Because I Have To
SIX QUESTIONS . . . I think all good art should do that in people's lives: help them to do more than just look around, but to actually see the world God has made for them to delight in.
Ned Bustard is the owner of an illustration and graphic design firm called World's End Images. He was the art director for the late, great, alternative Christian music publication, Notebored Magazine. Much of his current work is for Veritas Press, for whom he has also written a number of books. In his spare time he does printmaking and is the creative director for Square Halo Books, for whom he edited the book It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. His most recent book is The Church History ABC's (http://www.churchhistoryabcs.com). Some of his illustration work can be viewed at www.NedBustard.com.
In your work, what are you creating, and what are you cultivating? (In Andy Crouch's vernacular, what new culture are you making, and what good culture are you conserving and nurturing?)
Ned Bustard: I don't usually think of myself as creating, but rather making. I am not opposed to the term creating, but since our book came out, I think of myself more as making art to the glory of God rather than creating. As a graphic designer, I see myself as a visual plumber of sorts. I am a craftsman making things that work "good" for people. The word used in Genesis 1 for good in the Hebrew conveys the broad meaning of that which is good, useful, and, especially, good morally—while also conveying the aesthetic moment of beauty. In that way, a nut and bolt are beautiful. They work well. I once made a gold-leafed drawing of a nut and bolt. They're beautiful, in an ordinary way. They might even serve as a symbol for Common Grace.
In my graphic design I seek to make the world a more beautiful place, one job at a time. Most of my work is making books for teaching young students. But I try to apply my craft to make the process of learning a beautiful thing, and add the art of living artists who are Christians as much as possible.
In my illustration work I am making whimsical children's books that point to the faithfulness of God. Particularly in my recent book, The Church History ABCs, I was working to show God's providence over the last 2,000 years as He built his Kingdom through the Church.
In my printmaking I am looking to make "real art" (in contrast to my graphic design, which often doesn't feel like capital-A art), and also conserving good culture by trying to recapture the beauty of the art of medieval woodcuts.
Who is the "public" for your work—who is it for, and how does it affect the lives of those who engage with it?
Our book company, Square Halo Books, has as its tagline that we make "extraordinary books for ordinary saints." I see my "public" as ordinary people: my neighbours, my church. The next generation will not remember my artwork. And to be honest, most of this generation has no clue I exist. But I think "success" is being faithful with the talents God has given to you in the place he has planted you. So I host art shows in my church, I make blockprints and give them to my church friends, and I offer my design work to churches and start-up companies for pennies. That is my community and they are the people God has given me to serve.
I don't know how my work affects people. That is often the most frustrating part of my work. I make books and prints and push them out to sea, not knowing what shore they will land on. But folks keep buying the books, and I have sold a few prints through my Etsy store . . . so somebody likes what I am doing. And I am sure it isn't my mother, because I have been to her house, and my art isn't hanging there.
Why do you do what you do?
The correct answer is "for the Glory of God." And I think there is truth to that in my life, though I couldn't say for sure how much. Beyond that, I do what I do because I have to do it. One of my artist friends, Peter Mollenkoff, and I were talking once and we said that that was the difference between artists and non-artists. An artist keeps making art. He may work all day at a drone job, but when he comes home he goes to work at making art.
What skills, proficiencies, and virtues does this work develop in you?
I think my work helps me to see better. I think all good art should do that in people's lives: help them to do more than just look around, but to actually see the world God has made for them to delight in. My printmaking helps me to grow in patience and perseverance. Not being able to "Save As" or "Copy/Paste" in printmaking like I do in my graphic design helps to really show me the weaknesses in my character.
What five books would you recommend to someone interested in understanding or pursuing the sort of work you do?
I always tell folks interested in making art to the glory of God that this is their assigned reading:
- Philip Graham Ryken, Art for God's Sake (P & R Publishing, 2006) (or Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer)
- It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, edited by me and published by Square Halo Books (I know that sounds vain and self-serving, but it really is a good book, and I only wrote bits of it).
- James Romaine, Objects of Grace: Conversations of Creativity and Faith (Square Halo Books, 2002)
After that, if they want to do design, I suggest:
- Daniel Kantor, Graphic Design and Religion (Gia Publications, 2008)
Beyond that, it is tough to come up with only one choice for #5. Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle was important in my development. Visual Faith by William Dyrness is good, and so is Art & Soul by Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin. Calvin Seerveld's Rainbows for the Fallen World is rather brilliant, as is Art in Action by Guy Hubbard, but both of those are challenging for the average reader. And obviously, I'd suggest folks read any of the other art books by Square Halo Books!
What do you do for fun?
I read. I enjoy listening to music and collaborating in songwriting. I do blockprinting (which isn't always "fun" but I do it and no one pays me, so I guess it qualifies). I play LEGOs with my kids. I used to sail, but I live too far from water nowadays. I really love spending time with my wife . . . she's fantastic.
Upon reflection, I don't do much for fun. I am usually working at my graphic design business or working at the church.
But I'm not complaining. It's good work.