Apart from the Bible, what has influenced your artwork?
Hmm … that’s hard to say … certainly there are hundreds of influences that are all represented in one way or another in my work, many of which I’ll probably never know. However, a few that I’m aware of would be:
1) The works of JRR Tolkien. Both the visual style in his landscape paintings and–far more pervasively–the ethos of Middle Earth, especially as you find it in The Silmarillion. Tolkien’s concept of “Eucatastrophe” is a huge influence and something I try to evoke in all of my work … I think if you can walk someone through a eucatastrophic moment (the point where, in the face of hopelessness, in-looked for joy breaks in against all expectation), you have helped them to feel–even if they do not yet believe–the truth of the Gospel. In fact, you could look at almost every one of my animations as simply an attempt to evoke in the viewer the eucatastrophic joy of Thomas … the moment where we recognize our Lord and God in the crucified and risen Jesus, and so recognize ourselves as those invincibly loved and forever satisfied in Him.
2) Coming in just a bit after Tolkien would be CS Lewis. I don’t think I’ve ever read another author who makes the joy of holiness so tangible. It is relatively easy to make evil and suffering and hardship interesting … it’s much harder to do the same with goodness and purity. However, in Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, the figure of Aslan, and many other places, Lewis does just that … he helps us actually taste something of the wonder and beauty and desirability of the truly good–of God Himself. I pray and strive toward doing something like that for those who receive my work.
3) Anime has definitely been an influence too. I never watched a lot of Anime–mostly Dragon Ball Z–but the extreme stylization, the cinematic perspectives, the over-the top imagery … that is all in there and has an impact on how I portray things.
4) Traditional Orthodox iconography as well. I hesitate to mention this because iconography is so much more than a “style,” but the imagery and–especially–symbolism in the iconographic tradition has been folded into my work at various places.
5) Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention two theologians: John Piper and Richard Bauckham. John Piper (by channeling Jonathan Edwards) absolutely re-oriented my conceptual universe by helping me see that all of reality–including the supreme desire of the human soul–is aimed toward and exists for the Glory of the One True God, and that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Richard Bauckham brought about the second complete transformation of my thinking through his book “God Crucified” where I came to see that this “Glory of God” for which all things exist is, in fact, the Name (character, identity, beauty) of God revealed at the resurrection-illuminated cross of Jesus Christ. The crucified Lord who is risen IS the beauty, the glory, the definitive revelation of the God of whom all of reality sings, in whom every human desire is satisfied, and to whom all things in heaven and on earth will be reconciled. Even as I share these two more come to mind, Edwards especially and his ideas about beauty … but, I think those two will suffice for now. They have influenced me perhaps more than any others, and their fingerprints are all over everything I make.
What advice would you give to other Christian creatives seeking to glorify God with their art?
I think the most important thing to say here is that–to paraphrase Paul in Philippians 3:8ff–we need to strive to count art as loss in light of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. What I mean is, so long as we are unwilling to lose our art completely, our art (or anything else we might consider to be “our thing”) is not going to be a means for the communication of the beauty of God in Christ (i.e., God glorified) in our lives … Our primary desire and passion must be intimacy with God in Christ and conformity to God in Christ … that has to be–like Mary in Luke 10:42, or the disciples in John 15:5–the one thing, the central thing, the all-consuming thing. Only when the hands of our soul’s passion lay hold of Christ such that they drop anything else they were holding (be it art or another pursuit), only then will the Lord, perhaps, take up art from where we dropped it, place it back into our hands, and bid us to wield it for His Name.
Another example I find helpful is of a boat pursuing a distant harbor. The boat’s singular goal is the harbor, but as the boat pursues the harbor, it creates a wake in the water that sends our waves in all directions … the wake is a byproduct of the boat’s pursuit of the harbor; without that pursuit, there would be no wake. However, if the boat starts to see the wake as the “main thing” and starts pursuing the wake, it will get stuck going around in circles and become meaningless. My prayer is that my artwork would be the “wake” that streams off the “boat” of my life as it pursues the “harbor” of Christ … I want it to be an outworking of and byproduct of a supreme desire for Him and to guard against it ever becoming an end in and of itself.
So, I think the advice I’d give to Christians seeking to be part of the arts (and the advice I give to and pray for myself) is that we would be first, foremost, and wholly enamored with the beauty of God’s name as He declares it in Jesus. That He Himself would be our life and our joy, such that, should our ability to create art be taken from us, we are not bereft of identity or purpose or joy … since He who is our identity and purpose and joy remains gloriously and satisfyingly the same–whether we are creating art or not.
Oh, and I guess one other thing I’d say is this: simply to create beauty and help people to taste the truly beautiful as beautiful IS moving them toward God in Christ, who is the source and form of all beauty. Perception of beauty is not salvific, but if we can present that which is truly beautiful, and present it beautifully, and in a way that others can “taste” as beautiful … we are moving them in the right direction. (And lest someone think “beautiful” here means merely bright and happy etc, recall that supreme beauty is the form of the crucified Christ…..but, that is a topic for another discussion!). The topic of beauty is right at the heart of all that I’ve been saying and deserves further exposition, but perhaps another time.
Thanks for the chance to interact with you and your readers.
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