Boys Don’t Draw

We are all artists.

That was the bold claim I made in my first Art Room Parables column.  I’ll admit, I didn’t offer any explanation up front, and maybe you don’t believe me.  I think I even may have bristled a few people with that claim.

“But I’m not creative…” you say.

“I can’t draw a straight line.”

“I like math.”

“I’m a left-brained, type ‘A’ personality.”

“Artists are weird and fruity.”

“Science geeks are boring.  They aren’t artists.”

It wasn’t a typo.  I really meant it, even for all the left-brained, type A, non-creative people, the moms, dads, students, scientists, mathematicians, ditch-diggers and pencil pushers.    So let me explain why you, yes you, are in some way, an artist.

Boys Don’t Draw

Last year, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with a bunch of strangers.  Our time was divided between manual work and children’s ministry and outreach in the community.  On the first evening, we had a conversation to see what strengths and talents each of us had.  Where would we best fit in?  What could we offer the group?  What could we do to make the children’s outreach really great?

Some people were good at leading songs.  A few people, handily enough, spoke Spanish.  Some people preferred to lead Bible lessons.  I told them that I could lead art time (partly because I will do anything to escape doing songs or puppets).  It would be simple, with very few supplies available.

“Boys don’t draw.”

What?  Did that guy I just meet a few hours ago really just say that to me?  Boys don’t draw?  Suddenly, I wondered who had made all that art I had seen in those museums.  Over the course of the trip, this guy wouldn’t play card games with us in the evenings, and really only wanted to talk very seriously about the Bible, in hushed voices.  Maybe he didn’t draw, and he wasn’t encouraging his boy to draw, but boys do draw, and having my masculinity insulted to my face, I suddenly felt inspired to draw on his face…with my fist.

The Art of Living

I get it.  Most people aren’t actually artists.

Some people even think drawing is somehow feminine.  

But despite that, what I mean by calling us all artists has nothing to do with whether or not you have ever seriously picked up a paintbrush, or consider yourself “creative.”

You are “creative” because you create things.

Just look at your life.  You created it!  All of it was created in one way or another.  It didn’t just spontaneously happen.  Every day of your life, you’ve done a little painting or chiseling here or there.  You’ve refined and polished your life a little more each day…

…or else you haven’t.  Maybe there are areas of your life that you’ve been neglecting for a while.  They don’t look quite finished.  Maybe they look kind of sloppy, and clash with the polished, refined parts of your life.

See what I mean?  This column isn’t about art.  It’s not just for artists.  This column is a parable, a metaphor for life.  It’s not about fine art, but the fine art of living.  Sure, science and math are probably also suitable metaphors for life.  Jesus used parables about agriculture, business, and something that everyone has apparently related to for over 2,000 years: lousy contractors.  (Who builds a house on sand?)  But I’m not a scientist or a mathematician.

What Are You Creating?

So, in fact, the question is not are we creating…

…but what are we creating?

Are we creating on purpose?

And are our creations any good?

Last time, I asked you if you actually considered yourself an artist.  Most of you said “no.”  So today, I’m not even going to ask if you are artists.  I want to ask you what you are creating today.

  • Tyler Hess

    You must have cut him off…I’m sure he was about to say “boys don’t draw…inside the lines” because that’s true. My brother got all the being able to draw and paint kinda genes in the family. I thought I was a math guy until I discovered that those Calculus equations that I learned weren’t very useful in making friends. Somehow over time I became a writer. I’d tell you what I’m creating today, but it’s kinda top secret…for now.

  • Morven R. Baker

    Obviously he has never watched a little five year old spend hours creating hundreds of tiny warriors, each complete with his own helmet, spear and shield, climbing a monstrous mountain! My son still creates, being the joint owner of Three Bears Design, and draws the most amazing artwork in his classes at Duke Divinity School representing Spiritual Formation through the ages. Boys can’t draw …. ha!

  • Kris Overtoom

    Boys don’t draw? Did you give him an art history book for Christmas? :-) . Very nice article!

    I guess that I am trying to create four kids who love God, love to read, love to learn and love to create beauty I all it’s forms. I’m trying to create a great marriage. Just recently, i was asked to try to put my own stamp on our church’s kid’s ministry program, which is undergoing so much grown and change thatnI feel like the apostles right before Jesus calmed the storm. But I couldn’t do any of it without God’s help and grace.

  • Robyn McMaster

    My grandson loves to draw. Artists can always use fans to breathe life into their talent!

  • Matrix Lajon

    I write. I also thinking being a parent and husband are parts of being a creative.

    • Matt @ The Church of No People

      Amen. Every day is a new canvas.

  • Adam Baker

    I see my Mom already commented, which makes me smile. Matt, I think you hit it on the head when you said that “maybe he didn’t draw, and maybe he wasn’t encouraging his boy to draw” – fostering creativity within anyone else begins with seeking to expose others to the worlds that the creativity of others has made possible. Boys didn’t draw in his family because he appears to have killed story before it even moved past his lips. How does one do “serious” theology and Biblical study without story? Without awareness of and participation in creativity and the fervor of imagination that is the prophetic, the pastoral, the relational engagement with the created world?

    My parents introduced me to the BBC’s recording of ‘The Hobbit’ when I was 3 or 4 – I’d memorized it and it served as the first burst of rocket fuel for the 30+ years of illustration, fiction, and acting that have followed. It was their support and encouragement to leap forth into new worlds and see possibility within this one that has empowered me as an artist, pastor, storyteller, and friend. If they had killed story within me by not allowing it, I honestly have doubts as to whether or not I would even know Jesus.

    May art, story, and possibility be whispered into the hearts and minds of our children, pointing them toward our endlessly imaginative and creative Lord.

    - Adam Baker

    • Chris Cornwell

      “fostering creativity within anyone else begins with seeking to expose others to the worlds that the creativity of others has made possible.”

      Wow. Well said!

      • Adam Baker

        Thanks, Chris!

        • Matt @ The Church of No People

          Amen. The people around us are all part of our creation. We are kind of the sum of our closest friends and families, right? If you’re not pouring into other people, you’re not going to get a lot out of them.

  • Eileen

    Goodness, I wouldn’t want anyone telling my 8year old son that boys don’t draw. I love all his creations!

  • Christina

    Love your thoughts on boys drawing…and how exactly you wanted to draw on his face haha!!

    Great follow up to your first post Matt :) I’m really enjoying your Art Room Parables column. It brings things to light in such a fun and creative way.

    Love the questions you end with too. To answer today’s question…I hope to create peace for those I’m around today, and a few smiles wouldn’t hurt :)

  • Heather Bowman

    I guess the man who said that boys don’t draw never heard of Van Gogh, Monet, or Degas just to mention a few! I do like your metaphor that we are always creating something. Is what we are creating beautiful and glorifying to God? I think our attitudes have much to do with what we are creating or lack there of. If we are pessimistic in our daily lives, how could we possibly be creating anything beautiful? However, if we appraoch each day with wonder and excitement, ready to explore all that God has done, then what we are creating can’t help but reflect that. Very thought provoking post!

  • Bridget

    Funny you should ask. I just this minute finished sketching my first work on canvas. Tomorrow I start painting.n I’m not an official “artist,” but decided to stop waiting for someone to declare me official. Whether it’s “art” or something else, we were created to create. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Matt @ The Church of No People

      Official artist? It is kind of funny the way we distinguish “fine” art from “folk” art. It’s all art in some form, right? It’s kind of like the difference between clergy and laity. One has more training, but they are both able to read and understand God’s word.

  • Emily_Maynard

    Matt, I love this: “Just look at your life. You created it! All of it was created in one way or another. It didn’t just spontaneously happen.” Thank you for telling the truth about the art in all of life and encouraging us to invest in the creative process of being!