“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.“
-1 John 1:1,2
Christian art should be Christlike. All Christian art should be modeled after Christ. I’m not saying that everything you paint should be a painting of Jesus or a Bible story pointing to Jesus. But I do believe that your artwork should be like Jesus.
Art is the materialization of ideas and concepts that the artist believes to be true. Whether he is simply stating that something is beautiful or he is making a statement about the meaning of life, the artist is using the raw materials at his disposal to bring truth, meaning, and purpose to his world. Just as he arranges amorphous blobs of color on a canvas into something meaningful, or as he sculpts a mound of clay into something beautiful and useful, he also attempts to order the culture around him by presenting it with a materialized version of an idea or concept he believes to be true. Art occurs when an artist attempts to wrap flesh around something he believes to be true about reality. When his artwork is shown to others, the artist is inviting the viewer to stand under his particular umbrella of what he believes is reality. It will challenge some beliefs and affirm others.
For a Christian, there is no better example of an ideal piece of artwork than Jesus himself. More specifically, the incarnation of Jesus. All of the truth and goodness of God were given flesh. All of the theology and philosophy and concepts of God that we needed to know and were once unseen became visible. The immaterial God became flesh so we could touch him, see him, and hear him. He was Emmanuel, God with us. In his teachings and the story of his life, we see the large overarching story of his people, the Church, and it was on display for all to see. He is the embodiment of truth, all he does is good, and no story is more beautiful.
So, as Christians, we must always communicate the truth. Just as everything Jesus said was true, we should strive to make sure that everything our artwork says is reflecting the one true reality. There is only one true reality, and I believe that our artwork should reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty of God and the story of those of us who are called to be his people.
*What exactly would this look like in the studio? In Part 2, I’ll give some practical ideas of what this could look like.