Created to Thrive – review

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Created to Thrive: An Artist’s Guide To Living In Divine Abundance by Matt Tommey



My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A few weeks ago I took part in a three-session masterclass hosted by artist and mentor to artists Matt Tommey. The class was called “Artist Mindset Makeover.” In it, Tommey stated that one’s mindset is the greatest factor in an artist’s success or failure.

In the lectures he defined what a mindset is and identified potential internal roadblocks to experiencing success as an artist. He named roadblocks like memories of put-down words from teachers, parents and friends in childhood and past failures, of fears that we’re too old, too young, or not educated enough to be successful at this activity we love. Even the fear of success could be a roadblock. He also suggested how these roadblocks can be overcome by aligning our thoughts and mindset with what the Bible says about our identity and purpose.

Because the course was based on Tommey’s book Created to Thrive, I re-read it in the past weeks and was encouraged and inspired anew.

In the book Tommey goes into the idea of mindset in greater depth in chapters with names like “As a Man Thinks…” and “Be Transformed.” He casts a vision for Christian artists that inspires them to respect and honor the aspects of imagination and creativity put within us all as part of our creation in the image of God.

Using stories and parables from the Bible as his basis, he challenges Christian artists to use and develop their talents to be salt and light in their time, place, and sphere of influence. Rather than say more, I’ll let the book speak for itself. Here are some bits that I highlighted.

From the chapter “As a Man Thinks”:

“The power of agreement is a core principle in the Kingdom of God. Whatever you agree with, you welcome into your life” (Kindle Location 665).

From the chapter “Be Fruitful and Multiply”:

“I know all too well what we start in our own strength, we have to maintain in our own strength” – (KL 1144).

From the chapter “Faithful with Little, Ruler over Much”:

“Just realize when God invests something in you, or when the Holy Spirit brings an idea to you and puts something in your hand, it’s serious because it’s not just about you. It’s about His Kingdom going forth. You’re His ambassador in the earth within your circle of influence” – (KL 1351).

From the chapter “For Such a Time As This”:

“I believe when God said, ‘Let there be light’ in Genesis, He was saying something deeper like, ‘Let there be a release of My nature,’ or ‘Let the light of My nature invade this environment that is dark, chaotic, and void.’ When God declared the light of His very nature to be released, all of a sudden everything was transformed! My friend, when God shows up, life as we know it is transformed” (KL 1599)

“As a child of God, you are already commissioned as His ambassador on the earth to release His power and His nature for such as time as this. You have a divine purpose and the divine provision you need to pursue your divine assignment with divine authority. Realize, ambassadors have the authority to make a change in the name of the one who sent them” (KL 1660).

“It’s the habits of your life that create space for God to move, and it’s the habits you create which will enlarge your capacity to be used by Him” (KL 1673).

Finally, from the chapter “Moving from Hobby to Pro”:

“Creating with the Holy Spirit is about process, not product. It’s about continually cultivating ears to hear, eyes to see, and senses to feel what God is saying and doing within your world and then responding through your chosen creative process. For some people, that’s a very intentional process where their art speaks specific messages for specific situations, and for others, like me, it’s a much more fluid approach.

For example, as a natural materials sculptor, I create pieces that reflect the beauty of the natural world as I interpret it through my relationship with God. I simply create what I love as I’m inspired, because I believe God put those desires in me, and I sense His pleasure when I’m involved in the creative process” (KL 1883).

And a last one that I believe is so true:

“Realize people don’t buy art because they need it, they buy because of connection. That connection might be with the artist, the process, the medium, the experience, the subject matter, or any combination of these factors, but there has to be a connection” (KL 1902).

If you’re Christian artist (whatever your art form), struggling with your calling or with how to make progress towards goals and dreams that seem unattainable, Tommey’s book Created to Thrive will definitely put you on a positive path toward thriving, even flourishing as a Christian creative.

Tommey is also a mentor to artists and hosts a regular artist podcast. Find out more about these aspects of his work at MattTommeyMentoring.com

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Seasons in a Creative’s Life

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“Spring Song” – Violet Nesdoly (Watercolor on 140 lb. cold press paper, 9×6 inches).

This week I’m taking in a three-session webinar on the artist’s mindset led by artist coach and mentor Matt Tommey. Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a Q&A where Tommey answered submitted questions. The first question and his answer opened a window for me.

The question was (not the exact words but the gist) “What do I do when I feel an artistic calling in many directions?”

Matt’s answer:

  • Many creatives are polymaths, i.e. Renaissance people who are interested and excel at many things. It is not surprising that they struggle with finding a focus when their interests and skills are wide and varied.

  • The answer to that is to recognize that life has SEASONS.

He spoke of his own seasons of leading worship (music), basket making (art), church involvement, now leading his mentoring program.

Our seasons are determined by many things: our age, family and responsibilities to them, finances, health, etc. When we are aware of life’s seasons, and the changes they bring, we don’t need to stress when we find our focus shifting as a result of changing circumstances.

I can relate to that!

When our family was growing up, my creative pursuits involved decorating my home, sewing for my family, gardening, and doing the odd craft project.

Then I started a home-based medical transcription business and for a time my attention was absorbed by it—along with family and church responsibilities.

Once it was established, I got the itch to work on an old love—writing. I registered for a writing course and within about a year, had sold my first article. Many published articles, stories, devotions, puzzles and poems followed. I published a couple of poetry books and even wrote two novels.

Then in 2017 I discovered Bible Art Journaling through a request to review the wonderful book The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling. Oh shiny!

(Many of my siblings are talented artists with formal art training. I loved art but felt I couldn’t measure up, so shoved that old interest into the background. When I saw the Bible Journaling book and the projects people did, immediately I knew I wanted to try this, just for the fun and spiritual enrichment of it. I promptly ordered a journaling Bible, which I enjoy doodling in to this day.)

My next step into art was joining Instagram where my visual world exploded with the wonderful art work of others. I joined in on a few art and lettering challenges and stumbled across Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day, about keeping a sketch journal.

On December 7, 2018, I made my first sketch journal entry, with a resolve to do a little art every day. It’s a resolve I’ve pretty much honoured since them.

What I discovered, however, as I let myself get drawn ever more into the vortex of art, was that my formerly high enthusiasm for writing was waning. All the creative oxygen in my life was being sucked up by art. I often felt sad and a little guilty about this, but didn’t feel like going back to the committed writing lifestyle either.

Yesterday’s discussion by Matt about flowing with the seasons of life, then, helped me put my experience into perspective.

I realized there were reasons why I was moving out of the writing season.

  • I have written about many many things and felt talked-out.
  • As I age (and I am a senior) words are harder to find. The old mind isn’t quite as nimble and sharp as it used to be. Art is easier on the brain.
  • The production cycle for any big writing project, like a book, is long and taxing. Even if one puts one’s heart and soul into it, it is often not monetarily viable. (It’s true what they say, that writing the book is only a fraction of the work that’s needed to get it out into the world.)

All that to say, I now understand my journey better. I feel free to embrace this new season of visual art creation as a step that was right and perhaps even inevitable.

Our Lecture One assignment was: “Create a piece of art that reflects your response to the beauty of God’s gift of imagination.” The Red-wing Blackbird study that illustrates this post is based on a reference photo i took a few weeks ago, of a blackbird singing his heart out. It symbolizes the joy of a new season.

One more thing!

We’re having a two-day sale at our Etsy shop. You will find 15% off all items in the store (art cards and wall art). Check it out: at Violet Nesdoly Art.

Sketch a Bird in your Journal

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During this time of social isolation due to Covid-19, various art challenges are popping up around the internet. One I have signed onto is Matt Tommey’s #quarantinedcreatives challenge. Starting on April 14th, those who signed up got an email with a daily prompt and challenge.

Yesterday’s challenge was interesting and stretching: “Make a process video.” That would be a video showing one’s art process (often shot as time lapse and then sped up).

I’m allergic to cameras and don’t have a camera mount to make such a video in any case.  Instead of a video, I took still photos of the steps of my project, then combined them with instructions. Below is my project: “Sketch a Bird in your Journal.” I hope it makes sense!