Friday, November 30, 2012

Discipleship for the Christian visual artist

My first student for this discipleship experience that I am offering! He is doing a mastercopy of a Peter Max work while our amazing custodial staff looks on. (They are teaching ME Spanish! I am kind of bad it though.)

This year I am trying something new: Private art instruction paired with a discipleship relationship for the young, promising (and hungry) Christian visual artist.

Private instruction you probably know about but are you familiar with discipleship at all? In the Christian faith, it is a very special and highly regarded path that a follower of Christ takes in their journey of walking in faith. (Here is a little bit of detail about it.)

I don't know how many people have ever ventured into the world of visual arts discipleships before but I wouldn't be surprised if I am one of the few, if not the only one. *shrug* I don't say this to toot my own horn or anything but perhaps rather to say the following...
  1. Where was such a thing as this when I was looking for it?!!
  2. Why are there not more distinctively Christian visual artists who do this sort of thing? Because (as mentioned in #1) I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOR SO LONG!!!
  3. Is the reason why this exists only because I am starting it? Does this mean that I am crazy for doing this? (Don't answer that.)
  4. Who in the world do I think I am trying to do something like this? I mean... I have never been in a discipleship myself, how in the world can I possibly think that I am a good candidate to disciple others?

To answer all of my own questions as posed:
  1. There is likely not something like this and hasn't been something like this ever though I don't entirely know why it's like that. I suspect it's because artists tend to be islands unto themselves without hardly trying. 
  2. Distinctively Christian visual artists are hard to come by for a myriad reasons that I might present for discussion based upon my own observations and unique experiences. Distinctively Christian visual art galleries are certainly few and far in between so it's no wonder that it's so hard to find artists to fill them up! 
  3. Yes. I might be the only one starting this. Yes. I might be crazy. However? Well... most of my "craziest" ideas have turned out to be some of the best ever!! (This comes from other people saying so and not just me.)
  4. Uhmmm... I don't really know who I think I am. Honestly? Sometimes I see myself as the most unlikely person to disciple others. I'm certainly no Bible scholar and I only became a devout believer in my mid-late 20s. I have been told that I have very abstract and even uniquely mature understandings of the gospel and though I take that to mean something positive about my walk in faith (so far), I don't know. I guess I always try and sell myself short by not believing enough that whatever I am/know/can do is enough so this situation applies for that as well.
Anyway. All of this is to say that I am wholly investing myself in this process of trying to disciple some young (and willing and eager) student artists who are wanting to learn how to oil paint. (We don't offer oil painting at my school.) As with all that I do during regular school time, I am attempting to use the vehicle of visual art in order to teach them more about the gospel in order to be able to apply it to their own walks in faith in trying to be distinctively Christian visual artists. This doesn't mean that we are only painting things of Christian subject matter though. Rather, my main goal is to help them steer through understanding and using the creative process as colored and framed out by the gospel. My goals are other to teach them how to develop good technique and then refine it so it is of very high quality and they are (in turn) producing beautiful artwork that can then be connected back them them, a visual artist who seeks to glorify the Lord with what they are creating.

Other things I am doing include:
  • Helping them to heed and answer the callings that they feel are being given to them to be creators as they truly believe they have been called to create.
  • Helping them to see and embrace themselves as distinctively Christian visual artists.
  • Showing them that with the Lord's infinite wisdom, intervention, and supremely uplifting inspiration, they can really create things that are both anointed by Him and are astounding to behold - both in its actual creation and when it is viewed in its finished state.
I offered this discipleship opportunity up to a select number of students that are mostly upperclassmen. This is because I was attempting to maintain certain structural elements that other discipleship "programs" (if you will) already have within the school and local church communities and because this is how it's been done and worked and I haven't done this before, why reinvent the wheel? The other thing of doing this with primarily the older students is that it doesn't limit them/me as much since most of them can drive and have greater liberties within their schedules. I also have built relationships enough with a lot of them that they feel comfortable with me already to steer them in the very specific way that this discipleship experience requires.

As things are going, I only have one student who has started (the senior student pictured above who is painting) but I have another student (another senior who is female) will be joining in after choir season finishes its big concerts this weekend. There is a possibility of an alumnae from last year coming in and also giving a go at it in addition to informally shadowing me to figure out if she wants to perhaps go into art education. (I think she would be a GREAT art teacher so I am really praying that she entertains the opportunity for both discipleship and shadowing!)

I will admit to you all that I am intimidated by what I am doing (for all of the questions and answers I have posed already) but I am just as much certain that this is what I am supposed to be doing and this is part of why I retired from my former career as a professional photographer. I'm delighted to report that this path that the Lord is now inspiring, leading, and enabling me to take is an answer to prayers because I have had the thoughts in the not so recent past in the way of, "Well... if I am not a working visual artist in the way photography work the way I have always known myself to be - what am I?!!!"

I know. I know. I am lame and silly at convincing myself I have to BE something specific to be able to identify myself so specifically AND that it has to be something of visual art. What can I say? I am petty like that and my silly little ego cries out for feedings more often than I care to admit.

Whatever and however the case, GOD WILLING - I am DOING THIS.

(I'll let you know how it goes, of course.)

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