Why I Stopped Making Things
At my parent’s home in Bowie, Maryland, none of my coloring book pages are framed. For some reason or another, the cute lamb from Sunday school just didn’t make the cut. A scribbled doggy on a menu at Chili’s was thrown away, whereas the penguin and whale I labored over ascended to highest of heights of children’s art — the Ikea frame. As a child artist, I was taught this distinction quickly— for some strange reason, a Sunday school craft got a much different reaction from my parents than a project I worked on in art class everyday. No one had to tell me this, not even them. Before I even fully understood it or could articulate it, I knew that there was a difference between making and creating.
Something little artistic me had to learn was that art is, and has always been, objective. Meaning, there is art, and there are things that aren’t quite art. Art is less vague and ambiguous than we were originally taught — everything isn’t art, as much as we would like there to be.
1) Art exists
2) Sadly, bad art exists
3) Thankfully, good art exists
4) Non-art exists
5) There are no exceptions
Too often we miss this distinction. God didn’t simply “make" the heavens and the earth — he created them. He didn’t simply “make” man — he formed him. There is a difference here, and it’s enormous. Creating something and making something are not one and the same thing — creation is stronger. The reason that oil painting taught me about the Gospel wasn’t the fact that it was enjoyable and heightened my understanding of the world around me. It was because it reminded me that I’m created, and that I’m a tiny brushstroke on God’s painting. The bigger the painting, the bigger the project, the smaller I felt. I’m simply a Degas ballerina, or a tiny flower in Monet’s Water Lilies. It forced me to recognize the need to stop wasting my time making things in my life, and start using my time properly and by working hard to create things. Created things aren’t simply prettier (though that’s often the case). Creating is arduous, time consuming, and exhausting. It’s not always easy or fun. Created things point forward, actively leading the looker, listener, or partaker to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
What I innately desired when I painted was not to make beautiful works of art. To a certain degree I did, but that is one small part of the picture. What I wanted was to create something tangible, something real, something right. Something that brought me back to the garden, that would help give me a taste of the fruit and glory of the garden. Something that gave me more of a picture of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
Due to the amount of studying and reading I’m required to do at my school, it’s next to virtually impossible for me to paint now. Before college I painted rigorously, day and night: before school, between classes, after school, all day long if I was able. I painted on canvas, on wood, on theater flats, on walls, and painted anything I was asked. To me, to paint was the height of life. When I paint, it is as close as virgin me can come to bearing life itself. I am able to dribble life, dance with life, and brush life itself onto my canvas in ways that give me a taste of the Father’s grand act of creation.
To the Christian who claims that this is irrelevant to him or her, I beg to disagree. As created beings, all people are creating things. That is how God wired mankind — to create, and fill the earth with creation. Maybe painting is not your forte — that’s fine. But if you are a creature made in the image of God, you were given talents. So, whatever you do, do it well. Think deeply, say your words with kindness, work with integrity, and make beautiful things, no matter what they be. There are fewer regrets that I have than the times I wasted my God given talents.
When we create things, it allows us to see more of the Gospel, which we all too often miss when we simply make things. I’m not here to tell you “that object is not art” or “that object is art.” What I am here to tell you is you will find more of the fullness of the Gospel in something created than you will in something that is not. Creation is not always fun or easy, but it is joyful, because it reflects the nature of our Creator. Whatever you create, create it good for the Good, truthful for the True, and beautifully for the Beautiful. But whatever you do, create.