Important things can often come in small packages.
Physically, Matt Appling’s Life After Art is a small book – 142 pages. Thematically, its size belies the important message it contains.
We are made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we are designed to be creators.
For some reason, most of us left that creative spirit behind about the time we left 6th grade. We out grew it, encouraged by peers, parents, adolescence. Creativity, like art and music (and even writing), didn’t fit our ideas of “useful” or paying occupations. The further we drifted from childhood, the more those days of joyful creativity were left behind.
Appling is not arguing that we should all become artists. Instead, he says we should “peel away” the layers of paint lacquered on our creative spirits, and discover, or rediscover, what God intended us to be. Or, to use the present tense, to find what God intends us to be.
Drawing upon his experiences as an art teacher for schoolchildren, his own childhood and life, and his understanding of the creative urge and what happens to it, Appling concisely walks us through where we were, where we are, and where we could be. His case is compelling.
“Today,” he says, “most things we consumer are cheap, unimportant, and disposable. The things we create have an exceptionally short shelf life and a rapidly approaching expiration date. We consumer, we repeat. Consume, repeat.
“We accept this, and lower our expectations.”
What we create says much about the people who do the creating. Our creativity, or lack of it, reflects the deprivation of our souls.
If we peel away the paint and find our creative spirit again, what it is that we are to create?
Appling has an answer for that, too.
Beauty that expresses the spirit of God.
It could be in art, music, writing or any of a hundred other creative endeavors. But we have the capability to create beauty.
If you doubt that, then perhaps you should sit in Appling’s art class, brush in hand (and it’s a brush, not a hammer, so don’t pound the paint on the paper), and listen to him explain why rules and confinements are important, that it’s not about painting with a disregard for the lines but using the lines to master and direct the creativity within you.
Life After Art is thought-provoking and desire-provoking. We recognize what Appling says as true because the creator image within us responds to it as true, and responds powerfully. It’s an important book, every page filled with what we have forgotten, what we need to know, and what we need to do.
Matt blogs at The Church of No People.