Fathom Mag

The Gift of Creativity

We talked with artist Brittany Fan about her art, her inspiration, and how to never lose your inner child.

Published on:
February 8, 2017
Read time:
3 min.
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The front page of Brittany’s website is a quote from Henry David Thoreau. If that does not prove she is amazing, please let her art speak for her. As we we were cycling through a number of artists we could have used for this issue, we were struck immediatley with the visionary quality of Brittany’s work. I, particluarly, was amazed with her work and the similarities it held with my favorite artist—Vincent van Gogh. We are thrilled to have her for this issue and we hope you enjoy her work. Please check out her website and support what she is doing! —Jonathan Minnema

What do you do and how can I find it?

I am a painter, photographer, illustrator, and graphic designer by trade, and an enthusiastic pursuer of pretty much everything else that entails making with your hands, whether it’s baking a pie or cultivating an indoor jungle or transforming an awful dress into something wearable.

I traverse through the world in search of wonder, looking for stories and glimpses of beauty, in both the most obvious and the most peculiar of places. Sometimes I myself can’t keep track of all of the things that I do, but my website is a starting point if you want to see what comes of it.

How did you get started?

My earliest childhood memory is that of drawing with my grandfather. I haven’t stopped creating or imagining since, and as I’ve broadened my endeavors and skill sets over the years, I’ve also deepened my understanding of what it means to be an artist by vocation.

It was in college that this vocational identity became more concrete, much to the credit of friends and mentors who named the possibilities they saw in me, often before I could imagine them for myself.

I created my own interdisciplinary art major at the University of Virginia, and found myself frequently asking questions relating to the significance of art, community, and theology. My deep passion for these things propelled me toward the pursuit of living at the intersection of all three, and that’s a journey that I continue to walk each day.

What is the coolest story you have about doing what you do?

In college, I was awarded funding to capture the landscapes of the American West through painting and photography. I set off in pursuit of nature in its many forms, traveling through nine states in two weeks, beginning in Arizona and going as far north as Montana and Wyoming. The places I beheld became a refreshing reminder of my own smallness and the humbling truth that we exist in the context of something much greater than ourselves.

That trip became a lesson in pausing and noticing the world around me, and learning to gather inspiration in those moments, whether in my own backyard or a thousand miles away from home.

Interestingly, while that trip makes the highlight reel of my life as an artist, some of my favorite anecdotes are actually about others telling me stories.

Art often serves a relational catalyst, causing people to connect and to open up in unexpected ways. I’ve had strangers spontaneously approach me to tell me about their past adventures after seeing one of my landscapes, and friends who share sweet memories of their loved ones while commissioning a gift to honor them. Sometimes a piece of art will simply speak to someone, and through that I come to understand a part of that person that I didn’t know before.

Occasionally, a friend will get a card of mine in the mail that someone else purchased in a store, or a handlettering that I created in during a hard season becomes encouragement for others in their trials. I love when things like that happen and the meaningfulness of my work is suddenly amplified and altogether transformed when others are brought into it.

Who (or what) is the biggest inspiration for your work?

Nature inspires me, because our human creativity is inherent to our image bearing, and the natural world draws us back to the Creator who first made something out of nothing.

I’m also drawn to the work of other artists, particularly those who work with words and music—I find their creations to be transcendent in a different way from my own, a way that can interestingly complement and interact with visual art.

Recently, I’ve been working on a series of paintings inspired by songs and poems, and it’s giving me a growing appreciation for the beauty of these other art forms.

If you could give someone advice for doing what you’re doing, what would it be?

Remember that creating is a gift, and gifts are meant to be cultivated, stewarded, and used to bring about flourishing. Do everything with excellence, pursuing goodness, beauty, and truth in even the most mundane of tasks. Find freedom in the knowledge that, ultimately, your identity is not found in the value or success of what you produce. Learn to rest and to make time for yourself, and never, ever lose your inner child.

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