My Art and God’s Calling for Me
In 1964, the year of my conversion, when Jesus Christ transformed my life, my life was tipped upside down. Visual art had meant much to me before this, but now it seemed to be much less important. Once it was my obsession, but now fearful that it would become an idol once again and supplant my love of God, I did very little art during the first three years after my conversion. Then God began to deal with me, through others and directly, to pick up my brushes and pencils and go to work with them. He didn’t show me what the content of my art should be. There were art projects that people asked me to do that helped me to get back into working. But for most artists, it is the self-initiated projects where the artist discovers what is in himself and what he is capable of doing.
As I groped with various things that came into my head, I began the long search to find that which was best for me to do. I soon realized that being a Christian artist did not mean that my art always had to have a Christian content, but I realized that since Christ was the center of my life, then He had to be the center of my art. What form my art should take was something I would find out through years of visual exploration. I tried many forms of visual expression, but now, in retrospect, as I look back over the years since my conversion, I found myself being drawn to expressing the Bible through illuminated calligraphy. It seemed as if I had unconsciously found the right answer for the content of my visual expression many times before I realized years later that it was to be illuminated scriptures. The Bible was what shaped me as a Christian, and slowly, without my being fully aware of it, the Bible gave form to my visual expression. It was less a self-conscious choice than something to which I was repeatedly drawn, would leave for a time, only to be drawn back again.
There were other things that interested me: the world of nature and the world of geometry. Sometimes I pursued my love of nature; sometimes, my love of mathematical form. More and more these two things would fuse together with my love of beautiful lettering and my attraction to the truth of the writings of the scripture. An artist works best when he makes visible that which he loves best. My love for God has waxed and waned, but since my conversion, it has always, been there, and I have always returned to it. Or to express it another way, God has returned to me as I have turned my attention to Him. It is not, of course, that He has left me, for He is always there, but that I have left Him. I leave Him less and less now, because I find that when I am away from His presence life soon becomes intolerable. His hooks have sunk deeper into me, and for that I am thankful.
Other artists seek self-expression, but more and more I have sought to express the Creator. Once I was obsessed with the creation, but now I am more able to see the Creator in the creation. Art is a very spiritual thing and the artist must be careful about what is being expressed. He must be careful not to fall into the trap of egotism that plagues the visual artist. Artists can be the most insufferable egotists. Art can become one long love affair with one’s own self where the artist becomes his own God. I know this because it has been true of me. As I see it, the artist is meant to hold up his magnifying glass to God’s creation and step back while the viewer sees the beauty of that creation. The only true creator is the Creator Himself. The artist has the task of revealing beauty, not making it. He himself should be the agent of the Creator, showing dull eyes what they have missed in the glory that is all around them. I see the beauty that is there and reveal it to you, the viewer. This is my happy task, revealing the beauty of what God has made so others may be drawn to the beauty that is God Himself, revealed in the Creation, and, finally, in the Person of Jesus Christ Our Lord.