Kevin Carden on Transforming Mundane Spaces Into Biblical Realms
How can technology — of all things — help us connect with the divine? A rare combination of talent, unique vision, and genuine desire to deepen others’ faith through art might just make it happen.
Kevin Carden, a digital artist and photographer, uses digital software to create and enhance raw materials. He would draft a sketch, take photographs based on these sketches, and manipulate the images based on a theme or concept he’s inspired by. Art, he says, allows him to express the Christian spirituality he’s nurtured for most of his life. “Like Jesus with His sermons,” he said.
Carden’s “He Is Risen” is inspired by the glorious Easter morning, displaying “just a fraction of how powerful that moment was.” You may purchase the piece as framed wall art here.
How did art come into your life?
I received my first digital camera when I was just a teenager. It had an amazing 2.0 megapixels which was groundbreaking at the time. I took thousands and thousands of pictures with this camera and then edited them on the computer. It was then that I realized that I could create a new type of art combining photography and software.
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?
Almost always my creative process begins with a sketch. I have an idea that pops in my head, or I just get out my pencils and scribble until something “clicks.” Once I have the sketch done, I start getting all of my equipment together and go out and get the shot. Sometimes that might include taking pictures of a model in a studio, or sometimes it might include going on a nature walk to get some good shots of forests, streams, and more. I love the entire process and bringing it all together. Once I’m done with the project and happy with it, I’m usually ready to jump into the next one.
Christian spirituality is a significant theme in most of your work. Was there a turning point in your life that made you want to dedicate your talent to your faith? How does it inspire you to keep creating?
Ever since I became a Christian believer at age 18, my faith has been a big part of my life. I love photography, but I do know that there are literally billions of people in this world with access to a camera. I was determined that if I was going to create artwork, my art must have an eternal perspective.
My goal is to encourage people with my artwork and to get them to think about the Bible, the Gospel, and their relationship with God. I didn’t want to just take pictures of things that didn’t have any lasting value or any impact on its viewers. So that’s mainly why I create Christian-themed artwork, and hopefully, it’ll yield dividends well beyond my personal career.
Your art features a lot of vivid worlds and dreamscapes. Are there any biblical themes, stories, or real-world places that inspire you to envision and create them?
I love creating “dreamscapes” because they’re so pleasing to the eye. Of course, these types of places don’t really exist in the real world, but that’s not the point. I want to express a thought or an idea with my photos, rather than to be 100% accurate with how the world actually appears. I’m certainly inspired by the Biblical themes of light and dark, and that shows up in my work a lot, also choosing the right path and making sacrifices when making tough decisions. So many themes in the Bible that I want to create art with!
You mentioned in an interview that digital art is useful in representing the imagery and lessons in the Bible. Do you think this medium lends more freedom when representing the divine through art?
Absolutely. If I was a purist photographer, and I could only capture things with my camera without the aid of software, I’d be so limited. How am I going to capture an image that shows miracles? Or God’s love? Jesus spoke in parables often and created little picture stories with His sermons. I’m doing something similar with art and using this medium to show the supernatural qualities of God and His love.
You like to feature step-by-step tutorials for your creation process. Why do you like to share these?
I love to teach, and I love to learn. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if I didn’t learn from others much more talented than myself. Also, I desperately want there to be more Christian digital artists out there. If I can train up some photographers and teach them some of my techniques, I hope that that’ll encourage many others to take up this craft. The last thing I want is to have a monopoly on Christian digital artwork. I want as many as possible to be there along with me, and well beyond what I can produce.
Do you feel that a level of Christian spirituality is necessary to appreciate your art?
Not necessarily. All believers in Christ are on their own path right now. Some are new to the faith and soaking up everything they can, and some have been believers for decades. But I think if you’re wise enough to realize that there’s a God who’s bigger than ourselves, then you can appreciate the simple themes in my art.
However, there are some of my images that are much deeper than others, and I hope that those deep meanings have strong impacts as well.
How do you incorporate Christian art in a 21st-century world? Do modern sensibilities and styles play a role in your conceptualization process?
Christian art isn’t something that should ever have an expiration date. Our world is kind of crazy right now, and things are changing rapidly. But there will always be a longing in humankind for love, justice, mercy, and redemption.
There’s a challenge though on how to use modern language and technology in my artwork. I want the art to impact the culture where it is now, but also not compromise either.
Follow Kevin Carden on Instagram here.