So last night I was watching Shark Tank on CNBC. After it ended there was this show called American Greed. The first episode was kind of interesting, but the second episode was about a rap promoter who it turns out was defrauding artists and investors alike to prop up his own lavish lifestyle. The guy was beyond a doubt immoral and unethical, but I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about the artists who allowed themselves to be victimized by him and more than that, I want to talk about us.

The promoter in question basically promised he could make anyone a star. The thing is, he can’t. There are only so many people who are the right combination of talented/lucky/blessed/driven enough to become “stars.” If everyone could do it, most everyone would. This guy was promising these people something they should have known was not possible. Here’s the thing, in the arts, there is no easy way and there is no substitute for a little thing called doing the work.

I used to watch American Idol with great interest, but there was always something that bothered me. Did that show produce some bankable stars? Yes absolutely, but it sure felt like skipping a lot of steps. What happened to slogging it out in the little venues, paying your dues and learning to be a performer? These shows seemed to circumvent the process, but they did something that was equally alarming. They seem to have convinced a whole generation that this path is the only way, waiting to be discovered and put on TV. No can I tell you there are a lot of ways to be an artist, that don’t involve making the cut on a TV show and it all comes down to what I preach here. You make the work you love to make and find the people who love it. You get up every day and you do the work. If it doesn’t pay the bills, you find something that does while you keep doing the work. There is no easy way, there is no magic bullet, and be very skeptical of anyone who tells you there is.

I remember the early days of MTV when bands were jettisoning talented people because they didn’t look good on camera. Ask yourself, how far would have Bob Dylan gotten on The Voice? I’m guessing not very far, but he made the music he loved and found a world full of people who loved it. I know one young lady who has auditioned for The Voice a couple of times, She didn’t get through. She is talented beyond belief and if I had the connections, I would sign her in a New York minute. The thing is she doesn’t need me and she doesn’t need The Voice. She’s gotten herself a gig singing in a working band and she is out there night after night singing her heart out and paying her dues. She will get there and she will appreciate it when she does, because she has done the work.

When it all comes down to it, no matter what kind of artist you are, there is no substitute for doing the work.

There is no easy way. Don’t wait to be picked. Hone your craft. Put your work out there. Find your tribe. Do the work!


Well it was a retro kind of morning this morning on my way home from the gym, so I popped in one of my favorite CDs, a compilation CD of classic songs by one of my favorite bands, Styx. Styx was one of those bands that rose to popularity during my formative years and I loved them. Still do. In particular this morning I heard the song Blue Collar Man. What a great song, and it set in motion this whole train of thought. What we really need today, especially in the church, are blue collar artists. What do I mean? Work with me for a moment.

For a large percentage of the population, the word artist is a synonym for weird. They expect us to be eccentric, odd or maybe just plain nutty. A lot of people will excuse us because they come to like our work, but I’m not sure they like us. At best they tolerate our quirks, laugh off our tardiness, doubt themselves when they don’t understand our latest weirdness, etc. but I have to imagine we can be frustrating. I’ve never wanted to be that way. I’ve often felt I’m a little too blue collar for my own good in this field, but I have no desire to change. Some artists seem to revel in being misunderstood. I’ve always seen art as a communication medium, and I want to be understood. Many artists expect their real value will come after they die. When I die, I’m going to a place far beyond my wildest dreams where I suspect I will do my greatest work ever, so I want what I do (not to mention who I am) to make a difference right here, right now, to the glory of God.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by a union steelworker, but I’ve always valued showing up on time, doing a good job and delivering what people expect, at the bare minimum. I know that’s very blue collar, but I’m okay with that. I just want the work to be worth the effort. Maybe that’s why I resonate with this song so much. In my day, the music artists who made it and lasted for the long haul, had a couple things in common. They were true to who they were, and they created things that their fans loved. They didn’t go after the people who didn’t like them. They knew the people who paid the bills (their fan base) and they over delivered, and then after they made their art, they went to work. They hopped on the buses and toured hundreds of nights a year. In other words they did the work. That’s what blue collar artists do. This is still the formula for success. Do your best work. Find the people who love it and over-deliver. It’s great to have dreams, but what really matters is doing the work.

We need less weirdness, and more blue-collar artists.

Yesterday, I set out on another artistic journey. As part of my Masters program, I have to have a portfolio of my creative ministry/art work. Now most of that work is work that I create directly in the context of my ministry and needless to say I am continuing to do that, but I’m also working on some pieces that are decidedly more gallery style at least in context. I envision them being part of a presentation I’ll be doing in the future, but I also want them to be able to stand alone and hang some place where people can receive inspiration apart from me being there. These will be the exact opposite of speed paintings in that they will take long periods of time to be complete. I’m excited to begin this journey.

People will sometimes ask me if I am a prophetic artist, and I am never quite sure how to answer them. In the sense that the work contains a message from the Lord, yes, absolutely, but the work is often planned and prepared so I’ve decided to let the viewer assign, and more importantly the Lord, the designation. I will say these pieces are all based in prophecy. I’ve decided to call it Apocalypsis. It’s basically literal interpretations of the prophecies of the books of Daniel and Revelation. All the pieces will represent beasts and creatures, dreams and visions. Yes I know this is apocalyptic literature and all these things represent other things, and I will touch on the actual meanings in some way, but I’ve long been fascinated by envisioning these things as they were actually, literally, written. I don’t know how this will all turn out, but it will be an epic journey.

The reason I titled this post EPIC though is more for you than for me. This is a large project. I’m estimating the piece I started yesterday, worked at in my admittedly limited spare time, will probably take at least a year to complete. The work on this particular piece, will be extremely tedious, and I am hoping for great results. It will be an epic journey in the truest sense of the word. That said, I have no doubt that I will hit a wall with it. Right now it’s constantly on my mind. It’s a lot more technical than most of my work, almost mathematical, but now most of that is done and the slogging begins. How do you keep yourself motivated in the midst of something that takes a long time? Well first of all, do what I am practicing here. Tell someone about it. You don’t have to tell the world, but tell someone who will ask you about it and how it’s progressing. This will help you to keep from putting it too much on the back burner.

Next, I think the answer is to start with the end in mind. If I keep going, and keep the quality up, I think the piece is going to end up being really cool. I can envision it helping people to understand these passages more clearly and my prayer is that these “fantasy” pop art pieces will help people to see the hand of God throughout history and maybe even come to trust in Him.

This series has been on my heart a long time. I can’t wait to see it come to fruition. I will share photos along the way. What have you been feeling led to? Maybe it’s time to launch your own epic journey.

…When God used three guys from Canada to trigger my imagination. No I didn’t become a rock star like them, but I discovered the power of art and story and that the things I was dreaming of could be possible. I only realized years later how defining the moment was. You gotta love guys who can take an epic 19th century Coleridge poem and turn it into a rock and roll masterpiece.

This is further proof that God can use anything to move us into His will.
Thanks guys.

I am loath to be critical of another artist’s work, but yesterday I went to the movies and today I find myself all kinds of irritated. On paper, this movie looked phenomenal—a multitude of great characters, and great actors coming together in what was sure to be an epic masterpiece of the genre and this thing had its moments but by and large, I really didn’t like it. i’m talking about Marvel Studios’ latest, The Avengers: Infinity War. Now to be clear, I’m not as involved in the Marvel Universe as I once was, and perhaps a lot of this is explained more clearly in the comic books, but I can practically write what’s going to happen next. I have a feeling it’s revealed in the title of the film, but I digress, this is not what I want to see in a movie. I also know well the old saying, “All’s well that ends well,” and I think that’s my issue, this thing does not end well, even setting up a multitude of sequels, this does not end well.

I posted a little gripe on Facebook after shelling out my hard earned money to see this thing, and one person replied how he was glad to finally see a Disney/Marvel movie that doesn’t have a happy ending, because it’s more like real life. I will admit I kind of wanted to scream (just a little), “Who watches Marvel movies to see real life?” I don’t and that’s what really triggered this post. I don’t go to the movies to see reality. I go to movies to see good triumph over evil, because while I have faith that is the ultimate destiny of our world, in this present day, it happens far too rarely. Movies are an escape for me. I want to spend two hours of my life watching something that will uplift and inspire me. I fully understand cliff hangers and setting up sequels, but at the end of a movie, I at least want to feel hopeful. I think of a recent Star Wars Movie. Not The Last Jedi, the one before it where, spoiler alert, literally everybody dies. That movie came close to this but at the very end, we see that they did not die in vain and hope was restored, setting up the storyline for perhaps the most beloved fictional storyline ever.

Marvel/Disney, I don’t mind a good cliff hanger, but you can do better than this. I see very few movies in the theaters anymore. The prices are just way too high. I understand prices have to be that high because of how much is spent on them, but my budget is such that I can’t always afford to go. The movies I do go to see in theaters are the ones that I know are going to be epic in scope, that will benefit from a huge screen, and I go to see Christian movies as often as I can because I am trying to support the films amd the people who make them. That being said, if you’re going to end them this badly, I’ll be waiting for them on one of the countless sources available. I never go to a superhero movie for a dose of reality. That should be common sense. I go to the movies for some escapism and a chance to be reminded of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

I was highly disappointed in Infinity War. Why do you go to the movies?

I have to say, I love what I do and because of that I feel really blessed. I get to create for a living. In the early days of my career, I always figured the only way I would get to do that was if I became a professional artist. To tell you the truth, pursuing that was one of the most frustrating periods of my life. It always seemed like it was feast or famine, the jobs I had paid the bills, but I can’t say I was ever really creatively fulfilled. I now understand why that was. God had something different for me, and in many ways, something better. Now that’s not to say that ministry is better than art. If you’re called to art, do art and do it to the glory of God.

I think deep down inside, I was making assumptions. I was creative and I had a gift for art, therefore God must be calling me to be an artist and so I worked and worked and strove to be an artist full time, professionally, and I always felt pretty stuck and unfulfilled. The thing is if I had been paying attention, I would have realized there was something different in store for me. I’ve been using art as a ministry tool for almost two decades, but I still kind of thought I would make my actual living as a professional artist/designer/etc. True I even pastored a church for almost decade, but it was a very part time pay and an almost full time ministry, but I still relied on something else to pay the bills. The thing is God wants us to rely on Him.

I had to have some help to get to that point. The church closed and God led me to a wonderful church to heal and recover. I started to go out speaking and figured I would do that part time and continue relying on another job for my income. Then the door closed on the job too. Now I didn’t have a choice. I had to rely on the Lord. He opened the door for more speaking and then he led me to a church who needed an interim pastor. It was during my slow speaking time, so I said sure, I can do anything for a couple months. Something strange happened. I fell in love with the people of this church and they showed me they love me too. It didn’t take long to remove “interim” from my title. Here’s the thing. I am making more art, than I ever did as I illustrate my messages for the power points. I am teaching painting through my paint parties. My pastorate is “3/4 time” which means I have a little more free time, and during that time, I create all kinds of other things for my speaking ministry, which I also usually end up sharing with my church. I am writing more and creating more and one last thing, I’m generally pretty happy and fulfilled.

Why do I share this? I share this today for the person who is feeling unfulfilled creatively. For the person who thinks they’re not good enough at their art, because they’re not making a living at it. I guess I am posting what I wish I would have read when I was going through all that same stuff. God has a plan and a purpose for you. Believe it. What if you did your art just for the love of art and incidentally for the love of God? What if you moved forward in faithfulness and relied on God to put you in the right places and the right times?

One last thing, none of the other things during those times when I felt really unfulfilled were wasted. I learned skills that benefit me to this day and I learned to appreciate the life I have now. It’s an amazing blessing, but it’s not always easy and there are times where I am working really hard for long hours. All the things I’ve done in life give me a greater appreciation for all that I have.

Do what you do for the love of it. Work at what is before you like you’re doing it for God and rely on Him to take you where He wants you to be.

I was scrolling through my posts and noticed a whole bunch of one star reviews. Very Poor? REALLY? Part of me is trying really hard to think someone misunderstands the rating system, but I doubt that’s the case. It’s killin’ me, but I guess I have to remind myself of something that I’ve been telling you all.

You are never going to please everyone and the most foolish thing you can do is focus on the people who don’t like your work. I’m actually working on a video on this right now. The bottom line is this, some people like my work and my choice is to focus on them. So if you’re the one giving me one star reviews and you think that’s a good thing, please note, Five Stars is good, one star is very poor. If you actually think my stuff is very poor, God bless you, I respectfully disagree, but I hope you find something that blesses you, I’m going to keep doing what I am doing and bringing my best for the people who love it.