“I believe beauty will save the world…but art only has power if people slow down enough to see it.” – Seth Tummins
Seth Tummins decided to learn how to create oil paintings in December 2009. Little did he know at the time that this decision would alter the course of his life. Now Tummins is a celebrated artist in Humphreys County, Tennessee, who serves as President of the Humphreys County Arts Council and an important contributor to The Chestnut Group – a team of painters who raise money for the conservation of local areas.
Tummins primarily paints nature scenes, due to its awe-inspiring beauty. “I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t impressed to be still by nature,” he recalls. “As a boy I would head off through the fields to the creek to look for Indian artifacts, interesting rocks, and fish, and to listen to the sounds of the shady woods. Dusk and the nighttime sky are my favorite parts of nature. I’ve always thought dusk was the time when God walked in the garden ‘in the cool of the day.’ Everything softens. Color returns. Night sounds begin. The whole world compels you to be still and be filled.”
Not only do the beautiful hills of Tennessee offer a source of constant inspiration for this oil painter – they are also home to an entire family of fellow artists. “Middle Tennessee is filled with artists that keep me pressing on, ” Tummins shares. “Dawn Whitelaw, Jason Saunders, Michael Shane Neal – basically all of the Cumberland Society of Painters – have helped me immeasurably and perpetually inspire. Others that I look to include David Grossman, Richard Schmid, Lori Putnam, T. Allen Lawson, and those are just a few of the living artists! Every artist in the book Like Breath on Glass is a guide to me, and countless unnamed icon writers continue to speak to me today through their efforts.”
Have you ever wondered where painters find their creative inspiration? For Tummins, anything that causes him to stop and reflect offers a wonderful subject that is ready and waiting to be brought to life on canvas. “I believe in the interconnectedness of all things,” Seth explains. “When speaking the language of Art, I recognize this in images that are scrubbed together, layered, and where the subject appears out of a kind of mist or haze. When I see something around my home emerging from fog or when I look into the light and see veils of soft color, I see a potential painting, regardless of what the object is. If something stops my feet and then my mind, if it quiets me, I want to connect with that bit of eternity by summarizing it in a painting.”
When asked about his Christian Faith, Tummins agreed that his faith plays a vital role in his artistic endeavors. “To be a Christian is to be one pulled from the muck, rescued, redeemed, provided for, and loved,” shares Tummins. “That’s me. I’m not here without the love of God. The Resurrection may be folly to most, but for me it is what orders life. I don’t believe that all things happen for a reason, but I do believe that faith in the Resurrection provides the bridge out of incomprehensibly bad times and the ladder to becoming what we were meant to be. Faith is the reason I pursue art because they both tell us that we are more than a biochemical entity reacting to biochemical stimuli. Atheist artists are baffling to me!”
So does faith make one a better artist? For Tummins, the answer is both “yes” and “no.” He explains it this way: “Many blue-collar tasks go into creating a piece of fine art. Faith will not teach you to draw. It will not compel you to visit nature any more than it compels people to attend church. But, like church attendance, if you show up prepared and having practiced, faith can be the intangible voice behind your marks. Does faith make me a better artist? It makes me more human, and I hope the ribbon that binds humanity and divinity can be sensed and appreciated.”
For Tummins, a painting is much more than color on canvas. Rather, he sees it as something of a prayer – a window into God’s soul that will change your life – if you take the time to listen. “I believe beauty will save the world. Within that statement, I’d say most art contains beauty of a sort, and if contemplated, can change people’s lives, yes. But art only has power if people slow down enough to see it,” Tummins explains. “Art cannot be taken in like we take in a radio commercial or a roadside billboard. Our days are supposed to have balance, and art is frequently left off the scales. If approached like prayer, art will change your life – either as one who creates or one who contemplates. Christians took what was meant for shame – the events of holy week complete with mockery, gore, and humiliation – and made it into songs, pictures, and stories that change the world. Jesus’ suffering and resurrection are turned into beauty.”
Ascent, by Seth Tummins
To view more of Seth Tummins’ exquisite paintings, to read his reflections on art and life, or to purchase a piece of this fine work, art-lovers can visit www.sethtummins.com.
As always, I asked this successful Christian artists what advice he had for other faith-based artists and writers out there. “We are Christians first,” he responded. “I frequently check with myself to make sure that my own interests don’t blind me to the Lord’s voice and activities and to make sure that I could lay it all down if needed. We must always hold the Resurrection in front of us at all times, in all circumstances. But we must also have the courage and grit to keep making work when no one else around us seems to see and hear what we do. Desperately clutch the Resurrection. Remember your purpose. Always, always, remember who you are.”
Morning Hymn, by Seth Tummins
“Remember your purpose. Always, always, remember who you are.” – Seth Tummins