Matt Appling is a former child artist turned art teacher, pastor and writer. His work is helping children and adults in creative and spiritual pursuits.
His first book, Life After Art, was released by Moody Publishers April 2013 and explores the intersection of life, faith, and becoming the people God made us to be. Matt can be found every week at his blog.
Little hands, dancing around the paper. Faces smiling with gaps where baby teeth are missing. Chalk and paint and bits of colored paper swirling around.
I stand in the middle of the room and just take it all in. The noise, the mess, the chaos of pure, innocent creating.
The day I became an art teacher changed my life. I was a natural child artist. But the years and worries of adult life had made me long forget what it was like to be a child sitting in the elementary school art room, experiencing the simple, innocent pleasure of creating.
The children were all so carefree, so joyful. They were so eager to share what they had created, with each other, with me, with their families. As blank paper was filled with color, I discovered a sense of worship, a feeling of the divine in that room. It was profound.
All those little kindergartners came into my art room, absolutely perfect. I wasn’t teaching them to be artists. They already were artists.
But an even bigger revelation was waiting for me as the older children came into my classroom. Second graders, fourth graders, sixth graders. It wasn’t just that their bodies were bigger or that their brains held more knowledge, or that their hands were more coordinated.
Somehow, quite unexpectedly, the older the students grew, the further they grew away from their kindergarten counterparts, the less free they seemed to act in the art room. The oldest students were not proud of their work the way the children half their age were. They did not make bold strokes of the brush with confidence. They went timidly, fearfully. It was as if some kind of invisible shackles had attached themselves to their hands. The bigger the hands, the less confidently they created.
The child artists who entered my room weren’t growing…
…they were disappearing.
And as I watched, I realized that every class of students was a mirror in which I saw my own reflection. I suddenly saw myself as a five-year-old, feet dangling from my chair, creating freely, generously, joyfully. I saw myself as an eight-year-old, growing in abilities but shrinking in confidence. I saw myself as a twelve-year-old, a mere shell of my child self, invisible shackles and all.
I realized that you, me, and nearly every adult around us have been living as former child artists for years, decades without realizing it. And the loss of our identities as child artists has shaped the way we see ourselves, the world, our faith and our purpose profoundly negative ways ever since then.
That is the heart behind Life After Art. This isn’t a book about becoming “artists,” or getting tips on becoming more creative or futilely trying to make your life look like your Pinterest boards. It’s about becoming the human that God created you to be. In fact, if you don’t consider yourself “artsy” or creative, you’ll find out that this book is exactly for you.
I have spent so many years wondering what my purpose is in life, desperately afraid that I missed God’s calling for me. And what I discovered is that it’s not about growing up and learning something new, but looking back and re-learning what was given to us by our Creator…something that we somehow forgot a long time ago.
GIVEAWAY: I am so happy to be giving away five copies of Life After Art to you lovely readers this week. All you have to do is answer the same question I ask every student on the first day of school: “Do you think of yourself as a great artist?” You’ll find in the book that it doesn’t matter what the answer is! Check back on Wednesday for another chance to win.
I hope you’ll come visit me soon. You can find me on my blog or social media or watch the video preview and the first chapter of Life After Art right now! You can also purchase a copy of Life After Art here.Leave a Comment