Sustainable Art

Sustainable Art—Write Right“There are different questions that an aspiring artist can ask.

“One question is, ‘What must I do to be famous?’

“This question will open up a writer to all manner of destructive forces both within and without. We’ve all seen it play out.

“A different question, and one asked much less often is, ‘What must I do to make this sustainable?’

“Songwriting, painting, acting, writing—these are all crafts that one can practice over the course of a lifetime. You can get better — grow — for a long, long time.”

— Linford Detweiler, Over the Rhine

Famous or Sustainable Art

To me, famous art and sustainable art requires a consideration of means and ends. I have certain goals. Maybe I don’t desire a list, award, or position, but I desire something. It could be speaking more often about subjects dear to my heart. It might be illustrating books. The goal could be anything, really, and achieving it could mean almost anything.

I could, for example, pursue my goals without giving thought to others. I matter, and forget everyone else. The thought might not be an active presence in my mind, but it certainly pervades my heart. I act selfishly all the time or pursue my own ways instead of God’s. I think, somehow, that acting wrong, no matter how slight, could lead to something right.

The thought is incorrect. God cares about means and ends; the Bible talks about him guarding and guiding steps. The means matter. God wants his children to walk correctly, which means walking in his ways instead of theirs. He desires they walk in faithful obedience because it gives him glory and blesses them—it lightens their hearts and days, no matter how heavy and dark they are.

Sustainable Art and Integrity

Such a thought intersects with sustainable art because, or I at least think, sustainable art comes from integrity. A person with integrity is wholly devoted to a singular thing. The self isn’t divided; everything in the person marches to the same end, the same tune. When that tune is God and his glory, grace comes alive, vibrant and true. It beckons the heart, mind, and hands onward.

In that setting, the means become a joy, even the means of sitting in a chair and working on a drawing that only two people see. The size of the audience no longer matters. The hours spent honing a craft no longer matter, either. They disappear in the joy of developing a skill and seeing its results transpire on the page.

The artist grows and delights in the growing because the end and the means have turned into one and the same thing: encountering God and reveling in him. The means and the end have become a centrifugal force. The artist orbits it every day, and every day, he or she rediscovers the delight of sustainable art, an art rooted in integrity and directed toward God.

Image: Christopher Paquette (Creative Commons)