I have three primary reasons for making the world more beautiful by being an artist. The first, and probably most basic, is simply who I am: abilities, talents, likes, disposition, and so on. The second reason concerns expression. Most people have a need to express thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, concepts, and abstracts, and for me the most fulfilling way to express all these and more is through artistic mediums. I love the challenge of working without words to express a thought, and I love working with the shapes, colours, layout, and design of letters to express the abstract beyond the words. The third reason I will explore involves people. This is the most difficult and complex area for me because I thought for a while that this reason would take me away from artistic pursuits. It has only been recently that I have begun to realise the importance of using art to touch people’s lives and the power that art has to speak many languages, to heal, to communicate effectively, to comfort, and more. These three reasons provide the framework for the examples that prove that art is the ideal vocation for me.
It took a while for me to realise that I am artistic. For example, I enjoyed art lessons in primary school, but once I started taking art lessons with a really good teacher I discovered that I could draw and paint and sculpt reasonably well. For example, one of the first projects I did in art class was a watercolour of a snowy evening landscape. Six years later, I still receive comments on it. Another year I sculpted a bust of a woman and entered her in a competition. Affectionately named ‘Sheila,’ she caught the eye of one of the juries, who bought her for two hundred dollars. Projects in design classes were often worked in groups, and two of the groups I was in won first place: for a Nike design project involving sports, tribal culture, and shoes, and again for a Target design competition involving a line of car accessories. Both of these projects had design professionals judging and awarding. These examples testify to the talent God has given me. Yes, they include loads of hard work and perseverance; nonetheless they show that I have some natural artistic talent.
The second reason for pursuing art as an ideal job concerns expression: art is my way of expressing things, from simply recording the day to a complex challenge of thought. As a visual person, this need to express things in a concrete way ranges from extensive note-taking to make what is said visual to hearing a song and wanting to draw it. For example, when I was a little girl I used to draw words in the air, especially when listening to someone speak. Though the words were not quite visible, I was still making them visual in my mind’s eye. Other examples of this from my art classes include processing 9/11 through watercolours and encouraging inmates with charcoal drawing. The 9/11 project gave us as student artists the opportunity to express our own emotions and reactions to the tragedy while reaching out to comfort those more directly affected. The prison project worked in much the same way: kids giving expression to shared humanity. This expression of truth and beauty makes the world a more beautiful place because our world is visual. Values are not always visual, but for humans made with eyes there is great importance in visual expression.
The third reason concerns the power of art to touch and change lives. It took years of unknowingly doing this, and then a short break from artistic pursuits in order for me to realise this truth. I had the good fortune of a wonderful art teacher who taught according to the truth that art changes lives—many of the art projects that we did involved expression to touch people’s lives, not simply art for art’s sake. Despite years of practise, I still missed the point of good art. In the years before and after I graduated from high school, this came to a crisis for me—I realised that what I really wanted to do, what I must do, is help people. For example, I sometimes had the notion that I should pursue nursing, even though I knew that I would not make a good nurse because I do not like medical things. For me, though, nursing represented a profession directly involved with helping people. I realise now that this nursing idea came from something in me that longed to help people in a tangible way, to touch people in places where they needed it the most. At the time I could not see that art has an enormous power to touch people’s lives and hearts and souls. I could see only a heartless, showy, proud future for myself in art, so I decided not to pursue that. Instead I laid down all my artistic dreams and set myself to some other vocation. While in college, I thought that perhaps God was calling me to a future in a foreign mission field with bugs and disease and all because surely that would be touching people’s lives. I can see now that instead God is calling me to a different mission field: to touch people’s lives, but to use the artistic talent that he has given me to be change in the world.
Since then I have begun to explore career opportunities in art, and truly they are amazing and adventurous. For example, till recently I never gave a second thought to art education, but considering the influence that my art teacher has had on my life, I am now giving this serious thought. Working with kids at my current job has also opened my eyes to a new love for kids, so teaching art is a wonderful option. Even watching films like ‘Step Up’ is casual proof that kids respond to art, whether fine art, theatre, or dance. Art education is not the only option for touching lives—there is also a wide field for speaking messages through art and design. This is obvious through advertising design, but the messages do not have to be material and impersonal. People respond to art, and art can speak hope, faith, and love whether it is a card, a painting, or a sculpture. Another option is art therapy. The process of artistic expression is therapeutic; I have seen its therapy in my own life and in others’. I want to be part of that subtle healing process through art in others’ lives. This healing, this response to art, makes the world more beautiful as people grow and shape and learn in community, together, making the world more beautiful together.
In conclusion, I have to admit it is still all quite rough around the edges. All the reasons that I pursue art as a vocation—personal talent and ability, means of expression, and the hope of changed lives—need hands and feet and a heart behind them. In other words, they are not much good on paper only. The task ahead is to actually make the world more beautiful. It will be a process, like all art, and it might be quite messy at the start, but it will be worth it all.