17 Christian visual artists you should know about
It wasn’t that long ago that the most astonishing, impressive, revolutionary art was created by Christians. Nowadays, the term “Christian artist” doesn’t bring to mind that level of depth and genius at all.
Instead, art made by Christians is associated with the bland and mediocre. The proselytizing, overtly religious, and completely unsubtle.
Or even the “safe;” stuff that doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, whether they’re age two or age 92.
Just run a Google search for “Christian art,” and you’ll see what I mean. The top sites are selling mass-produced prints of doves, rainbows, & crosses, or cheesy slogans and clipart for posters and t-shirts.
That’s not art; it’s merchandise. And a lot of art associated with Christianity, unfortunately, is just merchandise, made to be sold to the evangelical masses. (Note: I believe this is true of both visual art and music, but I’m talking about visual art made by Christians in this post.)
Good Christian artists do exist
Christian art has a bad rap—for really good reason. (The term “Christian art” itself is a bizarre concept—but that’s another topic for another time.)
Because of this, many Christian artists don’t identify themselves as Christian artists. This allows them more of a chance for their work to be taken seriously … but it can make it really hard to find great art made by Christians.
Yet the beliefs of Christianity provide a lot of material for very moving art. It can be really enriching for a believer to experience spiritual themes through art made by other believers.
That’s why this directory of living Christian artists exists. It’s a list of talented Christians who make visual art, including links to their projects and web sites.
About this list of Christian artists
Here are the primary criteria I’m using to determine if an artist makes the list.
1. The artist professes Christian faith
The artist must be a Christian, though his or her work doesn’t need to be overtly religious in nature.
2. The person works with visual arts
The Christian artist needs to work with visual media (I will not be listing poets or musicians here).
3. Their work is art, not a product
This is where it gets a little subjective, and in many cases will just come down to my opinion. There are some Christian artists that I may choose not to add to this list. It doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re talented or that I’m making a judgement call on the quality of their work. In most cases, it will be because I see their work more as a product than I do as art.
OK, here we go. This list isn’t static; it will continue to grow as I find more artists to mention. So please, let me know in the comments if you know of one that I missed!
Makoto Fujimura: a Christian art thought leader
No list of modern artists who follow Christ would be complete without Makoto Fujimura. He’s an outspoken Christian, beloved among the Christian arts community.
A contemplative artist, he creates huge abstract works with immense thought behind them. Fujimura is an active public figure; he gives lectures and has published several books regarding his thoughts on art. He is the founder of the International Arts Movement and the Fujimura Institute.
In Makoto FujuMura’s own words:
I am not a Christian artist. I am a Christian, yes, and an artist. I dare not treat the powerful presence of Christ in my life as an adjective. I want Christ to be my whole being. Vincent van Gogh was not a Christian artist either, but in Christ he painted the heavens declaring the glory of God. Emily Dickinson was not a Christian artist, and yet through her honest wrestling, given wings in words, her works—like Vincent’s, like Harper Lee’s, like Mahalia Jackson’s—speak to all the world as integrated visions of beauty against injustice.
It is time for followers of Christ to let Christ be the noun in our lives, to let our whole being ooze out like a painter’s colors with the splendor and the mystery of Christ, the inexhaustible beauty that draws people in. It is time to follow the Spirit into the margins and outside the doors of the church.
—From Makoto Fujimura’s book, Culture Care
Erica Grimm: mixed-media artist and professor
Erica Grimm-Vance is a professor and mixed-media & encaustics artist. She creates stunning paintings, drawings, and mixed-media works that often feature the human figure. When browsing her work for the first time, I immediately saw in her art pieces a contemplation of eternal souls trapped in temporal bodies. Her art features very free-feeling brushstrokes and sketchy lines that are often contrasted by tightly controlled dividing panes of color.
From her website:
Dr. Erica Grimm is an artist whose drawing practice remains at the core of her work. Through drawing, she inquires into embodiment, extending the meaning of body (and drawing) over a variety of materials and signifiers. Steel, lead, wax, ash and gold, PET scans and MRIs, depth, aerial and topographical maps—each of these ordinary materials, medical, and navigational imaging techniques make meaning and allow her to map both interior and exterior territories of the body. Extending this exploration by using animated gifs of her own angiograph projected onto steel and by inquiring into the epistemological implications of visual processes has fueled the completion of her PhD dissertation, The Aesthetics of Attentiveness, at Simon Fraser University.
Bruce Herman: oil painter
Bruce Herman creates oil paintings, many of them very large. Some of his work is abstract, and other pieces are photorealistic. All of them possess what I see as a deep melancholy, which is communicated by the color choices and expressions of the people in his many portraits. He’s been painting for a long time; the first series on his site was created in 1975.
From his website:
Bruce Herman (American, b. 1953) is a painter and educator living and working in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Herman holds the Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts at Gordon College where has has taught and curated exhibitions since 1984. He completed both undergraduate and graduate fine arts degrees at Boston University College of Fine Arts with graduate work under Philip Guston and James Weeks; undergraduate work with David Aronson, Reed Kay, and Arthur Polonsky.
Mary McCleary: deep layers and collages
Mary McCleary’s art is fascinatingly intricate. She depicts a lot of expressive people in a variety of scenes, but using surprising materials. Things like beads, thread, googly eyes, bottle caps, and other random knicknacks show up in her work. I think her use of color is especially admirable.
From her website:
I make my collages by attaching materials such as paint, paper, rag board, foil, glitter, wire, mirrors, beads, painted sticks, string, leather, small plastic toys and other found objects on heavy paper, much in the way a painter builds layer upon layer of paint on canvas. My aim is that the obsessive images that result from this method of working convey an intensity which the viewer finds compelling. I am interested in the spatial complexity and visual tensions that come from the collages being illusionistic, while at the same time composed of three-dimensional objects that often retain their own identity. I frequently take my subject matter from history, science or literature. At other times I select an image for its resonance or poetic quality. Occasionally I will add typed text. I like the irony of using materials that are often trivial, foolish, and temporal to express ideas of what is significant, timeless, and transcendent.
Doug TenNapel: graphic novelist, manic creator
Doug TenNapel is the creator of the Neverhood, Armikrog, Nnewts, and much more. A friend of mine once compared my drawings to Doug TenNapel’s artwork. I married that friend—maybe because of that compliment. Jokes aside, Doug TenNapel’s creatures and worlds are phenomenal. His stories are full of imagination; I’ve never enjoyed art in a graphic novel as much as his.
Jim LePage: edgy Christian artist-designer
Jim LePage is a versatile creative. He creates both commercial design and true art. The co-founder of the Old & New Project primarily does edgy, experimental digital art. He has an imaginative approach to typography and abstract forms (both used heavily in much of his work), and his output is tremendous. Jim clearly applies divergent thinking to his work, and sometimes shares his thought processes—you’ll get to see more of them if you follow him on Instagram.
From his website:
Known for bold and highly conceptual art and illustration work, Jim also has experience in art direction and leading a creative team for an in house design studio as well as abstract painting.
Jim is passionate about using art to explore Biblical passages and themes and has done so through client work as well as personal art/writing (Word, Crux Sola) and collaborative projects (Old & New). He is the #1 search result on Google for “Bible Reading Idiot.”
John Hendrix: Christian illustrator and doodler
John Hendrix has a whimsical style, heavy on bold colors (often blacks and reds). He makes use of typography in much of his art, which is largely editorial illustration or hand-drawn work across two-page spreads in sketchbooks. He’s created a fun series of meticulous and colorful sketches called “Drawing in Church,” and has published several art books, including his latest, Drawing Is Magic.
In John’s own words:
Illustrated narrative is at the heart of who I am. From the very beginning, illustrated books were more than just stories—they were a tangible way to understand the world. I loved to learn and illustrated books were the doorway to new ideas. Whether the images were playful, conceptual, fantastical, or diagrammatic, visual ideas were central to a sense of wonder in my life. I can remember reading David Macaulay’s Cathedral when I was 8 years old. Learning about the decades-long construction, the trials of medieval life, and the feats of gothic architecture, all exquisitely rendered—was the genesis for my aesthetic and my passion for visual children’s literature.
In my work today, I tell rich visual stories. Combining visual metaphor, hand drawn typography, and graphic compositions, I want to inspire children (and perhaps some adults, too) with that same sense of wide-eyed wonder I had reading as a child.
My picture books tackle difficult and under-appreciated stories from history; stories like John Brown, the radical abolitionist, or the Civil War hero Sarah Edmonds, who disguised herself as a male soldier to fight for the Union Army. Many of these tales are about when moral grounds collide, and I love the challenge of presenting this complicated material to children. Since 2006, I have worked on nine books as either illustrator or author/ illustrator, and I’ve created a clear and unique brand in the competitive market of children’s literature.
Chris Koelle: illustrator and fine artist
Chris Koelle uses ethereal and surreal elements to create stunning detailed art pieces that have a larger-than-life feel to them. His work makes heavy use of lines and strong contrast, giving many of his pieces a woodcut-like appearance; the way he uses lines conveys a sense of motion. You’ll find many fascinating illustrations of biblical stories and concepts in his portfolio.
From his website:
Chris Koelle (visual artist, illustrator, printmaker, designer) has worked on a wide variety of projects including graphic novels, illustrated books for grownups, award-winning documentaries, cassette tapes, vinyl records, zines, more documentaries, some other books, a few logos, a motion graphics film, an art book thing that came with a rock ‘n’ roll album, some event posters, and a few other things. Chris is a member at The Printshop, Greenville’s first and only community printmaking studio.
Chris is married to Annie, resident artist at Art & Light Gallery. Their two children may or may not grow up to make pictures for a living. They all live and work under one roof in Greenville, SC.
Edward Knippers: painter of fantastical scenes
Edward Knippers creates paintings that possess immense energy. The colors are varied and bold: I find myself somewhat overwhelmed by the complex subject matter in his paintings. He makes heavy use of the human form (note: you’ll see a lot of tasteful nudity in his paintings) and draws much of his subject matter from the Bible.
From his website:
The body (both Christ’s and ours) is a mystery. Our physical being is not to be worshipped or disregarded. His is to be both worshipped and glorified. As orthodox Christians we insist on the bodily resurrection for both Christ (“…if Christ be not risen…your faith is also vain.” Corinthians 15:14) and, just as scandalously, for ourselves (“…he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus…” II Corinthians 4:14).
We Christians believe that God paid the ultimate price for our redemption. That would not be true if He had given us only His mind (and thus been merely a great teacher), or only His healing (a great physician), or even only His love (a compassionate friend). Without His body broken for us, His sacrifice would be incomplete and we would be lost. For without the broken body there can be no redemptive resurrection.
Stephen McCranie: quirky graphic novelist
Stephen McCranie is a Christian comic artist. He creates the kids’ comic, Mal and Chad, and is currently creating another comic for an older age range called Space Boy (you can read all the episodes so far online). His comics are created digitally, but they have a very hand-drawn feel to them due to the textures and font styles he uses. He has a personal Web site (linked below) that doesn’t seem to be kept very up-to-date, but you’ll find a lot of more current blog articles, comic-style infographics, and more at another site he runs called Doodle Alley.
From his site:
My goal is to make good ideas easy to access, understand, and share. To this end, I create comics with heartfelt stories that are appropriate for all ages. I also try to facilitate the spread of useful ideas by drawing short comic essays about concepts and principles that have been beneficial to me.
Ethan Nicolle: animator, illustrator, comic artist
From his website:
Ethan Nicolle first broke into comics when he created Chumble Spuzz for SLG Publishing in 2007 which was nominated for an Eisner Award for humor in 2009. He went on to create a web comic called Axe Cop with his little brother that became a viral sensation and went on to become an animated series on FOX and FXX. He has had multiple pitches optioned at Cartoon Network and currently is staff writer and story editor on VeggieTales in the House at Dreamworks Animation. He also did the book illustrations for Nick Offerman’s books Gumption and Good Clean Fun.
Ethan lives in Rancho Cucamonga, CA with his wife, kids and various pets.
Scott Erickson: Christian pop art
Scott Erickson is a multidisciplinary artist, creating studio works, design, and performance art. A lot of it piggybacks on current events and sermon series. His work tends to make familiar cultural references (one of his featured series cleverly combines Native American–style art with iconic StarWars items), while expressing a wide breadth of styles. Scott has served at a church as an artist-in-residence.
In Scott’s own words:
Scott Erickson mixes autobiography, religious mythology, and aesthetic discovery to create art in varying dimensions. He is a touring painter, a haunted craftsman, a vulnerable performer, a creative priest, a wounded comic, a reluctant catalyst, and the curator of awesomeness. Most recently, Scott released “Alliance Is Rebellion”, an illustration series combining ancient and futurist myth telling devices; and he is currently touring is one man performance piece “We Are Not Troubled Guests” in which he navigates the tumultuous season of when pain confronts our religious idealism. Scott and his family currently reside in Portlandia.
Joe Cavazos: Christian designer and artist
Joe Cavazos does design and illustration, much of it abstract or typography-based. A lot of his art with more concrete subject matter has dramatic, almost Rembrandt-esque lighting. He creates imagery—some abstract, some pictorial—using digital layering and geometric shapes that make his style unique.
From his bio on his website:
I live in Mission, Texas with my wife and two kids. I’ve worked in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors as a designer and art director for more than a decade. I love working on album artwork, sermon series design, product packaging, and branding projects.
During my downtime I love hanging out with family and friends, drinking craft coffee and searching for taco stands around the Rio Grande Valley.
Dylan Mortimer: pastor, mixed-media artist, and sculptor
Dylan Mortimer creates brightly colored, large-scale art pieces and sculptures. After doing a little research, I learned that he’s living with cystic fibrosis, which influences a lot of the art he makes. Most of his pieces feature huge amounts of—unusually enough—glitter. He combines this unique style with subject matter that’s often based on human anatomy. His work is very unique.
From this interview:
Q: These three-dimensional paintings — you call them signs — shimmer, literally. Why did you paint with glitter?
A: Glitter made sense as a medium in a lot of ways.
It’s a symbol of my life in a way. It’s about trying to cover up, glamorize, a really kind of ugly situation and a really hard situation.
Glitter is this very accessible, very cheap material that has this shine and this glitz to it, and it can transform things really quickly.
Jason Brubaker: Christian graphic novelist
Jason Brubaker is a former Dreamworks artist who self-publishes his own graphic novels. The first project I found of his is the currently-in-progress graphic novel, Sithrah. I was immediately enthralled by the story and art, and I bet you will be, too. He’s created another comic which is available to look at online as well, called reMIND. If you’re interested in talented Christian graphic novelists, this is a guy to look out for. Both his comics are certainly worth a browse on his project sites linked above.
In Jason’s own words:
I think artists have a special calling as Christians but we are all deceived into thinking that our gifts are to just pay the bills and get by. I’ve worked in the entertainment industry now for almost 20 years and I can’t tell you how empty it all feels. I have always thought there was a reason God gave me such a deep interest in creating art and stories but I never found it on any of the jobs. But now that I am trying to glorify Him with my own art and stories, it feels like I’m finally acting on what I was created for. It only took me 40 years to figure it out though. Haha!
Joseph Novak: pastor and designer
Joseph Novak is a pastor and graphic designer. He’s the creator of the clean, minimalist design series featuring a theme image for every book of the Bible—a series called “The Minimum Bible.” His work has a slightly retro feel to it, especially his series of unofficial LP cover designs.
Laura Kranz (AKA me)
Like the others in this list, I’m a Christian, and I’m an artist. Some of my work features overtly spiritual themes, like my Proverbs 30 art series, or this set of verse illustrations for OverviewBible. But the majority of it features surreal concepts or scientific themes, like my Leaf veins series.
Is a great artist missing on this list?
If you know of other Christian artists who might be worth mentioning on this list, I’d love to hear about it. Just leave me a comment about it below.