Author, speaker and ministry leader Tony Snipes helps today’s gifted artisans answer questions about their purpose and creative calling through his initiatives Art Lessons From God and Kreative Kingdom.
“What is it that you love doing that you wouldn’t even have to have anybody pay you for… That’s your passion…the beauty of it would be that if you’re pursuing that and you’re getting paid for it then it’s not even like work.” – Tony Snipes
Be sure to check out the resource links at the end of the interview including a free download of Tony’s audio resource “How To Identify Your Creative Calling: Your CALLING, Your CAREER, Your JOB…What’s The Difference?”
Interview by Julene Fleurmond, founder of DreaminSoul.com
Most everyone has asked these questions:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- What should I be doing?
Artists in particular, from painters to musicians, may ask these questions regarding their gifts:
- Who am I as an artist?
- Why do I have this talent?
- What does God want me to do with it?
Tony Snipes, a gifted artist himself and founder of Kreative Kingdom, Inc. a non-profit faith-based art initiative, began asking these questions and created a resource to help other artists discover their creative purpose.
Tony’s project, Art Lessons from God delves into these questions of gifting and calling. The blog, workshops, books and other resources were created with the goal of helping artists and designers discover God’s purpose and plan for their artistic talent. Watch Tony introduce the site below:
Though the site is targeted toward visual artists it has much insight that could inspire artists of any type from writers and performers to musicians and filmmakers. Many of the topics explored can apply to a variety of arts, like “Anointed versus Talented: What’s the Difference?” to “Discovering a “God” idea vs a “Good” idea.”
Often in our society we acknowledge the “how” regarding talents of individuals but may not always consider the deeper questions involved with “why”. In this interview Tony Snipes discusses his background in the visual arts and gives advice to other artists in figuring out their “why” and God’s purpose for them:
Dream in Soul: Hi Tony, thanks for speaking to me today. Can you tell us a little about who you are: What is your background in art and your profession?
Tony Snipes: Well prior to going into graphic design and illustration I have been drawing and painting all of my life but especially kind of training myself to draw and sketch from my comic books as a kid. So I did a lot of drawing back then, and am professionally trained as a graphic designer – graphic design and illustration…that’s pretty much my professional background with art.
Below is one of Tony Snipes’ pieces entitled “Endure.”
DS: What inspired you to start your website “Art Lessons From God”?
Tony Snipes: What really started challenging me is and kind of pushed me towards starting the site was based on a conversation that I had with a young man back in the late ‘90s. He was an artist as well and he was about to graduate from high school, and was contemplating going to art school or taking something else… We were talking in church and both of us started asking, where is the artist in the Bible?
At that point back then I had never heard of visual artists or visual arts described in the Bible. You know, everybody has heard of musicians and singers, even dancers, and so I started just doing a little bit of research. Just that one instant by itself kind of kicked everything off because I started covering more and more about the visual artist being in the Bible, and I said, you know what I wonder how many people don’t necessarily know about this. So I started a group first on Yahoo Groups, this is long before blogging was anything anyone was even familiar with, and it just kind of grew into what it is today.
Watch Tony do a quick sketch entitled “Tough Guy” to sharpen his skills
DS: Has there been a great response since opening the site?
Tony Snipes: Actually we have gotten a lot of positive responses, in fact what I try to do is make sure that I’m on track when we post these articles every so often – and now I try to do it about every six months – but I always try to spot check just to make sure that the information that we’re delivering is something that is of value to the subscribers that we have. I ask them questions every so often, tell me what you’re looking for, tell me what you find value in, tell me what you’d like to hear more of, and really just finding out that there’s so many Christian artists out there that are looking for direction. They know they have the gift that they have, the talent that they have but they want to know from God what does He want them to do with it, and I’ve been there myself as well too…
I think that the encouraging thing for me was finding out that I wasn’t the only one, that I wasn’t the only Christian visual artist that was out there seeking. So I prayed and asked God to show me what does He want delivered to His people when we post an article? Because we know that there’s a lot of folks that are hungry for that information, that direction and their searching for what God either says or they are looking for some practical tips. It doesn’t even have to be super-spiritual, they want to find out more about how can they make money from their gifts and their talents, if that is possible, with some tips and things they can get into, launch a blog themselves to start showcasing their art on the web. So, with that there are a lot of folks that are finding value in what we write.
DS: Definitely and I noticed that some of the posts could even relate to other types of artists like musicians, like the post on finding a “good idea vs. a God idea.” Some of them can relate to all types of artists.
Tony Snipes: Yes, you know I find that a lot…it kind of works in both directions. Sometimes I come across something that is a word encouraging for your life in general, then I kind of see how it applies specifically to the artist. Then vice versa…well what does this mean to the artist and then you realize, you know what that applies to your life in general, so it kind of works both ways sometimes.
DS: One of your past posts asks the question “Does your church have an arts ministry,” that kind of relates to my next question which was we all know that music and the performing arts seem to be the most popular and embraced in the church and in society today. So, what do you suggest that visual artists do to find their place in churches? Do you think it’s improving?
Tony Snipes: You know what, I’ve actually had to approach that one prayerfully, and mostly because the encouraging thing is some of us are part of progressive churches where a lot of the arts, not all, but a lot of the arts are embraced and are welcomed, especially like the so-called performing arts, of course it isn’t a performance but you know what I mean. Like you said, music and singing, those are givens. In some churches now, like my own church, dance is rather prevalent and drama and things like that. Visual arts, at least from my experience or some of the experience of others, (not in all cases) visual arts is starting to come on the scene.
You may have seen someone doing, they’re calling it now “worship painting.” You might see it especially around Easter time where they’ll set it to music, and somebody would get on stage during the worship service and starts painting something you don’t realize what it is until at the end – it’s a portrait of Christ or something like that.
So you’re starting to see visual arts making its way into the church, and especially into the worship service, but what I’m starting to understand, and again prayerfully God is beginning to reveal also is it doesn’t have to be limited to the though of, “How can I incorporate visual arts into the worship service,” only but just also taking a look at “I wonder how many visual artists are in this congregation and how many of them just need to have small groups,” maybe just the visual artists getting together and encouraging each other…Because you know the visual arts primarily is not a performance art. It can be put into that venue but that’s not what happens across the board. So, part of visual arts being in the church maybe outreach, there’s you know so many visual artists are out there that need to be drawn into the church itself, so it could be a part of outreach.
So many different things can be done with visual arts in the church and I think is just starting to come on the scene, you know, I think it’s still early, it isn’t as embraced as you see some of the other arts but I think its just starting to get on its way and a lot of us that are doing things that are like what you’re doing, what I’m doing, what some of our subscribers are doing is what’s going to help usher it further.
Watch Tony do another quick sketch entitled “No Fear.”
DS: I know before you were talking about how you got started and I wanted to ask, did you always know you wanted to be an artist, and did your family support you in going to school for art? (Was there ever any resistance within yourself or from others?)
Tony Snipes: They did, my parents have always supported anything that I wanted to do, especially when it came to art. When I graduated from high school though, although even in high school prior to going to college I actually majored in high school – we had classes that you could major in and I majored in graphic design and illustration in high school but when I got out of high school I was at a point where I was still trying to find myself, trying to find what it was I wanted to do. So I went into the military actually, into the army and was a combat medic and entertained going into the nursing industry, the healthcare industry and thought about flying helicopters, all kind of different things and finally just within those few years in the military I decided that, yes what I wanted to do was art, and design, and so that’s what kind of allowed me to really find myself and find out what I wanted to do.
DS: Did you have favorite artists that you looked up to?
Tony Snipes: One of my favorite artists now…I’ve always loved the work of Thomas Blackshear, and I love his paintings that he’s done and just the realism that he does in those paintings and also how he has a blend of – he can take a, not really a fantasy kind of scene, but he can take a realistic look to the theme of whatever it is he’s painting. A lot of folks, and I’ve had it on the site, a lot of folks are familiar with his painting called “Forgiven” [click here to view the painting] where it’s a picture of Christ holding a fella that you see him holding a hammer like he has actually nailed Christ to the cross; so a lot of folks are familiar with that painting. The realism in the figures blows you away, as well as how he’s taken that realism and put it into a somewhat imagined kind of scene, so I love the works he’s done.
DS: Do you have any advice to younger artists whose parents might not support their choice to go into an artistic field?
Tony Snipes: I recommend that younger artists really take a look at what their passion is and even defining what passion is I try to simplify it by asking them, what is it that you love doing that you wouldn’t even have to have anybody pay you for? Is there something that you love doing that you’re going to do anyway – that’s your passion, whatever the thing is, that’s your passion. If you’re in a place where you’re trying to pursue a career step, prayerfully find out what God is calling you to. A lot of times its tied to that passion that you have, that thing you love doing no matter is somebody is paying you for it or not. The beauty of it would be that if you’re pursuing that and you’re getting paid for it then it’s not even like work.
Then the other thing I tell people to do is not only take a look at the thing that you love but also sometimes if you’re still trying to find what that thing is, ask yourself, what is it that I can’t stand? What is it that I despise or hate? A lot of times that thing is part of your passion as well because in many cases you may be the solution to it. So I tell folks that’s how you can really pinpoint “what am I supposed to do, what am I called to do?” What do you love doing and if you’re still trying to figure out what direction to go in, what is something you hate to see, something that you can’t stand? Some folks may be troubled by seeing kids not living out their potential, maybe they’re called to education or something that helps those kids get to that point so, those are the things that I encourage young people to explore.
DS: Do you have advice to artists who may doubt their artistic ability? I know you’ve mentioned this issue in some of your posts, but wanted you to give our readers some insight and encouragement on this.
Tony Snipes: Here’s the thing that really kept me encouraged all through life…especially if I knew anything – and this isn’t to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but if I knew anything I knew that I could draw. I knew that I could paint, I would explore painting and everything, but the bottom line is I was confident that I’ve got a God-given affinity and talent to draw. I don’t want this to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but it was just something that if you’re sure of anything be sure that this is a gift that you have, and those artists like that who have doubt I would ask them to take a step back and ask yourself, what is the thing that without a doubt that you know that you can do regardless of what anybody else says. This is not about bragging but this is just recognizing something that you’re confident in…and if happens to be that gift, their talent, their art then focus on bettering and sharpening that skill.
Tony also does workshops and seminars on a variety of topics related to purpose and the arts. See some pictures and topics from his past events below:
Stay tuned for the next post from Tony where he answers a question about Christian Artists vs. Artists Who are Christian and how to approach work that compromises with your values.
Art Lessons from God is a great online spiritual resource that delves into questions of gifting and calling. Though the site is targeted toward visual artists it has much insight that could inspire artists of any type from writers and performers to musicians and filmmakers.
Here are some great past posts and discussions on the site, many of which could apply to a variety of arts:
– Anointed versus Talented: What’s the Difference?
Talent is defined as: “Natural endowment or ability of a superior quality”…
– God Never Commits to Talent
A pastor I knew mentioned this several years ago and, to me, it still is something I have to work on always…
– God’s 7 Principles of Artistic Purpose
These are the 7 principles that guide the you, the visual artist, into a relationship with the Spirit of God in order to give God access to the creative gift He placed within you…
– Artists Taking The Mystery Out of Hearing from God
How do you hear from God, especially concerning the purpose and use of your creative talent…
– Your Artistic Talent as a Weapon
Your creative ability has power… The enemy has no creative ability…