In our social media-driven world, should you be working to collect an email address from your website visitors and clients? Absolutely! There has never been a better time to commit to an effective email mailing plan as a part of your overall art marketing strategy.
With all of the social media platforms available to us today, I get this question all the time from folks like Misty, one of my podcast listeners, "Matt, do I really need an email list, and if so, why?" It's too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "All I need is Facebook. All I need is Instagram. All I need is YouTube." And as much as I would love for this to be true, today's art entrepreneurs need to use a variety of tools if they want to create meaningful and profitable connections with their social media followers.
Don't Keep All Your Marketing Eggs In One Basket
I have been in the art marketing game long enough to realize that technology platforms, specifically social media, make significant changes without warning, often at a moment's notice.
Companies routinely change their algorithms, what THEY think is important, which impacts what their users and your followers see in their social feeds. And when this happens, all of the organic connection you've worked so hard to build could disappear in an instant.
Next to your website, your email list may be the most crucial marketing tool YOU OWN. And I say, "you own," because unlike the following you've built up on social media, you have complete control over the connections you cultivate with and content you deliver to the social followers and customers who have opted-in to your email list.
If the unthinkable happened and your social media accounts stopped being useful, you would still be able to use email to stay connected, create interest, inspire people, and bring them to an event, class, or sale.
Want to Hear More on This Topic, Then Listen To:
Building Your Email List
It all starts with building your list, giving your social followers a chance to become a bigger part of what you are doing. One of my favorite tips that I share with my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program is to offer their casual followers a free resource.
I use an offer similar to this on my website, podcasts, and in my blog. The embedded link takes visitors to a landing page where they are asked to share their first name and their email address so that I can send them this free resource. Feel free to click the picture to see what I mean, plus you'll get a great free resource.
Your Invitation to Cultivate the Connection
The other thing I love about building an email list is this: When a person gives you their email address, they are telling you they are interested in what you do, but more importantly, they are inviting you into their world.
Think about it in these terms. If you owned a gallery on the main street in your town, you'd showcase your most impressive pieces in the front window of your shop as a way to capture the attention of folks passing by.
But thriving art businesses aren't built upon the passers-by but by the folks who come into your studio. Once someone has come in through your door, they are looking to learn more, giving you a chance to build a connection and potentially gain a client.
In some ways, social media is the online equivalent to an attractive window display. It's great when you get those likes, comments, and shares, but once a social follower opts-in to your email list, you then have the opportunity to connect personally. They effectively permit you to push that send button so that you can connect with them directly in their inbox.
Once you start building that list, be faithful to cultivating that connection through weekly or biweekly emails and monthly updates. Use email campaigns to reinforce what you are doing on social media and introduce them to new concepts you're working on, collections you've completed, or classes you're planning to teach.
Got Questions? I'd Love to Answer Them
I sure hope this has been helpful. If you have a question for me, I'd love to answer it here in my blog and on a future episode of 5-Minute Mentoring. Just stop by my podcast page and leave me a voicemail. Thanks for reading.
Have you ever wanted to unleash yourself artistically and create free from the confines of always using reference materials when you embark upon an artistic adventure? Are you looking for a key to unlock and tap into a limitless supply of imagination and creativity that informs and inspires your creative process?
Lots of artists are looking for this, and recently one of my podcast listeners reached out for some strategies on how he could begin doing this. Nigel wants to break free from relying on photographs as his source materials into creating paintings birthed out of his imagination, but he's finding it challenging to make the transition.
If this feels familiar, I get it, and I want you to know you're not alone. I spent many years using reference materials, photographs, other works of art, and even general inspiration, to inform, inspire, and shape my woven sculptures. But as I began to understand the nature of creativity in the Kingdom of God and the role that divine inspiration plays in the artistic process, my whole world began to change.
As I pressed into my calling as an artist in the Kingdom of God, I began to discover the keys, Biblical truths, to unlocking the inner creative well* of inspiration that the Father has placed inside each of us. But before I dive into the "how-to," let's back up and take a look at how a healthy Holy Spirit-led imagination is supposed to function.
Creative Imagination is a Beautiful Engine
I believe that creative imagination is a beautiful creative engine that God has given us. It's full of emotion and fully capable of sensing both the natural world we see and spiritual realities we can only perceive. In a sense, it's a kind of divine alternate reality we can explore with the guidance of the Holy Spirit where we see, hear, feel, touch, and even taste things that are not YET tangible. And it's not just what I believe; it's an idea birth in scripture:
It is by faith we understand that the whole world was made by God's command. This means that what we see was made by something that cannot be seen. Hebrews 11:3
Or this classic verse talking about Abraham's faith:
God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. Romans 4:17
Your God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired imagination is how you get to see those things that are not as though they were. And as you begin to embrace the reality of what the Holy Spirit reveals, you have an opportunity to co-labor with the Father to bring those things to life through your creative expression.
Intentionally Jumpstarts Your Creative Imagination
Pulling inspiration from your imagination isn't something that's going to happen on its own. Just as you've gathered reference materials specifically and intentionally over the years, you're going to have to start cultivating and using your imagination intentionally as well. But believe it or not, you're already off to a good start.
Your divinely inspired creative well won't spring forth from a vacuum. As a Kingdom artist, you are called to create from not only Holy Spirit inspiration but also from the fruit of everything you've cultivated in your heart and mind over the years. That means that all of the inspiration you've gathered, the music you've listened to, books and poems you've read, and beautiful things you've been a part of are already in your well.
With this already in place, the next step is to partner with the Creator of the universe. Start by asking the Holy Spirit, "Holy Spirit, would You blow over me and awaken inspiration that is in my heart from years past? From things that I don't even realize? Would You begin to activate those things in me so that I can begin to pull on those in my creative process under Your inspiration?"
Visualization Fuels Your Creative Engine
Now, the other thing is that I am a big believer in visualization, allowing the Holy Spirit to take your imagination on a journey that fills your creative well with inspiration. I believe that when you visualize in your creative imagination with the Holy Spirit, that your faith is activated as you come into agreement with:
It's how you begin to see those things that are not as though they are. It's also how you begin to co-create your artwork with the Lord. If this is feeling a bit new to you, don't worry. Let me walk you through your first adventure with the Holy Spirit. To begin, you'll need a few things:
Your sketchbook or art journal & a pen (Need tips on journaling? Read This)
So, begin by putting on the music, sitting down in your chair, and closing your eyes. Take time to connect with the Father and to let the cares of the world and the day wash off. Then once you feel ready, just say, "Holy Spirit, take me on a journey and open up my imagination."
Now don't be surprised if you find yourself drawn to some of the source photos or reference materials you've collected over the years. This is normal. But as the Holy Spirit begins to focus you on one idea or location, maybe an old Cathedral you've visited or a landscape you photographed years ago, invite Him into that place and into your imagination. Then begin to watch, look, and listen with the eyes of your heart.
Stay in that place, exploring with the Holy Spirit, until you feel a release. It may take 5 or 10 minutes, maybe longer. Then once you're ready, open your eyes, pull out your journal and begin to capture in words or sketches what you just saw, sensed, and felt. But it doesn't have to end there.
Over the next few days, go back and revisit this with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to highlight and reveal more details, insights, and nuances. Again, finish by capturing what you saw in your journal, sketching in additional details to better capture the essence of what you're seeing. The goal is to use your God-given creative skills to capture the beautiful things you're seeing and experiencing with your Holy-Spirit-inspired imagination.
Another Creative Tool for Your Belt
Over the years, these Holy-Spirit-led journeys have become vital to the ongoing practice of filling my creative well. I still use reference materials, gather inspiration from my walks in the woods, music I listen to, books I read, the art I admire. But now I allow the Holy Spirit to fuse these together in my creative imagination.
One time, I had a basket that I wanted to create. I'd never woven a basket like this before. I was stuck on how to connect the inside to the outside. That night before going to sleep, I simply asked, "Lord, would you show me how to do that?"
That night I had a dream, now this doesn't happen every time, but that night it did. I woke up the next morning, jotted some notes in my journal to capture what the Lord had shown me, and then I went to the studio and did what I saw in my dream. WOW! And why not? If you could ask the Holy Spirit to lead your spiritual life, why can't you ask Him for the same in your art life? That is the normal way that the Kingdom works.
I hope you'll give this a try. Start going on some Holy-Spirit-led journeys in your imagination. As you do, you'll begin to create unique works of art from your creative imagination that reveal the Glory of God.
Got Questions? I'd Love to Answer Them
If you have a question for me, I'd love to answer it here in my blog and on a future episode of 5-Minute Mentoring. Just stop by my podcast page and leave me a voicemail. Thanks for reading.
* I was first introduced to this concept by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way, where she says "In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We’ve got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish – an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem..." As I have explored it more over the years, the Holy Spirit began to bring me more revelation about how inspiration works - how it's discovered, held and nurtured within us. Central to my understanding is that the Holy Spirit moves over all the inspiration we sow into our heart and mind, allowing us to co-labor with Him in the creative process.
One of the secrets to art business success that I teach artists is that “Connection is Key.” Your ability to thrive creatively is directly affected by your willingness and ability to connect with clients, strategic partners, mentors, and other creatives.
But what do you do if you live, work, and create in the middle of nowhere, or out in the boondocks, as we say down south? Is thriving while geographically isolated even possible? Well, the short answer is yes, and here are a few nuggets of wisdom that will help you thrive where you’ve been planted.
No matter where you live in the world, the internet is your gateway to connection. Even if you only have a cell phone and a mobile data plan, you can still:
So, where do you begin? Well, obviously, in today’s world, social media may be the best way to start building a connection with people online. Connecting with clients and strategic partners online is something you can do from anywhere. From regularly posting on a Facebook page or an Instagram account to posting your art process and how-to videos on YouTube, you’re only limited by your own imagination and a couple of tech tools like a phone, some basic lighting and internet connection.
But the benefits of social media for creatives don’t end there. One of the worst things about remote living can be a crushing sense of isolation, and it makes sense. We weren’t created to live alone. To combat isolation, consider starting your own Facebook group of fellow artists, joining an existing group or program (like my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program), and even starting a simple group chat or text among creative friends! It doesn’t have to be fancy, just get started.
Fine Tune Your Website
Online art sales exploded last year with close to $5 Billion worth of sales. For many artists that I know, 2020 was their best year ever. Now they did have to pivot to prosper during a global pandemic. Still, the fundamentals of what they did on their websites will help any artist succeed.
Your website should pique curiosity, showcase your talents, inspire and inform your visitor, all while providing a clear, simple pathway for them to connect to you and the art you create. A great website is a mobile-friendly hub where you display, describe, and inspire people through your art. It tells the story of who you are, building that initial connection with your visitor. Then it presents them with an opportunity to purchase right on your website or through a link to a third-party site like Etsy, Fine Art America, or Saatchi Art.
Go to Where the Fish Are
So down south, it’s said, “If you want to catch fish, you have to go to where the fish are.” Make sense, right? The same holds for selling art. If art is not selling in your local area, you sometimes have to be willing to travel to where people are buying art. At this point, you might be wondering, “But Matt, isn’t online sales enough?”
Well, yes, but mostly no. I’m a big believer in something I teach in the Mentoring Program called The Parthenon Plan ™ . I encourage artists to create a multi-pronged, multi-strategy approach to building their art businesses. This concept helps creatives build healthy businesses with multiple income streams through the variety of methods they use to connect with their clients.
In a nutshell, don’t have all your “eggs” in one basket. Over the years, I grew my art business both only online and in person. I learned early on that I had to be willing to travel. From Atlanta to Philadelphia, from Atlanta to Chicago, or from Asheville to New Orleans. I sought out the shows and opportunities where I knew that my best clients would be.
“But Matt, I don’t know where to go. What do I do?” First of all, don’t let not knowing something paralyze you. Begin with a little research:
As we begin to return to a sense of normality post-covid, in-person shows and sales will come back. We’ll see old shows return and new shows and opportunities to connect and sell in-person springing up for those willing to do a little “road work.”
The last thing that I would say is be intentional. Be intentional about going to where your best clients are. Be intentional about creating community online. Be intentional about developing strategic partnerships. Don’t be afraid to be deliberate and step out. Be prepared. You have got to build a net, if you will, to be able to catch all the “fish” that God is bringing into your art business.
I hope this has been an encouragement. Thanks for reading.
PS: Combating isolation is one of the reasons why I started the Created To Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. Created To Thrive is a world-wide community of artists that have banded together to be encouraged, inspired, mentored, and challenged. They are embracing their calling as Kingdom artists while living life together online. Sure, we host a couple of live events a year, but we connect on Facebook, post on Instagram, and chat regularly on Zoom for the rest of the year. For many of our geographically isolated members, this online community has allowed them to find “their people.” Created to Thrive is truly a band of brothers and sisters who encourage and inspire each other along the way.
It's a question that has plagued diversified creatives for as long as the internet has been a thing. And given the time, effort, and expense of setting up, tweaking, and maintaining just one effective website, when, if ever, should an artist consider having more than one website as a part of their overall marketing and communication strategy?
A Tale of Two Artists
One of my podcast listeners, Lorraine, recently reached out for a little wisdom on this very topic. Lorraine is a two-genre painter, creating both flower paintings as well as custom pet portraits. As she was in the process of putting her website together, she kept running into issues of fitting both sides of what she does creatively under one "roof" on the internet.
Again, it's a great problem, and one I've been asked about many times by the members of my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My rule of thumb on this is simple. If an artist is doing two or more creative things related to their career as an artist, I encourage them to have just one website to showcase and market their artistic endeavors.
In Lorraine's case, both of her creative genres are complementary. A good number of her pet portrait clients may likely be interested in her floral art, while a good number of her floral clients will have a beloved pet or two they may want to be memorialized through one of her custom pet portraits.
So, when should you have two websites? Well, that's simple. When your second business, venture, or hobby isn't closely related to what you do as an artist. In situations like this, you may want to consider having two separate websites. I'll use myself as an example of when to do this.
I have an artist website, where I showcase my baskets, woven sculpture, commissioned artwork, and the classes that I teach for other aspiring basket weavers. All of this information and my public persona as an artist lives under one roof at matttommey.com.
I also have a separate website that talks about my life and work as a mentor to artists. MattTommeyMentoring.com is the online portal where I talk about my books, conferences, and my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My mentoring website also houses this blog and all the episodes of my twice-weekly The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast.
I found out early on that very few of my basketry classes or woven sculpture clients were interested in what I did as an artist mentor and even fewer of my mentoring clients were interested in one of my commissioned wall pieces. The two sides of what I do creatively and as a mentor don't necessarily complement each other or connect with the same set of potential clients.
Making One Website Work For Everything You Do
It all starts with your home page. A good home page will evoke a connection, inspire, and make your visitors curious enough to click and continue the journey through other pages on your website. A great home page will speak to the visitor's aspirational desires, bringing needs to the surface that you can solve through your skills and talents as an artist.
So, in the case of someone like Lorraine who creates fine artwork, like her floral paintings as well as custom commissioned pet portraits, I always recommend having a couple of different “doors” on your homepage so that people can quickly see the full range of what you offer creatively.
Redundant Intuitive Doors Get Opened
Now these "doors" into the different sides of your artistic expressions should be both intuitive and redundant. The secret here is to make navigating your website easy for everyone, no matter how they like to journey through a website.
So, for an artist website, that means giving your visitors access to the various sides of your artistic personality via text-based navigational links in your menu and through graphic links that clearly communicate the scope and variety of your abilities through amazing images of your work.
Optimize Your Genre Specific Pages
Once you've created that great home page that highlights everything you do creatively, now you need to turn your attention to the genre-specific pages your site visitors will be visiting. So using our friend Lorraine as an example again, she'll want to have a page devoted to her custom pet portraits and one focused upon her fine floral art.
On the pet portrait page, I would encourage her to include past work examples that tell the story of her process. I would suggest she show examples of her source materials, like the photos she used in painting a portrait, show a picture of that custom portrait in process, and then finally a final shot or two of the finished piece, including one in situ if possible. I would finish out that page with information on the commissioning process and how a client can connect with her to get a portrait project started.
Now since her floral art pieces are most likely ready to purchase, I would recommend that this page include pieces of currently available work, along with the prices, as well as examples of few sold pieces in their final homes when possible. Again, I would make sure visitors to this page on her site can easily learn how to purchase originals and prints of her art, as well as how to connect with her for a commissioned floral creation.
Finally, creating genre-specific pages with unique pictures and descriptions greatly enhances your site's ability to be found on the internet. These become anchor pages for those topics and genres on your website, making them easier for your clients to find when searching for "custom pet portraits," for example.
It's All About the People
So whether you end up with one website or two for what you do, always keep your visitor, the prospective client's experience in mind. Your site should peak curiosity, showcase your talents, inspire and inform your visitor all while providing a clear, simple pathway for them to connect to you and the art you create.
I hope this has helped. Thanks for reading.
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.
I don’t know about you, but I get way too overwhelmed with Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Clubhouse, Linked In, and all of the different social media platforms out there. Part of me thinks they are wonderful because we have this incredible opportunity to share our ideas, our art, and to reach out to clients and friends while building community.
The other part is that it can sometimes feel gross, overwhelming, and even demeaning when the comments start rolling in. So as Kingdom artists, how do we find the balance between the real community we create online versus those random unhinged comments that pop up on your social media feeds?
What is Real Community?
There are several characteristics of authentic community. Number one, is real intimacy. Being vulnerable, transparent, and knowing each other’s heart is a huge part of the ground that real relationship is built upon. While this is best built face to face, this isn’t always possible or feasible. But given the technology we have available, real relational intimacy with people online is possible.
Secondly, real community is marked by an opportunity and openness to give and receive. We have all been in a one-sided relationship before where either it was us receiving something that somebody was trying to give that we didn’t necessarily want to hear, or vice versa. A healthy relationship needs a balance of both giving and receiving, sharing and taking equally so that one person isn’t being dominated by the other.
Thirdly, in a real community, people are invested in each other for the long term. These are people that you want to walk with and have chosen to share your time, energy, attention, and resources. These are the people you have chosen to focus on in your life because they are important to you, and hopefully, they feel the same way about you.
The real question is, how does real community differ from the comment driven “relationships” we all have on social media?
Who Are These People?
First of all, you really don’t know WHO most of those people are. We all have Facebook “friends” we barely know or have never even met in real life. When you think about it, you don’t know that much about them at all. You only see the happy high-points of their life and the stuff they choose to share in their posts.
These are not people you’re invested in. So many of your online interactions are based on algorithms and not on authentic connection. These are people that are like leaves; they blow in and out of your life, they are here for a moment, here for only a short season. For the most part, these are not the folks you have chosen to invest your time and energy into.
When you look at the Biblical concept of community, we are called into relationship with others so that we can complete one another. I am here to sharpen you, and you are here to do the same for me. Just like in a healthy body, a healthy community supports the members, supplying them with the support, comfort, and care they need. Again, this is a very different concept than the reality we face in our social media post-driven world.
A Healthy Community Supports Your Godly Identity
Diving in a little deeper, take a moment to answer these questions honestly. How do you define yourself, and who are you allowing to shape your identity? Of course, you can be defined by anything you want to be defined by, but from a Kingdom perspective, God’s best for us is that our identity comes from who Jesus says we are. Our identity is meant to come from the Word of God.
That’s the gold standard God intended for each of us. A healthy identity that comes from the Lord is designed to be reinforced and encouraged through a healthy community. The relationships you build inside a safe, supporting, and caring community are there to build you up in the Lord and equip you to be all that God has created you to be.
But those relationships, just like everything good in the Kingdom, have to be cultivated. It’s yet another case of reaping back what you’ve sowed. As you walk together with others in a life-giving community, your healthy, godly identity matures when you’re helping others do the same.
So, take a moment and ask yourself these questions?
As you continue to travel through this social media-driven landscape, it’s vital that you learn to temper your reactions to posts and comments based on the level of authentic connection you have with the commentator. When the relationship isn’t genuine, then take the feedback, whether good or bad, with a grain of salt.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you. I, for one, am glad that you are a part of my community.
So many artists lead paralyzed lives because they are too scared to step out and do something they have never done. No matter the cause, whether it’s fear, self-doubt, or isolation, it’s like a wave builds up to push them back to block them from being the Thriving Christian Artist they were called and created to be.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re in good company. I struggled with this very same thing in my life until God began to show me some simple strategies that gave me the confidence to step out.
Defeat Fear With Faith
You know, all of us, if we are honest, have struggled with the fear of stepping out into the new. I know that a root cause of this in my life stems from growing up in a situation that wasn’t the greatest emotionally or relationally. I ended up retreating in self-protection so much that I didn’t do anything unless I was fairly certain of what the outcome was going to be.
In some ways, this led to some early successes in my life, especially those areas that played into my strengths. But most of the time, this fear kept me from stepping out of my comfort zone and into new experiences because I never wanted to try anything new where the outcome was uncertain.
Whether it was from a fear of failure, fear of ridicule, or even the fear of success, fear kept me from trying anything new. Maybe you can identify with what I’m saying here. The enemy loves to use our past, our fear, or even our woundedness to drive a wedge between the promise of what God has for us and the reality of where we are right now.
The one thing God showed me that set me free from this fear-based paralysis is this: Change only happens when my faith and my willingness to step into the promises of God become bigger and more powerful than the fear of the unknown.
Think about that for a second. Transformation will only happen in your life when your faith in all that God has for you becomes bigger than the fears that are holding you back.
Embrace Your Identity
The second area that I had to grow in was in the area of identity. My fear of stepping out was also a result of my unwillingness and inability to accept, believe, receive, and fully embrace my identity as a Son of God and as an artist in His Kingdom. My own self-doubts and anxieties about “not being enough” kept me from even dreaming that I was meant for more.
I learned, through times of healing and revelation, that having an identity that is rooted and grounded in Christ sets the stage for everything else in life. And I want to encourage you to do the same.
As you begin to grow in confidence and start to embrace who God has called you to be, things start to change. You’ll find yourself in position to receive the strategies, knowledge, and guidance that God has had for you all along.
Don’t Go It Alone
Finally, like so many creative believers, I fell into the trap of isolation. Believing the lie that I was the only one going through this particular struggle or dealing with this specific challenge, feeling alone led to a hopelessness that kept me from stepping out.
Over the years, I’ve learned that artists who try to thrive on their own rarely ever do. Why? It’s simple. We simply weren’t designed to just “white knuckle it” through life’s challenges all on our own, looking for external solutions to internal problems.
As believers, we are called and created to do life together. As Kingdom Creatives, we are meant to walk together in a mutually supportive community with other artists and other believers that are on the same journey.
As you receive fully by faith the promises and provisions that God has for you while embracing your identity as an artist in His Kingdom in the context of a loving, supportive community, life begins to change. Your confidence builds, your vision clarifies, faith grows, and acceleration starts happening.
I sure hope this article has been an encouragement to you. If it has, please share it with others on the journey as you kick fear to the curb and embrace the fullness of who God has called you to be this week.
What Does the "Renewing of the Mind" Look Like for Christians?
That’s the question most Christians struggle with and have had very little teaching on during their life as believers. Consequently, they are left feeling unfulfilled, frustrated and confused when it comes to actually living the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10 NLT where he said “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” That rich and satisfying life manifests in the life of believers through one simple, life-changing strategy: the renewing of the mind.
What Does Renewing of Your Mind Mean in the Bible?
Simply stated, renewing your mind according to Romans 12:2 means interpreting life through the lens of God’s Word and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rather than through the lens of your experience, woundedness, trauma, preferences or the opinions of others. It’s a fundamental shift toward seeing the world, yourself, others, God and especially what’s possible from a Kingdom perspective. It’s making a daily, moment by moment choice to choose the Mind of Christ which lives inside of us as new creations rather than operating from our soulish mind the way we did before we were saved.
Why Do Christians Need to Renew Their Minds?
Unless a Christian learns to renew their mind, they will continue to walk in defeat, struggle and confusion as they desire to experience a Spirit-led life yet have no understanding how or tools with which to see that life manifest. This is the predicament of most believers who live lives of religious obedience and obligation yet void of any real Spirit-led power. Without renewing your mind, the only two options are to wait, hope and beg God to change you or to work, sweat and strive on your own to achieve the results you so long to experience. Neither is God’s best.
Renewing your mind aligns your mind with the truth of God’s Word by learning to recognize the lies of the enemy, replace them with the truth of God’s Word and then reinforce that truth every time the enemy comes at them with those same lies. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV, God’s Word teaches us that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” Taking a thought captive literally means to capture or conquer that thought as you identify it and compare it to God’s Word. Does this thought agree with God’s promises over my life or not? If not then I cast it away – rejecting it’s influence in my life – and I plant in its place one of God’s promises from His Word.
In 2 Peter 1:3-4, the Bible says “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
4 Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Did you get that? It’s through God’s precious promises that we participate in the divine nature.
Renewed thoughts resulting in new beliefs help you engage with God’s plan for your life because thoughts fuel your beliefs. Godly Kingdom-Focused thoughts are great fuel for your godly beliefs, while ungodly, fear-driven lies and half-truths fuel ungodly beliefs.
Renewing your mind is not just a spiritual process, but a physiological one as well. When you intentionally change the way you think to align with God’s Word, it literally creates new connections and pathways in your brain to make that process easier and more preferred over time. Through the process of neuroplasticity, your brain can literally be reconfigured to align with the truth of God’s Word and thus create the solutions, strategies and opportunities that best align with God’s plan for your life. Remember, in Proverbs 23:7 KJV “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Your thoughts (which ultimately create your beliefs resulting in your actions) literally create the boundaries of your life. If you want to experience a different life – the abundant life Jesus promised – you must learn to intentionally renew your mind.
5 Ways to Renew Your Mind Today
You can absolutely live the abundant life Jesus promised if you master the process of renewing your mind including recognizing the lies of the enemy, intentionally replacing them with the truth of God’s Word and reinforcing that truth through visualization and affirmations. As you do, you’ll be amazed at the double doors of favor that seem to instantaneously appear in your life simply because you came into agreement with God’s design for your life, rather than trying to make it happen all on your own.
People ask me all the time, “Matt, how do I know that I am on the right track? How do I know that I am following God’s best for my life?” It’s a great question and one that I’ve asked myself many times as I’ve journeyed through life. Over the years, I’ve learned two keys that have helped me find and stay on the path God has for my life and my art.
Start By Following the Favor
One of the things that I have done over the years that has served me well is what I call “Follow the Favor.” It’s easy. Look around in your life and pay attention to see where God is moving. Pay special attention to:
All of these are clues that point to your divine design and purpose. And as you continue saying “Yes” to the opportunities and open doors, faithfully using the natural talents you’ve been given, your confidence will begin to grow. As you are faithful to use the opportunities, open doors, and skills He’s trusted you with; God will continue to show up in your life in huge ways.
Find Your People
Surrounding yourself with other Kingdom-minded artists is one of the best ways to confirm you’re on the right track. Why? Well, it’s simple. The enemy loves to isolate and separate God’s kids. He loves to get us on our own and fill our heads with lies and fill us full of fear and doubt. Lies like:
But when you surround yourself with others that are in your “tribe,” your people, all of a sudden, you begin to see yourself and your journey in a whole new light. You begin to realize, “Hey, I am not as weird as I thought I was,” especially when you start to connect with other artists who are called to serve the Kingdom of God with their gifts and talents.
And in that place of connectedness, there is an incredible grace that gets released. When you stop trying to do life and art on your own and start walking with others on the same journey, faith, momentum, acceleration, and breakthrough become your new normal.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.