Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Bible Artist Interview #8

Sergio Cariello
If, like me, you grew up reading DC and Marvel comics, you're going to really like this next Bible artist interview. This artist has worked on Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, Flash, Fantastic Four, Iron man, Catwoman, Wolverine, X-men, Daredevil... the list goes on! It was no surprise then when the publisher David C. Cook needed an artist to illustrate the 'Action Bible' that they chose Sergio Cariello for the job!

Sergio was born in Brazil in 1964. He broke into the cartoon field at a very early age having his own weekly newspaper strip at the age of 11! After moving to America Sergio became not only an accomplished cartoonist - he was a penciler, inker, colorist and he spent 7 years as an instructor at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoons and Graphic Arts. To read a more detailed biography click here.

The interview:
Sergio, like me you were growing up during the 'Silver Age' of American comics. I can still remember some of those great artists names, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby and John Buscema among others. Was there a particular artist who inspired you as a youngster?
One thing to consider is that we Brazilians  did not get, unlike today, simultaneous American publications . We were a bit behind on our translated Comics which consisted of a few issues into one and collections from comic strips of various eras as well. I remember quite a few influences, including the ones you mentioned, and others - I don't know if they fall into the "silver age" category plus some European artists. Among them are: Joe Kubert ,Jim Aparo, Gil Kane, John Romita Sr, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Nick Cardy, Nestor Redondo, Mort Drucker, and some strip and european artists: Milton Caniff, Al Williamson, John Burns, John Celardo, Sy Barry, All Capp, Albert Uderzo, Jesus Blasco, Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Cotsky, and the list goes on and on.

When were you first introduced to the Bible, and can you remember which one you owned?
We had a few bibles in the house, all in Portuguese. My parents took me and my brother to church when we were very young. I remember my favorite was the Picture Bible books, illustrated by Andre Le Blanc. It was the black and white portuguese version. Little did I know that those booklets were the Brazilian version of the Original American version of the Picture Bible I would end up illustrating!

You live in the US now - where are you from originally and what brought you to the US?
I was born in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. When I wad 5 I told my parents that I would become a cartoonist when I grew up. That desire increased over the years and I begun to dream of coming to america to fulfill that goal. Especially when, in 1984, I saw an ad of an ugly bird talking to a cave man about the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey. I knew I had to attend that school so I started saving money and began learning English. My family helped me pay for the plane ticket from Brazil to America and George Theis, director of Word of Life Bible Institute in upstate NY , who knew me from attending the Word of Life Bible Institute from my home town back in 81, gave me a tuition scholarship to attend their bible institute in Schroon lake, New York.

Tell us a little bit about what was involved in producing the illustrations for the Action Bible?
I gathered books on the subject, either photographic books or paintings and or drawings , as well as DVDs and some objects and a few color prints from the Internet . Anything that could help me as reference, just like I do with every job I get to do. I'm really into getting props and objects and tons of books to bombard my brain with info before starting to draw.

We've discussed inking techniques on the blog before - it seems like graphics tablets such as the Wacom Cintiq are now competing with the traditional brush/pen and ink methods. How to you ink in your line work?
The cintiq is just another tool from my "tool box" which I use to produce my comic pages. So...No competition between them here in my studio but collaboration! I still enjoy starting my work with pencils, pen nibs, India ink, brush and paper. I enjoy the feel, the noise of nib scratching the surface of the Bristol board, and the smell of pencil lead, ink and paper. I like to get my hands dirty and to hold an actual final, real /physical product, as opposed to virtual. But at the end I scan the art and use the cintiq tablet to edit any final touches before "sending" it off through the air waves.

That's a good point - the nearest thing you have to an original when working digitally is a computer print out! How do you add the color - was it done digitally?
Yes. I submitted my own colors to get the job but I subcontracted 6 guys to help me color the pages.

There's a tremendous about of work that's gone into the Action Bible - How long did it take you to complete?
It took 3 years to complete.

I'm always amazed at how much historical research goes into cartoon strip versions of the Bible. How did you go about your own research?
With the help of historical Books, props and images I acquired from Bookstores and the Internet, I discovered how the philistines dressed and how the helmets of their soldiers were supposed to look like. I also was able to draw the pagan gods accurately. I'm sure the experts will probably find a few things inaccurate in the book but I sure tried to make everything right. I also had help from the editors of  David C Cook to point out some things I had missed.

Did you find that there was a particular Bible story that was difficult to illustrate and why?
The Battle and multitude scenes were a bit more challenging than the regular pages since they had a lot more people to draw.

One of the topics we've discussed on the blog has been 'what did Jesus look like?'. What influenced your depiction of Jesus?

I watched some movies portrayals of him and observed what other artists had done and came up with my own. I did not want to depict a weak Jesus, nor angelic, or delicate - but a tough, manly carpenter Jesus, with expressive eyes and fit body for those long walks.

Are you working on any other Bible related project at the moment that we can look forward to seeing?
I'm working on "The Christ" series, written by Ben Avery for Kingstone Media. It's a book that shows the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ based on the 4 gospels.

Are any other members of your family talented comic artists?
My mom, Celia Cariello, paints abstract art and won a few awards in Brazil and my brother Octavio Cariello who lives in Brazil has drawn for American comics. He also teaches art in a Brazilian art school.

Do you use your talents in your church - Perhaps in Sunday school?
Not yet in it's full extent. I just now did this Action Bible so I don't even know what's available from it, but I do play the guitar, sing, compose songs and lead worship in my church and I've used some of my drawings to teach the word. One time I drew a life-size Goliath to use in my preaching to a congregation in Jersey for the whole church (adults and children).

Many thanks again to Sergio for taking the time to speak to us. Looking forward to your comments.
All illustrations © David C Cook 2010-11

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Belated Christmas Greetings!

Belated Christmas greetings to all our readers! Sorry this is late but due to family illnesses etc blogging has fallen down to the bottom of my priority list! A belated Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish readers also!
I will be uploading a new Bible artist interview hopefully in the next few days so look out for that.

The painting here is by James J. Tissot and is titled 'Joseph Seeks a Lodging At Bethlehem'. I am hoping to blog about the Bible Art of JJ Tissot soon. Thanks also for your Christmas cards.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

New Bible Image Library

I received an email recently from Dr Leen Ritmeyer announcing the launch of his new image library which also contains many of Leen's own drawings. Here's some more information from the email:

"The Image Library of Ritmeyer Archaeological Design contains authoritative reconstruction drawings and models which you will not find on any other website. The photos of ancient sites in the lands of the Bible have also been taken through the informed lens of an archaeological architect. A treasure-trove for teachers, pastors, lecturers and picture editors, it is the result of years of experience digging and researching in Israel and traveling in the surrounding countries."
There are already hundreds of images in the library, but we plan to add many more in the near future.

This looks like it's going to be a very helpful resource site for Bible artists - take a look and let me know what you think.
Image © Leen Ritmeyer 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tabernacle Furniture Set

I'm in the process of illustrating the Tabernacle furniture including the Ark of the Covenant which I will be blogging about in more detail shortly. This set has been a very challenging set to illustrate! Many thanks to everyone who has given advice and pointed me towards the relevant scriptures which, at the end of the day, have to be our guide as we attempt to accurately depict these things.

Special thanks goes to author John Cross whose books include 'The Stranger' 'All That The Prophets Have Spoken' and By This Name. John has done much study of the Tabernacle, (and tabernacle furniture), and he has very kindly sent me a complementary Tabernacle Furniture Set (pictured above), which has been a tremendous help! I especially wanted to give this set a plug on the blog as it is absolutely stunning! Each finely detailed item is made of metal which is either gold or bronze plated. The bronze Altar and Laver which both stood in the Tabernacle court actually look weathered too! The Ark of the Covenant contains a miniature pot of manna, Aaron's rod and the Stone Tablets of the Law which actually feel like stone! Because each item looks so authentic it really brings history to life! This item would be invaluable to anyone who conducts teaching seminars on the Tabernacle - It's also a great item to have on display either at home or in your workplace as it's a great conversation starter!

If you're after a special gift for your minister/pastor - this is it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guest Bible Artist Interview #7

Tim Shirey
We have looked in the past at some of the work of missionary artists such as Elsie Anna Wood and Harold Copping. The job of a missionary artist, very simply put, is to produce illustrations as an aid for those whose task it is to present God - and the message of the Bible to an unbelieving world. It's been my privilege recently to interview one of todays missionary artists Tim Shirey. Tim is a regular contributor on the Bible illustration blog and works for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) at their European Regional Office in kilchzimmer Switzerland. The interview is slightly longer than our previous interviews but I'm sure that you will find in fascinating. Our hope is that this interview will inspire young people to become the missionary artists of tomorrow!

Tim, how long have you worked for CEF?  Since 1985 and I was in the CEF European Regional office since 1986.

I often get asked the question "Are there many opportunities for artists in the mission field?" How would you answer this, and how did you become a missionary artist?
In 1979 (while in high school) the Lord laid it upon my heart for missions and more specifically the region of Russia and Central Asia.  I wanted to use my art in some way – just not sure how.  The Lord answered that prayer by sending me to Switzerland where, at the time, most of our literature was going into the Soviet Union.  I share this because often the Lord answers our prayers and brings it about in the most unexpected ways!  
In high school I spent several summers teaching children in backyard Bible clubs (CEF) using visualized Bible lessons and missionary stories.  All the songs and memory verses were also visualized to help teach the truths and supplement the text.  I saw the impact visuals had in effectively teaching God's Word.  The pictures help hold the children's attention and besides visualizing the Bible story itself there were additional pictures to help teach spiritual truths.  In some parts of the world visuals play an even greater role in communicating the Truths of God's Word to children and adults.  I grew up in a printing family and now I'm thrilled to have a small part in sending out millions of "missionaries in print".
Over the years I've met missionaries where their skill and training in art played a central role in their ministry but I also met those who have used their art training to complement another area of ministry.  For example, I met an art student who went on to be a youth pastor and used his art when developing teaching materials.  This opens the door wide open for ways to use your art on the mission field.

CEF is working in more than 178 countries and we see many opportunities for illustrators not only in literature but also with the wide open field of multimedia and the Internet where we are reaching children not possible through literature alone.   I could fill several pages listing projects we are unable to take on because we simply don't have the artists.  Having artists that are familiar with a particular culture is very helpful because sometimes we customize the illustrations to meet the cultural differences of a particular country or region – for a child in Finland or Central Asia to hold a Gospel booklet and know that this is for me.  The majority of illustration work is done at the CEF International office, with the regional offices supplementing with material that meets specific cultural needs in their region.For example, CEF Int'l produces a booklet called "Do You Wonder Why?" which is distributed in areas of the world immediately after a natural disaster or traumatic event.  I customized some of the illustrations for Poland [see image] so it would better relate to the plane crash earlier this year involving the President, his wife and other officials. 40,000 copies of the evangelistic booklet were distributed in two days at memorial services around the country with an overwhelming response.  Another 40,000 were immediately printed and distributed.  This is an example of having artwork that relates to the culture and specific needs – something we are able to do at the regional level.

Do you only work on Bible stories or are you asked to illustrate other subjects too?
A single CEF Bible lesson will usually consist of 6-8 full colour illustrations.  Visuals (in Europe) are reproduced at 24x34cm with the lesson text printed separately into the different languages.  
A Bible lesson will include illustrations of present day settings that help teach a Biblical truth from the lesson.  These are woven throughout the Bible lesson.  We also produce series that teach doctrines of the Bible to children such as a 5-part series entitled "Great Truths in the Book of Romans".  
Illustrations are sometimes needed to help teach truths like justification or sanctification.Illustrations in the Bible build a bridge between the familiar and the unfamiliar.  As a visual illustrator, I look at the culture the children are in, find something familiar from their small world and create a bridge to help them understand the unfamiliar truth being taught. I'm always working within the boundaries of a pre-existing Bible lesson text so the visual doesn't stand on it's own but is reinforcing what the teacher is saying.  We are presently working on teacher resource packs.  Illustrations are needed for visualized review games, take-home worksheets, memory verse tokens, etc..  
We produce missionary and Christian stories from past and present.  There is also a wide range of illustrations needed for the Bible correspondence courses for children (free).  In Russia alone, 11,300 children are enrolled in these courses.  One seven yr. old boy responded on one of his lessons, While going through the lessons, I trusted Christ as my Saviour.  ... I need to ask for your forgiveness ... I'm not a seven yr. old boy, but a 70 yr. old man!  – Put the food out for the lambs and the sheep will come and feed also.
The list of illustration needs is endless – not just Bible lessons.

I know that you're into photography. How does photography help you as an artist?
I went to Bible college to study art and photography.  I eventually had to drop photography and just focus on Bible and art.  I love photography and it's become a vital part of my illustration work flow.  I also use it extensively in other areas of ministry.  I do have to shift my thinking when jumping between the two because photography is the art of exclusion while painting is the art of inclusion.  With photography I begin with clutter and choose what to exclude from the image.  Photography has helped me find the "little stories" unfolding around me and isolating them within the frame.  With illustration, I start with a blank page and decide what to include.
I start with a series of thumbnail sketches before deciding on the final one.  I then make a list of what photo references I need. I would find willing models (family, friends or co-workers) to pose for me.   I regularly use myself as a model and change my appearance at the drawing stage.  My wife made a plain robe with velcro attachments on the back to fit various body shapes and to easily slip over clothing.  It's much easier to find friends to model when they don't have to change out of their clothes.  I can adjust the size of the robe with clips (wooden clothespins) down the back.  This simple pull-over garment is a nice addition to my bathrobe I used for many years.
(I handed this tract
(right) to a man in Moscow and he showed me a toothless grin after reading the title, How to get to Heaven from Moscow.  He said, I don't know how to get to heaven but I do know you won't start in Moscow!)
I work on a tight deadline and taking the extra care with lighting and posing of people at the photo reference stage saves me extra work later on.  This is important if I have 1-2 days to complete an illustration.  For lighting, I never use a direct flash, otherwise I end up with flat, emotionless lighting.  I use off-camera flashes or I will just use my trusty shower curtain liner (translucent white) with a natural light source to soften direct sunlight or draped from a doorway or window to create a large softbox.  I'm always taking reference photos of trees, rocks, architecture, etc..  I especially like to photograph textures  to use later (stones, tree bark, walls, wood grain, ...)  It's important that I enter a metadata description for each photo so that a computer search using any of those descriptive words will bring up that photo instantly.  You can enter this metadata using most photo programs like Google Picasa (free).
I import the photos into Adobe Photoshop and use them as a starting point or reference to work from making adjustments at the drawing stage.  I use a Wacom Cintiq monitor that allows me to draw directly on the screen.  I do as much as I can in Photoshop before moving to Corel Painter to paint and then bring it back into Photoshop.  I would much prefer to stay in Photoshop but I don't have the most recent Photoshop CS5 that includes natural media brushes. :-(
If you plan to use photography in your illustration workflow, I encourage you to do several tests with the same subject photographed at different focal lengths and observe the distortion characteristics at each focal length.  A wide angle lens will distort and exaggerate distance and size between objects while zooming in too much will distort by compressing depth and making distant objects larger than life.

Has working with computers changed the way you work over the years and in what way?
While using computers saved me some time, this wasn't the biggest reason for me to switch.  
My daily working environment is a series of interruptions.  That's not good or bad – just part of the ministry.  Even now I'm getting ready to go teach a puppet seminar.  Never a boring day around here!  With the computer I don't need to set up and clean up my paints and brushes throughout the day.  I used to work in watercolors, gouache, but mostly used a combination of gouache and color pencils before switching to the computer.  I adapted some of my painting techniques to the computer – I loved to use a toothbrush to spatter paint textures so I created a Photoshop toothbrush spatter brush to create the same effect in the computer (with less mess!).
The illustrations may be reused for the internet, video, Powerpoint® lessons, etc..  Having a layered digital file from the start can be useful.  I can also use layers to create various images from one illustration.  What I like most about working with the computer is the ability to attempt something new without ruining a days work.  I love the cmd+Z (undo) button!
I definitely plan to use my traditional tools again for upcoming projects.  I look forward to working with oils as I stare longingly at my assortment of brushes and paints on the desk.

How were you first introduced to the Bible?
I am so thankful for loving Christian parents who taught us the Bible at home and shared the Gospel from an early age.  I trusted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour at the age of seven.

How do you go about illustrating a Bible story for CEF and how much research do you need to do?
The lesson text is written first and divided up for the illustrations.  I'm the last stage before going to the printer.  While I'm working on the illustrations, the lesson text is being sent around to the national offices to begin translation.  Time constraints and other ministry needs limit how in-depth I can go with my historical research.  Doctrinal research always comes first.  As a result, I need to prioritize my research time and adapt the composition accordingly.  Because the illustrations are for a teacher/group situation and not close viewing in a book it allows me the flexibility to simplify details in the background and surrounding props.  I've built up a useful research library over the years with the latest addition to my library being the photo CD reviewed on this blog – Historic Views of the Holy Land/Traditional Life and Customs.  Thanks!
One area of research I do is to ask our teachers around Europe how children respond to certain illustrations.  For example, I wrestled with how much blood would be appropriate to show children when illustrating the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  It was interesting to hear about the reaction of children from a rough neighborhood outside London.  It wasn't the amount of blood shown that caused a reaction.  One young girl walked right up during the lesson and touched the bruises on Jesus' cheek. Some of these children are beaten at home and know about bruises and how it goes below the surface.  I realized that just adding some blue bruising in the illustration had a far greater impact on these children than excess blood.  It's finding the right balance.  With all the Bible pictures, it's important for children to know that this was a real event in time and place.

CEF pictures are being used all around the globe in many different cultures. When producing pictures for other cultures are there certain issues that need to be taken into account, and can you give us an example? 
For Bible lessons that include Jesus, I try to avoid showing the face of Jesus when possible.  This came up as an issue in some cultures and with children of Muslim families.  I still include direct frontal views of Jesus but I've limited how often I include them.  As an artist, there are times I actually prefer to show the view from over His shoulder and focus on showing the reaction/response of the person looking into the face of Jesus.  It's far more important that the child leaves with a clear understanding of the character, attributes and person of the Lord Jesus.

Have you illustrated the entire Bible yet?
Not yet...  You're already doing a great job of that.  I'll leave that challenge with you! :-)

Ha ha! ;0) Can you think of a particular Bible story that was difficult to illustrate and why?
I find the doctrinal series challenging.  The series Five Great Questions addresses question like, who is God?, why am I here?, why did Jesus have to die?, etc.  The text for the first picture was "in the beginning God".  How do I illustrate that for a child who has never seen a Bible and has absolutely no concept of who God is.  Thankfully, the illustration accompanies a text.
I needed to illustrated the following verse from a doctrinal series we did on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:26 "... The Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
How does one illustrate for children the Holy Spirit helping the Believer and interceding with groans?! I showed a child
(see left) who might be going through a difficult situation (fear, loneliness, sickness, anguish, etc.) and coming to the Lord in prayer. I tried to express this through the tension in the fingers and hiding of the face.  I added the directional light breaking through the darkness to help show how the child is not alone and the Holy Spirit is sharing in our feelings with us and helping the Christian.

What other Bible artists have inspired you?
Before the Internet, I was only exposed to the work of a few Bible artists.  As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s and later as an Bible artist starting out, I will always remember the Bible illustrations of John Steel and his work for Scripture Press.  I saved most of his pictures from our Sunday School materials.

I've not come across John Steel before - I must Google him. What are you working on at the moment Tim?
A single lesson (10 illustrations) on the Call of Jeremiah. The central theme of the lesson is God has a plan for your life. Every CEF lesson (Bible lessons, doctrinal lessons, missionary stories, etc.)  clearly presents the Gospel and includes teaching for the saved child.

What advice would you give to a young person wanting to become a missionary artist?
Continue to study the Bible in addition to your art training.  Share your desire with the leaders in your church and ask them to be praying for you.  They can also suggest solid mission organizations to contact.
Becoming a missionary often involves raising financial and prayer support through churches and individuals. Nurturing relationships is a big part of it.  I mention this specifically because artists sometimes have a reputation of not being strong in communication and relationship building.  
The Bible verses I've kept before me over these years in ministry as an encouragement and daily prayer reminder – Exodus 35:30-35.  
We read how the Lord called (chose), equipped and empowered Bezalel and Aheliab, as craftsmen to do a special work.  
Pray daily for wisdom, understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship.  Striving for excellence to the Glory of God.

Tim, you and your family live in a very beautiful part of Switzerland - where are you from originally?
I'm originally from York, PA (USA).  I absolutely love the view in Switzerland but there's nothing quite like the Appalachians and rolling hills of Pennsylvania's "Amish country".   Where is home?  I tell people, home is where my wife is.  We have three wonderful daughters – two are presently attending university in the US.

Thanks so much Tim for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to share with us about life as a missionary artist with C.E.F.
As always - we look forward to your comments!

All illustrations above are © CEF Europe 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Four dates for your diary!

I've received a number of emails recently regarding various Bible Art/Archaelogy events that readers of this blog might be interested to attend. Three of these events are in the U.S. and one in the U.K. I'll list them in descending date order:

October 2010
First of all, our good friend and Bible artist Nahum HaLevi is holding a one man show displaying 25 of his paintings at The Singer Gallery of the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center in Denver Colorado. The exhibition is titled 'Splendor and Awe : The Visionary Midrash of Nahum HaLevi' and will run from October 28, 2010 -January 2, 2011. Another of Nahum's paintings 'The Family Abramovich: The offered, the parched and the disinherited' is on display as part of a mega one year long exhibition at The American Visionary Art Museum. The exhibition is titled 'What makes us Smile?' and is co-curated by Matt Groening (creator of the Simpsons). This exhibition also starts October 2010, and runs until September 2011.
Picture above © Nahum HaLevi 2010

November 2010
Alicia Bregon from the Biblical Archaeology Society emailed me with details of the 13th Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest, to be held at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia on November 19–21, 2010.
"Twenty leading scholars will convene from around the world to share their research with the public in a dynamic seminar series designed specifically for the interested lay person. Concurrent sessions over the three-day period will address the latest developments in the fields of early Christianity, Gnostic scholarship, the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Israel and Biblical archaeology. For thirteen years, the Biblical Archaeology Society is proud to be the only organization to bring current Biblical research to the general public straight from the scholars who are at the forefront of their fields.
Open to the public, this 3-day Bible and Archaeology Fest program will feature 20 of the most distinguished scholars from around the world covering topics from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the latest archaeological discoveries".

For full details of the conference and the scheduled lectures, contact Alicia Bregon.

December 2010
Finally, Dr Rina Arya emailed me with details of a conference to be held on 10-11 December 2010 titled 'Contemplations of the Spiritual in Contemporary Art'. The conference will take place in Liverpool Cathedral, St James Mount, Liverpool, LI 7AZ, U.K.
"The history of Western art comes out of a Judaeo-Christian legacy and for centuries the relationship between religion and art was close. It is only in fairly recent times, since the beginning of modernism and the advent of contemporary art, that the two have been considered apart. In this conference we are going to build on this theme by placing religion (which is taken in its more inclusive sense to refer to the spiritual) in dialogue with contemporary art. We look forward to the fruitful interdisciplinary debates that will ensue".
Keynote speakers are: James Elkins (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), John Harvey (University of Aberystwyth), Graham Howes (University of Cambridge) and David Jasper (University of Glasgow).

For more information about the conference please contact the conference organisers.

If anyone is able to attend any of the events above, maybe you could leave a comment on this post to let us know how it went. Many thanks!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pictures from the Exodus journey

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot - also referred to as the 'Feast of Tabernacles' or 'Festival of Booths' ended recently which is fitting because during this time I was completing work on our latest picture set which depicts how God provided for the children of Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness. During the Feast of Tabernacles today, Jewish people all around the world build temporary booths/shelters, which they live in for seven days, as a reminder of the temporary dwellings erected by their forefathers during the Exodus wanderings. It's a time of thanksgiving for Gods faithfulness and provision!

Picture 1 shows the children of Israel sojourning through the wilderness. All the rocks/mountains have been drawn from photographic references taken in the Sinai peninsula. I noticed that the rocks have a pinkish tinge when compared to the rock colour which I normally use so I've tried to match all the rock colours to the reference photos. Every mountain in these pictures exists although I can't give you an exact location! ;0)

Picture 2 shows the people complaining to Moses that they have no food. Picture 3 is set in the evening and shows a great bevy of quail landing in the Israelite camp. Picture 4 is set in the morning and shows the people gathering manna in pots. I've tried to show the different ways that manna could be eaten - there's a pot of manna on-the-boil, some of it has been baked into buns and some children are eating it fresh off the ground! There have been a number of attempts to explain away manna as a naturally occurring substance - not something miraculous. However, even though there isn't a particularly detailed description contained in scripture, there's enough to rule out a natural occurrence! Remember that this substance appeared every morning, was enough to feed around 2 million people, and only lasted for a day except when collected the day before the Sabbath!

Picture 5 shows the people complaining to Moses again! When we read this account we are often amazed at how much complaining the Israelites did, even after they had seen God deliver them in so many miraculous ways. but the fact is that we are all stubborn and rebellious against God - it's in our nature. What is truly amazing is Gods goodness and patience with us! By nature we are far away from God. This means that the transformation from rebels into worshipers is always going to be a painful one! Our desire for a closer walk with God will lead us into a wilderness journey simply because we need to be changed! In fact, so radical are the changes that need to be made in us - only God can make them! God wants the very best for us, and He knows that the very best for us is God!
We also need to learn to wait on God daily, just as the Israelites did, for anything that's going to be of true value in this life.

Picture 6 shows Moses striking the rock and water bursting forth as the elders watch in amazement! Picture 7 (above) shows the israelites filling water pots and drinking from the newly flowing stream. Remember that this stream/river was enough to quench the thirst of a great multitude so it's unlikely that the water trickled from the rock as we sometimes see in Bible pictures. The lady stood on the right of the picture above is the English illustrator and Bible artist Cicely Mary Barker (when she was young). This is my little tribute to her!

There are 7 pictures in this set which I will link to as soon as they're uploaded to the Bible picture website.
Look forward to your comments.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bible Artist News!

I've received a few updates recently from Bible artists around the globe that I would like to share with you. There are also a number of new children's Bibles about to be released which I'm sure you'll find interesting.

'The ICB Big Red Holy Bible, Contemporary 3D Art Edition', (not sure who came up with the snappy title), is due to be published next month and is illustrated by A friend of mine Graeme Hewitson. Graeme tells me that the cover of this bible has a "really cool 3d effect" which should be interesting. The Bible contains Graeme's very cool 3D artwork which the publisher Tommy Nelson is hoping will appeal to 'today's video-game generation'. This is a bold move away from traditional Bible art, and if its successful, will no doubt have other publishers following their lead. This will be good news for all the CG artists out there. There's a facebook movie promoting the ICB Big Red Holy Bible...etc etc here. Graeme has promised me a signed copy which I look forward very much to seeing. (Thanks Graeme)

Keith Neely has finally completed the ICB Illustrated Bible series and the first copies should be back from the printer early October. More details about the new 'ICB Illustrated Bible' can be found at Keith's new website which is packed with information including a very interesting 'How we created the Illustrated Bible' page.
Keith is looking for a publisher/distributor in the U.K. to distribute copies here, so if you're interested contact Keith.

As I've previously mentioned in the 'Shanah Tova' post, the latest volume of the Modern Hebrew Children's Bible will be on its way to the printer next month also. This will be the fourth out of five volumes and includes the books of Job, Psalms and Proverbs. The Modern Hebrew Children's Bible has been illustrated by our friend Diana Shimon in Israel.

Balage Balogh has launched a new website which is devoted entirely to his Bible Art. Balagh sent me his latest picture (above) which I'm sure you'll all enjoy. (Click on the picture for a bigger version). Balage describes the scene as " illustration of Herod the Great's temple from inside the Royal Stoa during a major Hag, maybe Pesach." Don't forget to check out, you won't be disappointed.

I was also contacted last week by Ed Olson who has been working on a new book project with his wife Linda which is based on Creation. To learn more about this project and to see a dummy of the book click here! Ed and Linda are looking for a publisher - so, if you're interested contact Ed.

In closing, I'm hoping to be interviewing CEF's Bible artist Tim Shirey over the weekend for the Bible illustration blog so I'm looking forward to that. Tim is one of our regular contributors to the B.I.B and is based in Switzerland. Jewish Bible artist Nahum HaLevi will shortly be adding his latest painting titled 'Ezekiel' to his website. As usual, this will be accompanied by a lengthy and informative description which I've had the privilege of reading already, (Thanks Nahum).
As always, I look forward to your comments!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Graphically illustrated children's Bibles

I had an email this week from a 'Jenny' in Indiana who is trying to get hold of a children's Bible which she owned as a child in the 70's. She describes the Bible in question as having "..the most graphic illustrations imaginable. By this, I mean that our mother eventually cut out the picture of John the Baptist’s head being served on a platter!" Jenny goes on to describe a picture of "Solomon holding a baby up by the heel with a sword ready to cut it in half." also a "...dreadful illustration of the murdered babies in the slaughter of the innocents."
They don't illustrate Bibles like that anymore! No, really, they don't!

Jenny, who wants to get a copy of this Bible for her brother who's now a pastor, closes her email by saying "Now that I have kids (ages 4 and 6), I am pretty sure I’m glad that most of the Bible story books we have now are much more tame!" If you think you might know which children's Bible Jenny is describing, or how she might get hold of a copy, please leave a comment or send me an email which I can pass on to her.

The early 80's was probably the last time that we see really graphic images in children's Bibles. The image above of David holding Goliath's severed head is from The Great Bible Discovery series published in 1983. It's hard to imagine a publisher re-printing images like this today, but will the sugar-coated Bible illustrations of today be as memorable? I also wonder if the trend to move away from a realistic Bible illustration style is because the publishers today associate this style with the more explicitly illustrated Bibles of the past?
Look forward to hearing your comments.
Image © OM Publishing 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Shanah Tova - Happy New Year!

'Shana Tova' to all our Jewish readers! Yes, Rosh HaShanah (The Feast of Trumpets) is here again so I thought that I would take this opportunity to give a plug to HaGefen Publishing's new calendar which runs from September 2010 to September 2011 (covering the Jewish year 5771). The calendar features devotional Bible verses and vibrant illustrations by our good friend Diana Shimon.

The illustrations are taken from the Modern Hebrew Children's Bible which Diana continues to work on. Volume four, which includes Job, Psalms and Proverbs, is due to be with the printer in October. The fifth and final volume, which will include the final books of the Hebrew canon - Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel and the two books of Chronicles, is due to be completed in the next two to three years. For more information on the Modern Hebrew Children's Bible or to order a calendar, contact HaGefen publishing in Israel.

L'Shana Tova Tikosevu! (May you be inscribed for a good year!).

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Pictures of the Passover

I have finished the pictures for the Passover story at last! There are 18 pictures in this set which has taken months to complete due to all the detailed Egyptian settings and the sheer amount of people (and insects) involved in the story. The pictures retell the story beginning from when Moses and Aaron first came before Pharaoh, and ending when the Egyptian army is destroyed in the Red Sea.

One of the first questions I needed an answer to was "Do we know how old the Exodus-pharaoh was?" Dr Douglas Petrovich from 'Associates for Biblical Research' has written a very interesting article titled 'AMENHOTEP II AND THE HISTORICITY OF THE EXODUS PHARAOH' which you can read here. Amenhotep II does seem to be the most likely candidate for the exodus-pharaoh. Regarding the age of Amenhotep II at the time of the exodus Dr Petrovich told me....
"I am very confident of the age of Amenhotep II at the time of the exodus, given the synchronism between biblical and ancient Egyptian history, both of which provide us quite accurate and detailed information. I follow Wente and Van Siclen in assigning a reign of 37 1/3 years to this pharaoh, and concluding that he lived 55 years.

 They are confident of his age at death, because the ancient source known as the Sphinx Stele declares that he was 18 years of age when he ascended the throne. There is no reason to doubt this. Redford, Der Manuelian and other Egyptologists argue convincingly that his coregency with his father lasted 2 1/3 years, which I have documented in my article.

 Since the dating of Amenhotep II's reign begins at the inception of his coregency, thus when he was 18 years old, and his reign was numbered without interruption through the coregency and into his sole reign, we know that he would have been approximately 26 years old during his Regnal Year 9, the year of the exodus, with a variance of only 1 year possible. Of this we can be very confident."

Regarding the age of Amenhotep's firstborn son Dr Petrovich says....
"As for the age of his firstborn son at this time, Thutmose, unfortunately I have virtually no confidence. I wish we could know more. The chance always exists that a new discovery WILL answer this for us, but only time will tell.
What we can be sure about is how old he was not. Given that his father was 26 (or so) when he died, this son could not have been more than 9 years old or so. Most likely, his father would have wed between 18 and 22 years of age, so Thutmose most likely was 3 to 7 years of age--at the oldest--at the time of his death; perhaps "5" would be our most logical supposition. Obviously, he may have been less than a year old, so this cannot be ruled out. What we can rule out is the chance that he was an adolescent or young adult."

We have a fairly good idea of what Amenhotep II looked like. There are a number of stone sculptures, monuments and tomb paintings which record both his physical features and his accomplishments as a hunter, archer and charioteer. He is often shown wearing a nemes headcloth which features a prominent uraeus, (upright spitting cobra), on the front. The body of the cobra undulates up and over the top of the headcloth. In picture 1 we see Moses and Aaron before pharaoh. Aaron's rod has become a serpent and is swallowing the snakes conjured up by the Egyptian magicians. This spectacle is being watched with interest by Amenhotep's hunting dogs! These dogs, which are thought to have been either greyhounds or Ibizan hounds, appeared with Amenhotep II on wall paintings and were not only regarded as hunting dogs - they were highly regarded pets of the ancient Egyptians and were often mummified and buried with their owners.
On the subject of hunting there is also evidence from tomb paintings that tame cheetah's were used by the huntsmen also.

Picture 2 (above) depicts the first plague as the Nile, which itself was considered a deity by the Egyptians, is turned to blood. The dogs appear again in this picture as does Thutmose who I portray as being 5-6 years old as per Dr Petrovich's comments above. Picture 3 shows the plague of frogs. Egyptian handmaidens are rooted to the spot screaming as frogs leap around their feet. The frogs show no regard for the Egyptian deities as they clamber over the image of the Egyptian god Anubis! picture 4 depicts the plague of gnats. Thutmose is shown standing on his fathers throne using his father's giraffe tail fly swatter to battle the insects. This is the only time he will ascend to his father's throne which is the reason why a number never appears after his name. Thutmose III was the father of Amenhotep II. He was Egypt's most-powerful, imperialistic pharaoh. He would have been pharaoh when Moses left Egypt to go to Midian.

Picture 5 illustrates the plague of flies. On special occasions the egyptian women wore cones made of animal fat on top of their heads. These cones of fat were scented with spices and herbs and as the fat melted the hair became perfumed and greasy! The cones were often worn pierced through with a flower. The flies in this picture are particularly interested in these scented domes to the horror of the wearers! Picture 6 depicts the plague which killed the Egyptians livestock, and picture 7 shows the plague of boils. Picture 8 depicts the plague of hail stones and lightning and I show both the crops of flax and barley being destroyed. Picture 9 shows the plague of locusts and picture 10 shows the approaching plague of darkness. I've tried to show this darkness approaching in full day light to illustrate its all consuming nature. I don't believe that this darkness could be compared to night time - the Bible describes it as a darkness that could be felt! It also sounds like this darkness couldn't be dispelled by interior lamps either. It's interesting that this darkness comes just before the death of the Passover lamb because the next time we see an inky blackness to compare with this is just before the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross. Young Thutmose is holding a toy horse which is based on an actual ancient Egyptian toy from this period.

Picture 11 shows the family preparing the Passover lamb which can be seen lying on the table in the background. The father of the house is applying the blood to the door lintel and posts as the mother prepares to roast the lamb. The daughter is standing outside holding a bunch of hyssop for her dad. modern Bible scholars still express uncertainty about the actual identity of the hyssop plant mentioned here, but as it was used on this occasion almost like a paintbrush, and in the levitical purification rituals for sprinkling, it does suggest that the plant was able to hold moisture. For this reason some have suggested that the plant Origanum syriacum, (Syrian hyssop) seems the most likely candidate. This is the one I decided to use in the picture.
The little girl is not happy as the lamb whom she had cared for during the last four days has been slain. (Ex 12:3-7) The mother too is holding back the tears and is being comforted by her little son. This is a reminder of the awful consequences of sin and the necessity of a blood sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Hebrews 9:22

Picture 12 shows the death of the firstborn. It's not long past midnight and the lifeless body of Thutmose lies in the lap of his mother. Moses and Aaron have been told to take the Israelites and leave Egypt. Various bottles of lotions and potions are scattered around the floor that were used in a vain attempt to revive the young boy. Picture 13 shows the children of Israel nearing the end of their 25 mile journey from Rameses to Succoth. This journey began in the night and would have taken around 5 hours. The sun is just starting to rise over the sea of Israelites who by conservative estimates were around 2 million in number! Moses is leading them and he is surrounded by excited children. One boy to the right of Moses is carrying a kneading trough which holds a lump of unleavened dough partly covered by a damp cloth. The girl to the left of Moses is the same girl from picture 11. She's not sad anymore though. she's wearing a beautiful golden Egyptian necklace which is part of the bounty of Gold, silver and clothing given to the children of Israel by the Egyptians. She is walking along pretending to be an Egyptian princess with a bulrush head in her hand. The death and shed blood of her little lamb which she mourned so deeply for has both secured her freedom from captivity and provided her with a new garment to wear also! These are all significant illustrations of the Gospel.

Picture 14 (above left) shows the Egyptian chariots pouring forth from Egypt in hot pursuit of the Israelites! Incidentally, the wheels of Egyptian chariots had six spokes, not four as is sometimes suggested. Picture 15 depicts the parting of the Red Sea which we've talked about in more detail here. Picture 16 shows the nation of Israel passing through the sea on dry land. The scene is flooded with light from the pillar of fire and cloud. As the people pass through the deepest part of the sea some of them have lit torches. In the far distance you can just make out the crowds coming up onto the opposite shore bathed in moonlight. Picture 17 shows the Egyptian chariots charging into the divided waters. Pharaoh's chariot however is perched on a rock overlooking the scene as Amenhotep II later returned to Egypt, without his army, to reign for a few more years. The chariots are being driven into a dense black cloud and chariot wheels are starting to break off. The pillar of dark cloud which is holding back the Egyptians is struggling to conceal the brilliance of the Shekinah fire on the opposite side which is providing light to the Israelites. Towards the top of the pillar shafts of blinding light are piercing through the cloud like volcanic lightning! Just behind the pillar of cloud you can see that the opposite shore is lit by the Shekinah fire.

The final picture shows the water crashing down onto the Egyptian chariots! As soon as this set is uploaded to the Bible picture website
I will add a link so that you can view all the pictures.
© G D Kennedy 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Moses in the Bulrushes

Recently finished the picture set retelling the story of 'Moses in the Bulrushes'. Picture one shows the Israelites hard at work under their Egyptian task masters. I wanted to include in this picture some of the ancient Egyptian building methods such as the splitting of rocks using wooden wedges and water, and the methods used to transport the huge stone blocks. Picture two shows the midwifes before Pharaoh. Picture 3 (right) shows Jochebed placing baby Moses into the bulrushes. I talk more about egyptian bulrushes here. Jochebed is holding back the tears as she places Moses into the providential care of God. Miriam places a comforting hand on her mothers shoulder. Aaron was 3 years old at this time, (Exodus 7:7), and other sources place miriam at around seven years old. There seems to be some confusion amongst Bible illustrators concerning the age difference between Moses and Aaron, particularly later on in the story when they stand before Pharaoh (which I'm illustrating at the moment). Some children's Bibles show Aaron to be much younger than Moses, and in one I own he's about 40 years older! So, just to clarify this, around the time of the ten plagues Moses was 80, and Aaron was 83 years old. I show Aaron with a slightly more receding hairline!

In picture 4 baby Moses is found by the egyptian princess. I've mentioned before that baby Moses was crying at this point which few artists show. Are there any other points that artists should be aware of concerning baby Moses? Yes, he was a fine looking baby! (Exodus 2:2) If you look closely at picture 4 you can also see Miriam hiding in the bulrushes! In picture 5 Miriam is speaking to the princess, and in picture 6 Jochebed and Miriam come to take baby Moses into their care. Jochebed is walking away, with her back to the princess trying to hide her delight, and Miriam is looking up at her mum, daring not to speak, but with a "we got away with it!" look on her face. In picture 7, Jochebed presents a young toddler Moses to the princess. Moses has brought a little gift for the princess - not a flower, but a bulrush head as a reminder of when she first found him. (that's not in the Bible by the way, it's artist's license!) Picture 8 shows Moses, now a young man, enjoying the privileges of living in the grand Egyptian palace.

There are 8 pictures in this set which brings our total picture count to 840. Look forward to your comments as always.

Related posts
Baby in a Basket

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Balage Balogh: Merging Art and Archaeology

One of the many tasks of the Bible artist is to recreate the ancient civilizations of Bible times. In our attempts to accurately portray scenes which are set in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Israel, Assyria or Rome etc, we utilize all the latest archaeological evidence available to us. We have often discussed the question "How important is it to add lots of historical detail into our Bible pictures?" The consensus was, that so long as it doesn't slow us down too much, (as we sometimes have many pictures to illustrate in one story), adding well researched historical details does help to make a scene that bit more convincing. I'm not saying that we need to go to the same lengths as Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema as he sought to "bring antiquity back to life," but I think that we should try, to the best of our abilities, to present each story in its correct setting.

Having said that, for a small number of Bible artists it's immensely important that all historical details are absolutely accurate! These are the Bible artists whose job it is to illustrate Study Bibles, and of course those very helpful illustrated Bible Encyclopedias and dictionaries that we use. These artists have the great privilege of working alongside Bible scholars, Archaeologists and Archaeological Architects like Dr Leen Ritmeyer, all experts in their respective fields. One such artist, Balage Balogh, contacted me a few weeks ago, and gave me permission to share some of his wonderful artwork on the B.I.B.

Balage, was born in Budapest, Hungary and attended art school there. As an immigrant he settled in New York before traveling extensively in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Orient. Balage has worked for many years with archaeologists, scholars and museums creating archaeological reconstructions, and shares our passion for Bible Art! He was excited to find "a community of Bible artists who hang out together on the B.I.B", and is looking forward to joining with us as we discuss the various issues surrounding Bible illustration. You can see more of Balage's Bible art at his website, but before you rush off there, check out the samples below. Enjoy!

King David's balcony 10thcBCJosiahNebuchadnezar's palaceNehemiahSolomon's Temple
All pictures on this post are © Balage Balogh 2010

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all our readers!
The picture (right) is taken from our picture set which depicts 'The Resurrection'. Although the setting of this picture is fairly dark, you can still make out the chalk and water whitewash that was used on tomb exteriors in Israel.
I talk more about this in the
'Raising Lazarus' post.

Below is a short poem titled 'Easter Day' written by missionary to India, Amy Carmichael. Hope you like it.

Easter Day

The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Lord Christ of Easter Day, Christ the victorious,
On this most radiant of all radiant days,
Thee do we worship, Redeemer, all-glorious,
Offer Thee hearts' adoration and praise.

Sealed was the stone, and the rock did enfold Him,
There in the silence of moonlight and stars,
Till the hour struck; then the tomb could not hold Him,
Snapped like a straw death's omnipotent bars.

Evil may triumph to-day, but To-morrow,
Seeth the end of satanical strife.
Fear not and falter not; sin pain and sorrow
Fall when He cometh, the Christ, Prince of Life.

Sound the word over the land and the waters,
Let it sound over the air once again;
Christ hath arisen. His sons and His daughters,
Lift up your heads, for He cometh to reign.

Taken from the book 'Edges of His Ways'. Amy Carmichael was the founder of the Dohnavur Fellowship.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Classic Bible Stories

When I first wrote about the Bible art of Frank Hampson I received emails from a number of people all asking if I knew where they could obtain a copy of 'Jesus: The Road of Courage' from. My answer was always the same, "Sorry, copies are very hard to find." That was the case up until now!
A few weeks ago, John Freeman, who works for Titan books, left a blog comment on the Frank Hampson post informing readers that, at the end of this month (March), Titan books will be releasing 'Classic Bible Stories' which combines both 'Jesus: The Road of Courage' and 'Mark: The youngest Disciple'. John says that "Both strips have been scanned from good quality issues of Eagle.......the collection will also include Hampson's beautiful Nativity illustration from the 1957 Eagle Annual".

(Before you rush to order a copy, you might want to read the Update/Review below). I haven't seen any of the artwork from 'Mark: The youngest Disciple' as yet, or Hampson's Nativity art, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this new book.
For me, the visual interpretation of Jesus, (see cover) is my only complaint. Some of Hampson's character designs look very 'British' and his interpretation of Jesus would perhaps fit better in a 'Robin Hood' graphic novel than in one based on the New Testament. Having said that, most of his other character designs are superb!
if it's dynamic, lavishly illustrated Bible artwork you're looking for, it doesn't get better than this! Does anyone know if Hampson illustrated any of the Old Testament stories for Eagle comic?

Update/Review:12 March 2010
Just received my copy of 'Classic Bible stories' and I have to say I'm disappointed. I need to quickly clear up a couple of misleading comments in the post above. Firstly, I was led to believe, by John Freemans's post comment, that there was additional Frank Hampson artwork, based on the Nativity, that had been included in this book. There isn't! The 'Road of courage' already includes the Nativity story, which I should have realized!
Secondly, you will notice on the book cover above, which appears on Amazon, the name 'Frank Hampson'. Well, that name doesn't appear on the cover of the actual book, and there's a good reason why it doesn't. The story of 'Mark: The youngest disciple' isn't illustrated by Hampson! It's illustrated by Giorgio Bellavitis. While Bellavitis' work is pleasant, it's not in the same league as Hampson's. So, if you're a Hampson fan, and you already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage' and you were hoping to find some new Hampson Bible Art in this book, (as I was), you will be disappointed.

That wasn't what disappointed me most about the book though. The worst thing about this book is the print quality. My copy of 'The Road of Courage' published by 'Dragon's Dream' was printed 29 years ago in the Netherlands and it's superb! All Hampson's fine line work and his subtle color work is all there to be admired. In this new version however, the fine black line work has filled in to a solid black and the subtle colors are harsh or bleached out! I'm not sure if it's the scanning or the printing, or both, that's at fault, but whoever O.K.'d the printing proofs was not a Hampson fan! I would certainly not have passed them!
The question remains, "If you don't already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage', should you buy this one?" I hate to say no but, If you really want to appreciate Hampson's Bible art, then you need to see an earlier version! If this book was produced for fans of Hampson's art, or the Eagle comic, no expense should have been spared when reproducing the original art.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Traditional Life and Customs in the Holy Land

You may remember me commenting some time ago how Bible artists, who travelled to the Holy Land in the late 1800's - early 1900's to gather references for their Bible pictures, were "too heavily influenced by what they saw" and photographed. (See Margaret Tarrant and William Hole). Well, having now seen the newly released collection of photo's titled 'Traditional Life and Customs' available from, I can now understand the reasons why these artists illustrated exactly what they witnessed! For instance, when you look at how primitive the farming methods recorded in these photos are, it's hard to imagine how they could have changed from Bible times. This collection of picture cd's will be an excellent resource for Bible artists. Many thanks to Professor Todd Bolen for making them available.

The following description is taken from Todd Bolen's website:
Founded in 1881 by Horatio Spafford (author of the famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul), the American Colony in Jerusalem operated a thriving photographic enterprise for almost four decades. Their images document the land and its people, with a special emphasis on biblical and archaeological sites, inspirational scenes, and historic events. One of the photographers, G. Eric Matson, inherited the archive, adding to it his own later work through the “Matson Photo Service.” He eventually donated all the negatives to the U.S. Library of Congress, which has made them available to the public.

This CD includes more than 600 selected photographs of life practices of native people in Palestine in the early 20th century, including scenes of the agricultural cycle, locust plagues, shepherds, fishermen, religious observances, and home life. All of the images are included in pre-made PowerPoint® files for quick and easy use, as well as in high-resolution jpg format, suitable for projecting or printing. Quotations from 19th-century travelers give additional context to the photographs.

Sample picture. (click on picture for larger image).
Amongst other subjects, the collection includes:
Agricultural Life: Plowing, Sowing, Water, Vineyards, Locust Plague, Grain Harvest and Olive Harvest (185 photos total)
Home Life: Food Preparation, Women at Work, and Weddings (100 photos total)
Religious Life: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Samaritan (110 photos total)
Work Life: Clothes Making, Fishing, Pottery Making, Shepherds, Trades, and Travel (150 photos total)

For more information on this excellent collection click here. One final word of advice, artists should still use discretion when using early photos for reference as Arab style clothing will be predominantly seen in photos from this period, and there may be some buildings seen in the photos which show architectural features which were not found in Bible times.

Images © 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tower of Babel

There are many weird and wonderful interpretations of the Tower of Babel that can be found in both picture books and paintings, so how do we go about finding out what the Tower of Babel actually looked like? The best way to find out is to look at the earliest examples of large-scale buildings found in roughly the same area. These are of course the Ziggurat's of Mesopotamia. Most biblical scholars and archaeologists agree that the Tower of Babel was most likely an early, if not the earliest, form of Ziggurat. Ziggurats were a type of tower which were commonly found in the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian cities of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia means "the land between two rivers" and was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present day Iraq.

The picture above is my drawing of a ziggurat before I added all the people busy in construction. Many Bible artists show the Tower of Babel towering up into the clouds, but the Bible does give the impression that the tower, due to Gods intervention, was left unfinished, as was the city. It's been suggested that the reason why there are no remains of such a sizable structure to be found today is because God frustrated their work in the very early stages.
As I was planning on showing the tower unfinished (at 3 levels), I also needed a way of showing how high the tower was intended to be when finished, (7 levels). The only way that I could think of doing this was to show the people gathered around a plan of the intended tower drawn onto a stretched animal skin, which we see in picture one. (left)

Ziggurats were huge stepped structures that were 2 to 7 tiers high, and usually found in the centre of a city. On the highest platform a temple was built to worship the various deities of the time. Because ziggurats were considered to be the dwelling place of a particular deity, only priests were permitted on them. The Mesopotamians believed that these ziggurat temples connected heaven and earth. The highest ziggurats went up to 300 feet high, which is equivalent to a 30 story office block today! They were built from mud bricks as there were few trees and little rock to quarry in the area. Unlike todays buildings, ziggurats were solid. The ancient architects did not have the know-how to build tall hollow structures, and so they filled them with earth. They were in effect man-made mountains! This is best seen in picture 3 which is an ariel view of the partly built ziggurat. The fact that ziggurats were solid would do away with the need for scaffolding which you do sometimes see in pictures of the tower of Babel.
Each flat terrace was paved with kiln-baked bricks. Some Bible artists have shown these flat terraces planted up with plants and trees. This is interesting because these ziggurats were like giant planters complete with drainage holes! You can see how the ancient architects later developed the idea of planting up these raised platforms in the hanging gardens of Babylon.The holes which look a little like windows in the walls of the ziggurat were there to allow water trapped inside to evaporate. The British archaeologist Leonard Woolley (1880-1969), who was well known for his excavations of the ziggurat at Ur, called these holes 'Weeper holes'.

Ziggurat Bricks
Ziggurats were built with two layers of brick. The inner layer was built of sun-dried bricks, and the outer layer was built of kiln-baked bricks which were less porous. The wooden brick molds seen in picture 2 are loosely based on the Egyptian ones that I've seen in Manchester museum. The bricks that were baked, to make them water resistant, were baked in dome shaped kilns made from, (yes you've guessed it), mud! These kilns had holes in the sides which dry twigs could be fed through to keep the fire going. When the bricks had cooled, they were removed from the dome and ready for use.
Bricks were also glazed in many different colors, I've chosen terra cotta and blue, but other colors were also available such as white and indigo. The temples constructed on the top tier were built entirely out of blue or indigo glazed bricks. The mortar used to hold the bricks together was bitumen (Gen 11:3). This was found in natural pits in Mesopotamia. In the photo on the right you can see a close up of the bricks and bitumen mortar used on the ziggurat at Ur. Bitumen or pitch was also used for other purposes during Bible times such as coating the outside of vessels. (See the Noah's Ark post).

There are 5 pictures in the 'Tower of Babel' set which can be viewed here. This brings our Bible picture count to 832!