this is what I’m going to say”. For me, that just robs the beauty of the process and the experience of the viewer from enjoying. The beauty of art – the supernatural essence of what and how we create – is that our creativity is much more than simply what we bring to the studio. We bring all of us and mix it with all of what Holy Spirit wants to do in and through us and boom, all of a sudden what we create goes WAY beyond whatever we had in mind or could ever have done on our own. If we come into the process so convinced that “this is what this is about” or “This is what I’m going to say” we can easily miss the mystery of the Spirit’s journey through us; the exponential result of our creative expression.
Be a river of giving, not a stagnant, fearful puddle who is satisfied to live off of yesterday’s revelation.
Filled, Skilled and Spilled
No matter how gifted or talented an artist is, it’s all for naught unless they nurture their connection with the Father. Being filled with the Spirit of God should always draw an artist into skill development so they can enlarge their capacity to be a conduit for God’s Glory. Likewise, being filled and skilled should also lead artists who are growing in maturity to see their lives spilled out in the service of others. Teach what you know. Give outrageously. Teach your secrets. Be a river of giving, not a stagnant, fearful puddle who is satisfied to live off of yesterday’s revelation.
Grow as You Go!
The promise of the Father is that He will order our steps, light our path, give us the secrets of the Kingdom and allow us to participate in the divine nature through His precious promises. My prayer for each of us who calls ourself artist is that as you go, you would grow in stature before God and man, that people would see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven, that light and life would flow from your art, that Kingdom transformation would be your legacy.