The term Christian art has a way of conjuring up all sorts of images. For my generation, it typically means hokey/kitschy/inferior-quality art that get’s a pass because it has the label “Christian” slapped on it. As a result, my generation has also tended to react against this tendency, but gravitating to art that is explicitly non-Christian. From what I can gather the though process goes something like this. “If Christian art is bad, then the opposite of it must be good. If Christian art is shallow, then the opposite must be deep. If Christian art is of poor quality, then the opposite must be of good quality.”Now certainly I’m painting with a broad brush here, but the problem is, I’ve met these people. They might not say this in these words, but the fact of the matter is that they tend to make some of these leaps whether they catch themselves or not. We all tend to make leaps like this in various areas, but I think in this area it is particularly apparent. In the search for more depth to our art, we like to go the prodigal son route.
But what is the true solution to this? How does the Gospel apply to art? Does it apply? I’d like to suggest a few ways that it can indeed be applied to art.
1. Start Practicing
G.K. Chesterton popularly said, “Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly”. Just like the Christian life, we don’t grow to maturity overnight. It takes years, a lifetime even. It’s a constant battle. We must die to self and crucify the sinful areas of our life constantly. This is not much different from any area that we seek to develop skill in. We practice, review and critique, often fail, learn from it, and repeat. Eventually we might wind up with something worth presenting to the world. The bottom line is, excellence takes work. Good art takes work. There’s no quick fix or easy route to improving art other than studying it and then practicing it for a while. Get started now.
2. Study historic Christian art.
Art has roots. Christians have a wealth of wisdom to glean from by studying art and the history surrounding it. One of the greatest ways today’s Christians can begin to build a legacy of healthy and robust Christian art is to study our ancestors works and legacy in art. Learn more about Bach, Michelangelo, the Dutch Landscape Painters, and many others.
3. Learn to Read Art
Every painting, song, or photograph tells a story. Words aren’t the only way to tell a story. Learn how tension and resolution helps tell a story. Photojournalism is a great place to get practice at this. What is the photographer trying to evoke or demonstrate with their picture?
There is more that can be said, but these three steps are a great start towards producing real Christian art.