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What does it take to be a successful Christian artist?

Ned Bustard

Ned Bustard | Facebook | Fair Use

John Burger - published on 02/27/20

Ned Bustard puts fidelity to vocation over profit motive.

If Ned Bustard followed his father’s advice, he’d be a failure.

“He said that money was a way of keeping score. Money is how you knew you were successful,” Bustard said in a video for Religion Unplugged.

Bustard did end up starting his own business, as his father did, but it’s his devotion to art — and to God — that has been the criterion for business decisions, not the bottom line.

“I’m definitely not financially successful as an artist,” Bustard said in an interview with the website, “But no one in my family has ever gone hungry, and for that, I thank God for his provision.”

His business is publishing beautiful books and making linocut prints in the tradition of medieval German artisans.

“He has always been inspired by anonymous German woodcuts from the Middle Ages, as well as Ethiopian icon art and illuminated manuscripts, and he uses their inspiration when creating his prints,” Religion Unplugged said. Bustard sums up his philosophy this way:

“For me, the idea of success has shifted from ‘Am I making a lot of money or am I the best in the biz?’ to ‘Am I being responsible for what God has given me to do and make?’ … God has made us to be certain people; he’s given us certain gifts, and I bring glory to God when I’m doing what I was made to do and doing it well. So to ask the question of an artist, ‘Are you successful?’ I think it’s the wrong question. Say, ‘Are you doing what you were designed to do?’ For me, success as an artist is being part of a community. It’s investing in the people that God has woven into my life and it’s about making work that’s going to bless them.”

Aside from his business, Bustard volunteers for his Presbyterian church by creating coloring pages for Sunday School, to help kids “connect with the sermon.”

Bustard is also interested in reconnecting art with the Church. Especially after visiting Italy, he sees a disconnect between the two, in many cases.

“I think that the arts have been abandoned by the Church,” he lamented. “In Italy, people didn’t separate the two, like, ‘Oh, you make art and you’re a Christian? That’s totally normal,’” Bustard said.

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