How does artist Greg Olsen do it?
He’s a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yet he’s able to place his artwork in the shops, catalogs — even the buildings — of other Christian faiths.
He goes where few Mormon artists have gone before.
While in Chicago, my wife and I visited the church where the legendary evangelist D.A. Moody delivered his fiery sermons.
In the gift shop we found prints and postcards of Jesus, the art by Greg Olsen.
On a trip to California, I stopped to visit a Coptic Christian monastery that was at the end of the longest, meanest dirt road in America. Among the pictures for sale there I found Greg Olsen’s artwork.
In fact, the reason I'm writing this today is because while browsing through Barnes and Noble I came across a boxed set of scripture cards with images of Jesus on them. A Protestant press published them. But every picture was painted by you guessed it.
I’m not sure what the man's secret is.
Maybe he has a killer marketing scheme.
Maybe he has a savvy agent.
Or maybe he simply does what so many great Christian artists have done.
Maybe he’s learned how to paint not just his own feelings, but the feelings of everyone who looks at his work.
Most painters, singers and poets are a flamboyant lot. They look for ways to put their “signature” on what they do. Think of all those singers who add their own frills and trills to the national anthem before ballgames.
They want to dazzle the crowd with their moves.
But I think Christian artists tend to do just the opposite. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves. They lay low. They disappear into the identity of the team.
They lose themselves in order to become us.
I think great hymn writers do that.
So do great choir directors.
And it’s how, in my view, the best Christian painters tend to work.
They know you don’t shine by being original.
You shine by lighting up the hearts of everyone around you.
Before beginning this piece, I visited Greg Olsen’s website at www.gregolsen.com to see if I could find a quote from him that matched my impressions. I found this:
After saying that he hopes to “awaken souls to discover their higher selves,” Olsen added, “My hope is that in these images you will find something familiar, something which will resonate and remind you of what is important in your own life.”
For Olsen, painting — especially painting Jesus — will always be a team sport.