It is difficult to pinpoint what it is exactly that makes our spirits respond in a raw and instinctive way to the arts. Perhaps it is because engaging the arts reminds us that we are made in the image of a divine artist, a God who colored the sky and the flowers; who delights in trees that are pleasing to the eye; who specifically requested “Bezalel … to devise artistic designs” in Exodus 35; who requested that the tabernacle curtains be made of “fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked” (Exodus 36:8); not to mention the breathtakingly beautiful detailed tailoring of the priestly vestments in Exodus 39.
The arts not only remind us that we are made in the image of a creator but they invite us to ponder the age-old theological and philosophical understanding that beauty, goodness and truth are inextricably linked with the things of the spirit and the nature of God.
If you’re a disciple of Christ who follows and obeys His teaching, then this is something you ought to think through. I did some searching and there seems to be mixed opinions on this topic. The people (we’re talking about Christians here) that are into art or study art seem to understand the importance of studying the human body and so they are “for it.” On the other hand, the non-artists seem to be opposing it at all cost. My suggestion is first read the articles that I’m about to link so you can get an overall perspective on this important topic and then examine your own heart and seek the Lord for understanding.
Fine Art will help you to grow as an artist and that involves the studying of human anatomy, the naked body. So the question is: Is it a sin to look at nude model(s) or images to better our understanding of it so that we can recreate it with realism? Let me start off by saying that as of this writing, I do not take a “for” or “against” position simply because it’s not black and white. On the practical side of thing, I can only speak for myself after having examined my own heart. I can not come to you and recommend that you go and study nude simply because I don’t know you and the things you struggle with. It’s the same reason they don’t serve real wine in most churches when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Take for example: I don’t watch pornography, and I stay away from it (by the grace of God). And the images I collect for my studies are not pornographic in nature. If done right it can aid you in your studies, but if done wrong it can become a stumblingblock. As believers, we have to be extremely careful and also keep in mind that the heart is very deceitful. Do you have a passion to grow as an artist or do you use Fine Art as an excuse to lust after the female body and to collect pornographic materials all in the name of “art”? Search your heart and be honest. God knows. If you struggle with lust and are easily triggered, then perhaps Fine Art isn’t something you should be pursuing, though you can still do art!
There are Christian colleges which allow drawing of the human figure clothed in bikinis or racing suits both of which resemble underwear and have well known advertising campaigns associated with them that exploit sex as the main point of their style. This practice seems inappropriate and more sensual by its suggestive commercial context and the unnecessary focus upon the covered area that it invites. To some, it appears more like going to the beach than to the classroom where serious academic study is underway. (Gordon College’s Policy on the use of Nude Models in Art)
The Greeks believed that man was the measure of all things; as such they sought to find the perfect human form and show it in their art. The resulting nudes are not pornographic; rather, they are the outworking of the Greek ideal. As Christians, we rightly reject their philosophy, but we should not make the mistake of mislabeling their art. (A Christian Perspective on Nudity in Art — Matthew Clark)
I remember coming across one YouTube video made for fine artists but had to turn away because it wasn’t done right and was very inappropriate. Just because it says “for artists” doesn’t mean that it’s right and appropriate for Christian artists.
Moreover, when I describe something as ‘beautiful’, I do so because I believe you should find it beautiful too. There is something about aesthetic claims which almost demand universality. Why else is their controversy when modern artists who present abstract junk in the Tate Modern? It is because we regard their claim that their artwork is beautiful as degenerate nonsense which is nothing less than sacrilege and a stain on real beauty… beauty that is unified, orderly and mystical, rather than chaotic, random and depressing. Beauty is objective, it is not ‘in the eye of the beholder’. Claims on what is beautiful concern us just as claims on what is good concern us, it matters when someone is mistaken on what they believe is good and similarly on what they believe is beautiful. (Link to Article)
Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Or is there more to it? Personally, I haven’t given much thought to this question until I came across this short video (3 minutes) and a long sermon below:
The long version: Click here for a more in-depth look at this question (43 mins)
Here’s an interesting 3 minutes clip that shows the Mind behind all that we see in life.
Colossians 1:16-17 (KJV) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher [1813-87]
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2-4).
In God’s hands you can be a precious and effective instrument.
The story is told of a great concert violinist who wanted to prove a point, so he rented a music hall and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. On concert night the music hall was filled to capacity with music lovers anxious to hear such an expensive instrument played. The violinist stepped onto the stage, gave an exquisite performance, and received a thunderous standing ovation. When the applause subsided, he suddenly threw the violin to the ground, stomped it to pieces, and walked off the stage. The audience gasped, then sat in stunned silence.
Within seconds the stage manager approached the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, to put you at ease, the violin that was just destroyed was a $20 violin. The master will now return to play the remainder of his concert on the $20,000 instrument.” At the conclusion of his concert he received another standing ovation. Few people could tell the difference between the two violins. His point was obvious: it isn’t the violin that makes the music; it’s the violinist.
The disciples were like $20 violins that Jesus transformed into priceless instruments for His glory. I trust you’ve been encouraged to see how God used them despite their weakness, and I pray you’ve been challenged by their strengths. You may not be dynamic like Peter or zealous like James and Simon, but you can be faithful like Andrew and courageous like Thaddaeus. Remember, God will take the raw material of your life and expose you to the experiences and teachings that will shape you into the servant He wants you to be.
Trust Him to complete what He has begun in you, and commit each day to the goal of becoming a more qualified and effective disciple.
Netflix’s illuminating new series, Abstract: The Art of Design, documents the lives, designs and dreams of the some of the great innovators of our time—from graphic artists to automotive designers, illustrators to interior designers. The first season is available to stream, and you absolutely should.
Each breath-taking, provocative and intentional piece of work featured in the series showcases the depth and diversity of human creativity at its finest. Where Abstract shines most, however, is in its ability to pose deeper questions about the metaphysical functions of design, art and beauty—which, as theologian John de Gruchy writes in Christianity, Art and Transformation, “characterizes the form of ultimate reality … the essence of God’s glory.”
Here are eight major takeaways about God’s intention for art and design from Abstract’s featured artists and designers: (Read more)
A friend of mine has an interesting spoon. (Bear with me.) Its slightly larger than a teaspoon and has a large hole in the middle, making it incapable of holding—let alone carrying—the sort of substance that typically requires a spoon. My friend keeps it in his sugar bowl, waiting for unsuspecting guests to attempt productive engagement with it. Some will quietly (but unsuccessfully) persevere with it, not wanting to make a fuss and assuming the fault must somehow lie with them. Others will immediately declare the spoon is ridiculous and insist on something better suited to the task at hand.
The spoon, it turns out, is actually an olive spoon. The hole in the middle is to drain the fluid as you lift the olive to your mouth. And so the lesson for us is this: You can’t make sense of the way the spoon [is] without understanding what it’s [for]. (Read more)
As a Father of a couple of kids 6 and under I am frequently given gifts. These gifts are precious and priceless works of art. My children will spend significant time to go and get their paper and crayons to make me a picture. Then they run to me with the picture in hand and simply say, “Here Daddy, I made this.” I hold it up and admire it. Often I will ask questions and they answer in surprising detail about their intentions with their marks. There is no question: they made this artwork with intentionality. They want to share it with me.
I have been studying the book of Genesis lately and was struck with the parallel in creation. The Bible repeatedly says in chapter 1 that what God made was good. God looks at what he made with approval. It is good. He also wants to share its goodness. Psalm 19 tells us that the creation declares God’s glory. It is pouring forth speech about him as the glorious Creator of everything. (Read more)
With all of this experience as a backdrop, let me ask you a couple of questions. If I can’t expect my children to create masterpieces on canvas when they do not know and submit to the rules and principles of oil painting, how can we expect to make masterpieces of our lives without knowing and submitting to the laws and principles of life? If I can’t expect my mechanic to make wise decisions about the maintenance of my car without first knowing how the car works, how can I expect to make wise decisions about my family and finances without first knowing the laws and principles that govern these important arenas of life?
Let me take it one excruciating step further. How do you expect to make a masterpiece of your life if you are unwilling to surrender to the Author of life—the One who knows which textures and colors are best blended for the outcome you desire? How do you expect to make wise decisions regarding your family, marriage/love life, and career if you are not willing to submit to the promptings of the One who knows more about those things than you or I ever will? (Read more)