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The following article is reprinted in part in the
K-8 and high school art curricula.

by Diane S. Spears, Ed.D. Christian Art Curriculum

1. What is art?
2. How many kinds of art are there? (kind of a trick question)
3.  Why does art exist?
4. So what’s the big deal about being creative?
5. Are skills inherited or learned?
6. What are the main components of art?
7. How many different media can you name?
8. What is a dimensional plane?
9. What part of us is creative?
10. How and where does creativity operate?
11. Does art have to be religious to be godly?
12. Isn’t there already enough art in the world?
13. If there’s “nothing new under the sun”, how can we be creative?

Art is basically anything that is done well. Also, it is any work done in visual, musical, communication, or performance, (i.e. the art of cooking), whether or not it is done well.

2.  HOW MANY KINDS OF ART ARE THERE? (Kind of a trick question)
There are two kinds of art: successful (good) and unsuccessful (bad). There is much confusion and controversy about what is considered good or bad. Art can be considered “good” if it follows good design rules (elements and principles of art, music, theatre, dance). It can also be considered good if it is recognizable. Some “works of art” are depraved subject matter. Just because an artwork follows the rules of good art production successfully, does not mean it is a worthwhile contribution to society. There can be freedom of expression in the artist’s studio, but there should be censorship, discernment, and wisdom about displaying everything produced. This is where Christians must allow the Holy Spirit to minister discernment and then take a stand. Learn to make good judgments of art based on its agreement with the principles of the Kingdom of God, not just art principles. Some art makes statements about art itself (i.e. “abstract” art), and does not seem to fall into either category of “good” or “bad” subject matter, and is judged solely on its adherence to the principles of art production. Some art is also different from a person’s experience, and the temptation to call it “bad” is strong because it is unfamiliar. Most people who have had limited experience in art expect art to contain the sublime, sometimes placing more importance on content (subject matter), rather than on art principles, to determine its value.

The answer you probably expected: There are several divisions (kinds) in the “arts”.  Fine arts cover visual art, music, dance, communication, and theatre arts, each with some divisions. The arts also include crafts, of which there are many categories, such as weaving, ceramics, sewing, crochet, knitting, needlepoint, making ornaments, and many more.

There are many purposes for art.  Among them are to call attention to beauty, to make a political or religious statement, to display emotion, to explore the “inner self,” to improve the environment, or simply to decorate useful objects.

a.  Learning about God's creation is inherent in art activities. I believe God wants us to be creative and has given us the potential to progressively become more like Him. He created us for His pleasure, and we can create for ours and His. Attention to detail may lead us to become more intimate with nature through drawing, gardening, writing, etc., and to appreciate more the unsurpassed greatness of our Creator.
b.  Being creative adds “spice” and excitement to existence. As the writer of Ecclesiastes so eloquently expressed, life can be mundane and feel futile periodically. A person does not have to be a professional artist to experience the thrill of creating.
c.  Even small experiences in art benefit the brain, especially valuable for children’s development. Continued experiences in art cause continued progress.That’s what happened to me. I liked drawing as a child, and I’m still at it, steadily improving. The creative experience of art spills over into other areas, so that fresh neural pathways in the brain are open, and new ideas are possible in any area of life.(1)
d.  Art experiences develop character. Patience is a virtue difficult to learn and more difficult to teach. Art can teach us to not give up, rework the first attempt, or to try again, if we make the decision to gain from the experience. Countless times I have reworked a painting, or started over if the first try was unredeemable. Creativity requires re-thinking, combining design elements into different arrangements, using different line quality or colors. For example, using a large brush sets me free from tiny detail too soon in a painting, and allows me to take advantage of the spontaneity produced by the brush strokes.
e.  Learning to see accurately is one of the greatest benefits of art experiences. If we want realism, we must observe details, edges, line directions, shapes, sizes, and colors. This requires practice in seeing accurately to gain skill - also exercising patience. If we choose “abstract” images, one still has to use art principles and elements skillfully - practice... patience... practice... patience.
f.  We need to practice the fine arts to learn eye-hand coordination, to learn to follow directions, to learn to think creatively in problem-solving, and to make our environment interesting, stimulating, and beautiful.
g.  Tests and studies have proved that the production and study of the fine arts increase academic performance.

Skills are both inherited and learned. Natural inheritance from parents who are talented usually creates the art interest in children. We have a spiritual inheritance also, because we are created in the likeness and image of the Father God. Our Father God is creative - therefore we have the ability to be creative in Him by His Spirit. We also develop skills by learning and through practice of techniques. We need to have a big deposit of skill in us for Father God to draw upon.

A.  Basic Art Elements - All these elements can exist in painting.
1. line - a mark that has a beginning and an ending
2. shape - a line that encloses space
3. space - the area in, around, under, over, and through an object
4. color - the perception of light reflected from a surface
a. hue - the name of the color; spectrum position
(1) Primary:  red, yellow, and blue
(2) Secondary: orange, green, purple
(3) Tertiary:  intermediate colors between the primary and secondary
(i.e. red-orange, blue-green, magenta, etc.)
(4) Analogous colors:  colors next to each other on the color wheel
(i.e.: magenta, red, red-orange)
(5) monochromatic:  colors of the same hue (family)
(6) complementary - colors opposite each other in the color wheel
(i.e.: red-green; blue-orange; yellow-purple)
b. value - lightness and darkness
(1) tints - hue plus white
(2) shades- hue plus black or a very dark color
c. intensity - saturation, purity (brightness and dullness)
5. texture - the surface characteristic; Texture can be absent or present, but is usually present in
visible brush strokes. If the texture has been built up through application of sculptural material
under the paint, then actual form can be achieved, as in bas relief.
6. form - an object with space in three dimensions (height, width, depth). In a flat picture plane, form
is achieved by the illusion of depth through the principles of aerial and/or linear perspective.
B.  Basic Principles of Design  (design - an artistic plan or pattern).
Many of these should be present in a successful painting. Some will be more prominent. A focal
point should always be present. The following are the major principles:
1. repetition - the creation of pattern
2. proportion - the relationship of parts to a whole
3. contrast/value - the comparison of light and dark
4. balance/symmetry/asymmetry - a harmonious arrangement or proportion of parts producing
stability and equilibrium; a cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
5. emphasis/focal point - to draw attention to a specific component
6. unity - the successful working together of all parts of the whole
7. variety - the introduction of many parts
8. harmony - a pleasing or balanced combination of elements
9. rhythm/movement/force - the direction of line or shapes that cause the eye to move around the picture plane; the flow of elements
C.  Technique - a systematic procedure or specific way of doing
DContent - the subject or message of the piece of art
E.  Perception Skills:  edges, spaces, relationships: light/shadow/value, and gestalt
1. lost and found edges,
2. how to manage the space on a picture plane,
3. relationships of objects, value, hue, light and shadow, and...
4. Gestalt - the whole; the uniqueness of the thing perceived; the “thing-ness” of the thing. This is a
concept easy to forget, because it is rather “esoteric” (highly specialized knowledge and
vocabulary). “Gestalt” is a German word, originally meaning “configuration”. It is used in a
particular “school” of psychology that emphasizes the fact that the whole may be more than the sum of its parts, and that the parts of the whole are often modified by their relationships to the whole and to one another. You can see how this applies to art: that the components of the
painting (subject matter, objects, colors, emotional content, etc.) must work together to achieve its goal. Components of an artwork can be appreciated separately, but they must contribute to the whole and relate to the other parts through skillful use of the elements and principles of art.

Medium (S)/ Media (PL) - the material(s) used in the production of art:  pencil, ink, colored pencil, charcoal, crayon, pastel, oil pastel, acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache, tempera, clay, stone, metal, wood, paper, fabric, dye, yarn,  “found objects” (Can you think of more?)  Most of the media in fine arts are also used in crafts, therefore sometimes creating an indistinct line between fine arts and crafts.  For example: clay is used in sculpture and in poured ceramic moulds. In music, the medium is the instrument or voice; in dance the medium is the physical body; in theatre arts the medium is the voice and the physical body. 

one dimension: line (straight etc., curved etc., crooked, broken, thick, thin)
two dimensions: shape (flat with height and width; irregular, circular, angular
three dimensions: form (shape with height, width, and depth (a cube rather than a square)

Brain hemisphere research began by identifying the origin and process of creativity. Researchers discovered that our highest cognitive activities are performed by specialized brain pathways that are concentrated in one hemisphere or the other. However, some brain processes are performed equally well by both hemispheres. Traditional education has emphasized kinds of learning that are processed primarily in the left hemisphere - analytical, language, symbols, and time consciousness. New stimuli, problems, music, and spatial reasoning are processed first by the right hemisphere.

Research has proved that
a. the full creative process involves integration and harmonious functioning of both brain hemispheres;
b. the creative process stimulates “traditional” learning by creating new thought patterns and symbols.(2) Students of all ages are thus able to apply problem-solving skills to the arts, and then apply those same skills to other learning and to life situations.(3)

Scripture is silent about the brain, but speaks much about the the thoughts of the mind, heart, and spirit.  In Scripture, heart can refer to soul or spirit, depending upon context, but in general, the “inner self”. Since we are made in God’s image,(4) it is generally accepted that human beings are tri-fold like God, being made up of spirit, soul, and body.(5) God is a Spirit,(6) God has a Soul,(7) and God has a body.(8)

The soul is also tri-fold, being made up of mind, will, and emotions. The soul reveals the personality, and is influenced by experiences and by physical appearance. The mind has a direct connection to the physical brain, and it appears that emotions have a direct connection to the physical heart, the brain, and perhaps other organs. Conscience appears to reside in the spirit, being the moral compass, the part of us that just “knows” stuff. Since James 2:26 states that the body without the spirit is dead, the spirit is the “life force” of the body.(9) The spirit of man must be connected to the Spirit of God for eternal life, but the spirit of man does continue to exist, whether or not the spirit is alive to God. The "soulish" will has a direct connection to the spirit through conscience. Only the Word of God, being sharper than a two-edged sword, can discern between soul, spirit, joint, and marrow. Scripture sums up all the activity of the body and soul as “flesh”, which is opposed to the Spirit.(10)

To even begin to answer this question requires more questions:
a. How does inspiration work? Inspiration involves more than the brain. Inspiration is stimulation of the mind and emotions (the soul) to a high level of activity; something that causes a desire to express an idea. Ingredients of inspiration are
(1) imagination - a recombination of mental images from past experiences into new patterns, and
(2) intuition - direct knowledge, judgment, meaning, or idea that occurs without any known process of conscious thought; (a spiritual process).
b. How does the creative process work?
(1) saturation - information research,
(2) incubation - where imagination is at work, and
(3) illumination - sparked by intuition.
c. Does art belong to the "flesh" (body and soul) or to the spirit? According to the above, creativity belongs to the “inner man”, having its inspiration in the spirit, filtered through the soul, and involving the body and time to bring expression. It is, therefore, crucial to tap into godly inspiration. We all know there are artworks that have been inspired by wrong spirits. We must have knowledge of God’s Word and know Him, so that we do not yield ourselves to the inspiration of darkness.

Definitely not. We are told in Scripture to think about things that are lovely and of a good report.(11) There are many purposes for art: practical, decorative, thought-provoking, commercial, for practice in developing skills, and more. The artist's "signature" is imbedded in the artwork through line quality, choice of colors, etc., regardless of subject matter and is discerned often at a subconscious level, revealing much about the artist.  Since art belongs to the soul and spirit (inspiration and illumination), a beautiful landscape or a painting of children can lead to thinking about lovely things. But an artwork doesn't necessarily have to be "lovely" either. Consider artists who make us think with subjects such as poverty, strong emotion, something "futuristic", or simply change recognizable forms. Picasso's Guernica expresses the horrors of war with greater impact than photography, and his "Blue Period" explored negative emotions that provoke interpretation and analysis - higher order thinking skills.

I struggled with this question many years ago, especially concerning the area of crafts. It seemed as if the world was cluttered with “junk” that wasn’t “real art”. However, I now believe the true value of art is the process, because of brain development, character building, learning to see accurately, and exercising discernment in making wise choices.  Besides, it’s fun.  So, if you have not created some art, the answer to this question is “No”.

It seems that all the ideas, techniques, and processes have already been done. There are scores of artists whose creations speak to the masses and are valued highly, greatly enriching culture. Hundreds, if not thousands, of artists imitate them, inspired by the original, but not able to carry on the same inspiration. Hundreds of artists are frustrated, because they have not achieved greatness in the public eye for innovation nor affected art history by creating new art “movements. We cannot create something from nothing like our fabulous Creator, but we can take the existing substances and arrange and present them in patterns and ideas that are new to us. Therefore, creativity for us is discovery. Again, the process is more important than the product. We should always aim to do our best and to learn from the experience, and if we turn out a masterpiece, we will be blessed and perhaps bless others.

End Notes:
1. Jensen, E., (1995) The Learning Brain, Turning Point Publishing, San Diego, CA.
2. Edwards, B., (1979).  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, (1986). Drawing on the Artist Within, J.P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, CA.;
3. Gardner, H., (1993) Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice; (1973, 1994) The Arts and Human Development, Basic Books Harper-Collins, N.Y
4. Genesis 1:26
5. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
6. John 4:24
7. Judges 10:16
8. OT: wrestled with Jacob, appeared to Abraham, NT: Jesus: Hebrews 10:5
9. Hebrews 4:12
10. Romans 8:1-9
11. Philippians 4:8
12. Ecclesiastes 1:9

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