Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

I received a christmas card from Bible artist Annie Vallotton a couple of days ago - one of her own designs, (see right).
Annie's life long friend Jeanne Bulté passed away this year (on March 31) so this christmas will be a difficult one for Annie. Please remember her in your prayers. Paula Taquet-Woolfolk emailed me to let me know that the 'Annie Vallotton Christian Lending Library' has moved to the lower level of the American Church in Paris to a larger room which means that they have been able to add more photos and a Bio of Annie for visitors to read. If you're visiting Paris, make sure you pop in and say hello!

For those of us who have families christmas is an extra busy time of year and we can forget that there are many people who spend it on their own - especially the elderly.
Why not invite someone around to share Christmas or New Year with you and your family - I guarantee it'll make your celebrations extra special! God bless and have a great christmas!

Image © Annie Vallotton 2011. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish readers!

I've only recently noticed that Gustave Dorés Bible etchings have been colored and reprinted in two volumes! Israeli artist Isaac Inbal devoted 9 years of his life to complete the task. I presume that this has been done digitally?

Both the Old & New Testaments are available separately from here:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NTM Pictures finished!

The 'New Tribes Mission' pictures are finally complete! There are 210 pictures in the new set which is exactly double the number of pictures in the old set which were painted 26 years ago by Filipino artist Carlos 'Caloy' Gabuco.

I've had to make a number of changes to my pictures, (over 60 in all), in order to make them more biblically/historically accurate. Thankfully there have been many expert eyes on the project, not only guiding me on matters relating to biblical topics but helping me to understand how to present certain topics clearly to pre-literate people groups - I have very much appreciated their input!

Preparing pictures to assist missionaries in their presentation of the Bible message has been a great privilege and responsibility. I can't think of a more worthwhile use of an artist's/illustrator's time though and I would encourage other artists to pursue this vocation.
In many cases these pictures give the very first glimpse of the outside world to be seen by remote people groups - so you do feel a certain amount of responsibility there too! I've already had feedback about how fascinated one group were to learn how early civilizations could build buildings using mud! Moulding and baking bricks in the sun, as is shown in the 'Tower of Babel' set, was a completely new concept to them!

It's hard to imagine that there are still 2,500 people groups that are unreached with the Gospel! The next step is to get all the picture sets printed, laminated and distributed to the 3,000 NTM missionaries working in the field. If you would like to help towards the cost of printing, click here. Many thanks if you have donated already!
Please remember the work of NTM in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova!

It's the Jewish New Year once again so "Shana Tova" to our Jewish readers and especially those Jewish Bible artists who regularly visit this blog. Rosh Hashanah, (the Feast of Trumpets), begins today as we enter into the Hebrew year 5772.

Once again the situation in Israel is critical, and again the situation has not been helped by the biased reporting of the media. If you're fed up of the distorted reports coming out of the BBC then check out Honest Reporting. I was pleased to read an article by Dr Denis MacEoin addressed to the Edinburgh University Student Association putting them right concerning their boycott of Israel. Check it out here. We need more 'informed' people commenting in the news arena.

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lion Bible in its Time

I seem to start every post nowadays with the words "My apologies for the long delay since my last post..." The reason for this is that I have been working flat out to finish the chronological teaching pictures for New Tribes Mission. The number of pictures on the original list has now increased to 212! 207 are complete, apart from some alterations, leaving five pictures to do, but they include some very involved ones like 'The Dedication of Solomon's Temple', 'Jacobs Ladder' and 'The Fall of Jericho!'
As it's a bank holiday Monday here in the U.K. I thought I'd add a quick blog. I was sent a copy of 'The Lion Bible in its Time' a few weeks back to review on the blog - so here goes.

When I review a book like this for readers of the blog I'm looking purely at the illustrative content and not the literary. The first thing that struck me about this book was the standard of illustration, which is much higher than you normally find in a book of this type, (which is basically an introduction to the Bible for children). They reminded me of the illustrations in the Reader's Digest 'Jesus and his Times' (1987). The illustrator, Steve Noon has produced breathtakingly detailed panoramas of Biblical scenery, my favorites were The Tabernacle, Jerusalem in the reign of King Solomon, Babylon (See above cover), Roman Jerusalem and The Port of Caesarea, (below). The pictures also include helpful cutaway sections showing the interiors of buildings/tents etc.

The pictures on the whole are well researched - many of them are based on ancient Assyrian and Egyptian carvings for accuracy. Steve Noon has done an excellent job lighting the pictures too - you can almost feel the warm glow of the sun! On a spread titled 'The great Flood' a large boat is seen being covered with bitumen. I don't think that this is supposed to be Noahs Ark as it's only about 15 feet high at the side. I suspect that this is rather depicting the boat building techniques of the time. Books of this type tend to concentrate on historical detail rather than the miraculous. It's a fine line that the publishers have to walk in order to get these books into our secular school libraries here in the U.K. - they come under rigorous censorship!

Steve Noon is not put off when facing an epic battle scene either as his picture of the Assyrian army defeating Israel in 720 BCE clearly shows. There really is a lot to look at in these pictures, and if you look closely, you'll find some humorous scenes that children will enjoy too. I'm guessing that the pictures were done in watercolor which must have taken a fair time to do. The reproduction is good, as is the print quality. All-in-all this is an excellent book and one that I would recommend to readers for their reference library.
Top marks to Steve Noon and Lion!

Pictures © Lion hudson 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Drawing the Ark of the Covenant.

From the beginnings of early Christian iconography artists have strived to depict the Ark of the Covenant. Countless attempts have been made to capture its likeness but can we really know what the Ark of the Covenant looked like?

Design of the Ark
One idea that's been expressed by at least two artists that I came across, 1.2. is that both the design of, and embellishments on, the ark would have been egyptian in style. The reason given for this is that as all the craftsmen had lived (and been trained) in Egypt prior to the Exodus, their only influences up to that point were all from Egyptian culture. Others point to ancient Egyptian artifacts that were similar in design to the ark such as Tutankhamun's Anubis Chest to strengthen their case. I would agree that this reasoning could be applied to the design of the golden calf - but not to the Ark of the Covenant. My reason is that in Exodus 25:40 God commanded Moses "See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain". Not only did God design the ark but Exodus 31:2-5 tells us that He equipped Bezalel, filling him with God's Spirit, wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft
in order to complete the job. I would suggest that Gods influence on design (as THE Great Designer of all) would take priority over Egypt's! Also, let's not forget that the Israelites were prohibited from being assimilated into the pagan nations around them - they were to be different in every way!
One other point on the embellishments - both Dr Leen Ritmeyer and Nahum HaLevi pointed out to me that "no decorations are mentioned" in scripture adorning the ark itself which is interesting as this would also be contrary to Egyptian art which almost always adorns every surface! Leen added "The Ark was not meant to be seen, so decorating it was not essential and with the cherubim it looked impressive enough." Having said that, it could also be argued that the pattern shown to Moses on the mount may have included some ornamentation the details of which were only revealed to Moses - we simply don't know! I did decide in the end to show some decoration, although not Egyptian. (See above picture).

Pole Position!
The positioning of the poles that were used to carry the ark is a hotly debated subject! Before I began the illustrations I fully intended having the poles running parallel to the long side of the ark as is more commonly seen. (see also Raiders of the Lost Ark) I became uncertain about this as I thought about the orientation of the ark within the Holy of Holies. Let's look at what the Bible says about this. We know from 1 Kings 8:8 that the ends of the poles could be seen from the Holy place protruding under the veil so from this we can conclude that the poles were running East to West. We also know from Lev 16:14 which way the high priest was facing as he officiated.
And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side,"
which means that the high priest must have been facing West. Incidentally, as the high priest faced west with his back to the veil, all he would see, including his peripheral vision, was gold!
This still doesn't give us any clues as to the orientation of the ark in relation to the poles. We need to go back now to the description of the ark given in Exodus 25:18-19. Here, Moses is told "make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof." It seems clear from this that the cherubim were to be positioned at each 'end' of the mercy seat. Now, unless the Hebrew word for 'end' refers to anything other than the short ends of an oblong, (which looking from above is the basic shape of the ark), it seems very likely that each cherub was positioned at the narrow ends of the ark. It sounds like I'm over stating the obvious here, but there are some scholars who believe that the cherubim were positioned in the centre of the mercy seat as opposed to at each end. The second point I want to make is that if the cherubs were at each end of the ark, it seems likely that the high priest would stand, (to sprinkle the blood in between the cherubim), at one of the long sides of the ark. If he stood at one of the narrow ends, he would be looking at the back of one of the cherubim. I concluded from this reasoning that as the poles in the holy of holies ran east to west, and as the high priest faced west, and as the high priest officiated at one of the longer sides of the ark, then the poles must run parallel to the narrow sides of the ark! I have been wrong in the past though so let me know your thoughts-!!

The Argument against
One of the objections to the view above, raised by those who believe that the poles ran parallel to the long sides of the ark, is presented by the question "If the poles run parallel with the narrow sides of the ark, how was it possible to get the Ark into the Holy of Holies? At it's widest point the ark would not fit in between the 5 pillars!" (I've raised this same point myself in the past). The answer that I was given to this question was " The Tabernacle was built around the ark - the ark was not carried into the Tabernacle". I haven't found a Bible verse that states otherwise and I've asked a number of experts/Rabbis too. If it could be shown from scripture that the ark was carried into the Tabernacle, then that would throw a fairly big spanner into the works! The picture (above left) shows the Tabernacle being constructed around the Ark. You can see the shadow of the first covering being drawn over the Holy of Holies. In actual fact the Ark would most likely have still been under cover at this point, protected from prying eyes!
One final point about the position of the poles - they were low down! Not as we see in the 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' film. Exodus 25:12 says "Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet," Also the poles had to be low to be seen under the veil. (1 Kings 8:8). I've pointed out in the past that as the Ark of the Covenant seems to be the only item of Tabernacle furniture that has the rings at ground level, it was the only item that demanded the Levites 'Bow down' to pick it up!
As the high priest officiated, he was bordered by the ark on the west, the two poles on either side of him running north to south, and the veil behind him on the East. After I had illustrated this set, I came across a picture painted by Temple Institute artist Zely Smekhov depicting this scene in the same way, except his poles are higher. (See right).

The Cherubim
Once again I've avoided drawing the cherubim in detail. It's still not clear to me how they should look. We know that the wings overshadowed the mercy seat and that the wing tips touched. I've used this to obscure the view of the cherubim. The much larger cherubim in Solomon's Temple will not be as easy to obscure! One artists interpretation of the cherubim in Solomon's Temple can be seen below. I've noticed that when artists are guided by archaeologists, the cherubim usually resemble Lamassu which were Canaanite protective deities. They had the body of a bull or lion, the wings of an eagle and a human head. Although I've seen cherubim depicted this way in pictures of Solomon's Temple, for some reason they are not usually depicted this way on the Ark of the Covenant. Some archaeologists like Israel Finkelstein have suggested that "as the Israelites arose as a subculture in Canaanite society, it was only natural for the Israelites to continue using (and adopt the) Canaanite protective deities". This argument is not unlike the one above which favoured Egyptian influences over God's - except here it's Canaanite influences. (This argument sounds like its coming from a biblical minimalists perspective!) I would argue that the design of the cherubim, like the rest of the ark, was most definitely of God. Anyway, as I understand it, God's inspiration for the cherubs design was given while the Israelites were still in the Sinai Peninsula even before they entered Canaan?
We have looked in the past at the possibility that a visual description of the cherubim could have been passed down through oral tradition maybe from as far back as the Garden of Eden! In this case it's possible that the Lamassu depicted in ancient Assyrian and Mesopotamian Art might actually resemble cherubim! This wouldn't then be a case of the various cultures influencing Israelite artisans - it would be God's design influencing the artists of all other cultures!
The main problem that I see with the 'Lamassu theory' is that the description given in the Bible doesn't really resemble lamassu. For example the body of a cherub is like unto a man, not a lion. (Ezekiel 4:4-14). The cherubim also have hands, four wings and four faces. It's obvious that the Old Testament artisans clearly knew what cherubim looked like as they had both embroidered and carved their likenesses in both the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple respectively.
I wonder if the descriptions of cherubim given in scripture are meant to be strange and illusive to discourage us from depicting them! Maybe if we were able to carve or paint an accurate image of a cherub it would itself become an object of worship.

Two final points regarding the Ark: Artists interpretations vary when it comes to deciding how many Levites carried the ark. Pictures show groups of four, eight and even twelve Levites carrying the ark. Dr Elihu A. Schatz has done some research on this subject. He estimated that the ark was approximately 183 pounds (83 kilograms) in weight and concluded that "Each of the four men carrying the Ark would bear a weight of about 21 kilograms (46 pounds), which can easily be tolerated on the shoulders for extensive periods of time. If necessary, the carriers could use shoulder padding to ease the pressure of the poles on the shoulders." One final point - the main container part of the ark was constructed of wood overlaid with gold unlike the lid, (the mercy seat), which was solid gold. I only mention this as some artists have given this container a mirror finish which gilded wood doesn't have. There are some excellent photos on the net of ancient Egyptian artifacts that give us a very good idea of how gilded wood should look.
In closing, If any of you artists prefer to draw from life - for $3,350.00 you can order your own full size replica Ark of the Covenant here!

As always I look forward to your comments!
Pictures © 2011, © Zely Smekhov/Temple institute 2011.

Related posts:
Covering the Ark
Contents of the Ark
Drawing Cherubs!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

I'd like to wish all readers of the Bible illustration blog a very Happy Easter!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.
Matthew 28:6

Also, Happy Passover to all our Jewish readers! Easter and Passover don't always fall at exactly the same time of year due to the fixed Lunar date of the feast of Unleavened Bread and the variable solar date of Easter. When they do coincide, It is fitting that as the Nation of Israel is celebrating being set free from bondage of the Egyptians, which came by the shedding of the blood of an innocent lamb, the Church is celebrating both the death and resurrection of Jesus, which set those who believe free from the bondage of sin by the shed blood of the sinless Lamb of God on the Cross as prophesied in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22 and elsewhere. This is also a time of year when both Jew and Christian traditionally look forward to the coming of the Messiah.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

Monday, February 14, 2011

Classic Bible Stories, Volume 2

Update- April 2011: I've just received an email from Amazon informing me that this book is no longer available! I'm not sure if this means that the publishers have decided not to print it, or just that it will not be available from Amazon. I will leave the post up for now until I know more. (The link to Amazon below no longer works).

I was very pleased to see on the Amazon website that 'Classic Bible Stories, volume 2' is soon to be released. Amazon has the artists listed as Frank Hampson and Norman Williams, but a quick search on Google images revealed that the cover image is one of Frank Bellamy's illustrations, not one of Frank Hampson's. Initially I was disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing some new Frank Hampson Bible art - but then I remembered how a number of people on this blog have raved about how good Bellamy's 'David the Shepherd King' was, so I've pre-ordered a copy.

I know that I've complained about the print quality of Classic Bible Stories volume 1, (and I'm not sure if volume 2 will be any better), but this is one that I haven't seen before so it'll be worth having anyway! I'm not familiar with Norman Williams art but I'll leave an update on this post when I get to see it. Presumably Williams is the illustrator of 'Paul, The Great Adventurer' although the information given on Amazon is sometimes misleading-!!
Top marks to Titan books for reprinting all this great Bible art from the Eagle comic! Can we expect a volume 3?

I was just checking the comments that came in on the 'Classic Bible Stories volume 1' post, and I came across one that I had left which said "I'm hoping that a publisher might consider re-printing the other Eagle biblical strip 'David :The Shepherd King' by Frank Bellamy, in a similar format to this book".
Again, well done Titan!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ancient Hebrew Design!

I'm always on the lookout for photos of ancient carvings on stone that give us an idea of the designs that were used in Bible times. I was very pleased to see an article in this months issue of 'Israel today' that shows a 2,000-year-old stone that has been found in the remains of a first century synagogue in Migdal. Migdal lies on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and is thought to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. The ancient stone is carved on five sides with reliefs which include oil lamps, rosettes, columns, arches over corn sheaves, ivy wreaths, a seven-branched menorah between two goblets and other geometric designs. For more pictures that show the other sides of the stone, search 'Migdal excavations' on Google images.

The article doesn't mention what the stone may have been used for - any ideas anyone? It was found at the centre of the study rooms in the synagogue. As the stone is carved on five sides it seems unlikely that it was a base for something else.

The article goes on to say "It is likely that Jesus visited the synagogue in Migdal and may have taught there. If so, as He stood before the congregation reading from the scroll of the Torah, this very stone would have been at His feet!" After reading this, and as I had to draw Jesus teaching in a synagogue this week, I couldn't resist adding the stone! (See right). I plan on using the other designs shown on the stone in other biblical interiors.

The stone will be placed in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem. The article says "The presence of the stone in the Prime Minister's office serves as a reminder that in Temple times, as today, the menorah was the emblem of Israel and Jewish nationhood". This reminded me of something that I mentioned in a past blog - some Bible artists have used the Star of David design on the interior walls of first century synagogues. A seven-branched menorah would be a more accurate design to use as the earliest examples of a design that resembles the Star of David are only found in 3-4th century synagogues.
Green text © 'Israeli today' 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Update!

My sincere apologies for the long break since the last post. (This has been due in part to illness). We're still in January so I suppose I can still get away with wishing everyone "Happy New Year!" I am slowly beginning to reply to all your emails and comments, so thanks in advance for your patience. Work is continuing on the 'New Tribes Mission' pictures - the latest set to be completed depicts the Tabernacle furniture. I found this a difficult set to illustrate - especially the Ark of the Covenant, as there are a number of theories as to how it may have looked! (I'm hoping to blog about the AoC soon). My thanks again to John Cross of Goodseed for the excellent Tabernacle Furniture Set - this was incredibly helpful!

There are a number of items that I've been wanting to mention, so I'm going to pack them all into this post!

International Children's Bible Art Competition
The International Children's Bible Art Competition is still being planned. I have been having discussions with Look and Learn who are happy to host the competition. If all goes well, 10,000 schools in the UK will receive an A4 flyer with the competition details. We already have an international panel of Bible artists in place, including Annie Vallotton, to judge the competition and I'm in the process of finding sponsors.

One of the currently running art competitions organized by Look & Learn is the..
EiiR Children's Art Competition.
In celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s 85th birthday, Look and Learn is holding an international children’s competition to paint her portrait. All entries will be included on a digital photo frame to be presented to The Queen, as well as appearing in Look and Learn’s online children’s art gallery.The competition is open to all children (maximum age 18) and entries will be judged in three age categories. The 24 winners will receive cash prizes totalling over £1,000 (approx. US$1,500), commemorative mugs, printed certificates, and individual press releases announcing their success.

More details here. Schools worldwide are invited to take part but hurry as the competition closes on March 14th!

Holocaust Memorial Day
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Please spare a minute to visit the HMD website and light the virtual candle on the home page to show your support. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered so much both during and after the holocaust, and for the nation of Israel who continues to face opposition on many sides.

From the Attic of Civilization: Rembrandt and His Biblical Art
I received an email last week from Dr Leonard Girsh who is the author of a new book focusing on the Biblical Art of Rembrandt. One reviewer comments "Dr. Girsh has a wonderful grasp of the complex nuances of Rembrandt's works, tying together Biblical references to other important figures in history. He shines light on hidden concepts that eludes even the most analytical of readers. A strong theme of "the origin of thought" branching into many subjects: languages, human thinking and behavior. Truly a masterpiece!"
From the Attic of Civilization is available from Amazon