Encounters and Writings

Artists by Default

One of the things we often talk about is the power of art, the artistry of the Lord, and how anyone can partner with Him to make wonderful pieces of work.

Hello everyone! It is my honor and pleasure to be writing to you all. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cameron Suter and I am a Cincinnati-based artist, graphic designer, and lover of Jesus! I have known Micah for several years now, and in that time we have grown to be very close friends, brothers, and “Bubbas.”

One of the things we often talk about is the power of art, the artistry of the Lord, and how anyone can partner with Him to make wonderful pieces of work. This is the context in which I would like to share with you the perspectives Jesus has helped me learn towards art. I pray it is a blessing for you to read and an encouragement to draw nearer to Him.

Bubbas_1Art is empowered expression. That’s how I look at it anyway. A purposeful play between the internal brewing of a heart and the outside world. Art was never meant to be a prestigious title reserved for the few and talented, but rather a method to describe who we were made to be. Put bluntly, we were made in the image of the Creator, the most talented artist ever! So whether we like or not, we are technically all artists. It’s really that simple.

But what’s that you’re telling me? You can’t draw anything but stick figures? Well for one, I can almost guarantee that’s only from a lack of trying. Even if it were true though, that you could only draw stick figures, then draw stick figures! A stick figure expressing something meaningful to you has just as much worth in my mind as the Sistine Chapel. Is that ridiculous? Does it sound absurd? Is Michelangelo rolling around in his grave? Perhaps so. But for me, the power of art isn’t found in the technical prowess of a piece, but rather the heart behind it.

Some of my favorite pieces of art are small tokens that have been gifted to me over the years. For example, a messy but exquisite portrait of me drawn by a homeless man as we sat on a curb. Or a glass vase assembled with ornamental beads and fake flowers that sits on my dining-room table. All these things are art functioning to the highest degree, and all are proudly displayed throughout my apartment. Their value doesn’t come from years of study, nor from a mastery of formal elements/principles of design. Their value comes from having been made by heart that decided I was worthy to receive a piece of its own creation.

Now surely, I struggle with the temptation of seeing my art with relative value too. There are certain artists I really look up to and will often compare my work to theirs and feel a void of fulfillment.

“If only I could paint like that.”

“Why can’t I be as good as they are?”

“Can I just have their life???”

These are all things that come to mind when I view certain artists. This isn’t what I choose to believe though. I believe my work and your work both hold objective value beyond compare. I think it is healthy to aspire towards artistic growth and to challenge oneself, but this can’t come at the cost of degrading one’s present work and abilities. Nor should a false humility be expressed through self-depreciation.

Instead, I view my artistic practice as a seed planted by God for the purpose of glorifying Him in a unique way. In that, I needn’t see my own passions through the lens of others’ work. If I do exactly as others are, then God may not be as glorified as if I embraced the unique path He put me on. There’s a special path He put you on too by the way.

I say all this to encourage you to not fear the artistic itch you may be feeling. Do not be afraid of how your art looks. Let it be what it is. So long as you are able to express yourself through the piece and/or the process of making it, then it has endless value. Heck, sometimes making “bad” art is cathartic and fun! Whip out some paints, splatter it around, make a mess! (Putting a tarp down beforehand might be beneficial though.)

But again you say to me, “Cameron, I want to to make this or that type of art! I want to learn how to paint realistically, sculpt dynamic forms, take photos that aren’t with my iPhone, and draw with color that doesn’t look muddy!” Awesome, I’m glad you have a direction you want to explore within art. The only thing you need to do is take a step into it and have attainable expectations. If your goal is to paint a photo-realistic portrait and you’ve only ever painted with dollar-store watercolors, just realize that for a while it’s not going to look how you want it to. But look for what you do like about your piece, even if it’s just the fact that you tried.

From there, keep stepping. Try using different materials, different papers, working at different times of day. Try standing up when you make art, or sitting on the floor. What happens when you hold the pencil in your other hand? What happens when you paint with you eyes closed? You don’t have to like what you made, but you should enjoy the process of creating if at all possible. And after you’ve finished, don’t be upset by what you see! Maybe it’s a mess and you got paint on the dog (don’t worry, he feels avant garde), but you just created! Something exists by your hand that wasn’t there before!

Research artists, not to copy their work, but to learn from their methods and to make your own. Inspiration is contagious. As is motivation, so encourage others to keep “arting” too.

And finally, keep practicing, take it slow, and try not to get mad at yourself. Art can be difficult, but craft comes with consideration and dedication. If a certain craft is not your thing, no problem! Find what you enjoy making and lose yourself in it for a bit. Grab a snack, a nice drink, your favorite tunes and see what can be created today. If you aren’t satisfied with anything you made, at least you jammed and had a snack – a guaranteed pleasure.

So get out there. Give it a go. Be proud of yourself. Make art.

Also, send me pictures. I’d love to see what you made.

Below is a digital painting I recently did as a part of a design internship that I’ve been blessed to have at the church I attend.  We have started a new sermon series called “The Worst Stories in the Bible” as a way to dig into the stories that are difficult to understand, process, or even accept.

This first piece depicts Jephthah’s Vow, found in Judges 11.  Here, Jephthah is shown in anguish as he is surrounded by the memories of his life and losses, but the light of God shines in the story nonetheless.


If you would like to see more of my artwork, feel free to visit, follow, or contact me through the following: