A Review of
Drawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers
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Reviewed by Larry Shallenberger.
A Christian, by virtue of the very title, is someone whose character is shaped in the process of imitating Jesus’ life, resulting in sanctification and the character of Jesus is formed in the individual. The Apostle Paul used the language of Genesis to describe this transformation by audaciously claiming a Christ follower was part of the New Creation. If emulating Jesus results in sanctification, then, according to Troy Bronsink, the imitation of God’s work at creation results in increased creativity and generative capacity.
Drawn In is Troy Bronsink’s labor of love in which he shares lessons learned along the his decades long journey of attempting to understand the creative process. Troy is a Presbyterian minister, musician, and workshop leader who has expressed his creative gifts in parachurch, emerging church, and pastoral ministry for over twenty years. He admits that process of writing this book took eight long years, in part due to arduous battle to birth a creative faith community in Atlanta. This experience resonates with his conviction in the book that the creative process is cyclical not linear.
In Section One: God’s Relationship with Creation we see this cyclical process attached to God’s very nature. His patient examination of Genesis 1 and 2 reveals six “waves” in God’s creative method: God’s dreams love the future into existence, he patiently hovers over the chaos, he tasks risks, he listens with us, he reintegrates each created thing with the rest of creation, and he rests. From there Bronsink explores how God relates to his medium and his capacity to be in the moment with is creation. There are points of application in the first section of the book as well as creative exercises throughout but this passage of the book is an extended anthem celebrating God’s creativity. We are reminded God creates out of love, finds joy in what he creates, and choses an intimate posture with his creation and are drawn into worship.
It’s not until Section Two: Our Relationship with Creation that Bronsink invites us to recover the lost creative arts found in imitating God’s creative nature. Chapter Seven provides the hinge pin that moves the reader from admiring God’s creativity to imitating it. He invites creatives to follow their senses in God’s creative process. He summons Anne Dillard as the example of using our senses to find artistic “honey”:
Author Anne Dillard teaches that the writing life is similar to chasing a bee in search of honey. The author waits for the bee, puts it in a jar, and then lets it go and watches where the little bugger flies. The she walks to the last place she recalls seeing the bee and waits to find another. When she does, she puts it in a jar and readies herself to start the process again. She lets the bee free and repeats the process until she arrives at the live within which lies the honey. (97)
It is this process of “honey seeking” that gives the artist, whether he or she is a preacher, a writer, a painter, or a musician “the eyes” to see the Creator and creation and the invitation to participate in god’s generative cycles. Bronsink shines in his ability to share hard earned experiences about the struggles of finite artists attempting to imitate the Infinite. God dreams and creates equally well. Meanwhile, mortal artists tend to bias toward either vision or work while neglecting the other. God creates for the benefit of community. We continually run the risk of commidifying art for selfish reasons. He writes:
Art can accomplish this [shared risk between the artist and the audience] by creating a shared experience that places all the viewers into a place of interpretation. If art is simply used to recruit around a cause, it is called propaganda. When art is used to appeal to a certain affinity group, it is called marketing. While marketing and propaganda employ the skills of the artistic process, they do not include others outside of their goals in that process. Not only that, but when propaganda and marketing complete their tasks, the holders of the art rarely trust the process enough to take their own risks. In fact, consumers of propaganda and marketing become even further dependent upon the producers of those artifacts and less and less capable of making life for themselves. (144)
Troy doesn’t indulge himself in a polemic about the state of contemporary Christian music or the (miss)use of the arts in worship services, but invitation is there for artists, writers, and pastors to check their motivations using any form of art to communicate Biblical truth. The book ends where it begins, with an exploration of the six waves and how creatives may practice them.
Drawn In is both hymnal and handbook for the any Christian engaged in the creative process. Creativity is a process of the accountants and engineers just as much it belongs to potters and painters, so this book should have a broad appeal. Troy Bronsink’s thirty-two exercises are suitable for the reader no matter what his or her medium of choice happens to be. One can expect this book to be numbered among the best attempts describe and develop the Christian imagination.
Larry Shallenberger is a pastor and author living in Erie, PA. You can visit him online at larryshallenberger.com.