Katrina Moss is the founder of the national Chaiya Art Awards. It has a top prize of £10,000 and is the UK’s leading awards exploring spirituality and faith through the visual arts. Although the competition has its roots in Christianity, these awards are about engaging with people of all faiths; those who have no belief in God and everyone in between.
Katrina strongly believes that the arts contain an intrinsic power to deeply move, challenge and engage our souls.
The importance of creativity at a time like this
I believe that art and creativity has a great deal to offer at a time like this. It can give us and other people fresh perspectives on what is happening in our neighbourhoods and across our world. Art can bring hope, comfort or challenge.
If you are creative, I want to inspire you that you have something important to say, something valuable to offer at this time and I want to encourage you to take that seriously.
We are made in God’s image and He is creative
Many of us miss the fact that after love between each member of the Trinity, that one of God’s main characteristics is creativity. It starts from the very first verse in the bible and goes right through to Revelation. God is constantly creating, assaulting our visual senses, creating the heavens and the earth, the sea, the skies, day, night, man, woman, plants, life, animals and on and on it goes. Also, it’s not just external – he’s constantly creating in us, transforming our thinking, our attitudes, our behaviour, our understanding. God is the ultimate creator/artist and His creativity is supernatural.
Art has power
Every year we commemorate Poppy day, but I would suggest that the art installation at Tower Bridge engaged with the public in a fresh way and at a much deeper emotional level. ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ was created by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper in 2014. 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower’s famous moat between 17 July and 11 November struck a real chord with the public. Over 5 million people came to see the work and the sale of the poppies afterwards raised over £15m. It will be fascinating to see what art will come out of the Corona virus pandemic!
I truly believe that God is wanting to use creativity, and the arts in the widest sense, to find new and exciting, and adventurous ways to engage today’s society to explore the mysteries of God. This is not instead of church, it’s in addition to, but I would suggest that we have lost sight of the importance of the visual arts as another vital means of communication.
We live in a totally visual age, just look at the kids and teenagers in your families, before the lockdown those around you at work, commuting and relaxing. We are obsessed with our smart phones and iPads and this has become even more so now we are told to ‘stay home’.
Using this visual language of the arts, we can critique the world we live in, we can explore and give expression to the inexpressible, to unspoken suffering, to the place of lament, of wilderness, that so many people experience, when life is broken or just hard or confusing. How relevant is this in our current situation. Art can expose the ugliness we and society have come to value. But it can also re-imagine how society could be, what heaven on earth would look like, and allow us to glimpse beauty in all its forms, with its intrinsic scars. Art can do so much.
How to release fresh creativity in you
So what is the main thing that any creative person or artist needs to do? It is to do!
Doing, there is no substitute for doing. Talking about painting a picture is not painting a picture. Even thinking about something, although thinking and reflection is really helpful, it is still not doing. So what’s stop us from doing?
- The fear of starting, the blank page or blank canvas.
- That it’s got to be perfect from the start.
- The negative things teachers, parents or key figures may have spoken over you.
Some of the things that I have found most helpful in my life and in other artists I know, is to:
- Allow yourself to play and experiment creatively, something younger children will have no problem doing!
- Allow things to evolve, to go in directions you didn’t expect or didn’t plan.
- Allow God to speak to you through the process, which to him is as important (if not more important) than the end result.
Up until the Lockdown, I have run a monthly craft group in my house, and I will not allow people to say, what they’re doing is rubbish. We all have to push through that barrier. We need to stop listening to that inner voice, that says ‘what we’re doing is no good.‘
Forget what teachers may say, or may have said, at school or college – you are made in the image of a creative God and you reflect that when you express yourself in art, whatever form it may take.
Also there is no substitute for training and practice, and what a lot of us have got at the moment is time we didn’t expect to have. If you feel part or all of your calling is to do with being creative, take it seriously. You might need to get additional skills, I know very few artists or creative people who haven’t gone on courses to learn new skills or hone their existing ones. Although we can’t go on physical courses at the moment, there are still other things we can do.
Tips and ideas
- Watch ‘How to’ YouTube videos on art that you like and copy it so you learn new skills and techniques – there are so, so many out there.
- Be inspired by other artists work, there is so much art you can view online.
- Listen to a worship song as you create.
- Have a scripture in front of you as you create.
- Pick a current story from the news and let that inspire you. (Imagine how the people in that story feel, what they are going through)
- Be inspired by colour combinations in nature.
- Express emotions you feel, art does not have to be a pretty picture, abstract art can speak to people in very powerful ways.
- Christian art does not have to feature a cross, a dove or Jesus – think of different symbols that speak to you of God and His love in your life.
- Find a style of creativity that suits your personality. (I like to finish a picture within a couple of hours, as I am quite impatient, so I use acrylics which are very vibrant and dry quickly!)
- You don’t need loads of materials, most of us have paper, pencil, coloured pens, old tins of household paint. You can paint on bits of wood, you can mix mediums, paint, drawing, collage, textiles. Use what you have to hand.
- If you are home with kids, here is an easy video showing you how to make modelling play dough for them at home with a few simple kitchen ingredients!
- Creativity and visual arts is so much more than painting, it is drawing, knitting, sewing, mosaics, sculpture, wood carving, metal work, textiles, design, collage, pottery, photography, video – don’t limit your creativity.
- Use the skills God has given you, do what you like doing, not what you think you ‘ought’ to like!
- Think outside of the box.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you.
- And most important don’t give up. Push through the negative feelings most artists and creative people have to battle with. We don’t expect surgeons to make a decision to be a surgeon and then go straight into the operating room after a few weeks practice. So allow yourself to develop and grow.
- Enjoy the process.
Ravi Zacharias says in his book A Shattered Visage:
“The moods and indulgences of a nation have been generated by the popular writers, entertainers and musicians of the day. Those who harness the strength of the Arts, mould the soul of a nation to an extraordinary degree, affecting and changing the way people think and act to drastic proportions.”
The Arts provide a unique opportunity to unite people from diverse and contrasting backgrounds and perspectives, in harmony and mutual understanding and they can engage our social consciousness with important world issues.
Some of the world’s greatest painters – including Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Delacroix, Gauguin, Bosch, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo – were inspired to recreate Bible stories and biblical themes in their work. But where is that happening in the arts today?
Bono from U2 says, “The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt”.
As Christians we need to release ourselves to create freely and trust that what God has done in us, the experiences of God we have had, the ups and downs of our journeys with God will speak to people where they are.
God has always used imagery and metaphor, look at all the times Jesus uses visual imagery to illustrate a point, to help his message to connect with the audience.
As the founder of the Chaiya Art Awards, I want to inspire you with some different styles of creativity. This small selection of artwork is from Where is God in our 21st Century World? a book full of richness and diversity, treasure and beauty, where artists can express their faith through their creativity and where they can try to find meaning and understanding.
I want encourage and challenge you, to take your creativity seriously, so together we can see how God is working through his Spirit in us and in our culture today. Be blessed as you explore and develop your God-given creativity.
An Army Arising: Why Artists are on the Frontline of the Next Move of God Christ John Otto
Imagine Steve Turner
Where is God in our 21st Century World Art book published by Instant Apostle