My friend Gary Molander threw out an interesting question yesterday on Twitter:
Working on a new post for Tuesday. What’s the one thing Christian artists can do to create better art? — @GaryMo
Obviously there are many possible answers to that question, but here’s how I responded to Gary:
The best art creates huge canvases for small messages. Many Christian artists do the opposite.
And since I’m no longer constrained by Twitter’s 140-character limit, let me unpack that a bit. When I say “huge canvases,” I’m not actually talking about literal size or a literal canvas. Instead, I’m talking about the massive amounts of beauty, creativity, energy, skill, originality and emotion we find in the best films, books, paintings, music, etc. Then, hidden in the elements, the best art offers us these compact messages (about the size of a golf ball in my estimation) that require us to handle them with care, look closely, and contemplate their meaning.
As Christians we can sometimes fall into the trap of overemphasizing message and deemphasizing aesthetics because we believe in so doing we’re mirroring the values of our faith. This is why so much Christian music features verse after verse of declarative lyrics (turned way up in the mix, by the way) backed up by the same chord progression, in the same key, layered with the same effects as every other song on the Christian charts. For us, the message often comes first, and the rest — the actual art — just needs to be a functional delivery system for the message. The notes only need to be good enough.
If you think about it, I imagine you’ll see this dynamic at work in many Christian films, Christian novels, and yes, Christian paintings. The result, unfortunately, is Christian art that fails to affect sophisticated palettes. Why? Because attention is earned, and an “it’ll do” approach to art doesn’t earn attention.
So, there’s my take on one thing Christian artists can do to create better art, but don’t stop reading there. Go check out Gary Molander’s post on the topic for some great thoughts.
And now I’ll put the question to you: What can Christian artists do to create better art?
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.