Blog Navigation:


God's Great Plan

It's high time I updated my blog.  It's not like I've been twiddling my thumbs all these months.  I've seen 3 books published, have moved across the country, moved my parents to a new house, and volunteered for half a month for a film festival (more on the #CWVFF in a later post...), plus a few other excitements.  But I've wanted to blog this post for quite some time.  Today is the day!

A book always takes it's illustrator on a little journey.  About a year ago I set off on the journey that became God's Great Plan.  During the process I went through times of exhilaration and depression as I worked through the themes and struggled to capture the breadth and depth of the content in the beautiful little poem.

I first have to say a great thank you to Joe Fogarty.  One of these books would not have been illustrated by me if he had not prodded me to contact a Christian rap artist, Timothy Brindle.  Timothy saw my work and passed me on to Shepherd Press.  SP asked me to illustrate a poem....  So before I get into that, thank you Joe and Timothy.  This book would not be what it is today without you guys.

Rick Irvin from SP worked with me to create the illustrations.  I set out to bring out as much meaning from the text as possible.  I was surprised as anyone how the book became more than I could have done on my own.

Who is the Old Man?
A lot of people ask me who the old man is.  They guess that it might be me.  It's actually my grandpa on my mom's side.  But he wasn't always in the book.  The poem actually does not call for a narrator. 

I added Grandpa to connect immediately to the children with familiar visuals.  The grandfather and his grandkids add a context that children can understand.  In our day and age, grandparents often must step in and provide discipline and spiritual guidance to children whose parents relinquish those roles. 

On top of that reality, I also wanted to encourage grandparents to talk about their faith multigenerationally.  Godly grandparents are an important part of a family's life.

By adding the modern-day characters, I could bounce back and forth between the Bible story and the application of it's truths to our modern lives.  This story does affect us, and I really liked finding ways to express it's effects.

Adam emerging from dust
The Creation of Adam
As I set out to make the creation sequence, I wanted to do something different than what I had seen others do with creating man.  After throwing around a couple ideas, I pictured God forming Adam from dust as it was pulled up from the ground in a sort of controlled whirlwind.  I could try to justify it by referencing God's control over the elements, but mostly I thought it looked cool.

Fun Fact: At one time Adam had facial hair, but a clean-shaven face won in office ballot!  

Variations of serpent
The Evolution of the Serpent
We worked really hard on the serpent.  We wanted to create something that looks beautiful to look at, but evil.  Children needed to understand visually that Eve is doing the wrong thing by listening to the serpent, no matter how beautiful it looked.  Finally we got the right look.

An evil world is a dangerous world
Showing Evil and Judgment at a Child's Level
When we showed the effects of sin, I wanted to make it clear in ways that children could understand.  Part of that lay in choosing what sins to display: I chose meanness, arguing, and stealing.  Another part lay in showing the context: sin is shown with danger, fear, and pain.  A final part lay in bringing it to the modern day: immediately after showing the surreal ancient court room, I show the grandfather confronting his guilty grandchildren.  We each need to understand that the horror of evil is not that others do evil to us, but that we carry evil in our hearts.

I worry sometimes that I went to far, though.  In realizing evil this way, I hope I don't give kids nightmares!

Color sketches for the book
The Darkness Before the Dawn 
After we had mostly finalized the sketches, I put together a color scheme for the book.  I tried to make the colors I used interpret the content of the book in an emotional way.

For instance, we use bright happy colors when talking about creation, but as sin enters, we transition to dark pages with odd color combinations.  

Original concept for nativity page
Originally, I gradually lightened the images moving from sin's entry through Jesus' work on earth.  However, Rick asked to put in a nativity illustration at the beginning of Jesus' life.  I was skeptical at first, but it really worked out beautifully!  It created a darkness before the dawn moment, successfully bookending the display of evil section with a hopeful look to God's salvation.

Lesson: always listen to your editor.

A sketch of the crucifixion which didn't make it into the book
The Image of God
When I painted Jesus, I intended to make a non-white, middle-eastern version that still looks similar to what we white folks think of when we think of Jesus.  I'm honestly not sure I succeeded.  

However, I was not prepared for potentially losing out in a bigger battle: honoring the image of God.  After the book was published, some dear Christian brothers talked to me about the issue.  I really appreciate it, and I will be handling imaging Christ much differently in the future.

In the 10 commandments, we are told to not create an image of God, because no man had seen God.  That is, nobody did until Jesus came to earth.  Just think about the disciples walking with, eating with, talking with the God of the universe!  The problem is: none of them sketched him, painted him, sculpted him, or even wrote down a description of him!  So we still don't know what God looks like--even in human form.

We humans have a problem with making and worshipping idols.  I tried to handle the images in such a way that the figure that I used to represent Christ pointed to His historicity and message.  But I'm contemplating going farther the next time I need to paint a Biblical scene: paint it without showing anyone standing in for Christ, but showing him just off screen or from behind or showing a metaphor... or something.  I'm still mulling it over.

Christ's healing power is visually compared with the Holy Spirit's life transforming power in the believer
Building Visual Metaphors Across the Story
Metaphors allow us to see things that we don't express in words.  As the story goes on, I build a visual palette that I then draw on at the end of the story.  For instance, in the section dealing with the effects of sin, I show a man pushing another man; toward the end of the book when showing how our sin put Christ on the cross, I then showing the brother pushing his sister in the exact same pose.  I hope that children pick up on those things and find their place in the story.

Men praying in the first batch of sketches for the book
My Hope for This Book
More than anything else I've ever done, I think this book reflects my own personal convictions.  It's rare to get to work on something so real to me.  

It also convicted me as I worked on it.  I haven't reached perfection yet, and covering the story from sin to redemption will always move me profoundly.  

I hope that the story moves both the reader and those being read to, that the visuals bring out the truth and make it come alive, and that we would be transformed by the truth of Christ.

P.S. To get a copy, go to:


  1. Awesome work! What is most exciting is the young souls God will touch through your amazing gift. To God be the glory!

  2. This looks like it's a beautiful book; I can't wait to see it! I just finished a similar project and had to wrestle with some of the same topics. It's such a weighty responsibility! Glad to see more authors and illustrators bringing the Gospel to little hands.