I’ve been thinking a lot about patrons this past year. You may know that back in the day, the Church would bankroll artists. I imagine when Michelangelo got the Sistine Chapel gig he was feeling some pretty good job security. He may have even splurged on a double cappuccino at the Coffee Shoppe that day.
We don’t live in those days anymore, and in a lot of ways, being an artist who often paints Biblical imagery is a double strike. Strike one is that the Art World often sees “Christian Art” as lesser. Strike Two is that The Church is often suspect of artists, and doesn’t act in that patron role anymore. This may make a guy like me consciously or subconsciously change how I approach art – compromising vision to make sales and keep my girls in sparkly shoes.
Enter Crowd-funding. As I used Kickstarter to raise the funds to create an art book based on my “40” series (the Biblical narrative in 40 images), I began to refer to my backers as patrons. They let me see my vision through without compromise, and as a result I think I made better art. It didn’t need to come from a huge institution or a bunch of Royals. It came from the People. So maybe it did come from The Church after all.
(Shameless plug: you can still be a Patron by going here.)
Why be an artist? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? It allows me to have a stable, predictable life and a fat retirement account. Sometimes the boss is a little bit flakey, but the vacation time makes it worth it.
Seriously, after being a self-employed artist for two and a half decades I think I am fully unemployable at this point, so being an artist now either has something to do with that reality or else it has something to do with calling. I’m hoping for the latter.
Here’s what Frederick Buechner famously said about calling: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Why share this? Well, it’s because I want to challenge the idea that art is just personal. That it is simply self-expression. It can be those things, but I prefer art when it is for or with others – more dialogue than monologue. I think making art (my “deep gladness”) is more likely to meet “the world’s deep hunger” when we approach it that way. I’m not saying I’m always successful in these regards, but I’ll keep trying. Last summer this is the thinking that brought a group of us to Palestine to help run an arts camp for kids, where I got to create this image of “The Peaceful Kingdom” with them. You can read more about that trip here: https://www.rca.org/news/art-peace. (I also now find a deep gladness in eating falafel – although it’s not so much a “deep” hunger being filled.)
So what am I trying to say today? Eat more falafel. Make art not war. Keep asking yourself “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”