In gearing up for the Southeastern Conference for Faith & Art on August 13, it’s the perfect time to get to know our keynote speaker, David Taylor. As a pastor at Hope Chapel in Austin, Texas, David oversaw the arts ministry and adult education program. He also edited the book For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts. With degrees in theology (MCS) and biblical studies (ThM) and his current doctoral studies at Duke University, David keeps busy, but he still took time to answer our questions and translate some good advice. Read on to learn how he does it all.
Q: What is your favorite space to create?
David Taylor: Either holed up in my office or while walking or running.
Q: What is your favorite snack to eat while creating?
DT: Black tea, homemade bread and dark chocolate.
Q: How do you handle artist’s block (times when it is hard to create)?
DT: I try to re-route in order to avoid bogging down in a plan that no longer works or in a route of creativity that no longer seems promising. Or I go for a walk to clear my head. Or I put something down on paper, even if I know that I might hate it later, and then call it a day. Some days I grind it out. Other days I figure it’s not worth it.
Q: How do you stay motivated and disciplined as an artist in our distracting society?
DT: Ritualized practices make a world of a difference. And I make sure that somebody knows and cares what I’m working on and has permission to ask me how I’m coming along. That person can ask me at any time why I’m allowing myself to remain distracted and can pull out the BS meter whenever I start making repeated excuses.
Q: What is the best advice someone has given you?
DT: My father: “El que no monta, no cae,” which translates from Spanish as, “If you don’t mount the horse, you’ll sure as heck never fall.”
Q: What is your theme song?
DT: “Slow but steady.”
Q: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
DT: That’s easy: a wolf.
Q: Who/what has inspired you lately and/or locally (i.e. other artists, exhibits, shows, bands, designers, etc)?
DT: If I’m restricting this to my artistic calling, then I’d say my PhD supervisor, Jeremy Begbie, my filmmaker friends, Mike Akel and Jeffrey Travis, and of course my wife, Phaedra. For starters, I guess, because my whole family would probably factor largely.
Q: Have you worked in your medium in some sort of community lately, be it collaboration, brainstorming, etc? How has that environment affected the work?
DT: Not much lately, unfortunately. These days I mainly write academic essays. They don’t have to be boring, of course, so we try to keep them interesting to read.
Q: What is one book/song/painting/piece/etc that has been enriching to your faith?
DT: If I had to choose one thing (and really, that’s quite unfair!), I’d pick Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I chewed on that novel for weeks after I’d finished it.
Q: What is your connection to the Divine when you create? Does it resonate with you spiritually when you come up with new work?
DT: For me to create art is to inhabit the kind of space that the Triune God habits eternally, not because there is anything extra special about art-making but because the cosmos was created for this kind of creative activity to occur “naturally,” as it were, and for myself creative activity arises out of a sense of being summoned to this vocation, nothing more, nothing less, and certainly nothing more fancy than that. My work is a response, both free and en-formed, both spontaneous and contingent, both gracious and obedient, to God’s prior as well as ongoing action in and around me. I realize that comes across like a mouthful. I don’t mean it to, because I view it as mostly simple. It’s like baking bread, building roads, writing laws, educating fifth-graders, plotting space shuttle routes. These creative activities arise in part out of our cultural responsibility as Christians, in part out of our humble stewardship of creation as creatures made in God’s image, and always as a response to the life of God which Christ makes possible through his Spirit. What can I say? I’m incorrigibly trinitarian in the way I see things.