Review of “Life After Art”

by Clark Roush, Ph.D.

Matt Appling has delivered what I believe will be one of the finest and most important books of this year! Let me say up front, that some of you will see the title, “Life After Art,” and immediately think ‘this is not for me – I don’t do art!’ When you do, you will actually help prove one of the books main points. Matt launches into a poignant, and I believe accurate, description of how the lack of creating has produced our current world and world-view.

The author has done a fabulous job with the content, and Moody Press has done an equally fabulous job in creating the book’s design. The cover is artistic, appropriate, and attention-getting. The layout and flow of the book, with different-colored text boxes scattered throughout the pages, is clear, visually attractive, and very easy to read.

Matt weaves his way through the following topics:

  1. why we are all born naturally creative
  2. how we lose our naturally born creativity
  3. society suffers an epidemic of lost creativity
  4. relearning how to create within the boundaries of life
  5. relearning how to take necessary risks
  6. relearning how to be a creator

Matt has a compeling story from his own life: realized talent at a young age, studies in college, various careers and attempts to find his passion and purpose, and finally, landing in his present position as an elementary school art educator. Coming from and maintaining a faith heritage, a direct link is made between the gifts given and the Giver. All the way through the narrative, Matt connects creating with the Creator!

The premise is that when we are in kindergarten, we freely create – because we don’t “know” any better. We are merely attending to our inherent wiring. As we age, we slowly become aware of other people’s opinions, the degree of our skill-set (or lack thereof), and the “impracticality” of creating. All of these add up to many people abandoning something they loved when they were 5. Notice, I did not say “losing” – the author believes this aspect of our true nature lies dormant in too many people. It needs awakening in order for a life to be as full and rich as intended.

Matt’s premise: art is for everyone! Espousing this certainly incudes anything that involves being creative. We should not leave that part of ourself in the kindergarten room. We should not listen to the voices that would steer us away from that guileless love of creating. We should not put stock in the criticism that causes us to neglect something we used to love to do and something we were created to do. In the author’s own words, “this is a book about faith, family, hope, disappointment, dreams, failures, and all the other things that make up adult life.”

We have largely and sadly allowed the “stuff of life” to cover up the desire to find beauty and to create beauty. The resulting cultural and personal shift is to our detriment. Part of the solution is re-establishing the self-unawareness we used to have, the unbridled joy of creating, and the ability to feel comfortable in the inexactness of the process.

Matt has some compeling verbiage on how listening to the majority’s voice has taken us away from some of the things and ways that make us most happy. Re-igniting our creative self, particularly when coupled with re-igniting a direct tie-in with the Master Creator is presented as a way out of the abyss so prevelent today in our culture.

If you are an artist of any sort – you simply MUST read this. If you are not an artist – you simply MUST read this. I believe the tenets suggested by Matt will result in more of us finding our “true north” – both aesthetically and spiritually. Whatever you do, create with purpose!