I’ve been thinking a lot about influences lately, so I thought I’d throw out some shout outs to artists who have been encouraging to me as an artist/writer. For this round I’m just going to do Christian artists, just because finding my place as one has been a journey (and also because if I expanded it, this would be much, much longer), and because they’ve been specifically helpful to me in this regard. So in no particular order, here we go!
Daniel Warren Johnson (@danielwarrenart)
Daniel Warren Johnson is a comic book writer/illustrator/web comic artist, perhaps most well known for his webcomic Space Mullet, “an episodic style comic about a washed up, Ex-Space Marine trucker named Jonah, and his alien co-pilot, Alphius,” and his new comic Extremity, which explores the varying impacts of pursuing revenge as a collective family unit. Not only is his work beautiful (fyi, it is pretty violent, so if that’s not your jam, I wouldn’t follow this up), but his writing is also thoughtful and complex in its introduction and exploration of its themes. My favorite example of this is issue #3 of Extremity. I love his characters for their complexity and heart (Alphius, Bobbi, Shiloh, and Rollo being some prime examples), and for the artfulness of his compositions, especially in their subtle echoing and support of his themes (a good example is this page of Space Mullet http://www.space-mullet.com/comic/chapter-4-pg-35/ and all of the third issue of Extremity.)
Anyway, you should check out his work (he’s got more than just those two projects for sure), order it at your local comic book store, and if you ever get the chance, snag a commission.
Meg Syverud (@BluDragonGal)
Meg Syverud is the writer and illustrator of Daughter of the Lilies, a beautiful webcomic that follows adventurers Thistle, Orrig, Brent, and Lyra. From her site:
What happens when a man who kills monsters falls in love with a girl who thinks she is one?
Brent, a brutish, freelancing adventurer, realizes that he’s fallen for his coworker, Thistle: a shy, talented Mage who considers herself a monster, and who is relentlessly pursued by a tyrannical dictator.
Daughter of the Lilies is a comic largely about the importance self-worth, the different forms love can take, how it can redeem and empower us, as well as issues relating to anxiety. (There are also unicorns, manticores, ghouls, goblins, cannibalistic elves, and so on.)
One of the things I love about this comic (besides the fact it’s really pretty) is one of the goals behind it, which is to have open dialog about Christianity in the webcomic sphere.
One of the things I really love about it is how she actually does it, through story and community discourse. It’s lovely (and a great story and concept too!).
The Bible Project (@JoinBibleProj)
I’ve mentioned these guys before. They’re a Portland based non-profit whose “mission is to help people see the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus,” and they do it through a variety of resources, including YouTube videos, books, and, my personal favorite, their podcast. I’ve only known about them since fall of last year, and only started listening to their podcast a few weeks ago, but I’ve seen a lot of growth come out of even that short period of time. They do a great job of mixing intellect, history, and literary knowledge to reveal what the Bible is and how to read it properly, and I’m really grateful for their thoughtful and varied approach.
N.D. Wilson (@ndwilsonmutters)
N.D. Wilson is a non-fiction and Middle Grade fiction author from Idaho. I’ve read his 100 Cupboards trilogy, following home grown adventurers from Kansas trying to save basically everything from an evil witch, and most of Death by Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent, and the more I read, the more I appreciate his work (I’ll admit, I wasn’t terribly sure of him when I first read 100 Cupboards. Thank goodness I came back!). It’s very poetic, which is lovely, but it also does a great job of calling evil what it is. I know on my writing journey, one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is to acknowledge evil and its power without either glorifying or magnifying it–that is to take it seriously but always recognize there is a greater and better power still, and that’s something that I think N.D. Wilson does very well. I love both the purity and humanity of his characters (I think of Henry, who can one minute be squabbling with his cousin, and the next flinging himself in the line of danger to save her), and the poetry of his writing (the opening to Dandelion Fire is a great example of this, if I recall). I’ve been so encouraged by the strangeness of his stories (weird books do matter!), and have learned much from his example of maintaining good in the face of evil within an invented world. I am reminded of broader scopes and Tolkien-esque adventures when I read his work, and am encouraged to think such stories can and do happen in our day to day lives.
I’ve mentioned my friend Alma a few times before, but I just wanted to call attention to her again, partly because she has a new podcast (@voicescast) regarding people who use their voices in life and how to do so well, and partly because if we’re talking about artistic influences, she’s definitely on my list. She’s a neo-soul singer, so there’s not a lot of overlap in our trades, but she has encouraged and inspired me in her thoughtfulness and wrestling with what it means to be a Christian artist, for her quality in craft, for her outspokenness in, well, many things, for her great love for cultivating meaningful conversation, and for actually going out and getting things done! She’s lovely. Check her out.
To finish off, I’d like to highlight just a few other artists that I like, those who might have had lesser influence (so far), or just that I feel are worthy of mentioning as great artists.
Kyle Culver (@kulver), a friend of mine with a passion for art, film, and storytelling who constantly inspires me with the volume of projects he works on, and his enthusiasm for story and self improvement. https://www.youtube.com/user/akaneo17/playlists
Mutemath (@MUTEMATH), a band you might know whose lyrics bring comfort.
Rivers & Robots (@riversandrobots), another great band whose lyrics bring perspective.