Edward Sun on Being Inspired by Scripture and Human Experience
Well-rounded, people-oriented, and driven by faith, Edward Sun’s approach to life is quite straightforward: “Love God and love your neighbor.” But it remains remarkable all the same — it’s his commitment to this mantra that brings about a multitude of creative ideas.
The Atlanta-based artist tries to capture biblical scripture and human experience in riveting works of art, both in visual and sonic form. It’s clear in many of his designs, including the luminous ‘As Sure As The Sunrise’: a fresh and contemporary take on the iconic verse from the Book of Lamentations. You may purchase the piece as framed wall art here.
Tell us a little bit more about who you are. What is your background?
I’m a Chinese-American designer born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. My background is actually in Marketing, Advertising, and Music Business — my childhood dream was to be a rapper (hence all the music I’ve released). In 2018 I accidentally stumbled my way into graphic design, but I love it more than anything I’ve done before.
How does being a Christian influence your art and music?
My faith informs the substance, purpose, and quality of my work in both design and music. In substance, my personal designs focus almost exclusively on Bible verses, and my music is very straightforward with my beliefs. In purpose, all my work (and everything else I do) is always motivated by some desire that ties back to my faith. In quality, I’m always trying to grow and improve my skills so I can represent God well in all I do.
You feature scripture prominently in your artworks. What’s your favorite Bible verse? How does it guide your life and your creative work?
I don’t have a favorite, but maybe the most influential passage of the Bible on my life is the exchange between Jesus and the lawyer in Matthew 22:35-40. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responds with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul,” along with a second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These are the foundation of the Christian life.
Everything I do falls under these same two categories Jesus defined: love God, love people. If something’s out of step with these two categories, I remove it from my life. In my personal life, these two are the priority more than my success, work, wealth, and so on. In design, I really view my work as a tool [not just] to express my affection and faith in God, but also to foster a whole myriad of positive influence on other people and my relationships with them.
As an artist, what kind of art typically speaks most to you?
A huge breadth of art across different mediums and styles resonates deeply with me and inspires me. But I think the most deeply moving art for me is anything that captures the bittersweetness of the human experience.
What does the creation process look like for you? How do you feel while you’re creating a piece, and after a piece is complete?
It’s pretty standard. It starts with inspiration, either from Scripture, my own life, other people’s work, and I start forming concepts. When I’m working on a piece, it’s peaceful, exciting, and fun. I guess I just really get into the zone, and I’m able to clear my mind of everything that I’m not working on at the moment.
We’re seeing a rise of artists and churches that are actively pursuing more contemporary and creative forms of worship. How do you think worship has evolved over the years? Is this general direction positive for the Christian community?
It’s a double-edged sword. The more innovative and creative we are with our personal expressions of worship, the more intimacy we experience with God, the more relevant and intriguing we are to the world, and the more welcome artists and other traditionally undervalued creatives feel in the church. At the same time, the more novelty there is in the medium of worship, the more potential for idolatry, the more potential for loving church and church culture rather than loving God. I personally like the general direction we’re going in, but there definitely needs to be a battle for balance.
You’re a musician with an affinity for gospel rap. How do you connect with your audience through music? Do you feel that the audience appreciates this new way of sharing the Gospel?
My music is mostly a form of self-expression, but I often find people are very receptive and more engaged when I’m performing than if I was just standing up there preaching the Gospel. It’s led to a ton of new connections with Christians and non-Christians alike, and people seem to be quicker to welcome a fresh approach to faith.
As a Christian artist, how do you find the balance between respect for tradition and exploration of something new?
Maybe this is flat-out wrong, but I don’t value traditions unless they’re backed by Scripture. I guess that’s where I draw the line. So much of modern Christian culture in the West is defined by human tradition instead of the Bible, so more often than not I lean towards exploring the new (which can sometimes mean recovering the really old). My thinking is that, if there’s no evidence in the Bible that God values how humanity has done something for generations, then there’s no reason that’s the way it should continue to be done.
Do you feel that a level of Christian spirituality is necessary to appreciate your art?
Yes and no. There are plenty of pieces I create with other Christians in mind. Those probably won’t make much sense to a non-Christian. But there are also plenty of pieces that I make that can be appreciated by anyone, as long as they share some piece of the human experience (which they do).
Follow Edward Sun on Instagram here.