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Artists lead cultural changes in any setting you drop them in.  They gain influence in ways that non-creatives couldn’t dream of.  They have new ideas, new passions, and they make those the ideas and passions of the people.

Just think about American artists.  Jay-Z or Taylor Swift.  Diego Rivera (who wasn’t technically from America, but did create art for the city of Detroit among others) or Norman Rockwell.  Steven Spielberg or George Lucas.

But what’s so different about artists?  Why do they lead cultures in thought and behavior?

Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen of BI Norwegian Business School did a study on artists.  He got to know 481 artists and identified 7 personality traits that tended express themselves in these people.

Below are the results.  The 7 traits with the respective definitions are quotes from the results of Martinsen’s study.

My additions to each section are the applications of the given traits to the Christian faith.  After all, we know that artists play a huge role in the church and in the city.

Once again, here is the link to the original study.

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1. Artists Have an Associative Orientation

Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.

artists graffiti joggingAssociative orientation drives creative thinking.  It is “linked with ingenuity,” says Martinsen.

And when it comes to solving problems or, as artists might see it, finding new ways to address problems, this kind of orientation is what moves artists forward.

So in the Christian world, we’re given themes from the Scriptures which describe the human experience.  Suffering.  Redemption.  Forgiveness.  Love.  Sacrifice.  Triumph.  Perseverance.  Order.  Law.  Revelation.  Reconciliation.  Promise.  Faith.

Christian artists draw out these themes and apply them in ways which are innovative and which the people can understand.

An example would be Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  This allegory crosses draws from fact and fiction simultaneously and paints a picture of the Christian walk which is both realistic and fantastical.

2. Artists Have a Need for Originality

Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude because of a need to do things no one else does.

This can be a trait which leads to sin.  Specifically, rebelliousness toward authority in a proud or licentious manner.

Or it can be a trait which helps push the church toward even more faithfulness to God.

Artists are the ones who will be able to show why the church should shed some of its non-biblical traditions and move into a new paradigm.  One which is potentially more biblical than before.

For example, it is the artists who are calling us to go back to the early church’s model – authentic relationships, caring for the community, loving the unlovable, etc.

3. Artists have High Motivation

Have a need to perform, goal oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.

artists cathedral artIn the world of art, you’ll find so many people who pursue an artistic goal almost blinded from any other direction.  They focus and work until their expression is complete.

You’ll see the same thing in Christian artists, of course.  And it is this very trait which helps them to see the development of thought all the way through.

For example, it is the artists who have completed great works like Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, C.S. Lewis’ body of work, and Handel’s Messiah.

4. Artists Have High Ambition

Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.

Yes, artists want their work to be in the spotlight.

But it doesn’t have to be sinful pride as its motivation.  It can be a desire to see God’s goodness shone to the world.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But this drive to be the center of attention, when it’s used correctly, can be a good in itself.  It is, in essence, the reason why certain Christian artists are more widely-renown than others – Chris Tomlin, Kirk Cameron, Jefferson Bethke, and, yes, even Chuck Norris.

Obviously, it’s wrong that we’ve created a Christian Celebrity culture, but the drive to shine your light to those around you is not bad.

5. Artists Have High Flexibility

Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optimal solutions.

artists paint painting“Flexibility is linked to insight,” says Martinsen.

This one is so good.  The ability to see different viewpoints.  This is exactly how we can bring our generation back to Christ.  When we understand non-believers, we can address their honest disputes with the Christian faith.

Moreover, within art, when we know the struggles that the world deals with, we can communicate the solutions provided by God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

So C.S. Lewis can write a book called Mere Christianity which dealt with the modern problems which England faced post-WWII.  And he can apply faith directly to it.

LeCrae can identify the pains of living in a post-slavery, post-modern, post-Christian America and make music which resonates with millenials and gangsters alike.

6. Artists Have Low emotional stability

Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.

artists drawing sketchingAs many strengths as artists have, we have to acknowledge the weaknesses as well.

Among artists, they tend to have low emotional stability.  This is a weakness because of the propensity to experience extreme lows in mood and self-doubt.

But here at The Borough, we embody optimism.  Christian artists must remember that, just like all of us, they are created in the image of God.

And as C.S. Lewis put it in his book Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia when the Lion Aslan spoke to Caspian when he was very ashamed of himself and his heritage,

“‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.'”

7. Artists Have Low sociability

Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

Again, we look at a weakness of artists.  The tendency is to be judgmental of others and their ideas.

And yes, when it comes out of a bitter, envious, proud or selfish heart, it’s negative.  Think Beethoven.  (Or pretentious hipster.  It’s no wonder that the *hipsters* to *hipsters who are artists* ratio is very high.  I think it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 1:1.   😀 )

But when an artist is able to be understanding and compassionate with others, then his/her ability to give constructive criticism and create the best solution or product or work is second to none.

So as Christians, artists must learn to be patient with people and become easier to get along with.  Their work and their reputation (which shines on Christ’s reputation) will be held in high esteem.

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