This past week it was International Artist Day. Unlike Thanksgiving, this is likely a “holiday” that has come and gone without you even noticing. Yet this week as I have thought about this day I have thought about my relationship with art over the years.
When I was little, I loved anything to do with art. Daily I would take out pieces of paper, pencils and paint and mix them together to create something I believed to be beautiful. My parents would display each of these works of art on the wall. I painted, drew and colored so much that soon the wall that held my art became full and my parents, unbeknownst to me, had to replace one of my old paintings with my newest masterpiece. It seemed to fill what was otherwise a dark hallway of my house with colour. Entering grade one I was confident I wanted to be an artist (among 4 other professions) because there was little more that I wanted to do other than create. Since then we have moved houses and no other art wall has been resurrected but to this day a few select pieces of art can be found around my parent’s house or my dad’s office.
Throughout elementary school art continued to be part of my life. I was lucky enough to attend an elementary school that had a designated art teacher. She fostered creativity and introduced us into new mediums. My repertoire expanded beyond some finger paints and pencils to clay, ink, and pastels just to name a few. My love for art grew with my skills as blobs of paint started to turn into shapes that were mostly recognizable.
In junior high and high school, the way I found myself being lured into photography as an expression of creativity as my desire for precision and accuracy quicky outgrew by ability to draw, paint or sculpt. I started to try and see the world around me from different angles and perspectives trying to capture the beauty of things I saw around me each day. I wanted to see the world in a different way and wanted to share that with others.
Throughout my life art has brought me great joy. Something about the ability to create something beautiful had me enthralled. Although the expression of that creativity has shifted, the joy has remained. However, when I was younger, I saw no correlation between the works of art I consumed or created with my faith; art seemed to exist completely separately. Yet as I have grown more in my faith and have had faithful teachers along the way guiding me, I have come to learn that art is both from God and can point us to God.
God was the first artist. In Genesis 1 we see God as a masterful artist as he carved the mountains an dug the seas. One of his most prized creations, humans, he formed with creative precision and care. In Psalm 139 we see a picture of God knitting us together in our mother’ womb. God did not keep this gift to himself. In forming us in his image, he also gave us the gift of creativity. Our desire and ability to create stem from him. What I didn’t know when I was little and painting small blobs on a piece of paper that I do now is that the piece of me that loved to create, to make something out of what seemed to be nothing, was a piece of God in me.
So now when I create, I have been trying to be more mindful of God creating through me. I am trying to remember that it is through God that I can create and I thank God that he has given me this gift. I now try to use art less passively and more as an intentional act of worship. Sometimes this comes in the form of drawing during worship to express an idea that cannot be expressed with words. Other times this looks like painting to slow down so I can be attentive to God’s presence.
I have learned that God is also reflected in the art we see around us. In one of my theology classes in school I had a teacher that was passionate about art and art history. As part of our class time we would sometimes look a Rembrandt or a Caravaggio painting and examine the details of the painting. We looked for hints of how the painters, and the society they came from, viewed Christ, the trinity, the resurrection, etc. It was in this class that I learned an appreciation for art not just as something beautiful but something that could reveal aspects of the world around us and consequently aspects of who Christ is. We see this in the Bible in the tabernacle, and later the temple, were lavishly adorned. These decorations had a purpose to not only look pretty, but to also serve as a reminder to the people of who God is. Even what might be considered secular art still has traces of God’s character within them. It doesn’t have to be a picture of the crucifixion to lead my thoughts to Christ. Even when I see the head at the bow building I am reminded of how God formed us, or when I see snow patterned stained glass in Crowfoot station I am reminded of how God pays attention to the small details.
Lately I have been trying to be observant of the art I see around me. First, I must slow down enough to notice, which is a practice in and of itself. Then, I take time to look and ask, “Where to I see God here?” It is a practice that I am still working on, but it is one I have found life giving when given the chance.
This week, in honour of international Artist’s day, I invite you to explore the gift of creativity that God has given you. Try something new as an expression to exercise the creativity that God has given you. I also invite you take a moment look at the art you see around you. What pieces of God do you see expressed in the art around your everyday life? God is a creator and he has placed his image in you. May that aspect of God shine through you this week.