Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Happy Christmas to all the readers of the Bible illustration blog. I hope that this is a time of Peace and blessing for you.

My apologies that this is a very short post, but it's been a very long day!!! zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Update: 1 January 2010
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guest Bible Artist Interview #6

Kelly Kozumi Shinozawa
There's no denying the worldwide appeal of Japan's 'Manga' art form, and, in an attempt to appeal to the younger reader, Bible publishers have been quick to respond to the demand by producing Bible based manga! If you check out the manga forums, out of all the various attempts at biblical manga produced, the fans give the 'thumbs up' to the 'Manga Messiah' series of books. The reason for this might be due to the fact that NEXT, (the publisher), have employed genuine Japanese manga-ka's, (manga artists) to produce all the artwork. NEXT is a non profit corporation that was set up in 2006 for the purpose of producing biblically based manga. Three out of the five books planned in the 'Manga Messiah' series are already available, the fourth, 'Manga Melech' , is in production. The first two books, illustrated by Kozumi Shinozawa cover the New Testament, and the remaining three books, 'Manga Mutiny', ' Manga Melech' and 'Manga Messengers' cover the Old Testament. So far these books have been incredibly popular and NEXT have already produced and distributed over 1.5 million copies worldwide, available in 16 languages!

Due to its popularity, Manga is likely to be playing a big part in Bible story telling for some time to come so the Bible illustration blog wouldn't be complete without an interview with a 'Bible Manga-ka'. Many thanks to Nate Butler of Christian Comics International for putting me in touch with Kozumi Shinozawa, illustrator of the first two books in the 'Manga Messiah' series. The interview follows:

Kozumi, Have you always wanted to be a Manga-ka?
Yes. My mother said I started to draw very well when I was in kindergarten. I loved to draw and I especially loved to imitate Anime characters like Takahashi Rumiko's, who is a very famous Manga-ka in Japan. After I graduated elementary school, I was influenced by Hayao Miyazaki's animations.
At that time, my dream was to become a professional Manga-ka. However I thought it was impossible because I knew that it is very difficult to become a Manga-ka.

When did you first become a professional Manga-ka?
When I was 19 years old, still a college student, I became a Shojo Manga-ka which is a Manga artist for girls.

You mentioned Takahashi Rumiko and Hayao Miyazaki. Have they influenced your style?
I have been a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Rumiko Takahashi since I was an elementary school student. I was affected and influenced by their pen touch and story but now, my style has become more personal and my own.

How did you first become interested in the Bible?
Actually, I started to read the bible when I was a child. ( about 10 years old) This is very unusual in Japan because our culture is Buddhist.  Commonly, children and adults don't know the bible.
However my father was really interested in Western culture because he used to go to the USA for his business. One day, he suddenly gave me a bible and he said,"all American people know the bible story, perhaps all western people. You should read it and increase your general bible knowledge." His idea was just for my education. Actually I couldn't read the bible because it's a very thick book and looks difficult for children. Finally my father gave me a kind of picture bible, so I could understand almost all the stories in the bible.

Were you excited when you were approached to produce a Manga version of the Bible?
I want to tell you about my father again. When I became professional cartoonist, I was 19 years old, and my father said "Why don't you draw comics for the bible?"  I said "I don't want to do it because I just became a shojomanga-ka (a Manga for girls) and shojomanga-kas usually draw pretty girls and handsome boys. I don't want to draw old men with beards".
So many years passed, and I became a Christian when I was 33 years old in NY. When I came back to Japan, I was 35 years old. At that time, my father was terminally ill.  I still hadn't started drawing Manga again, when suddenly a Christian publishing company contacted me and told me about a Manga bible project.  When I heard that news, I remembered what my father had said 16 years before. I was very surprised and I immediately understood that it was God's work.

God has clearly used your father to guide you to where you are now. We have often discussed the question on the blog "What did Jesus look like?" Was it difficult to arrive at a finished design that everyone was happy with?
Yes... I struggled and suffered thinking about how to describe Jesus. I saw many pictures of Jesus  but it didn't give me an answer. I was reading the bible and studying Jewish culture.... I didn't want to draw Jesus like a Caucasian man, however I also didn't want to draw Jesus with a long beard in a typical Jewish rabbi style. Many people gave me advice but it made me confused. There was a lot of debating about his appearance. Finally I decided on a Japanese style because my boss said "Draw a real Japanese manga style all children can understand. I agreed with my boss.

Were there any Bible characters or stories that you found difficult to illustrate, and why?
The crucifixion was the most difficult scene for me.  When I drew it, I was moved. It was difficult to draw pages 242 to 268 and I could not stop crying. I felt like that I saw a real crucifixion. I said many times "I am sorry Jesus. Your suffering for all of my sin. I am sorry". I could understand how Jesus suffered on the cross because, at that time I had just lost my father from cancer, and he lost a lot of blood from his mouth and he was suffering badly until he died. For several hours I cried thinking about Jesus on the cross and  prayed. All of my experiences gave me the energy for drawing the crucifixion. I believe that it was God's timing for drawing Manga Messiah.

Thanks for sharing that Kozumi. As you were designing all the Bible characters and scenery, how did you go about your research?
Of course I researched bible history and culture very diligently.  Actually, I went to Israel to study it. I went to all the places in Israel that are mentioned in the Bible. I took a lot of pictures. You can see my photograph on p.276 of the lake of Galilee in the Garden where Peter received His call. Moreover I used many photos for Manga Messiah and I even processed photos in Manga style.
Finally I chose my characters' hair style and color from Japanese Manga style because my priority was that children should like it.  Manga is for children. I wanted to draw so more children would like it. Clothing and buildings I tried to draw realistically.

I believe that most Japanese Manga is produced in black and white. Was there a reason why you added color on this occasion, and did you add the color to the pictures yourself?
Yes, my assistant and I added all the color.  It was hard work. Usually Japanese manga is black and white, but I heard foreign children like colored manga. My boss decided to add color; however it was not easy for me. Actually I started drawing it April 2004 and finished it in August 2005. Every day I couldn't sleep very well.  We spend a lot of time painting and coloring and it took about 1 year to finish Manga Messiah.   

I'm glad that you added the color! Do you have any other Bible related projects in the pipeline?
Last summer I went to Finland for manga mission. The Finnish Bible Society and I joined the comic market, called Fincom, and we sold a lot of Manga Messiah to non Christian people. At that time I did a presentation and drew many pictures in front of people. They liked it. It was a good experience for me.
Recently, I talked to the director of Japan campus crusade for Christ. He asked me to draw "four spiritual laws" in manga style. This is a difficult work because the four spiritual laws doesn't have stories. However I tried to study the four spiritual laws. Finally I made an original story that is easy for people to understand. 

I look forward to seeing that. When you started work on the 'Manga Messiah' project were you expecting it to be as successful as it has been?
No. I didn't expect it to be so successful.

What advice would you give to a young person reading this interview who wants to become a Manga-ka or Bible Artist?
If someone wants to draw Manga for Christ, I want to say why don't you come to my office? I really want to talk about what we will do for our God and what kind of Manga God wants to produce with young foreign people. I want to work with God and many people.

Thank you so much Kozumi for taking the time to speak to us, and I'm sure that many artists will be lining up to come and visit you!
If you would like to contact Kozumi, (or Kelly), you can visit her blog here.
There is also a wonderful filmed interview with Kozumi (which is sub-titled for English readers) made by Harvest Internet TV in Japan. The interview shows Kozumi at work in her studio and includes her moving testimony. To view the movie Click here.
Look forward to your comments!

All pictures © NEXT 2009. Used with kind permission.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish readers!

My apologies that things have been quiet on the blog. This has been due to me having extra responsibilities recently looking after elderly relatives. This has meant that I've had no spare time to blog! However, I now have about seven posts ready to type up when I get a minute, (hopefully this weekend), so watch this space! My apologies also for being slow in answering your emails and comments on the blog. I will get around to this! Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biblical Illustrator Magazine

Have you had a look along the shelfs of your local newsagents shop recently?
It's amazing just how many different topics are covered by magazines nowadays. There seems to be a magazine for literally every taste!
I was very excited last week when I came across 'Biblical illustrator' magazine!
My first thoughts were "Wow! They've brought out a magazine for Bible illustrators!" However, on closer inspection, I realized that 'Biblical illustrator magazine' is not actually intended for Bible illustrators, It's for anyone interested in Bible study. (Which is just as well as there are not that many Bible illustrators around!) Having said that, It is most likely a great magazine for Bible illustrators.
'Biblical Illustrator' Magazine, (which has been in existence since 1974), is available quarterly and contains "vivid portraits of Bible lands, people and customs. Maps, and breathtaking color photos!" The magazine is published by Lifeway, and also includes "well-researched articles related to Lifeway Sunday School lessons".

See some sample articles in pdf format here, and here.
This looks like a really interesting magazine! Also available is 'Biblical illustrator plus' which is a CD-ROM "that provides content identical to the magazine, plus quick access to more than 200 pages of study material and much more".
I'm ordering my copy now!

Sunday, October 11, 2009 update!

Bible CarpenterI've just updated with some new photos under the post title 'Carpenters and Shepherds'.
After much thought, I have decided to change the focus of from being a blog that contains picture references of everything Bible related, to a blog that contains purely Bible costume and figure reference. My reason for this is that there are already a number of good websites that contain a large collection of picture references relating to Bible times buildings, animals, plants, tools etc, (see right hand column), but not many that contain good costume or figure references.
The new photos were taken by a relative of Bible artist Graeme Hewitson while visiting the 'Nazareth Village Project'. Many thanks again Graeme!

Graeme Hewitson has recently set up Eikon Bible Art in conjunction with Ritchie Christian Media, so we wish him all the best with this new venture!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eastern Coin Headdresses

Eastern HeaddressThere was an interesting comment left by 'OneGod' on 'The Lost Coin' post that I thought I would share with you.

Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it?
Luke 5:8

“This little bit of silver must have been one of the coins which Jewish, and indeed other Eastern women, sew on to their head-dresses.
Decent women were not seen, even much at home, without these snoods, which is why the loosened hair of the woman, or women, at the Master’s feet is noted.
There were no bank accounts or post-office savings banks for women in those days; their economic earnings were very small.
Till lately, Chinese women put any little bit of money which came their way into buying a silver bangle, or a thin sheet of gold-leaf worn in a bag within their bosoms.
In Judea, a bride came to her husband with at least ten silver coins sewn round her head-band, and often more: and her husband knew just how many there were, for he could see them.
They belonged to him, as she did, although the Law did not allow his creditors to seize these personal coins on his wife’s head.
In fact, a crafty might give his wife many such coins, yet owe much to a creditor, which was very annoying to the latter.
Nevertheless, woe betide the woman who lost her coins: her husband immediately suspected her of a wrong use of them; and the laws of divorce in the Master’s day were so heavily loaded against the wife that a man might divorce his wife if but one of those marital coins was missing from her headgear.
That was why that woman in the Master’s sharply drawn tale of sweeping so desperately; taking broom and candle in an agony of dismay.
She was sweeping, not only for a bit of metal, but for home and shelter and respectability; for her right to a safe and honorable place in society, perhaps even for her right to her children.” – Lady Hoise, in Peloubet’s Select Notes on the International Bible Lessons 1956.

The pictures above are taken from the 'Great Bible Discovery' series. © OM Publishing. Speaking of the 'Great Bible Discovery' series, I had an email a couple of days ago from Stefan Koelewijn in the Netherlands who has now reduced his collection of books to €5 each! Click here For more details.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pictures of Noah's Ark

Noah's ArkThe picture set of Noah's Ark is finished. There are 17 pictures in this set which is why it's taken so long to complete! I am indebted to all the model makers, (who I link to in the 'Bible Models' link list), who have spent many hours building replica models of Noah's Ark. I have used both interior and exterior photos of these excellent models for reference.

I have tried to include scenes from the Biblical account of Noah that you don't normally see illustrated in children's Bibles such as the arrival of the animals in picture 4, (above). It was suggested in one article that I read that, during the 100 or so years that it took Noah to build the Ark, that Noah purchased all the animals from passing merchants. But, Gen 6:20 does suggest that the arrival of the animals was a divinely orchestrated event. I wanted to try to capture the fear and awe of those who witnessed the arrival of this 'Supernatural Tsunami' of animals as they silently approached the ark. My inspiration for this picture came from the wonderful painting below titled 'Noah's Ark' © Haruo Takino.
Noah's Ark by Haruo Takino
Picture 5 shows the animals entering the ark. included in this picture is a flock of sheep. This is to point out that only the unclean animals went into the ark in pairs. The clean animals, (and birds), such as sheep, oxen, quail etc which were used for sacrifice, breeding and food, entered the ark in sevens. Rapid multiplication of these breeds was of the highest importance! Some commentators suggest that there were six for breeding and one for the sacrifice to God, which took place in Gen 8:20. Some translations say that every type of clean animal went into the ark in pairs of seven, (14 of each). Maybe our readers who are fluent in Hebrew can shed some light on this one?
Also in this picture we see that the ark is covered in pitch. For some reason, we rarely see depictions of Noah's ark covered with pitch. We mentioned in the 'Baby in a Basket' post that the basket which held baby Moses is also rarely shown to be covered in pitch. I think that the reasons for this might be the same; It just doesn't look nice! This is probably the reason why model makers never cover their models of Noah's ark with pitch. In picture 6, which is an interior view showing the door of the ark being shut by God, we can see all the animal hoof and paw prints in the pitch that overlaps into the doorway of the ark.
In picture 3, (right), we see the arks interior as Noah's sons and daughter-in-laws load the supplies. The early narrow bottomed jars that would not stand in a swaying boat are hanging by ropes along with the oil lamps and the ingenious ceramic water feeders believed to have originated from this period.

In picture two, Noah is preaching. It may be a surprise to some readers to find out that both the preaching by Noah, (that we have often heard about in Sunday school), and the subsequent rejection of his message by the jeering crowd, is not recorded in the Old Testament! We only know that Noah was a 'preacher of righteousness' from 2 Peter 2:5. If we were being faithful to the Old Testament account, we would not include a picture of Noah preaching to a jeering mob! I came across a website where this was the subject of discussion. This discussion does have a bearing on how we should illustrate this story. Do we show Noah preaching at all? Did Noah only preach before or during the arks construction?

One person suggested that Noah stopped preaching at the point where God told him to build the ark. The reason given was "If you read Genesis chapter 6 carefully, you'll see that 3 times God says he is going to destroy man, plus the rest of creation (verses 7, 13 & 17). In other words, He had already passed judgement so it was now too late for any one else to repent. Then in v18, He tells Noah about the covenant He is going to establish but it's only for him and his immediate family". It is hard to imagine though, that there were not those who questioned Noah during the building of the ark as to why he was building it, and even harder to imagine that Noah, who was a preacher of righteousness, was not compelled to give them an answer, (or in effect preach!) Whatever our thoughts are on Election or Predestination, the preaching does not stop. Also, experts on the ark tell us that the ark was not full to capacity, so there was still room.

During this discussion someone else commented ...according to Hebrews 11:7, Noah built the ark for his family, not for the whole world. Yes, he condemned the world, and he did preach (2Pet 2:5). But his preaching was not to get into the ark. IF THEY HAD REPENTED, THEN GOD WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO DESTROY THEM. Remember Nineveh was spared when repented?"
The problem with this argument is that Peter mentions the ark, (in 2 Peter 2:5), when speaking about the certainty of God's judgement. Unlike Ninevah, God's judgement was certain, and the ark was the only way of escape! This is why we believe that Noah's Ark is a type of Christ. Just as in Noah's day, the only way to escape God's certain judgement (the flood) was to enter through the only door into the ark, the only way that we can escape from the certain coming judgement of God on our sin and rebellion against Him is to turn away from our sins (repent), and enter into Christ, which we do by faith in Him as the 'Perfect Lamb' sacrificed for the sins of the world. (John 3:16). Jesus said "I am the door. by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9).

This set brings our total Bible picture count to 812! (All of our more recent Bible picture sets will be available soon at the Bible Picture website).
As always, your comments are welcome!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

L'Shana Tova!

ShofarRosh Hashanah, (the Feast of Trumpets), began last night, so I would like to wish all our Jewish readers "L'Shana Tova" (Happy New Year), and a "Hag Sameah" (Happy Holiday) as we enter into the Hebrew year 5770.

During the next three weeks there are a number of important Holy days on the Jewish calendar including Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). To read more about these feasts check out Leviticus 23:23-44.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book and DVD Review

Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs
It's been a while since we reviewed any books on the B.I.B. and I recently came across this little gem of a book titled 'Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs' available from Amazon and published in 1982 by Poplar books. (Don't be put off by the plain cover!)

There are many illustrated Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias available on the market today, (many of which are quite expensive), and yet most of them are not as visually informative to the Bible artist as this little book is! Each spread contains one page of text and one facing page of black and white line illustrations, many of which are drawn from ancient artifacts. This is a 128 page book with 59 pages of illustrations. The subjects covered are too many to list but they include Towers Fortresses and Houses, Meals, Pottery, Tools, Musical instruments, Weapons, Agriculture, Hunting and Fishing, Clothing, Means of Transport, Coins, Trees , plants, Animals, Altars and Temples, River crafts and ships, Bread making, the list goes on! Black and white drawings can be much better for reference than photos, especially when it comes to items like coins where detail is important. A great little book and well worth the money!
You may remember that we were discussing how to draw the fence which surrounded the Tabernacle here. Well this little book has it absolutely right! There is no mention of who the illustrator is, which is often the case with books like this, although the book jacket designer does get a mention!

If you have found a particular illustrated Bible Dictionary or encyclopedia very helpful, don't forget to share it with us!

Life in Bible Times DVDI also recently came across an interesting DVD available here from 'Lamb and Lion Ministries' which looks like it could be very helpful too for those involved in Bible illustration. The description on the website says:
This album contains four very fascinating teachings about life in Bible times, all filmed on location in Israel at the Bible Times Learning Center.
The first program, entitled "Nomadic Living," illustrates how nomadic people like Abraham lived in Bible times. It will give you insights into the stories of Abraham & Sarah and Ruth & Boaz.
The second program focuses on the last supper that Jesus had with His disciples. It contrasts what the actual supper was like as opposed to its portrayal in the famous painting by Leonardo DaVinci.
The third program is about First Century crucifixion techniques. It will give you some valuable insights concerning the torture that Jesus experienced at the hands of the Romans.
The final program concerns burial customs. In addition to footage shot at the Bible Times Learning Center, it includes a visit to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.
Format: DVD. 75 minutes.

If anyone has this DVD maybe you can give us a short review in the comments section!

Other helpful books:
The Quest
The Nazareth Jesus Knew
The Splendor of the Temple
The World Jesus knew

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drawing Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve
My apologies for not posting for a while. some of you know that my wife Alison, who has had a chronic illness for over 20 years, has been experiencing a severe relapse over the last 3 months. Also our grandson is recovering from the Swine flu, so it's been a tough time. (We would appreciate your prayers).

I am just coming to the end of illustrating Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve disobey. There are ten pictures in this set. (Number 4 is pictured above). I'm still looking into how best to depict the Cherubim guarding the Tree of life for the last picture. We have looked in the past, (although very briefly), at how we should depict cherubs in the 'Drawing Cherubs' post, but I would like to do a more detailed post on this soon. I recently came across the only picture that I've ever seen that depicts the two cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant with four wings and four faces as described in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. This picture appeared in 'Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible.' This 7,600 page work was first published in Latin in 1707!
Is it unrealistic to want to know what the cherubim actually looked like? Could we ever know for sure? The only way that we can know for sure is when the 'Ark of the Covenant' is recovered, as two 'Divinely inspired' ones are on the Mercy Seat!

I've made sure that Adam and Eve are obscured by lots of plants in this set as this has been a criticism of some of my earlier versions of the Adam and Eve account. I like the cartoon by 'Answers in Genesis' cartoonist Dan Lietha which I'm sure every Bible artist will relate to when depicting Adam and Eve. The caption says:
"Drawing lots of plants is the key for presenting 'pre-fall world' art to a 'post-fall world' audience!" Check out the cartoon here.
'The Bible Eden' illustrated by Scott Hampton is an 'Adult' version of the Adam and Eve account which leaves nothing to the imagination! The fact that this 'graphic' novel was originally produced for Penthouse magazine proves the point that Dan Lietha makes which is that we no longer view nakedness through truly innocent eyes!
If anyone has any further comments to make on the 'Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?' post, now would be a good time to comment! I obscured the belly buttons just in case! ;0)

This set of pictures along with our recently done Children's Bible pictures brings our total Bible picture count to 795. Looking forward to your comments.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Bible Art Exhibition in Australia

Nahum Halevi Picture
A regular contributor to the Bible illustration blog Nahum HaLevi has an exhibition of his Bible Art which opens today at the Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne.

The exhibition is titled 'Scintillating Songlines from Sinai' and will be on from July 5th - August 2nd.
If you can get down to the exhibition today, you will have the chance to meet the artist himself who has traveled all the way to Australia for the opening. Hope the exhibition goes well Nahum!

We do have readers of the blog in Melbourne, so this will be a great opportunity for them to view Nahum's Art in person.
(My apologies for not posting this earlier, but things have been hectic here!)

I've just noticed another exhibition that will also be worth a visit, also being held at the Jewish Museum of Australia. 'Superheros & Schlemiels: Jews and Comic Art'. We got around to discussing the Jewish roots of Superman on the 'Was Samson Muscular?' post.
The exhibition features reproduction and original works by Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman and Joe Kubert. It was Joe Kubert who put together DC comic's 'Stories from the Bible' with the help of Carmine Infantino and the late Nestor Redondo.

If you do manage to visit the exhibition, don't forget to mention to the curator, (Sandra Khazam), that you saw it advertised on the Bible illustration blog!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Crossing the Red Sea

Moses Crossing the Red Sea
The pictures for our children's Bible are finally finished! So, I am now moving onto the Bible pictures for NTM. This is an exciting project and one that I've been looking forward to starting.

The last picture needed to finish our children's Bible was the 'Parting of the Red Sea', (shown left). While doing some research for this picture I came across a scholarly article which stated that there was a full moon during this event which would have provided enough light for the children of Israel to see while crossing over the seabed. However, the biblical text clearly points out that it was the pillar of fire, not the moon, that lit the path for the Israelites. I made the mistake in the past of stating on the blog that only the pillar of fire was present at this event because the pillar of cloud guided the Israelites during the day and the pillar of fire guided them at night. However, on a closer inspection of the text it appears that both the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud were there at this event. The pillar of fire provided the light, as we've already said, and the pillar of cloud was there to confuse the pursuing Egyptians.

Anyone who grew up in the UK during the late sixties-early seventies will remember the awful fogs!
During the daytime, when the fog was really bad, you could literally not see anything! Other people, buildings, cars, street signs etc, only became visible when they were just a couple of feet away! As you can imagine, it was much quicker and safer to walk than it was to drive a car in these conditions. At night the fog was orange because of the street lights. I never experienced fog in complete darkness, but I imagine it was very disorientating! This must have been the experience of the pursuing Egyptian army. In these conditions it was very likely that the Egyptian chariots drove straight into the walls of water on each side thus toppling the chariots and causing an eventual pileup!

Although I have shown the full moon, the more dominating light source is coming from behind the viewer, from the pillar of fire. The shadow of Moses is being cast onto the dividing waters. I originally did a yellow glow coming from the pillar of fire but, the more I thought about this, the more I thought that the pure fire of the Shekinah Glory would give off a pure white light. What are your thoughts on this?
As always, your comments are welcome.

Update: 4th July 2009
Just had an interesting comment from 'Patrick' in Japan who points out that Exodus 14:21-22 says that:
"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and YHWH drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea into dry ground, and the water was split. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry ground, and the waters were for them a wall on their right hand and on their left."
Patrick concludes that "if God drove the sea by an eastern wind surely the sea should have started to part from the opposite direction (contrary to Cecil B. DeMille's idea of it), since the Israelites are going from the west eastward?
This is a very good point. Fortunately, as I'm working digitally now, this is an easy thing to change. Many thanks for pointing this out Patrick. When I come to illustrating the full story for the 'Bible picture website' I will make the necessary changes.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Satellite Bible Pictures?

Crossing the Red Sea
While I was doing some research in connection with the last picture for our children's Bible, which is the 'Crossing of the Red Sea', I came across an interesting online article titled 'The Bible according to Google Earth' on the 'Creative Review' blog.

Have no ever wondered what all the well known biblical events would have looked like if photographed from space?, probably not! But, if for some strange reason you had, wonder no longer, because a creative company called the 'Glue Society' based in Sydney, Australia has produced a set of pictures showing what these biblical events might have looked like if photographed at the time by satellite.

A pointless exercise? The Glue Society's James Dive's comments as to why they produced the pictures are revealing. I'll let you decide.
Picture © The Glue Society 2007

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Your Favorite Children's Bible!

Children's BiblesI received a very nice email a few weeks ago from Grant and Tara in New Zealand. Tara asked if I was familiar with the work of Herbert Rudeen who illustrated the 10 volume set of the Bible story by Arthur S. Maxwell. I have tried to get hold of this set in the past but most of them are on sale in the U.S. and so the postage, on 10 volumes, makes them expensive! From what I've seen though the illustrations are very nice. I will comment more if I can get hold of a set.

Tara also asked the question "what would be your top children's Bible for authentic pictures?"
This is a very good question, and one which I thought I would throw open to readers of the blog. It's not so easy to pick one children's Bible as 'The Most Authentic' so I would probably select a top five! I'm not sure if the Bible pictures by Elsie Anna Wood have appeared in a children's Bible as yet, although I have it on good authority that one is in the pipeline. That would certainly appear in my top five, as would the 'Copping Bible' illustrated by Harold Copping. I would also include 'The Testimony', which is the 3 volume children's Bible in Hebrew illustrated by Diana Shimon. Diana spent over fifteen years researching this one! I would also include the 24 volume 'Great Bible Discovery Series' in my top five although technically you wouldn't really class it as a children's Bible, being 24 volumes in size. That leaves me with one more choice for my top five, but I would like more time to think about this, also I want to look at some of your suggestions too!

Grant and Tara's choice was the 'The Children's Bible Story Book' (pictured bottom left) illustrated by José Pérez Montero. José Pérez Montero is also one of my favorite Bible illustrators too, and I have intended adding him to my Favorite Bible artist list for some time only, up until very recently, there has been very little information about him on the net, and even now there's still not enough for a decent article. Montero also has a nice cartoon style too, but I wouldn't say that his Bible pictures were the most researched or historically accurate.

I'm pretty sure that there are many other children's Bibles out there that I've never seen, and so I would like to ask the readers of the blog the same question:
Which children's bible do you consider contains the most historically accurate pictures? Or, if you prefer, Which is your favorite children's Bible?"
Looking forward to reading your comments!

Friday, June 05, 2009

David Spares Saul, again!

David spares Saul
A few years ago I drew a picture of King Saul asleep in a cave, while David, who was hiding in the same cave with his men, cut off the corner of Saul's cloak while he slept. I'm not the only Bible artist who has depicted this scene in this way. I've seen a number of pictures like this over the years by different artists. (See samples 1, 2.)
So what did we all do wrong? Well, we all got our Bible stories mixed up! In 1 Samuel 24, Saul didn't go into the cave to sleep, he went in to use the toilet! This is probably why we don't see that many pictures depicting this scene, although Annie Vallotton managed to illustrate this scene both accurately and discreetly.

Mistakes like this stem from the fact that there are a number of Bible stories which are very similar, but not the same. This is another reason why we need to read each story very carefully before illustrating it! The picture above is from a very similar story when King Saul was again hunting down David. It's found in 1 Samuel 26. In this story David and Abishai go down into Saul's camp at night and they take Saul's spear and water jug from his side while he sleeps. Abishai wants to kill Saul with his spear while they have the chance, but David will not allow him to because Saul had been appointed by God.

The best way that David could show Saul that he meant him no harm was by taking Saul's belongings from his side while he slept. This clearly displayed to Saul that David could easily have killed him if he had wanted to. Just as David had done previously in 1 Samuel 24 when he cut off the corner of Saul's cloak. I've drawn Saul's bodyguard Abner soundly snoring in the foreground.
As always, all comments welcome!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bible pictures of Esther

Bible pictures of Esther
On the right is a recently finished picture of Esther for our up-coming children's Bible. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was so impressed to read how Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema would visit the British Museum to sketch Egyptian artifacts to include in his Bible pictures, that I decided to visit the British Museum website myself! All the ornate golden cups, the ceramic pot and the golden jug in the picture are based on actual ancient Persian artifacts which are on display at the British museum.

I was amazed, when researching the Persian army, to find how ornate their uniforms were. They wore highly patterned tunics and trousers which you can see on the soldier in the background. I would hate to illustrate a Persian battle scene! There has been some criticism of the depiction of these Persian soldiers in the movie '300' but apart from the silver masks, they were not far out. I would have to say though that the depiction of King Xerxes was way off! We have ancient carvings of King Xerxes in the ruins of Persepolis that give us some idea of what Xerxes looked like.

In the picture, Esther is pointing an accusing finger at Haman, identifying him as the evil schemer plotting to destroy her people. The story of Esther, (the events of which took place around 483-471 B.C.) is still remembered and celebrated today in the Jewish holiday of Purim. It's a fun time when all the children dress up as characters from the story.

I attended a presentation last Sunday evening, held at Mills Hill Baptist church, on all of the Jewish feasts. This has been a fascinating study held over four weeks. The presentation was given by a Jewish friend of mine, and he mentioned last Sunday, in passing, that although God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, in the Hebrew scrolls of Esther all the names of God can be found written vertically or diagonally, in the same way that we find words hidden in a word-search!

There's a timely reminder in the story of Esther for our world leaders today, and it is this; There are consequences when meddling in the affairs of Israel!
My attention was drawn this week to Zechariah chapter 12 and particularly verse 10.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Children's International Bible Art Competition

Children's Bible Art Competition
I've been in discussion with Randolph Capp from the United Bible Societies about the possibility of jointly running an 'International Bible Art Competition' for children. The idea is to encourage the Bible artists of the future!

The competition would be open to children of all ages and from all countries, and would be judged by an international panel of Bible artists. We have not as yet discussed this in detail so I don't know what the prizes might include, or how many age groups the competition could be divided into. The brief would probably be:
"Draw a Bible picture based on any story in the Bible, and include a brief description".

I would also like any Bible Artists who would be willing to be on the international panel of judges to contact me. This is in the very early stages and so it may or may not materialize. If you have any ideas or suggestions about how the competition might work, or what the prizes could be, let me know, and I will forward your emails on to Randolph.
Many thanks.

Picture © Natalie Thrall 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attention all illustrators!

I had an email a couple of days ago from Bible Artist Keith Neely. Keith informs me that he has three filing cabinets filled with magazine pictures that he's been collecting for over 30 years that he is willing to give away to anyone interested! Keith explained that because all of his work is now Bible related, and due to the fact that he is approaching semi-retirement, he no longer has use for them.
Keith, quite rightly, doesn't want this collection to go to waste as it is a gold mine for any illustrator.

Just in case you are thinking that three filing cabinets full of magazine pictures doesn't sound very interesting, let me explain to you exactly what this collection is.
In his email, Keith used the term 'Scrap files' which I presume is the American name for a collection like this. In the UK we have the much grander term of 'Artists reference files'. I was going to liken artists reference files to 'Google Images' but it would be more accurate to liken them to your own personal library of 'Stock photography'.
Before the internet came into existence, many artists built up a collection of pictures to use for reference. They might be photos of mountains from National Geographic, or Pyramids from a travel brochure. These collections contained pictures of literally everything, which is why they took so long to collect and why they are never complete!

Not every artist saw the importance of such a collection, but I was fortunate to sit next to an artist back in 1976 who did. Mike Barrett had an artists reference system that was second to none! Mike had started his collection back in 1958 and It was contained in two filing cabinets in the office at D. C. Thomsons.
I remember once asking Mike if he had any references of an Italian Policeman as I had to draw one. After a couple of minutes, and with Google like efficiency, Mike produced a neat folder from his filing cabinet titled 'Foreign Police uniforms', and sure enough it contained photos of Italian policemen. That's how good these old reference systems were! It was Mike Barrett who said to me "An artist is only as good as his references!"

I don't believe that the internet has made these collections redundant either as they contain magazine quality pictures, (not low res Jpeg's), and these pictures are never likely to surface on the internet either. Collections like this are becoming very rare because the artists who own them are either already retired, (like Mike), or about to.

Keith lives in Indiana in the U.S. Anyone interested in his collection should email me at and I will pass on your email to Keith.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My favorite Bible artists #9

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1836-1912
I recently came across some amazing Bible paintings by Dutch born Victorian artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Although Alma-Tedema is best known for recreating historical scenes from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, he also painted a small number of pictures depicting scenes from the Bible like the one above titled 'The Finding of Moses'. Alma-Tadema is famous for his almost photographic portrayal of ancient artifacts and architecture. The accuracy and detail contained in his pictures is breathtaking! A good example is Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends.

So detailed are Alma-Tadema's pictures that he is credited in the book 'Great Painters and their Famous Bible Pictures' for having "peopled the past, rebuilt its towns, refurnished its houses and rekindled the flame upon the sacrificial alters".
It was during his first visit to Italy in 1863 that his mission in life became clear to him. He began his painstaking study "to bring antiquity back to life in so far as it lay in the power of his art". Muther said of him "There was no monument of brass or marble, no wall painting, no pictured vase or mosaic, no sample of ancient arts, of pottery, stone-cutting, or work in gold, that he did not study".

When painting scenes in Egypt he made many trips to the British Museum in London where he made sketches of the ancient artifacts on display. The picture above 'The Finding of Moses" took Alma-Tadema two years to paint and includes a number of archaeologically precise objects and inscriptions. His infatuation with detail brought some criticism though. Some critics said that his pictures "lacked sentiment" or "possessed no heart-interest". Others said that his work was becoming too encyclopedic.
Alma-Tadema's passion for antiquities did not confine itself to his paintings. His house in London was also filled with Egyptian decorations, pillars, mosaic floors, tiger skins and oriental carpets. His garden also was in the classical Roman style filled with marble benches and basins and statues of bronze and stone.

Alma-Tadems's paintings have served to inspire film makers of both the past and present. Cecil B. DeMille when filming The Ten Commandments had a set of Alma-Tadema's prints for the set designers to study. More recently the set designers of the Oscar-winning film 'Gladiator' took their inspiration from the very same pictures.
Alma-Tadema was knighted and received an Order of Merit, and, although his paintings were publicly acclaimed during his lifetime, following his death in 1912, they fell out of favor. During this time some of his paintings could have been purchased for as little as £20. Things changed though in the late 1960s when there was a revival of interest in Victorian paintings.
When the picture above 'The Finding of Moses' was auctioned at Christies in New York in May 1995, it sold for £1.75 million!

Links to some of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's Bible Art:
Joseph - Overseer of the Pharoah's Granaries
The Death of the First Born
An Audience at Agrippa's
More pictures of historical interest to the Bible Artist:
Sculptors in Ancient Rome
Egyptian Chess Players
Egyptian Juggler

More about Lawrence Alma-Tadema here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Great Bible Discovery update

The Great Bible DiscoveryThanks to Stefan Koelewijn from the Netherlands I now have the full 24 volume set of 'The Great Bible Discovery' series first published in France in 1983 as 'Déccouvrir la Bible'. This series of books contains some superb Bible art by some of the well known European comic strip artists such as Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, Pierre Frisano, Carlo Marcello, Raymond Poïvet and many more.

Stefan has the remaining 19 volumes for sale which include numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21. 23 and 24. This is your chance to either buy that elusive copy to complete your own set or take this rare opportunity to start your own collection by buying all 19 copies from Stefan for a very reasonable €100 (+postage). This works out at just over €5 per copy which isn't much more than the original selling price. Remember, these books are rare and it's not unusual to pay over £30 for one! (I did!) Stefan is also willing to sell them individually for €10 each (+postage).

If you are interested in any or all of the numbers above, email me and I will forward on your email to Stefan. Good luck!

Further Update: 26.09.09
Stefan has just emailed me. He in willing to sell individual copies now for the bulk price of €5 each! I wish that I had met him earlier! Email Stefan to see which copies he still has available!
Further Update: 26.11.09
A lucky reader of the blog in Singapore has just snapped up all Stefan's copies of the Great Bible Discovery!

Related posts:
The Great Bible Discovery

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spot the Mistake!

Elisha by Clive Uptton
Here's a picture taken from the new 'Egermeier's Bible Story Book.' The picture is by one of my favorite Bible artists Clive Uptton and shows Elisha with the Shunammite woman. (2 Kings 4:18-37)
Can you spot the mistake? I'll add the first correct answer below.

The correct answer came in from Nikolaj from Belgium. Well done Nikolaj! The answer is:
Elisha was Bald!
This is a common mistake made by Bible artists. The reason for this is, I think, due to the fact that the most popular depictions of Elisha are when he is present at the translation of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:1-11.
The Bible artist would need to read on past this story to verse 23 to know that Elisha was bald!

The only reason that I've mentioned this is that I was thinking the other day how helpful it would be if publisher brought out a 'Bible Artist's Bible'. A reference book that gave a physical description, (where possible) of every character in the Bible along with a time-line showing the age of each character at the different events in their lives. This would stop Bible illustrators drawing a young Daniel in the Lion's Den! There may already be a book like this available. Let me know if you see one!

It's not only Bible artists who would benefit from a book like this, I'm sure that Bible students, writers, film makers and many more would welcome an easy to follow reference guide to Bible characters.

Picture © Warner Press 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sackcloth Garments

We have a question from Jessica in California:
"What would sackcloth garments have looked like?"
I thought that I would throw this one open to readers of the blog. I will try to find a suitable picture to add to this post after I've received some answers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Door

The Door PoemWe don't usually have poetry on the Bible illustration blog, but as it's getting close to Easter I thought that I would share with you an Easter poem that I wrote back in 1999. It has sat on my desk for ten years waiting for me to do some illustrations to go with it!
It's a poem with an Easter theme and follows a small group of children who are watching Jesus working in the carpenters shop. The children want Him to stop working and tell them a story, but Jesus wants them to learn something special about 'The Door'. The words of Jesus are in green. I hope you like it!

'The Door'
An Easter poem
by G.D.Kennedy.

As children we sat on wood shaven floor,
our questions to Jesus we cried.
“What are you making?” we fervently asked,
“A door” He softly replied..
“What is a door?” the youngest one asked,
we laughed, but Jesus sat down.
“Through a door you can enter into a place
where once a way was not found”.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
will you tell us a story now please?”

“The work of the door is not complete
til it’s taken away to the place,
where it’s final purpose will be fulfilled,
where it’s final task it will face”.

So He lifted the door high up on His back
it’s heavy weight weighing Him down.
We followed Him through the onlooking crowds
til we reached the edge of the town.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
will you tell us a story now please?”

The work of the door is not complete”
sighed Jesus His eyes lifted higher,
“until it hangs upon a frame
held by nails, forged in the fire”.

So He picked up His hammer & three iron nails
and held up the door to the frame.
Blow followed blow as it sank into place,
in the silence we called out His name.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
will you tell us a story now please?”

“The work of the door is not complete”
said Jesus His eyes full of pain,
“un-til it’s stained with crimson stain
to protect it from strong wind & rain”.

So He plunged the stiff brush deep into the dye
and stained the olive white wood.
The dye ran down to the palms of His hands,
for a moment we thought it was blood.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
will you tell us a story now please?”

Many years passed, and now a young man,
in a crowd I met Jesus once more.
His eyes met with mine, He smiled and said
“Behold, I am the door”.
Jesus?...the door? What did He mean?
a riddle I could not unwind,
Until I stood at the foot of the cross,
then two questions came into my mind.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
will you tell me the story now please?”

It was then I recalled being sat at His feet,
as a child I remembered Him say,
“The work of the door is not complete
til the door is taken away.
til it’s hanging on that destined frame,
held by love,not nails so cold,
til it’s stained with sin....not it’s own”.

til it’s paid the price that I owed.

“Have you finished the door now Lord Jesus?
Is the work of the door now complete?

“It is finished” cried Jesus looking down from the cross,
the work of the door is complete.
the way back to God has swung open wide.
in tears, I fell at His feet.
I now understood ,there's only one way.
“I am the way” Jesus cried
“I am the door”, the way back to God,
“I am the crucified”.

“Now the work of the door is complete Lord,
will you bid us come enter now please?”

© G.D.Kennedy. 1999-2009.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

David and Goliath, and Philistine Armor

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath is one of the better known Bible stories. Anyone who doubts the authenticity of the story should take a little time to look at the evidence. As is usually the case, the latest archeological discoveries add even more weight to the authenticity of the biblical account.

To some, the idea of one champion fighting on behalf of an entire army is fanciful, whereas this was the common practice of the Philistines in deciding the outcome of a battle. To the Philistines, a battle of champions represented the will of the gods! If their champion won, then the gods were on their side and they could expect victory over their enemy.
The 'Battle of Champions' was characteristic of Aegean peoples and this form of battle was known almost exclusively from the Greek Epic tradition. This form of battle however was unheard of among the Israelites which might explain their difficulty in selecting a champion of their own. The fact that this battle, in the minds of the Philistines, was a battle of the immortals would explain why the Philistines fled following Goliath's defeat!
Goliath was indeed a formidable and intimidating champion chosen no doubt for his size, (nine foot and three inches), which some attribute to the possibility that he was a descendant of the Anakim. When Joshua expelled the giant Anakim people from the land of Canaan a few found refuge in the city of Gath where Goliath originated from.

Some also try to discredit this biblical account by saying that, according to the Egyptian reliefs in the tomb of Ramesses III, (shown below), the Philistines wore no coats of mail or greaves and so the biblical narrative is incorrect! They forget that these ancient carvings are depicting the 'captured' Philistine army which had been deprived of all weaponry and armor as was the practice inflicted on a defeated enemy. The Israelites not only took Goliath's weapons and armor, they weighed them too!
Philistine Helmets
Nate Butler asked the question why do so many Bible artists illustrate Goliath's helmet incorrectly when there is so much archeological reference available that clearly displays it? That's a good question, and it's true, we do have a very good idea of what the Philistine helmets looked like from the ancient Egyptian reliefs at Medinet Habu. But, it's also true that Goliath was equipped like no other Philistine foot soldier, and it does appear, from the biblical text, that he used a sampling of weapons from different parts of the ancient Middle East. There is a very good reason for this which we will look at shortly.

Goliath's Helmet
The Egyptian reliefs found at Medinet Habu (see above) clearly show the distinctive feathered helmets which were unique to the Philistine army. The helmets appear to be secured under the chin by leather straps. Feathers were held in place by a decorative metal band. Interestingly, the Philistines are shown to be clean-shaven! When I tried illustrating Goliath above without a beard, it just wasn't Goliath! This is one of those occasions when, as Paul G says, we need to play to the expectations of others! Because we use the word 'Philistine' to describe someone who is uncultured, we tend to think of Philistines as bearded barbarians but, as we will see shortly, this might be far from the truth!

Philistine SwordGoliath's Shield and Sword
These reliefs also show the captured small circular shields used by the Philistine foot soldiers. Goliath's shield was no doubt larger than most, and was borne by a shield bearer who traditionally walked in front of the warrior up until the battle. Goliath's sword is interesting too. Experts claim that the sword described in the Bible, and worn on the back, was a curved blade Sickle sword and not the straight sword normally used by the Philistines. The sickle sword was first used by the Canaanites and, because of its brutal effectiveness, was later adopted by the Egyptians. So, why did Goliath own such a sword? It makes sense that a warrior like Goliath who had no doubt fought one to one battles on many occasions previous to this, would have collected trophies of these victories. Perhaps the sickle sword was one of these trophies.
By displaying an array of captured weaponry Goliath was also displaying his superiority over all opposing forces. They declared Goliath's invincibility! Perhaps this was a tactic intended to intimidate his enemies even before the battle began!

Goliath's Scale Armor and Greaves
Scale armor was important because it protected a soldier without restricting his movements. It was first used in the Aegean.
Each bronze scale was attached in rows to a leather apron. Each overlapping row was offset giving the appearance of fish scales.
The Bible clearly states that Goliath wore "greaves of brass upon his legs". Again some have criticised the biblical account here by claiming that the Philistines did not wear greaves. But, in a recent article in the 'Biblical Archeological Review' which discusses the recent find in Ashkelon of some greek-style pottery, Dr Stager said "Throwing caution to the wind, I am willing to state flatly that the Sea Peoples, including the Philistines, were Mycenaean Greeks." Dr Stager went on to say " because the Bible describes Goliath as going into the battle wearing bronze greaves on his legs. No Canaanite or Israelite soldier wore greaves, but Greek warriors did." So this would explain Goliath's bronze greaves. Maybe the Philistines were not a barbaric uncultured people after all. They may well have been descendants of the more elevated Greeks!

Goliath's Spear
Goliath's iron headed spear has been the subject of much speculation. Some believe that it was more likely to be a javelin than a spear. There are two theories that speculate why the Bible likens Goliath's spear to a weaver's beam. The popular opinion is that this statement refers to the spears size and weight. The second opinion states that the Aegean javelin had a cord wound around the shaft held by loops which gave the spear greater stability in flight. Apparently this winding cord and loop arrangement gave Goliath's spear the appearance of a weaver's heddle rod, characteristic of those used for hand loom weaving in Israel.
I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I have Just finished illustrating a picture of Samson from Judges chapter 16 for our upcoming Bible. Most children's Bibles show Samson in the process of pushing over the two key pillars that supported this vast temple, so I thought that I would depict the scene that led up to this event instead. Incidentally, if you are interested to read about Samson's physique, we have discussed this before in the 'Was Samson Muscular?' post.

In the picture above you can see Samson being taunted by the Philistines. From reading the text in Judges 16 it does sound like this scene is taking place in a building dedicated to the worship of Dagon. Dagon appears to be either a god of grain and agriculture or a fish god, (half man, half fish). I decided to go for the latter and based the stone statue in the background on ancient stone carvings thought to be of Dagon. In 1 Samuel chapter 5, we read about when the Ark of the Covenant had been captured and was placed by the Philistines before the statue of Dagon. When the statue fell prostrate before the Ark for the second time, we read that both its head and hands were broken off. No mention of legs, which might give credence to the fish god theory. This might be interesting to discuss further.
At the bottom right of the picture you can see one of the priests of Dagon. He is wearing the fish-head mitre and cape as depicted on ancient carvings showing the priests of Dagon.
Incidentally, and while on the subject of fish, we are in the Jewish month of Adar. The month of Adar has a sign which is the fish! The reason for this is that traditionally this is the month that the fish in Israel spawn. The Hebrew word for fish is 'dag'. (I thought you might find that interesting!) Anyway, back to the story.

Samson was blinded and bound with fetters of brass. This was a common punishment used also by the Babylonians, Assyrians and Persians. We read in 2 Kings 25:7 that Zedekiah was punished in the same way. There are a pair of ancient bronze fetters in the British Museum that were found in Ninevah. I would describe them as a sixteen inch brass rod with a two pronged fork at each end. These two prongs were hammered around the ankles of the prisoner allowing only short steps to be taken. The chains that I have illustrated around Samson's wrists are not mentioned!
At the bottom left of the picture you can see a Philistine soldier wearing the feathered helmet depicted on the ancient carvings in the temple of Ramesses III.

Samson is stood at the central point of the temple between two of the load bearing pillars. The light coming from above is from a large central opening in the roof above. The reason that I believe that there was a large central opening in the roof is that the text suggests that the three thousand people stood on the roof were able to see Samson being taunted. It makes sense that if two of these load bearing pillars that lined this central opening were toppled how the entire building would collapse. If you look through the arches at the back of the picture you can see that the temple is built on high ground. Buildings used for the worship of pagan deities were always built on high ground as this was thought to be nearer to the heavens where their gods dwelt. These are referred to in the Bible as the 'High places'.

Delilah is stood in the shadows under the arches and next to the stairs which led to the roof. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Related posts:
'Was Samson Muscular?'

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Painting the Hebrew Bible: Words and images.

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new visitor to the Bible illustration blog, whose recent comments on the blog I know many of you have found incredibly helpful. Nahum HaLevi, (who is also a Levite), is a Jewish Bible artist based in the U.S. His paintings can be found at Each painting on Nahum's website is accompanied by a highly detailed description which, apart from being a fascinating read, reveal Nahum's immense knowledge of the Torah. I asked Nahum if he would consider writing a short post for the B.I.B describing his Bible Art. He kindly agreed.

Painting the Hebrew Bible: Words and images, by Nahum HaLevi. 
The thrust and focus of my paintings is an attempt to grasp the transcendent meaning of the Hebrew Bible, and by extension to use art as a tool to try to understand the underlying nature, structure and essence of the universe, in other words to apprehend God. As a template for this process  I attempt to visually express the biblical narrative by deriving multiple images from multiple translations of the original Modern Hebrew text, and at times retranslate the words back into ancient Hebrew and further back into proto-Sinaitic pictographic Hebrew.
  Biblical Hebrew contains many words with multiple meanings, a testament to its very early and ancient origins. The meanings of some Hebrew words can be radically changed by a mere alteration of pronunciation, or textual context, or even by a single letter substitution. These linguistic elements have led to a wealth of literary interpretations.
 Many of my paintings combine the multiplicity of meanings of the Hebrew biblical text with the multiplicity of visual images derived from these different literary interpretations of scripture thereby resulting in combined visual-literary stories that are not possible by isolated pure literary or visual analysis.
  For some paintings I fuse images and words from disparate scriptures thereby creating fusion imagery of disparate biblical characters and concepts in different historical space-time coordinates into one holistic story. By retaining fragments of the different stories, each individual story is told, and a new creative story is told for the first time, providing multiple layers of meaning to the original stories.
  In some paintings , I use the principle of taking stories of individual characters from sequential chronological periods of their lives and jumbling them up into one narrative as though each story is a single point in the space-time continuum, and lives not only in the past or future, but in the never ending present.
One example of this is in the painting "Moses : Rock 'N Rage".
In this painting I have fused the young Moses who hits and kills the Egyptian taskmaster drawing out blood, with the older Moses who hits the rock in the desert, drawing out water quenching the Israelite's thirst. Also visually fused in this painting , are the Egyptian taskmaster and the rock who spew out blood and water as a result of being hit by Moses. The inspiration for this imagery comes from the common Hebrew word used in both stories for hitting- "Vayach"- "and he hit", either the Egyptian or the stone.
 The visualized simultaneity of two separate historical events combined with the simultaneous sequential chronological unfolding of both separate events, confuses our natural understanding and perception of linear time, providing us with a more accurate perception of the malleable bending of the space-time continuum, and thus fills us with an other worldly ethereal transcendental feeling.
 In some paintings I attempt to create a cinematic sensation of time moving both forwards and backwards on a two dimensional canvas by having individuals moving multiple arms and legs in different sequential geometric and spatial planes. I have used this technique in "Moses : Rock 'N Rage", and even more so in "The School of Shamgar".
   In a similar vane in the painting "The Amramovitz Family: Teamwork", I portray the infant Moses with a beard, fusing two of Moses' time coordinates; that of his infancy with that of his adulthood visualizing the simultaneous separate existences of these images within the space-time continuum, as well a providing a sensation of time rapidly moving forward or backwards from infancy to adulthood, depending on one's perspective. Again this confuses our perception of ordinary space-time and transports us into another realm of thought which transcends the ordinary laws of physics as we perceive them.

 In my paintings I also like to convey a sensation of synesthesis. Synesthesis is a neurological condition where certain individuals crisscross and confuse different senses, for example, some people can taste or hear colors. Certain people can see sounds. This is what is conveyed in the Bible , at Mount Sinai, when the Ten Commandments were given, and God descended on the mountain, that all Israel saw the sounds of the shofars (trumpets) and the sounds of thunder. I have conveyed this in my painting  "Shavuot" by drawing musical notes in the background. Similarly in many of my paintings I hope they are appreciated by utilizing sensory modalities other than sight, and I hope that you not only see the paintings, but hear their conversations, and the music they are playing, and hence I hope you fuse sight and sound, that you see and hear illuminated symphonies, and that you are momentarily transported and enjoy a separate reality.
By providing and fusing multiple scriptural word definitions and multiple images derived from them, in many paintings you might see simultaneous multiple image possibilities, and you might simultaneously sense that you are in the past, present or future, or all three, You might sense that you are at location X, or Y, or simultaneously feel that you are at both locations. When you read a word or several words and sentences, you might simultaneously understand multiple definitions and explanations. If you do all that, you might appreciate a greater totality of the universe, or at the very least will understand the limitation of our human brains when viewing things statically.
   I personally view every two-dimensional biblical canvas as a small bird's eye view of the vast space-time continuum. Different splashes of paint and letters all represent different points scattered in space and time, existing separately and yet simultaneously, all splayed out in a microcosm before our frail visual fields allowing us to grasp past, present and future in simultaneity, as they twinkle, coexist and meld into one unified coherent whole giving us a multifaceted perception of infinitely changing realities- dare we say a fragmentary glimpse of God.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Samuel and Eli

Samuel and Eli
Before illustrating the picture (right) of Samuel and Eli, I wanted to gather some information about where this scene was taking place. In the first few verses of 1 Samuel chapter 3, a Temple is mentioned. But which Temple is it speaking of? Solomon's Temple had not as yet been built. Rabbi Naftali Silberberg sheds some light on this...

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan river into Canaan, the portable Tabernacle was erected in the city of Gilgal, where it remained for the fourteen years it took them to conquer, divide, and settle the land. After that, the Tabernacle was dismantled, but the tapestries and rugs which covered it were taken to the city of Shiloh where they covered a newly built stone, fixed albeit roofless, sanctuary. This Tabernacle stood there for 369 years until it was destroyed by the Philistines during the lifetime of Samuel.

So it would appear that, in Shiloh, which was the religious capital of Israel in the time of the Judges, a more robust version of the Tabernacle was built in stone. A precursor to the Temple.
I presume that the reason that this structure was roofless was that it retained the Tabernacle tent coverings. For an artist's impression of what the Tabernacle/Temple in Shiloh may have looked like, click here.
There also appears to have been some sleeping chambers added close to the sanctuary for the High Priest and his attendant, and the addition of some doors, (1 Samuel 3:15). Some commentators say that the sleeping accommodation for the Levites and priests was provided in tents next to the Tabernacle.
The scene takes place in the early hours of the morning before the lights of the golden lampstand were extinguished. These lamps were extinguished at sunrise, (Lev 6:12,13). The light source for this scene is provided by the seven branched solid gold lampstand which was 18 handbreadths in height and over 100 Ibs in weight! I have decorated this lampstand or 'menorah' with almond blossoms according to the description in Ex 25:31-40.

According to Josephus, Samuel was 12 years old when the Lord spoke to him. Eli, who was one of the last Israelite Judges, (before the Israelite monarchy began), is seen wearing the seamless white under garment worn by the priests. His high priestly robes which included the turban or mitre, the sleeveless blue robe and the ephod are folded next to him. You can see the bells and pomegranates woven from scarlet, purple and blue wool along the hem of the ephod.

As always, your comments are welcome!

Related posts:
The Day of Atonement
What did Herod's Temple look like?
Being Roofless!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Daniel in the Lion's Den

Daniel in the Lion's Den
The most common mistake made by artists when depicting 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' is showing Daniel to be much younger than he actually was. Most children's Bibles show Daniel to be between 20 and 40 years of age when this event in his life happened. A close inspection of the dates in the margins of your Bible reveal that Daniel was around 80 years old when thrown to the lions!

When I was comparing the many versions of this scene painted by different artists. I noticed something interesting about the lion's den itself. Artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner, J. James Tissot, W A Foster and Briton Riviere show a purpose built lion's den, rather like a stone prison cell, whereas Rubens, Gustav Dore and others favor an underground cave, either naturally formed or hewn out of the rock. I noticed that the pictures that portrayed the den as a cave were less menacing to the viewer than those which depicted the den as a purpose built cell. The reason for this, I believe, is that the lions which are shown lying in a natural cave look almost like they're relaxing in their natural habitat. Whereas, the lions shown pacing up and down an empty stone cell look much more restless and agitated. These lions are being contained in a purpose built waste disposal unit! The monotony for them was only broken when an unfortunate victim was thrown in!
As the lion's den appears to be in the grounds of King Darius' palace, it would make sense that it was a purpose built enclosure. In my version, (above), I originally showed lots of blood spattered on the walls of the cell, but I decided that, as this picture is for a children's Bible, I should remove some! Although some kids love the gory bits!

I very much liked the lighting in the version of 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' by Henry Ossawa Tanner which is a feature of his work that we've discussed before on the blog.
Harold Copping added a nice touch to his version of this picture also. The reflective eyes of the lions in the semi-darkness are lit by the light coming in through the opening above. Copping also shows the den to be only about 8 foot high which also makes sense. Most artists, including myself, depict the den as being much higher.

As always, we look forward to your comments.