Words of “Wisdom”

Posted: February 17, 2021 in Uncategorized

Another of my friend Kerry’s students wrote me for an interview asking for words of wisdom. I may have gotten carried away, but I think all these things are good advice for any Christian creative. Thanks Georgia for interviewing me.

What words of wisdom would you say to a young art student like me?

Never stop learning. One of my favorite musicians was a man named Neil Peart. He was the drummer of a secular rock band called Rush. He was widely regarded as the greatest rock drummer in history. He still took lessons up until the time he retired from touring in his sixties. Every artist can improve and the way we improve is my continuing to do the work.

Not everyone will like your work and you have to be okay with that. If you go to an art museum you will see work that you love and work that seems to be terrible. Please note that both the stuff you like and the stuff you don’t are hanging in a museum, which means someone thought they were worthy. If you try to create something everyone likes, it will be a miserable existence and the person who will like your work least will likely be you. It’s far better to do the work you feel led to do and put it out there for the world to see. The ones who hate it are not your audience. Love them, pray for them but do not create to please them. Rather seek out the ones who love what you do and thank God for them. They are your audience. 

Do not fear failure. The only people who never fail are God and people who never try anything new. Those of us who want to live creatively end up trying new things a lot, and rare is the person who is good at something the first time they try it. We have to learn to fail forward. Thomas Edison made somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 (depending on what source you read) lightbulbs before he made one that worked. It would be a dark world (literally) if he had quit before he succeeded.

God views success differently than we do. I’ve heard many people over the years say they quit a project because “God wasn’t in it.” When I pressed them on what that means, they sill usually say they could tell God wasn’t in something because it was hard to do. Well that definition of God not being in it, is clearly wrong. There was never anyone more in the center of God’s will than Jesus and His life was infinitely hard. Again, don’t give up too quickly. God is responsible for success, we are responsible for faithfulness. 

Seek God for direction and pray over what you’re doing. This probably should have been first. The best projects are the ones God leads us to. Pray for His direction and keep going allowing Him to direct your movements as you go. 

Excellence is in the eye of the beholder. Bring your best to everything you do as if you were doing it for God because in a very real sense, you are. Your best work is excellence at least for you, and it is in the faithfulness of doing your best that God is pleased. I remember one time I was speaking at a church near Philadelphia. This church had a professional class, top quality worship band. If I am not painting during the worship set I usually just go out and worship with the congregation. On this day I was standing next to a man with Down syndrome. This young man’s voice and singing were definitely not “textbook good” and yet as I saw the sincerity in him as he worshipped the Lord I was moved to tears. The band was polished and extremely good, but the man next to me’s worship was excellent. Be that kind of excellent. Bring your best and offer it to the Lord. 

Keep God first. I let my work get ahead of God in my life and it almost destroyed me. Keep God first. 

Try new things. The thing most people would call out of my resume as the big thing would be my work with the Ninja Turtles. I got that job because I was looking for a little extra work, and I found a classified ad for someone to be a costume character. They determined I was too large for the costume, I thought it was over but when I asked what the character was,  they said it was Michelangelo from TMNT. I said, “Oh man, I’ve been trying to become one of their artists for years.” They said “You do art?” And the rest is history. 

Put your work out there. No one will know your work if they can’t see your work. You need to share it with the world. Again not everyone will like it, find the ones who will. 

Be an artist in whatever you do. Anything worth doing is worth bringing your God-given awesome to. 

Keep making art!

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