The Identity of the Artist, Part One

Identity. It’s become a buzzword in our society. The process of self-discovery – learning who I really am and what distinguishes me as an individual has been elevated to the status of a sacred mystic experience. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy self-awareness is good and necessary. Sometimes, though, we get so caught up in the little things that make us who we are individually, and we become self-preoccupied. Other times, we fixate on one small aspect of our identity and take on a stereotypical persona.

I am guilty of both self-preoccupied and of either identifying or not identifying myself with something based on whether or not I fit the persona surrounding it.

I am the sixth of eight children. I love our big family, but from the time I was born (I’m sure), I’ve been identified by them. I am one of the Thomas kids. I am one of the Thomas sisters. I am Bernadette Junior.  I am Nate’s sister, Katie’s sister, and Seth’s sister. These are not bad things, but I have developed a bit of a complex because of it. So I developed a rock solid identity that capitalized on my individuality – those aspects of my personality that make me, me.  Just Lydia. I used to intentionally emphasize my differences from other people, rather than common points. That’s a few steps beyond self-awareness into self-preoccupation.

On the other hand, I had never identified myself as an artist until very recently (like, the past six months). I don’t really fit into society’s concept of an artist. The artist who creates entertainment and escapism. The artist who wins awards, whose work is seen and respected by millions, who is financially successful. I don’t really fit the artist’s bill of an artist, either. The artist who produces independent and critical works. The artist with “that temperament”: introverted, independent, edgy, competitive, jealous, insecure, sensitive, emotional, individualistic. Oh wait…

It was as I was reading some of these common character traits among artists that I realized for the first time that yes, I am an artist. It was as I dwelt on these common character traits that God laid a ministry for artists on my heart.

Do you know what primarily draws me to film-making? It’s not the visual story. It’s not the cinematography. It’s not the art direction. It’s not the acting. It’s not the editing. It’s not the musical score. It’s something much bigger. About ten years ago, I began watching the special features for The Lord of the Rings because my brother Seth and I were learning bits of Elvish. (Seriously. Now please don’t judge me – or him for that matter).  In the midst of learning Elvish, I was fascinated by the number of artists to make a movie: there were art directors, make-up and prosthetic artists, concept artists, storyboard artists, costumers, Weta Workshop craftsman, musicians. There was so much attention to detail because all of the artists were passionate about The Lord of the Rings. (I was pretty passionate myself. I mean, obviously. I was learning Elvish for crying out loud).

Ever since those days, I have wanted to be a film-maker. I love (love, love, love) the idea of artists laying aside individuality and coming together for a common purpose. And that’s what happens when a movie is made. Dear artists, sometimes we are so into ourselves, our feelings, our individual accomplishments, we forget that we have so many things in common with each other as artists. We need to embrace our commonalities and come together for the cause of Christ.

To Be Continued…


Lydia Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television and Film.  She likes to read, write, watch movies, and make movies. She is most passionate about reaching, challenging, and equipping artists for Jesus Christ.


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