Earlier this fall I surveyed a diverse group of Catholic artists about what impact their faith has had on their work as artists. Here are a sampling of their responses. I hope their words inspire you to explore the role of beauty in your own faith.
“My life as an artist is inseparable from my life of faith. I have always felt a need to create beauty and as I have grown in my faith I have seen that as a direct gift from God which allows me to participate in His creator spirit! My Catholic faith is inseparable from what I produce as an artist. Especially when I am painting religious imagery, my faith informs my work and my work informs my faith. I paint as I pray and I pray as I paint. In my artistic vocation I am always seeking to reveal a tiny glimpse of the eternal beauty that is God.”
“I love making things that connect faith and whimsy. For instance, painting animals that are praying the rosary has been such a fun way to spread a love of the rosary and for prayer through modern children’s art. I want those paintings to reflect joy and beauty, because joy and beauty are a reflection of who God is and a reflection of faith, hope and our Heavenly home.
For me personally, I feel close to God when I am creating. It’s usually a time of tremendous peace and consolation, where I feel close to His Heart, and I crave it.
I also have limitations as an artist, so many times I’m like “ok God, how do you want me to do this? How can I make this thing come to life?” and I have to wait on Him for that inspiration.”
“I wanted items for my own children to help them connect to their own name saints. I wanted something beautiful and heirloom quality. Not finding exactly what I was looking for, I realized I would have to make it. So I launched my online custom shop. And it’s been so fun! I’ve grown my skills over the past couple of years and was able to make and take a Father Solanus Casey doll with us and the kids when we went to his beatification mass in Detroit. While I make other items than just saint dolls, (I also focus on items that are literary or emphasize the beauty & magic of childhood), I pray over my family, friends & church while I work. I truly believe that by embracing the artist God made me to be, I am living a prayer of praise to Him.”
Marcy Kelleher, Doll maker, felt florist, seamstress, and fiber artist at Marzipantz Shop
“My faith lead me to art and, in return, my art returns me to my faith. For most of my life I’ve thought of being an artist as impractical, a poor career move, too big of a risk &, even, foolish. And yet, painting is what brings me clarity & solace so it always hovered on the periphery of my life. It took not being able to find a job to finally commit to my artistry. When there were no other options I was invited to make art. And I finally took my gift seriously. My fears slowly turned into faith and trust that this was the next step. This was, after all, a gift I was given how could I not use it? And now that I am using it, I am more prayerful & spiritual than ever before. Owning & building a business is incredibly hard work. It demands structure, time, education, consistency, resilience & self-worth. My faith allows me to overcome each hump of self-doubt I come across on the journey. I am an artist because I believe.”
“My faith is EVERYTHING to me as an artist! It is my constant inspiration, my rock and it keeps me grounded in my creativity. God is ALL beauty and goodness and I am in constant awe of what an AWESOME artist He is. I bubble up with happiness whenever I am creating something that will point others towards Him.”
“For me this is very much a Chicken-Or -the-Egg question. My faith is what opens my eyes to beauty around me and makes me hungry to add to that beauty… And then it is also my work as an artist that trains my eye and my heart to seek and recognize beauty in all of creation. Obviously my Morse Code necklaces carry meaningful messages, but the way I see it, even plain beaded earrings add to the beauty in this world and help to make someones day brighter. It is my faith first and foremost that makes bringing those brighter days the goal of my work.”
“St. John Paul the Great encouraged artists to be “custodians of beauty” and “heralds and witnessed of hope for humanity.” My greatest joy in my art is giving light and hope that reflects the love of God I have been so graciously given.”
“I pray often while making each piece that I sell. I pray for the artist who designed the fabric I am using, and I pray for the consumer who will buy and use the piece. That’s why I feel like my products are still “Catholic” in nature because of all of the little prayers that goes on behind the scenes.”
“A few years ago, I stopped painting commission work and decided I wanted to create art that was important to me; art that could be used to hand down the Faith. The Church holds so much inspiration, depth and importance. Now all of my work is built around my Faith and sitting down with the Creator Spirit is the best part of my job.”
“I love making the faith “touchable.” I think embracing beauty with all our senses is so important—we are after all physical creatures. I love using my hands to make something beautiful that will help someone else more fully embrace their faith.”
“My art is based on bringing the Sacred into the midst of the ordinary. I am continually inspired by the lives of the Saints and the Word of God, and work to bring quotes to life in a way that is practical and useful. Resting in God renews my creative spirit.”