The Prodigal Artist


For behold, you look for truth deep within me ~ Psalm 51:8a

The artists’ way includes periods when the artist feels much more like the prodigal than like the beloved. This ‘prodigal period’ is marked by a yearning within the artist to get closer, to return home, to start again. These yearnings are signposts of course, vapor trails indicating something much deeper at work. Outwardly the ‘prodigal period’ can be marked by a vague restlessness. For some the ‘prodigal period’ is filled with a quietness that can throw the artist off the trail of an important invitation to spiritual growth. Whatever the presenting symptoms, the ‘prodigal period’ for an artist is always indicative of a desire acting deep within the artist to bring their creative work and their spiritual life into closer harmony.

An artist’s work is the artist’s visual proclamation to the world. The ‘prodigal period’ impels the artist to resolve the differences between what the artist is creating and what the artist was born to create. For Christians, the Baptismal Covenant guides our life as the beloved of Christ and it guides the artist’s way too. The resolution of the ‘prodigal period’ is to be found in a closer pairing of what the prodigal artist creates with what the beloved artist is creating in the mind and heart of Christ.

Seeking to be the beloved artist, the prodigal artist tends to those actions and predispositions that separate them from loving their neighbor, from remembering others, from loving God heart and soul. As these actions become known, the artist may sense the qualities of a penitent heart beginning to emerge – feelings of regret and remorse, even shame, are possible. But here is the joy hidden in the dark and the time to remember the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32) Sincere sorrow for failings will be met with compassion and forgiveness. Admit the imperfection; pray for wisdom; pledge to try anew. And if all of this seems too much at first, a simple beginning is the discipline of a work blessing before each creative session. Just as the preacher intones on Sunday, ‘May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable unto You, O Lord, our Strength and Our Redeemer,’ so too the artist at the beginning of each work period can dedicate themselves and their work to God’s glory.

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

– Collect for Church Musicians and Artists, BCP p. 819

On View: Fifth Station, The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene, painting by Simon Carr.

Acrylic on Canvas, 24″ high by 22″ wide

As Seen In: Walking the Way of the Cross, The Rev. Thomas Faulkner, Curator. An exhibition of Episcopal Church and Visual Arts.

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