When we were little – 4 or 5 years old – my cousin Blair and I liked sitting on the rocky coast of Maine with paper and crayons, drawing what we imagined to be grand scenes of the mighty ocean; to anyone else, those pictures looked like a bunch of scribbles. As the years past, my pictures were still just scribbles – I have roughly the same degree of artistic talent as an elephant holding a paint brush in its trunk; Blair was a different story: it quickly became apparent that she had real talent as an illustrator. She loved to draw and she was good at it. Over the years she also picked up talent with paint and sculpture.
Jump forward to when we were a pair of 18-year-olds trying to make one of the biggest choices of our lives: COLLEGE. I was bound for the liberal arts, Blair for the fines arts; we both got our first choice: for me, Grove City College, for Blair, the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. We were all so proud of her: despite the fact that no one in the recorded history of our family had ever done anything as impractical as going to art school, we were blown away by her talent and thrilled that she had been accepted to what is arguably one of the greatest art schools in the world.
So, we both packed our bags and shipped off for school. But while I immediately felt that I had made the right choice, Blair was plagued by doubts: not doubts about her choice to be an artist, but with questions about whether she was ready for this. She decided she wasn’t. After two weeks on campus she realized that she had a lot of personal growing to do and that RISD was not the place to do it – not yet, anyway. Of course, it was all a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of brevity I won’t go into more detail.
Thus, Blair found herself taking a spontaneous gap year. In all honesty, she had always wanted to take a year off before college, but now that she was doing so, she didn’t have a plan. But these things always seem to work out in the end: she was offered the chance to go to Scotland to work for six months – something else she had always wanted to do. The only problem: travel is expensive!!!
But, undaunted as ever, Blair came up with a solution: she was an artist, and she was going to support herself as such! She had already created a large and impressive portfolio of original pieces, so she launched a website to sell prints of her work to support her trip abroad. She also started working for commission.
Anyway, skipping ahead a little bit: Blair made it to Scotland where she had the incredible opportunity to work for YoungLife Ministries. In her work, she saw the incredible darkness that comes with a life without Jesus Christ: she saw kids who desperately needed Christ, and new that she was called to share Him with them. But it was very well to do so for six months in a youth camp, but what about back in America? She was going to be an artist, not a minister.
Well, like I said, Blair knew that she had a lot of growing to do: and grow she did. While she was in Scotland she had the chance to explore what it meant to use one’s talents for God; she learned that our gifts are not our own, but are to be used in service to the Lord. What did that mean for a 19-year-old who wanted to draw, but who also wanted to do more than illustrate children’s Bibles?
Eventually she found the answer: she decided not to go back to RISD but instead to enroll in the University of Delaware which had a program in Visual Communication – there, she would not only get a degree in fine art, but also in communications and visual media, learning the skills she would need to communicate truth through her art. She recognized that art isn’t just about creating beauty: it’s about creating the kind of beauty that points the viewer to the author of all things beautiful.
Today, Blair is a Junior at University of Delaware, still working to complete her degree. She is also still selling work through her website to help support her studies. Her story as an entrepreneur is still in it’s early chapters: much of it is still unwritten. Thus far, she has had enough success to allow her to fund the studies that we are confident will one day allow her to share the message that we are all called to spread. We don’t know what she will draw, who she will draw for, or what she will say through her art. But we know that she as chosen a profession that is, above all, about communication, and that she has the greatest story of all to communicate. Through her website and commissioned work she has already been able to start reaching people – now all that’s left is to watch her grow!
I like Blair’s story because it serves an in important reminder of the fact that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to mean something huge: sometimes its something as small as selling art to fund travel. Its also important to remember that as Christians we have a higher calling in whatever we do: to serve the Lord. Blair became an entrepreneur because she was a broke almost-college-student who needed to get to Scotland. Once there, she discovered that her true calling really was art, not business. Now, she’s learning what she wants to say with her art and how she wants to say it. Will she one day go into business for herself as an artist/entrepreneur? Who can say: I personally think that art is a form of entrepreneurship…. The important thing is that we serve the Lord in all we do – be it painting scenes of the cross or painting scenes of nature; running a “Christian Business” or running a “Secular business” that operates on Christian principles. I believe that finding ways to serve the Lord in all that we do is the highest calling of any entrepreneur and that turning our work into a way of serving God is in itself an entrepreneurial act.
Blair also reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to “paint the cross” to serve the Lord. I look at the things she creates and see the Master’s hand: whether she is painting the portrait of a child of God or something silly that just popped into her head, I see the kind of true beauty that is precious not because of who created it or what they created, but because it came from the hand of a woman who loves God and who knows who her talent is from and what it is for.