Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Art Which Nourishes, Art Which Starves

via Pixabay
Last week I picked up a phenomenal article by K.M. Weiland about risk-taking with your art as a writer. In it, she said that
"...Good art is innovative art. It is not what we initially expect. It takes time for us to adjust our expectations. “Bad” art, on the other hand, is what we initially expect, in the sense that we’ve been there before. It’s familiar and therefore often cliched. It’s not risky. It’s very, very safe. And as a result, it’s ultimately forgettable."- Learn 5 Ways to Take Risks With Your Writing, by K.M. Weiland 
It made me think about several pieces of art I've come across lately and how they each took different sides of the equation.

The first two contrasts were both Christian art. One was God's Not Dead, which we borrowed off Hoopla for free on a Sunday evening. (Sorry guys, I'm many years behind on this one.) The other was N.D. Wilson's fantasy book, Boys of Blur.

Both are art. Both have agendas. But Boys of Blur is clearly innovative art, and the other is in many ways art that you'd expect. God's Not Dead is safe. It's "familiar and therefore...cliched". It's also predictable. The self-centered businessman, three breakup scenes, a conversion scene, and a Christian winning a debate. It's meant to inspire Christians to take a stand for what they believe but it lacks originality in characters and situations. It leaves me comfortable, but not always convicted or changed.

Wilson's Boys of Blur, however, is in a completely different camp. The poetry of his writing style in a book that young boys would love almost seems like setting a gourmet meal before an audience that can't even appreciate it. (And in saying that, I'm not trying to be derogatory towards school-age boys. It's just you don't normally connect them to poetic styles). It's a story that combines fantasy and war without even mentioning prayer or Scripture. And yet, in a symbolic inclusion, the church building features in various scenes again and again. His characters are priceless: Cotton, the homeschool kid. Sugar, the football player with a diamond in his ear (I just loved his character profile. He was so vivid.) Charlie, and his abusive step-dad. Flame and feathers, hotels and church, knife and panther. Published by Random House, the book is not openly Christian. But it's good art. It's art I want to savor. To own. To re-read and introduce others to.

The second category of contrasting art, funnily enough, showed up on recent television viewings.

television viewings. schuyler, stop being so formal. 

Our family loved Food Network on our annual vacations where we had cable television. We would collect recipes in the morning, watch competitions like Iron Chef in the evening, and it was part of our vacation experience. But over the years we noticed a shift. The cooking shows descended into more and more competition shows, and those shows started including more profanity, prideful competition, and revenge. Don't get me wrong. I still love Iron Chef, and I don't mind an occasional episode of Chopped. But I wouldn't call it art. It's among the junk food of the television offerings.

Recently, however, sis found The Great British Baking Show 3 with our library card Hoopla rentals. We've been savoring it, one episode per evening. Like Chopped and Iron Chef, it has all the elements of competition. But in a way that is doesn't rely on revenge for drama, it is full of art. The creativity of flavor combinations and baking skills. The diversity of the cast and their personalities. Their willingness to help one another succeed, and their regret when someone is eliminated. The standard of art is higher. You walk away after an episode feeling like you've just eaten a piece of fine cheesecake, and you can't wait until tomorrow night when you get to eat another one.

Bad art takes from you. It takes brain cells and creativity. It leaves you feeling vaguely guilty, kind of like an excessive amount of junk food. It's for entertainment. But good art nourishes. It nourishes with creativity, quality, and a deep joy of the soul. It's oftentimes risky, not always predictable. And memorable in the best of ways.

Read art that nourishes. Write art that nourishes. We'll all be a better world for it.

What good art have you been enjoying lately?


  1. I was just talking with some friends last night about the Great British Baking Show. XD

    I agree that the best art is usually unique. People who are trying to play it safe or to make money often create within a cliché. People who have something burning in their souls that must be created tend to be original, because the art itself is more important to them than what people will say or think. I find it funny and sad that a single book, wildly popular and written in an unusual style, can be used by publishers to limit many other artists to imitation if they want to be published (One Thousand Gifts and The Hunger Games come to mind as recent examples).

    This is great food for thought!

    1. I feel like the GBBS has extended the joy of the Olympics for our family--all watching together/making predictions/in suspense. :D

      And yes, totally agree!

  2. I love this so much! You've put into words something I've been thinking a little about lately. Thank you!! :)


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