The Need to Do Art Well (Why Art Can’t be Strategized Pt 2)

In an earlier post, I suggested that artists can’t ultimately control which spiritual themes people see in their work.

This raises an interesting question: if making art is ultimately about leaving room for God to speak to peoples’ hearts, then why do art well? Can’t he use bad art as well as good art?

Yes, he can use both.

Jeffrey Overstreet notes in his book Through A Screen Darkly that he’s spoken to people who’ve found life-changing spiritual ideas in kids’ movies like Herbie: The Love Bug, as well as in thought-provoking arthouse movies like Three Colors: Blue.

Does this mean that artists shouldn’t care about making art well?

Well, no it doesn’t.

As Overstreet notes, “What does it mean when predictable mediocre work changes lives? Does it mean that excellence doesn’t matter? No, it simply means that art reflects life, and when we meditate on life, we might see something in a new way” (33-34).

Just because people pick up on different ideas in an artwork doesn’t mean it doesn’t have primary ideas. Usually, an artist will have one or several ideas they want to be the major ones in a piece. If the artist uses their craft well then most people will notice which ideas seem to be the primary ones.

As I’ve written about faith and art and tried to find people who had good things to say about those topics, I’ve been surprised to see how many people reference the same particular movies or books that affected them.

For fantasy writers like Andrew Peterson or the various communities inspired by the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis showed to write theologically-minded speculative fiction.

For music fans like Steve Turner and Steve Sockman, U2 paved a way to make rock music with spiritual ideas.

For film fans like Roy Anker and Jeffrey Overstreet, Terence Malick is an expert on conveying the sense of divine in nature.

And so on.

God may nudge people to notice the artwork’s secondary ideas. He may nudge people to notice the primary ones. Artists can’t be sure which will happen. So they have a responsibility to do their work the best they can, thus preparing for both eventualities.


In two weeks I’ll be back with a piece on another reasons artists should care about making art well. In the meantime, like if you enjoyed this piece and look around to see if you find anything else you like in my writings.

One thought on “The Need to Do Art Well (Why Art Can’t be Strategized Pt 2)

  1. Pingback: (Why Art Can’t be Strategized Pt 3) – G. Connor Salter

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