by Audrianna Escobedo
Art has been a big part of my life since I was a little girl, yet actually becoming an artist never seemed like a possibility. My house was already full of amazing artists—my mother and sister—who seemed to ooze creativity and talent in all they did. What room could there be for me?
I told myself time and time again that nothing I made would ever compare to the beautiful creations of my more talented family. Creating something beautiful for others to enjoy seemed like a task I was unable—and frankly incapable—of achieving.
These constant mental comparisons ingrained a fear of failure in me. My desire for creative perfection fed this fear and paralyzed my creativity. I stuffed away any thoughts of creativity. Surely, I could never be an artist.
But God whispered an unexpected, but a very formative, truth to my stubborn, fearful heart: You have to start small before you can achieve something big.
No skill in life is achieved right away. Of course, some might have a more natural ability for something, but even natural ability needs to be developed. Michael Phelps didn’t come out of the womb with a perfect butterfly stroke, and baby Michaelangelo could not have come up with the intricately painted Sistine Chapel without some training.
We all have to begin with the basics before we can move on to bigger and better things. And sometimes to get to the bigger and better we need to endure the repetitive actions honed through constant practice and experimentation.
What I hadn’t realized was that to develop any creative gift, you have to have space and freedom to do it poorly until you learn to do it well, and that we need grace for the learning spaces. The creative perfectionist in me had to surrender my desire to be an immediate expert, and instead walk humbly as an apprentice in my calling.
Wayne Thiebaud is a 98 year-old painter who, despite all his success over the years, is still in his studio every single day living by the mantra “I’m gonna go make some mistakes today.” Jesus has used Thiebaud’s example to remind me that it’s okay to make mistakes: his grace makes space for me to be in process.
Grace—God’s continued posture of kindness towards us despite our failure—is at the center of our relationship with Jesus, redeeming all that we do for the good of his kingdom. God’s grace covers all our shortcomings and gives us the psychological space and emotional freedom to make mistakes until we do it well.
The wonderful truth is that God’s grace has always been available for artists. When He wanted his temple dwelling place in Israel, he could have done things Genesis 1-style: just saying the words and it could have appeared out of nothing. Yet he didn’t do that. Why?
As I’ve studied Exodus 31, I have been deeply encouraged by the fact that God entrusted the work of temple-building to human craftsmen and artists, voluntarily choosing to partner with them by filling them with his Spirit and giving them the ability and intelligence for the hands-on work of creativity (Exodus 31:1-4). He could have done it perfectly himself, but God joyfully entrusted the work to imperfect human creators. God gives dignity to us apprentice-creators, and he weaves joy into the process of us developing and using our gifts.
Believing that God has both grace and honor for imperfect artists is one of the reasons why I not only started creating art, but why I almost exclusively create in pen. Ink is a medium that forces you to accept and work with the imperfections you create, and I’ve found freedom to create in this way because Jesus graciously gives me space for errors. Drawing in pen requires me to courageously commit to creativity, relying on grace as I go.
I can’t think of anything more indicative of the Christian truths than the fact that I am free to try and fail, and try again, and that sometimes God transforms my errors into something unintentionally beautiful.
So by grace, I am saying yes to the process of discovering what kind of creator I am. I am saying yes to being chosen by the Great Creator. I am saying yes to partnering with him as an active co-creator for the Kingdom, expectant and excited that God still pours out wisdom, ability, and blessings on our faith-filled yeses.
God gives me the grace to create in pen.
Audrianna Escobedo is a year away from finishing her degree in Art History at the University of California Davis, and plans to become a museum educator in hopes to encourage others that they in fact CAN make, appreciate, and love art.