Thoughts On Christian Art
by Robert Flores
I just went through my art history book and I am angry! Most of the pictures of Christ show a broken, bloody corpse after his crucifixion. Hello! That's only part of the gospel! Yes, He died, but He also was buried and rose again the third day!(I Cor 15) Do people have a fascination with a "defeated" Christ? What does that show the world? It shows that we Christians follow just another man that died; but He didn't just die: He rose again! How come more pictures don't show a triumphant Christ? It's ridiculous to paint a fraction of any story (let alone the most important one is history)! People love blood and gore -- and it's true: Jesus was a bloody corpse (the key word is "was" , but the world won't know the "was" if all they see is the "is") But how many pictures of His crucifixion do we need? How much blood has to be painted before the world is satisfied, especially when God told the gospel story in words and not in pictures! How sad the world must think of Christians ("poor Christians, they worship a dead person.") We need to stop this portrayal of Christianity, or tell the whole story, or don't paint the Lord Jesus at all! (Which, I think is the best option.)
Now, on a different note: I know Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is the climax of the Bible, and of history, but there are other stories in the Bible! There are many other visual treats given in the word of God -- so how come I've never seen a painting of Ehud, or Jephthah, or Deborah in the 2,000 years of Christian history? How come I've never seen a comic of Psalm 49? Or an engraving of Micaiah? Or a statue of Hannah? How come I've never seen a watercolor of Enoch, or a scratchboard of Hezekiah or an Adobe Illustrator drawing of Amos? Isn't all scripture given by inspiration of God (2 Tim 3:16-17)? Then how come there is so little in the realm of Christian Art? There are so many good stories God has given us, but only a few have been painted. There have been thousands of Christian artists since Christ's ascension. You want inspiration for art? God's Word has all you need! It's a gold mine of painting ideas, drawings, poetry, photography, motion pictures, sculpture, crafts, etc. This is a plea to Christian artists everywhere: search your Bible, ask God for the inspiration, and, He will use the talent He has given you for His purpose. God has given you the talent, use it for His glory. I want to use pictures to bring people toward the Bible, not to scare them away from it. I want to get people interested and excited about the Bible. I want people to open it up, and ultimately find Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible is the world's finest piece of literature: Why wouldn't you want to create art from it?
Secular artists have given their lives to painting mythology, or historical events and figures, and yet the Bible and its 66 Books are left on the back burner of so many artists minds. Out of the whole of Christian art, how many books have actually been used as inspiration for art? No more than ten, I'm sure. How many David statues do we need, or how many naked Adam and Eves do we need as frescoes? How many paintings of the Virgin Mary do we really need? God didn't intend for the same ideas to be used over and over and over again. I just want Christian artists to think about what they will create, before they create it. Why wouldn't we want to bring people to the Bible? People need the Word of God. People need Jesus Christ. And when it comes right down to it: no art will ever make someone a Christian, but it certainly has the ability to lead them to Christ. And I'm more than willing to do so.
Nowhere in the Bible do I read that we are to be subtle Christians. We ARE to be salt and light. What does salt do? It makes people thirst. It preserves humanity the way God intended it to be. What does light do? It dispels darkness. It exposes the sin of humanity. Do people have to wear sunglasses when you walk in the room? Do people get thirsty when they are around you? There is no such thing as subtle salt and subtle light talked about in the Bible. It's almost the same as not being there. So if we are not called to be subtle Christians, shouldn't the art we produce be like that as well? In other words, what are we doing producing subtle Christian art when our lives aren't suppose to be like that? Shouldn't our art be a reflection of how we live life? The unsaved NEED the open Christian art. They may ridicule it, but at least they're "getting it"! I'd rather have my art ridiculed for what it is than for the unsaved not to get it. I'd rather have people say "that's a really cruddy piece of art that proclaims Christ" than to say, "I don't know what this painting is about".
July 11, 2002
I've been thinking about contrast of things from an artist's perspective; not just colors but other things, like, Good is always contrasted with Evil. One sees the intensity of one only when compared to it's opposite. When does a light stand out? In daytime? No, it stands out when it's surrounded by darkness. How do you make a red stand out? When it's surrounded by green. How do you show love, holiness, justice in Jesus? When He was surrounded by the antithesis of those things. You would never know what peace was unless you had a time when you had not known Peace. You appreciate it more when you know what the opposite of it is. You would not know love unless you knew hate. You would not know freedom unless you were a slave. Jesus stood out. We were attracted to Him, because all we knew was everything He was not.
July 11, 2002
"There is no fear in love" Fear is useless. It's an entrapment. A jail cell. A hell. It confines. It stops. It is used to stop you from doing God's will. It is a product of Satan. Satan doesn't want you to feel secure in the promises that God will bring you through to complete a work for art- so he puts fear into your heart. To do God's art projects with fear in my heart is torture. Nothing can get accomplished and I don't enjoy it. Since doing art is worshiping God, what better way could Satan do that than to put fear in me and ruin my art-worship experience? Fear is illogical, a twisting of the truth, a product foreign to God and his children. God talks and acts as if there is no fear-for it doesn't exist in God's reality. So how come I don't trust Him? How come I don't sit down to do art with a no-fear mentality? Has God ever called me to do something that was not easy? Failure will happen, but there is no reason to fear failure. Go in knowing that failure is a possibility, but so is success. There is no need to fear failure, as I've been doing, particularly with my current art project. I've never had fear like this. But I need to rely on you, Lord. Forgive me, Jesus, for my fear. Thank you, Jesus for giving me freedom from fear of failure.
Oct. 6, 2002
Secular artists are willing to kill themselves to make good art, like the artists in any number of secular art books that I have; artwork that is beautiful and that took tons of time to produce. They sacrifice their lives for art that DOESN’T glorify God. Are Christian artists willing to do the same FOR God? Are they willing to sacrifice themselves for art that glorifies God? As I look around the Christian art scene, very few artists are. Non-Christians can get organized and put together beautiful anthologies and art books. Are Christian artists willing to do the same to honor God? Do you see what I’m saying? Non-Christians are willing to do for money what Christians AREN’T willing to do for God. They are willing to die for a LIE, all the while Christians AREN’T willing to die for the Truth. And the few Christian artists that actually ARE getting organized are materialistic Christians, that have a love of money as well as a little love for God. These compromising Christian artists are willing to water down the gospel in hopes of fattening their wallets. Now, it’s time to look at my own heart: I’m willing to kill myself for 8 hours at my day job, but not for the project(s) that I have been commissioned by Almighty God to do. I’m willing to put forth all my effort for a paycheck, than for my Jesus. I’m willing to waste my life on things that will fade away, than for artwork that could make a difference in someone’s eternal life. O LORD, I pray that you take raise up Christian artists to worship you through the art that they create and that you take the laziness and complacency out of the Christian artists whom you have already raised up.
May 24, 2005
Every Christian artist should ask himself “Could I live a satisfied existence apart from art?” If the answer is “No”, there is a serious problem. That artist has made art his god. Art is an unforgiving god. It is the kind of god that will run you into the ground and not even think twice. Art is a god that will destroy your life and send you to an early grave. I can live a satisfied existence apart from that god, because I have a true God og gods inside me.
May 24, 2005
We, as artists, carry so much pain. Artists have always been close to the underside of life: drugs, alcohol, poverty, etc. We observe the corrupt world through our corrupt eyes. Artists have always been in tune with unredeemed humanity. Is it any wonder that artists are often recluse, depressed people? Ah, but there is hope for Christian artists. In Jesus we find the Man of Sorrows. He’s not aloof from our artistic pain; He knows it. He knows what it is like when artwork doesn’t come out right; He sees it everyday in His sons and daughters lives. He knows what it is like to be overwhelmed with the sin in this world. He knows what it’s like to be poor! He knows what it is like for the world not to appreciate the artwork you have created. Jesus knows what it is like to not get the recognition you deserve. He’s been rejected for 6,000 years by fallen man.
I want to talk a little about where to get inspiration for artwork? Where do I get ideas from? Well, from looking at people around me and myself. I’m interested in characters that have personalities that I’ve seen in others. I like to watch people at the mall or listen to them at work and categorize them into my categories of people. I look at the motives for what they say and do. I’m often quite critical of people, because I can usually figure out why they act certain ways in certain scenarios. I’m also critical of myself. I cannot stand why I do things differently in some scenarios than others. My personality is a convoluted mixture of a lot of emotion, past experience and my own personality-not unlike anyone else. I look at my past failures and victories as things that I can write about as well. I also place myself in future scenarios and question what my response would be. So, in short, past, present and future time contexts are all places that I get ideas from.
I keep an idea book. Well, actually, it’s an idea book/Bible study book. It’s where God gives me ideas, either reading His Word or meditating on Him. It’s a place where I jot all my ideas, thoughts and quotes down. I would highly encourage you to do the same.
It’s interesting to me that the Bible stories of old all show human characters. When I read one of the Old Testament heroes, I see heroes with weaknesses, the outcasts the rejects. You know, the all-too-human characters that each of us can relate to. Why are Bible stories so enjoyable to read? Because the heroes and heroines are just like you and me! They are real, fallible, human, sinful characters just like you and me.
The writer of these stories didn’t try to whitewash these people. There is just something reassuring when an artist or writer spills his guts about his failures in life. It’s hard to do. The natural thing to do is to make oneself more perfect than he is. So when I see art that exposes a man, it really does allow truth to be told. And it’s in that environment of truth that I want my readers to be in. Because then I’m going to be telling them all the wonderful things my God has done in spite of my humanity.
The Bible is a truth book. It paints people as they are; no sugarcoating. The hard facts of life are there for the world to see. That’s what I want to do with my characters.
All of my characters have something of me inside of them. Doing so makes the characters more interesting to me (which lets me write a richer story) but also is a way of exploring who I am, how’s my relationship with God, what would I do if God put me in this situation?
I love Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” “All” in that verse means exactly that-past failures and victories, our present failures and victories and our future failures and victories. There is so much to make comics and art about! Who needs to create characters or situations when our very lives have so much that God has written into them.
To write your life story is one of the most important and gratifying things you will ever do in life. Writing an autobiography is the equivalent of writing history. It’s great, because history deals with facts-indisputable facts. That indisputability is what I want the world to see. I want them to see that God is all powerful and all-loving-even to love a sinner like me. I want them to see that God is alive and well today, not a God lost in the pages of yesteryear. He’s a God who has given me a new life and a real hope. I want to share Him with the world. Who does the world want to share? Some loser named Satan who is bound for the Lake of Fire? Our God is greater and bigger than the god of this world and He’s the Hero of this story.
It’s difficult, no doubt to put your life story on paper. If someone would’ve told me 10 years ago that I would be doing autobiographical/deeply personal art, I would have laughed at their face. This was never my plan. This never occurred to me. It was only by God’s perfect timing that He brought me to a place where I could expose my feelings to the world and not be ashamed of who I am.
If my life can affect change in someone’s life towards God then it will have all been worth it. In other words, if my embarrassment/discomfort is the tradeoff for someone coming to know Christ, then of course it is worth it. When you are honest with people they will be honest with you. And in an artist/audience relationship, what more can you ask for than that? That’s exactly where you want the audience to be. If I can get the reader to not only be honest with me, but to be honest with themselves and with God-then I will have accomplished much in my art. Honest art like that is a prime location for a person to hear the gospel.
I like using cartoons to tell my stories. The public has perceptions about cartoons that make my job easy: cartoons are easy-to-understand, interesting, have simple art, etc. But I don’t tackle humorous subject matter hardly ever. I tackle the serious issues in cartoony comics, like sin, justice, righteousness, redemption. Cartoons give me a chance to disarm the audience to prepare them for the message I want them to hear. I don’t think I could accomplish that in any other style.