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.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to hit the reset button after the year we just had. If you’re reaching for that button in your life, then I want to share with you four things that will absolutely help you get rebooted, reset, and ready for what God has in store for your life and art in 2021.
You know, the Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. Unless you have a clear view of who God has called you to be, what He has called you to do, where He is leading you, and what He has for you this year, then you may end up very frustrated.
If you find yourself adrift in a sea of doubt, fear, and uncertainty, then I encourage you to go get with Jesus. Take some time away, a few hours or maybe even a couple of days, to get alone with the Lord. Ask Him to show you what He has for you this year in your life, family, art, and business.
The clarity you get will form the seed of a vision that you can cultivate in your life. And as you are faithful to nurture this vision, it begins to release clear direction for everything going on in your life. Vision speeds you down the road when things are good and keeps you on the road when things are bad. Why? Because vision informs everything in our life.
What you believe deep in your heart is as important as what you see for your future. When you cultivate God-centric Kingdom-focused beliefs in your heart, they inform and shape all of your thoughts and actions. Why? Because what you believe deep in your heart is the fruit of the thoughts and ideas you meditate and focus on day in and day out.
Your beliefs are the faith-colored glasses through which you embrace and engage the vision God has established for your life. Vision gives you the path to follow while illuminating the Kingdom-focused truths and concepts you should be cultivating in your heart and mind.
Vision, coupled with a well-cultivated belief, also serves as an early warning system against spiritual attacks. When the enemy comes and throws crazy pictures, thoughts, and lies in your mind, you have a strong foundation from which to say, “NO! This lie does not align with God’s vision for my life or look anything like what He is showing me.
Renew Your Mind
A couple of scriptures that I love are Romans 12:2 and Proverbs 23:7. Romans teaches us to be transformed by renewing our minds, while Proverbs tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. If vision informs your path and beliefs help you engage with God’s plan, 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.
The key to effectively renewing your mind can be summed up in three words:
If vision sets our path, belief helps us to engage with God’s plan, and thoughts fuel our journey of faith, then faithfulness is the oil that keeps things running smoothly. Faithfulness, simply put, is the practice of clearly executing every day the things you need to do as you grow into your calling as a thriving artist. Faithfulness for a creative could look like:
All this and more while learning to lean into His grace and not our strength, following God’s lead while avoiding the personal pitfall of striving. Faithfulness walked out over time leads to the “suddenlies” we all long to experience. Suddenly, as you’ve been faithful in the little things the Father has put into your hands, you “suddenly'' find yourself thriving in life, art, relationships, and maybe even business.
2021 is a year of great promise and great potential for creatives. This year we are all called to get serious about embracing vision, renewing our minds, cultivating godly beliefs, and faithfully walking out the plans God has for us. And as we do this in the context of a community of others doing the same, I promise you will have a reset and a reboot like no other.
It is a brand-new year, and I genuinely believe that God has got some incredible things in store for us all in 2021. But guess what? There is something massive out there right now that is holding so many artists back. It’s NOT…
All of these molehills pale compared to this mountain so many creatives face: a lack of vision. No matter where you are, what kind of an artist you are, no matter how long you have been walking with the Lord, THIS is the number one thing that holds people back.
Vision Is Defined by What You Focus Upon
One of the critical truths I’ve learned about developing a vision for my life, art, and business is this: Vision is either based on what has been or on what is possible. You can’t have it both ways.
Far too many people allow their ability to see into the future be defined by what has happened in their past. In other words, they run every idea for the future through the lens of what has happened to them in the past. This is a recipe for self-sabotage.
Set Your Vision Higher
As you are stepping into 2021 with all the promise, opportunities, and thousands of hours yet to be filled with creativity, it is time to dream. It is time to set your vision higher and NOT on what has defined you in the past.
Now is not the time to focus on how good or bad 2020 was. It’s not time to worry about the lost opportunities and things you didn’t think you could get through. It is time to set your eyes on things above and to refocus as you establish a vision for your life and art in this new year.
Don’t Let the Year Define You –YOU Define the Year
It’s easy to blame your current situation on the year that we all just experienced. But for many artists I know, 2020 was their best year ever. They started last year focused on things above instead of their past failings and limitations. They were ready to pivot and take advantage of the opportunities a socially distanced, partially shut down society had to offer. In short, they had an incredible year – but do you know why?
Vision. They believed it was possible. They saw it in their imagination, they cooperated with the Holy Spirit on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, and with His help and guidance, they acted upon those ideas.
They didn’t allow fear from the past, the drama of the present, or what other people were saying to define what they thought was possible in 2020. They simply dreamed with God and agreed in their heart that the thing God was showing them, the thing that was burning inside of them, was their truth, their vision, for the year.
And as they agreed in their heart with the vision God was birthing in their spirits, praying and believing that they have received it, just like Mark 11:24 teaches us, things began to happen. The dream started to manifest in their life. And as a result, their lives, their art, and their businesses all thrived. That is how the Kingdom of God works.
So you want to know how to actually make a living as an artist? You're in the right place! For the last 25 years, I've made my living using my creative expression and I'm going to share with you the top things I've learned so you can begin actually making a living from your art.
You Can't Have Business Dreams with Hobby Habits
A lot of artists "dream" of making a living from their art but few are actually willing to do what it takes. What does it take, you might ask? Things like:
Over the years as I've grown my own very successful art business (I'm a woven sculpture artist) and mentored literally thousands of Christian artists, I've found for an artist to really thrive, they have to cultivate 5 specific areas of their life: heart & mind, art, brand, business and life. Unless you are working on all these areas simultaneously, it's unlikely you'll be able to make a living as an artist.
See, making work that is masterfully created and unique is simply the starting point. That's a given. It's ground zero. Once you're making work that's uniquely beautiful you've got to go about cultivating an authentic connection with your potential audience.
For more on this subject, check out The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast. It's free and filled with hundreds of free episodes that will empower you on your creative journey toward actually making a living as an artist.
Need some more help starting to cultivate those 5 hey areas? Take my "Start Thriving Now" ecourse. It's free and will be a big encouragement to you.
Artists who are Christians need encouragement, inspiration and equipping as they pursue God's creative calling on their lives. Here are some of the best books for Christian artists on the market today:
Book artwork and descriptions are from Amazon.com descriptions and are the sole property of the copyright holder.
Artists who are Christians are often looking for inspiration and encouragement not only creatively, but also in their spiritual life and businesses as well. For most Christian artists, their faith is not something that's just ancillary to their journey, it's at the core of who they are and how they operate in the world. Rightly so!
Over the years, I've been asked what podcasts are the best podcasts for Christian artists to be listening to and so I thought I'd create this quick post to share some of my favorites:
I was recently reflecting on my own journey, especially as it relates to fear. For many years, fear was a significant motivating factor in my life. Fear of...
You get the picture. My life was being ruled by all of this misplaced fear-based anxiety. I was living my life based on the lies of the enemy and not the Truth of God. We have all dealt with this at some point, some of us more than others. You know those times when fear takes hold, and you start feeling absolutely overwhelmed, even to the point of a panic attack, just not knowing what to do.
One of the things I learned many years ago is THE KEY that God gave us in His Word that unlocks transformation in our lives. Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I learned that if I want to experience life differently, I have to learn to think differently.
I’m a firm believer in this concept of renewing my mind. I’ve been practicing it for years, intentionally cultivating God’s Truth in my heart for years. And despite all that, there are still sometimes things just come out of the blue. When I’m tired, mad, sad, hungry, upset, or frustrated, that’s when the enemy will come in like a flood to try to shut me down and overwhelm me.
It happened to me just the other day. I was having a pity party. I was really starting to get anxious about situations that are really unlikely ever to happen, the “What Ifs” of life. And as this went on for a bit, the enemy began to blow these stories up to IMAX size in my head. I was just getting bombarded with those fears of What If…
And as the fear continued to grow, it began to morph. If it did happen, does that mean that…
As these things raced through my mind, I leaned into the truths I’d been cultivating in my heart for years. Pulling from my daily practice of renewing my mind, I realized I needed to turn to the Lord and not even try to be strong. I just needed to fall into His lap and say, “JESUS, I NEED YOUR HELP!”
Now while this may seem an over simplistic solution, this simple act of trust broke something free in my life. Suddenly, instead of being in agreement with the fear, I began to agree with God’s truth…
As I did that, a beautiful thing happened. The Lord immediately went WHOOSH. It was like all of the fear, anxiety, and worry that was swirling around in my head just went, POOF, gone! It was like clouds starting to drift apart, and that’s when the Lord dropped this Scripture into my heart.
“When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai. You are hidden in the strength of God most high. He is the hope that holds me in the stronghold to shelter me. The only God for me and my great confidence. He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy. He will protect you from false accusations in any deadly curse. His massive arms are wrapped around you protecting you.” Psalm 91 – The Passion Translation
And as I sat there, I realized that God had done it again. In my time of need, as I reached out to Him, He came in to dispel the enemy’s lies with the exact truth that I needed at that moment. My fear was getting caught in a “hidden trap,” something I didn’t see coming that would destroy the things I hold dear.
That was my fear, the source of the anxiety that was creeping up that day, and Psalm 91 was the exact passage the Lord gave me. I believe that the only time God is limited in our lives is when we are unwilling to invite Him into the situation. If you and I sit there and struggle in our life by ourselves, the Lord is standing there waiting to bring a solution, waiting to bring breakthrough, but He is waiting for you to extend the invitation. He is waiting for you to fling open the door. He is waiting on you to run into His arms
So my friend, listen! If fear is one thing that tries to come on you regularly, follow my example. When you find yourself in the middle of the fear, just fling yourself on Jesus! Turn up the worship music, lean into His arms, and say, “Father, I need You right now to come and break the power of the enemy.” I promise you. He will be faithful to show up and bring deliverance on your behalf and give you the tools you need to begin to renew your mind and walk in strength that is already yours in the Kingdom of God.
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!
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.
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
Have you ever wondered how to tell when the Holy Spirit is guiding you and working with you in your art or when you are trying to do it all on your own? If this is you, you're not alone. This is a question I get a lot from artists all over the world. And today, I want to share with you a few things that I've learned over the years that have really helped me definitively answer this question for myself.
Religious Baggage – We All Have Some…
You know, a lot of us were raised with a fear-based relationship with the Lord. This is where the idea that you have to be "careful" because you don't want to "miss God" gets ingrained in your heart. While the desire for this sort of teaching is undoubtedly good, it often produces the opposite of what it is intended to do.
In my life, this mindset failed me completely. Instead of keeping on the straight and narrow, it took me totally off the path. I became paralyzed because I was so afraid of doing anything that might seem like my own flesh, anything that would not honor the Lord. I was just scared all the time, and because of that, I really was not moving forward in my life.
This kind of religious baggage paralyzes a lot of people in life. But over the years, the Lord began to help me realize some essential Kingdom truths. These truths helped me know the answer to the question, "Am I doing this with the Lord, or am I doing this on my own?"
You Were Designed for Co-Creating with God.
We all have to realize that God's pleasure and His desire are FOR you. God's design in your life was created specifically for you. In other words, there is a design, there is a pattern, there is a way of flowing that He designed for you. Not for anyone else, and He did this before the very foundation of the earth. When you got saved, the best part is that your Divine design got reactivated and reenergized in your life.
I love where the Bible says in Psalms that God inhabits the praises of His people. I love it because that is what art feels like to me. As we create in concert with the Holy Spirit, inviting Him into the creative process, God is faithful to His Word. As we do the things we were made to do with the One who created us, He comes, and He inhabits, leads, guides, and comforts us through that process.
You Have Everything You Need
It is crucial to realize that through what God has done for you through the cross, you already have everything you need for life and godliness as a Kingdom Artist. The real question is, "How do you participate or partake in all that God has already done for you? In II Peter 1:3-4, it says that we participate in the divine nature through the very precious promises of God. So, it is by faith, right?
It's by faith that we take hold of the promises of God and can appropriate all the things that God has for us. Well, the same thing is true with your art. You need to embrace the truth that every idea, every inspiration, and every skill comes from God. He has already equipped you with all of this, plus the desire and ability to flow with the Holy Spirit in your creative process. It's already there! It exists right now! Well, how do you access it? You access it by faith.
Try This the Next Time You Are In Your Studio
So the next time you go into your creative space, walk-in with a joyful heart saying: "Father, thank You that I have the opportunity today to come in and do the thing that You created me to do. Now, Lord, I receive by faith Your inspiration and the movement of Your Holy Spirit. Lord, I listen with the ears of my heart for Your voice. Lord, I respond with my hands, and God, I trust that You will lead and guide and move in and through me during this process. Use me, Lord. Transform me that my work might be used to transform others."
You see, I just find that when you can come in and create out of a place of JOY and not judgment, you can't do it wrong. When you approach the creative process from a place of judgment versus joy, fear rises up, anxiousness kicks in, and self-doubt rules the day. Judgment says, "I don't know if this is God! I don't know if I am doing it right! I don't know if I am going to miss it!"
Joy says, "I am a son. I am a daughter. I am already set up for success. God has already given me a design. There is no way I can do this wrong. God, You are FOR me. Holy Spirit, You are my guide, and You are the one that is here to lead me today." As you do that, it's like letting a drawbridge down into the spirit, receiving by faith everything that God has planned for you.
What the Fruit Says
Lastly, I want to share how you can recognize when the Spirit of God is moving in and through your creative process. Ask yourself the following:
Is there a sense of His presence as you are creating?
If you're answering yes if you're seeing the Fruits of the Spirit manifesting in your life and through your work. All of that confirms the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life as you create. So don't make it more complicated than it is. Enjoy the process.
I hope this helps as you continue to create with the Lord. 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.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.