One of those late at night ideas bumping around in my brain, which I wanted to get down before it evaporated….
It struck me that people go through a number of stages/seasons/steps as they start to grapple with what it means to be an artist. These stages aren’t really well defined, and have a lot of overlap, but I think they still map a definite progression in both the individual’s understanding of their personal call to be an artist, and of how other people begin to see them:
(1) Enthusiasm: This is the stage where a person first starts to recognize some sort of aptitude with art — typically drawing things in notebooks or music — and they begin to realize that they really ENJOY creating pretty things (or giving voice to their pain and anger). More often than not, they are young, without a lot of life experience, but they are just waking up to the joy of creativity and imagination. This is where big dreams start.
(2) Skill: This is the hard work level, where people start to become serious about being an “artist”. They may be terribly self-deprecating, but nevertheless, they begin to put in the effort necessary to develop real, tangible skills. This is the stage where other people start recognizing them as “artists”. They start taking classes, practicing, defining a style, hanging out with other artists, polishing their craft.
(3) Meaning: At some point, in order to become more than a skilled craftsman, or someone who can make “pretty” things, an artist needs to begin to understand not only how to create (imagination), but how to create meaning (soul). This is the hard part, and frankly, where things begin to get really messy. The message is not always clear, even inside of the artist’s head. Their artwork can begin to get edgy, dark, and push boundaries. The artist begins to experiment, sometimes with disastrous results. However, in order for an artist to become relevant, he or she must go through this season — to survive the storms, so see things that no one else can see.
As followers of Christ, this is the stage where Christ really enters into our art, and we become Incarnational.