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Image Bearing in the Creative Process

Image Bearing in the Creative Process

An artists' confession: Friction, fear, and giving birth to big ideas
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I once participated in a discussion with a group of artists rehashing the foundational ideas that Dorothy Sayers and Francis Schaeffer tackle in their books on creativity and image bearing. The big idea of their work is that because we are made in the image of our Creator, we are also creators. Many Christian artists have found justification and drive for their work in the pages of these formative books, myself among them.

But I was frustrated by our discussion. The rehashing of ideas fueled a fuzzy, communal feeling among us artists as we politely snacked on store-bought cookies and drank bad coffee in a church basement. I heard myself cautiously complaining to the generous (and patient) group: "But what does this stuff actually mean? How does bearing the image of our Creator influence the difficult process of making work?"

In my experience, the discussion usually ends there. We revel in our creative call, and take pride in how cool (or sensitive) we are because we are capital-A Artists. And then, we crawl back to our studios, desks, classrooms, and theaters, and get frustrated in the messy production process. As soon as I step into the theater or pick up a pen and my coffee-induced, fuzzy feeling has disappeared, I wallow in self-doubt, questioning my poor vocational choices. Right there in the slough of the process, I rarely think of myself as a creative image bearer. No, I'm just faking it until I make it.

As a theater artist, I often rush past the process because I am fixated on the product. Two hundred people are showing up in four weeks to see a performance: tickets are sold, programs are printed, and cast members' grandmas are buying non-refundable plane tickets. I don't have time to reflect with any sensitivity on how I'm incarnating the Creator as I consider the banal (and painfully non-creative) details of the theater. Where will the donors sit? What's going to happen in Scene 4 with an actor out sick? How will I keep actors safe on the obstacle course set? In these times, I don't feel like a capital-A Artist, let alone an effective image bearer. I'm just an underpaid traffic engineer.

Sitting in the church basement, I wanted an answer to how I might image-bear the incarnation in this "traffic engineering" part of my creative work—the painful, friction-filled part. So I decided to put on my big girl panties, take on the burden and expectations of calling myself an artist, and get serious about image bearing.

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2013, October
Posted October 22, 2013

also in this issue

October Week 4
The Cap'n and Me

The Cap'n and Me

Lessons on creativity from a cereal box
Sara Groves' Art House North

Sara Groves' Art House North

Cultivating creative community in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota
What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World

How science leads us toward—not away from—our Creator

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Displaying 1–3 of 6 comments

BettyLu Anderson

January 01, 2014  1:40am

You renewed my desire & determination to complete a poetry book. 'Fear & friction'are getting met together within me. I'm praying to use your insights to keep working with word pictures of my creation develop into poems,,,,,both brand new and revisions of old. Next. they must join together into the book of my dreams and an expression of "Christ in me, the hope of glory." I'll hope the book's words will find resonance in many minds & hearts.

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October 27, 2013  6:42pm

Wow! A vocation compared to a hobby kicks my butt! I only got to a place in my life a few years ago where I embraced my talents and called myself an "artist". And I'm in my mid fifties. The enemy has loved to make me feel as if my God given abilities were lesser than someone who held down a "normal" job. My stay-at-home mom and caregiver to my parents status became how I defined myself. It wasn't until we were empty nesters that I realized I was failing to use my talents for what I love to do. This is a great article and will pass it on to my closet-artist friends.

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October 27, 2013  6:57am

Very well stated and words I will hold dear - very helpful to me

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