October 5, 2011

Character sculpt

Here's a little 4-inch sculpt I did of the main character from "The Stick and the Stone." Since I don't have a ton of practice drawing children, this is intended to help me keep "on model." His name is Levi, and he's an Israelite boy, age 8-10, in the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

August 28, 2011

The Stick and the Stone: Redux

Here's what I've been up to lately. These are some prelim sketches for the book, "The Stick and the Stone," that I had actually started about a year ago (original post). After finishing a number of the illustrations in watercolor for my Directed Projects class, I felt that the book was in danger of... mediocrity, I guess. For one, Moses looked too much like Santa Claus for my taste. For another, I was offered the chance to rewrite the book. After rewriting, the first illustrations became mostly unusable.

So I'm taking another shot at it, starting again from scratch. Moses will look more like a burly Jewish herdsman than St. Nick sans reindeer. The text was rewritten to be more engaging, more accessible to children, and have some sort of a conflict-resolution plot. Hopefully I'll be finished with all of the sketches in the next week, so that I can start on the finals.

August 23, 2011

Living Hope Anniversary

On August 14th, my former church, Living Hope Lutheran in Omaha, Nebraska, celebrated its 25th anniversary. I was commissioned to design a bulletin cover to celebrate the event. The motif behind Jesus is used in the church's architecture, including the window found at the apex of the sanctuary. The text is 1 Peter 1:3, from which the church took its name.

July 7, 2011

Godly love : Worldly love

My brother-in-law is getting married in a little over a week, and I was asked to design the cover of their service folder. When I was given their readings, I decided to make a drawing based on John 15:12. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (NRSV).

It sums up the gospel very nicely, especially if you include v. 13: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The nail marks remind us that God's love is entirely different from worldly love. Worldly love is self-serving; we are willing only to enter into a marriage as long as our partner is fulfilling our needs. When the seas get choppy, we jump ship. God's love is selfless; he fulfilled our deepest need, even though it cost him his life, and even though we could provide nothing in return. 

Marriage is intended to be a picture of God's love for his precious bride, the Church. Christian marriages would not fall apart if each husband would realize that it is his duty to sacrifice of himself—his own comfort, his needs, and even his life, if necessary—for his wife. This sacrifice triggers a response of loving commitment from each wife, just as the Church responds to Christ's self-giving love. No spouse is perfect in fulfilling his or her role, of course, but then we may always look to Christ's forgiveness, and start each day anew in his grace.

May 10, 2011

The results are in

Okay. It isn't official yet, but I can safely say that the Risen Savior triptych will not happen. Last week there was a WELS district pastors' convention hosted at Risen Savior, and some of us, myself included, thought that it would be a good idea to poll the pastors as to what their reaction to the triptych was. The model was on display, and a detail of the triptych was provided on each survey. Thirty or so pastors were there, as well as a few laymen, and we received 22 surveys back. The results were heart-breaking for me.

The questions were based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least favorable and 5 being most favorable.
  1. What is your impression of adding the triptych to the chancel? The average score was 1.9, the overwhelming majority being 1s.
  2. Does the triptych assist in the mission of Risen Savior, which is 'Equipping believers to share the risen Savior, Jesus?' The average, again, was very low at 2, the majority of which were 1s.
  3. Is liturgical art important to your worship experience? The response here was evenly scattered, with a few low scores, but mostly 4s and 5s. The average was 3.4. 
The survey asked for written comments as well, and they provide a glimpse at the reasoning behind some of the scores. Some questioned the use of the church's money, while others commented that it didn't fit with the chancel, because it covered up part of the cross. One commenter didn't want to see any depictions of death, and another criticized the lack of body hair on Jesus and Adam. But overwhelmingly, most comments focused on the implied nudity. While several responses complimented the symbolism and strong theology, they warned that the nudity would distract or even offend people, and thus, should be avoided. Some went so far as to call it "suggestive" and "risqué."

What does this mean? Most of the Elders agreed that with so much opposition to it from pastors, and essentially with not one, but two, main obstacles, that the triptych would not be a good fit for Risen Savior. The majority view was that such an important project should not be pushed on the congregation without a consensus, and such a consensus is obviously impossible.

It is heart-breaking, because it proved my thesis more right than I hoped it would be. Conservatism, a sparing attitude toward the arts, and the fear of causing offense are driving the church (I think) ever deeper into mediocrity. I argued in my thesis that a minimalist, sparse, and utilitarian aesthetic most often accompanies a spiritual sparsity, such as it did after the Enlightenment. How long will it take for the church to realize that an artistic vacuum is not a good thing?

April 25, 2011

Model Completed

It has been a long month, but the Risen Savior model is finally finished. I presented it yesterday, and we'll meet again to discuss it next Sunday. Here are some photos I took this morning, attempting to simulate lighting conditions similar to the original. A cutout of my pastor is provided for scale, and some detail shots with a quarter, to show actual size.

Materials: Foamcore, mat board, bristol paper, construction paper, Elmers glue, spray paint, acrylic gesso, acrylic paint, clear PVC, steel yard marker, bass wood

Tools: #11 X-acto blades, awl, mat cutter, compass, rulers, hobby saw, brushes, ink jet printer, 220- and 1000-grit sandpaper

April 9, 2011

Model Progress

I'm building a model of Risen Savior as part of the triptych pitch. This is to help us figure out how it would look best in the sanctuary. I'm nearing completion on the building, and have yet to start the chancel furnishings.

March 16, 2011

Gilgamesh, Part II

In my Concept Design class this quarter, I decided to continue working on my interpretation of the Gilgamesh epic. This time I wanted to focus more on drawings, since I felt they were lacking in my last presentation. I also made a maquette of the Bull of Heaven. I didn't have time to finish making all the scales, but otherwise the sculpting part is finished. It's made with Super Sculpey and Super Sculpey Firm, mixed together. I intended to bake and paint it, but didn't have time. Still, a grey maquette is a great tool for seeing how a three-dimensional form looks in real space, from different angles, and in different lighting scenarios.

The kingdom of Sumer, 2600 B.C.
Gilgamesh, age progression

Gilgamesh slaying Huvawa

Gilgamesh riding the Bull of Heaven

Elohim, in human form

The tower of Babel under construction

March 11, 2011

Thesis: Visual Component

Here's what I've been working on for the past two or three weeks. These drawings were part of the visual component of my thesis, and were displayed at our Illustration thesis exhibit on March 4th. They are studies for the proposed Risen Savior Triptych.

11 x 14 pencil on bristol, 2011

24 x 17" charcoal on Arches cold press, 2011

8 x 6" watercolor on Arches cold press, 2011
11 x 8" digital, 2011

March 7, 2011

Just for Perspective...

Just to give you a good idea of the space I'm working with, this is a picture of the sanctuary at Risen Savior. It has very nice natural lighting. But as you can see, the chancel is quite minimal. My task will be to design the triptych so that it fits into the space without appearing as an afterthought. Easier said than done!

January 18, 2011

Triptych mock-up

This was my proposal mock-up for the triptych at Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Pooler. Whether they approve the project or not, I'm also hoping to fully incorporate the triptych into my thesis.

Text: 1 Cor. 15:21-22 "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."

January 16, 2011

Creature Planet

I love doing these "Creature Planet" competitions at CGHub every once in a while. They're fun creative exercises. Following some creature specs that the moderator provided, I made the following image and wrote the accompanying description:

The Bomorian scinos is a reclusive inhabitant of mile-deep caves that riddle the jungles and rainforests there. No daylight can reach this deep into the planet, so the scinos has learned to navigate without eyesight. It is an amphibious fish-like creature with six limbs, sharp triangular teeth, and translucent skin. The average adult weighs 3 kg., or about 6.6 lbs. It inhabits the ice-cold subterranean lakes and the rocky areas surrounding them. Its diet is mostly carnivorous, but it can survive on plankton for short intervals of time.

The scinos cannot see, so it uses its senses of touch, sound, and smell to locate prey. The bioluminescent markers on its body help to attract its favorite meal, the Bomor lantern beetle. Lantern beetles create their own light and are drawn to other lights. The scinos waits under the surface of the water, with its snorkel-like sensor protruding above. When the beetle is close enough, the scinos will jump out of the water and snap it up.

The male and female scinos are nearly indistinguishable, except for the strong odor that females produce in order to attract mates. A female scinos lays 8-10 eggs in a nest just at the edge of the water. She remains with them until they hatch into their larval form.

January 7, 2011

MFA Thesis Proposal

Beyond being an illustrator, I aspire to be a liturgical artist. The world that the contemporary Christian artist faces is one that is still reeling from the iconoclastic effects of Modernism. It generally believes that adhering to tradition is destructive to artistic innovation. This thesis will be an investigation into the various historical instances of iconoclasm in the church, the roles that tradition and innovation play in art for worship, and how these ideals can be positively applied to the present situation. The final part of the thesis, however, will be to propose, plan, design, and pitch an altar painting to the congregation of an actual church. This will put into practical effect all of the key issues dealt with in the thesis.