When I create religious art, my process is the same as with any other artwork. I do a lot of historical research to understand how the world looked like at that time, how people dressed, and what cultural customs controlled society. Then I do a lot of compositional sketches to get an original, interesting composition. By that point I have usually chosen a style for the project. The illustrations just become a matter of time and energy after that point.
I actually illustrated as an intern for A Beka Book in January, 2003. During the two weeks that I worked there, I created seven to ten illustrations. I think only this illustration and it's companion illustration survived to be published as part of the Joyful Life curriculum.
The two illustrations are important to me because some religious publications have shied away from addressing any racial issues. A Beka Book, thankfully, embraced the diversity of racial and cultural experience.
My boss grew up in Mexico, and I benefited from his experiences as I created this illustration. I constructed it so the chaos on the left side of the picture contrasted with the family's situation on the right side. After these years, I still like the dog.
Intergenerational relations has become more and more important to me through the past few years. I hope the younger generations get to connect with their older relatives and associates. A lot of accumulated wisdom is disappearing from our culture, and the younger generations often feel lost, without roots, as they approach the age of decision. With this illustration, I tried to emphasize the joy of child, parent, and grandparent interaction.
No collection of my Joyful Life work would be complete without one of my song visuals. The song Little by Little talks about perseverance in climbing mountains, but my song visual applied the message to something kids deal with in their daily lives: cleaning their room. While addressing the serious issue, I squeezed just about every toy that I every played with as a child, and many toys that I wanted from toy catalogs and friend's houses. Just like cleaning a room, difficult projects can be solved with perseverance, one step at a time.
This is a father-son moment between Joseph and Jesus in the carpenter's workshop. I love learning about different cultures, and often people do not consider that ancient Israel was a completely different culture than our own. Not only did they have different technologies (notice the carpenter's tools in the illustration), but they also communicated differently and acted differently in public. I try to work my growing knowledge of the norms of that time and culture into my illustrations.
When creating illustrations for children, many times the illustrator must make the pictures simpler, but not always. Children really are smarter than people give them credit for being. I prefer to test my work on kids if it involves any kind of interaction like in this illustration.
When working on the Growing Up Where Jesus Lived second-grade reader, my coworker John Ball and I collaborated on the above hard-edged style. Sometimes the aesthetic compromises caused problems, such as how to show wind with a hard-edged shape, but simplifying the art helped me grow as an artist.
When creating this epic illustration of the yearly journey to Jerusalem, I researched the area heavily. This shows Herod's temple from the top of the Mount of Olives. The road travels in between the wealthy housing on the right and the cemeteries on the left.
As a parting illustration, I offer this illustration on helping each other. In the story the red-headed girl is scared to help at a local soup kitchen, but through the story she learns to give from her heart and gains a friend. Too often people get scared to reach out in love to help others for fear that people might take advantage of them. I have found a few who will take advantage, but many seem genuinely touched, and I still have valued friends to this day, because I gave.
I post this at Thanksgiving time. While it's good to be thankful, now's a good time to give others something to be thankful for!