Published Article: On the Art of Encouragement
I'll write soon about our fantastic time in Endicott, New York, leading a retreat for artists at Union Center Christian Church. What a great bunch of people. Brian and Tamara Murphy, for the record, are officially our favorite people in all of upstate NY, possibly the entire state.
For now I'm posting a link to an article I wrote for Q WORDS: A Digital Magazine About Faith and Culture. The magazine is a production of the Fermi Project and the fearless leadership of Gabe Lyons, Norton Herbst, Rob McCloskey and other sharp-as-a-tack folk.
With each "issue," they include an essay and two video talks given at previous Q conferences. In my issue they adjoin Makoto Fujimura, "Beauty in Culture," and Jamie Tworkowski, founder of "To Write Love on Her Arms."
I was very pleased when they chose to use Phaedra's artwork as the masthead image for the issue. I've included the whole painting here.
I geared my essay principally to those in leadership. My aim was to inspire and inform leaders of the crucial importance of encouragement in the life of an artist. But really, all of us are in the business of needing encouragement as well as of needing to offer encouragement to fellow artists. So I hope you find this a helpful essay to share with those around you, over you, and under your care.
The magazine is by subscription only. Thankfully, it's only $40. Once you pay that you get access to all the other issues. That includes thoughts by Alister McGrath, Andy Crouch, Bethany Hoang, Shane Hipps, Josh Jackson, Ruth Padilla Deborst, Eric Metaxas, Catherine Rohr, Francis Collins, Os Guiness, Susan Grant, Charles Colson, Cathleen Falsani, Donald Miller et al.
Here is an excerpt from my essay:
...I believe Shackleton’s note should be posted on the front cover of every art book, every art school brochure, every announcement of every art summer camp, every art magazine, every artist residency, and every website of every organization dedicated to the preparation of artists. I would amend it this way:
Warning: Hazardous material inside. Might cost you your sanity. All children aspiring to be artists, like children born of a communist state, must memorize the following memorandum. Herein lies your future life: small wages, bitter rejections, long months of enduring drafts of work that are complete drivel. Constant danger from people around you, especially the church-going and blood-related, who will tell you (or forcefully hint) that you are crazy and weird and wasting your time. Safe return to the end of your life doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success, but likely not financial. So hold on to the honor part because that is probably all you will get.
It is difficult to be an artist. Over the last thirteen years working as a pastor in Austin, Texas, I have seen hundreds of professional and amateur artists—filmmakers and modern dancers, poets and actors, singer-songwriters, designers, painters, architects, even a clown artist—come and go through the doors of Hope Chapel.
I have seen many artists succeed and plenty fail. Most fight for every inch of progress. All artists I’ve known have had to look the Minotaur in the face: “Do I quit or do I keep going?”
Warning: Explosive, dynamic material inside. Might cost you to lay your life down for others and actually make a change in the world. All children (and adults too) aspiring to be artists must memorize the following memorandum: Herein lies your future life: a decent life doing what you love, the value of knowing you understand something deeper when the narrow-minded ones reject your ideas and creations, the journey of learning about a good work ethic and laboring through many drafts to find that one tiny beautiful thing which will push you into further growth (even if it is all seemingly scrapped in the end), constant opportunities to battle with the baffoons over the importance of art and to delight in the provoking your hard questions cause, especially among the church-going type (they need to be asking and answering the hard questions anyway), and the blood-related (they will love you nevertheless - so don't worry about it), because the fact that church-people think you are crazy, weird, and wasting your time gives you an opportunity to counter them creatively and really begin to start causing some real change in the church as we know it and some positive creative things in families also. About safe returns - who wants a safe return - and what would we want to return to? Honor and recognition you may receive with man - but if you give your gift to God - many treasures you will lay up in heaven. He will make sure you are taken care of here on earth. Hold onto all the good that art brings! Live the life of an artist! Go for it!
Katy: I had lunch with Norton on the last day of the Q conference. He's a champ.
Pattie: thank you for sharing an "alternate" view of things. That's always helpful. I do try to suggest some of your thoughts over the course of my essay. It's hard but there's hope.