Art is not just a skill but a teacher. When I began art courses in 2006, I started seeing things differently. I noticed shapes and arrangements, colors and tones, lines and curves, schemes and designs, everywhere around me.
One night in the hospital, I caught myself staring at the typical row of skin creases around one of my patient’s armpits where her pectoralis inserted beneath the deltoid. I was suddenly fascinated and wanted to capture on paper an area of the body I’d seen for decades without noticing or appreciating its uniqueness. The same was true for other parts of the naked anatomy, but especially the structures of the face: eyebrows, noses, lips, jawbone angles, ears, hair; all were more interesting now. Art had given me renewed vision, awakening my eyes to see more of what I'd been looking at without really seeing.
Because my mind is steeped in theology and logic, it was easy to see another dimension where art is a teacher. In meditating on humanity’s bent toward creativity, I saw how artists, even in their most innovative moments, are essentially imitators. All human art is an imitation of the artistry within creation. Even the abstract artist selects and recombines the same lines and forms and colors, even the randomness, which have always been resident in nature. This teaches us something about God and something about ourselves.
After I’d been taking art classes for a few years, I wrote this poem:
Paint clouds that really rain
And noisy, running streams,
Or birds that can take flight
And sing beyond your dreams,
Or sculpt a lovely nude
That wakes to your embrace . . .
If not, then praise the Artist
Who made the human race.
— David L. Hatton, 10-20-2009
Today, in thinking more about the theological lessons of art, I finished another similar poem:
We’re designed to be designers
By the Maker of the skies.
When they copy nudes and nature,
Artists often plagiarize.
Praise the Artist of creation,
When you render earthly art.
Our designs are mere reflections
Of the great Designer’s heart.
— David L. Hatton, 12- 27-2012
Human artists and their compositions provide a powerful, extra-biblical proof that we are made in the image of the Original Artist.