Category Archives: Western Civilization

Oh, that Samson

samson.model050

So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.

A Funny Thing Happened…

Another fantastic and fun project for the Pittsburgh Public Theater—create an image for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum! My talented pal Paul Schifino art directed. He asked for something with a cornucopia and spectacularly oomphy slave-girls. I generated a bunch of rough ideas—we lost the cornucopia along the way. Harem pants looked too ‘I Dream of Jeanie’, so they got replaced with skimpy versions of ancient Roman fashion. Not a job for the faint-hearted.

A side note: this 2017/2018 season will be the finale for Ted Pappas, the Public’s Producing Artistic Director. I’m grateful to have seen many of his fabulous productions over the years. Best wishes for a well-deserved retirement!

Sixty-Six Books

I just finished a poster for an upcoming event at my church—66 Books In 2 Hours. Pastor Greg will be cramming the entirety of Holy Writ into a frothy evening of dinner and a floor show.

If you are anywhere near Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City, Pa on Saturday, October 22nd, 5:30 – 8:30, I hope to see you there.

Here’s the rough sketch and final painting:

66books-skpastorgreg

Twelfth Night

Once again I had the honor of creating an image for Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure. For Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, designer Paul Schifino asked me to focus first on the title lettering rather than images from the play.

I generated a bunch of rough sketches, first fooling around with different lettering styles. We added elements of the story to the type, like a pair of yellow stockings and roses. One character sends another a forged love-note and I used that motif in one of the treatments. The client picked out two favorites and I drew two tight sketches based on those. I created separate components for the winning image: lettering was done in ink on a light box and the notepaper and roses were painted as another piece.

You can find the entire 2016/2017 season brochure here. Twelfth Night is on pages 8/9.

Ezekiel

ezek72dpiHere it is, the fourth in my series (actually Ezekiel comes 3rd in the Bible) of Major Prophets of the Old Testament. Boiling down Ezekiel to a one-page cartoon took longer than I’d expected. As with all the prophets, he uses lots of visual imagery to make his messages memorable. There was tons of material that I left out, as when God charges Ezekiel to prophesy by commanding him to eat a scroll.

Would you like fries with that?

Would you like fries with that?

The Book of Ezekiel can be divided into three sections: God’s judgment of Israel, God’s judgment of Israel’s neighbor nations, and prophecies of better days ahead for Israel. The Chosen People have surely tried God’s patience—but before we gloat, let’s take a look at our own behavior! The words of Ezekiel and his pals aren’t merely for those long-ago times.

(Side note on vocabulary: PROPHECY/PROPHESY. “Prophecy,” the noun, (pronounced “PROF-a-see”) is a prediction. The verb “to prophesy” (pronounced “PROF-a-sigh”) means to predict something. When a prophet prophesies he or she utters prophecies.)

Of course, the big show-stopping image is Ezekiel’s vision of the wheel. This was the most fun to draw and I hope I stuck pretty closely to the biblical description. It is definitely the weirdest image in the Bible. I was tempted at first to make it a UFO but decided that would be too cheap a gag. I gave the human form enthroned atop the whole contraption a touch of John Steuart Curry’s John Brown.

A passage worth mentioning is Chapter 17, where the eagle plants a seed. It deals with God’s anger that a king of Israel broke his word to a Babylonian king—an enemy of Israel. How about that? Even though this Babylonian king is an enemy of God’s people, he must be dealt with honestly. The Jewish king’s covenant is an extension of God’s covenant. Each of us has a responsibility to behave with integrity no matter whom we deal with.

The last image I drew promises that David will be set up as the shepherd over God’s sheep. It’s possibly another foretelling from the prophets of Jesus’ coming. The evangelist Matthew begins his gospel with Jesus’ family tree showing that He descended from King David.

What did I forget? Oh, yeah—The Valley of Dry Bones! It’s the other big visual that Ezekiel is most remembered for. An entire valley of dried-up old bones brought back to life. How about some music? Here are the Delta Rhythm Boys singing Dem Bones. You want some more? Here are The Charioteers singing Ezekiel Saw The Wheel. Satan wears number 11 shoes. Yessir, I do love that old-time gospel music.

Now you know everything you need to about the Major Prophets. With your fund of Major Prophet info, you certainly will be the life of every party.

UPDATE—I’ve mentioned old-time gospel groups elsewhere on this blog. I should point out I first heard them and jazz groups from the same era on Rich Conaty’s radio show The Big Broadcast. Swing over and listen—and if you have a couple of extra samolians, drop something in the tip jar. Thanks!

Daniel

Continuing our everything-you-need-to-know-about-the Major-Prophets series, here’s Daniel.

Daniel lived to see the end of the Babylonian empire and the rise of the Persian empire—directly serving Emperors Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius. From Daniel we get expressions like ‘feet of clay’ and ‘the handwriting on the wall’ (do people still say that?) As a girl my mom learned to remember Daniel’s pals Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego by memorizing ‘Shake a bed, make a bed, and to bed we go’, so I pass it along. The Larks have a pretty snappy take on the story. Here’s Satchmo’s version. ‘Seven times hotter, hotter than it oughta be!’

 

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Ethelred the Unready

For no reason whatsoever, here is a cartoon I drew ‘way back in 1980. I was a lot funnier then.

You can read about Ethelred here.

ethelred

Jeremiah

Sunday school tomorrow—here’s the second of our Major Prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah. Of the four, Jeremiah is probably the gloomiest. Although God promises sunnier days ahead once He’s finished punishing Israel & Judah for their sins, large chunks of this 52-chapter book + Lamentations is about how the Chosen People have gotten seriously off the rails.

Don’t gloat—how well-behaved have we been lately?

Jeremiah has been called the ‘weeping prophet’. So much that his own people could hardly stand him and were forever throwing Jeremiah in cisterns and jails. Who can blame him? He witnessed everything he loved and took for granted be swept away.

Most of the things Jeremiah foretold came true in his lifetime. Last week we met Isaiah, whose prophesies about the virgin birth and Messiah wouldn’t come true for 600 years. So far as I can tell, only one bit of Jeremiah foretells New Testament events—31:15 is thought to predict the slaughter of the innocents found in Matthew. Jeremiah is believed to be the author of 1 and 2 Kings, where you can read about how—starting with Solomon—things unraveled.

jeremiah72

Isaiah

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of 2016! I’ll begin a month of teaching Sunday school to the junior high gang at my church. We’ve been covering the Babylonian Captivity lately and spent a few weeks on the Book of Esther.

This month we’ll be learning about the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah is not a quick read, but I want to give my students some of the highlights. Isaiah was influential on the 4 Evangelists and on Western culture. His words can be found echoed in the Gospels and in Handel’s Messiah. In Brit Lit classics like Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Milton’s Paradise Lost you’ll find the character Lucifer and the idea that devils were once over-proud angels who were cast out of heaven. That’s because one of Isaiah’s passages compares the career of a haughty Babylonian king to the short-lived brightness of Venus—the Hebrew for ‘day star’ was translated as ‘Lucifer’ in the King James version.

Isaiah cheat sheet

A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Damascus

Once again I had the honor of being substitute preacher at Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City. While we’ve been without a pastor we elders have stepped up and taken turns at the pulpit. Our new pastor, Rev. Greg Gillispie, will take over in July.

This time around my subject was the stoning of Saint Stephen and the introduction of that one-man paramilitary wing of the Sanhedrin, Saul—found in Acts 7:55-60.

My talk centered around storytelling—particularly visual storytelling. Here you can see character designs for Stephen and Saul; an explanation of character arc used Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Walter White from Breaking Bad; Saul’s Road to Damascus moment; and Saint Paul who shaped the young Christian Church through his writings.

This was some of the best fun I’ve had speaking in front of a group. I am grateful for a supportive and forgiving congregation! Best wishes & welcome to Rev. Gillispie.