Monday, July 31, 2006

Giving Birth (sort of)

For some reason, women usually get irritated at me when I compare the process of making art as "giving birth," or "labor." Sheesh, go figure. (just kidding ladies)

Anyways, here's some preliminary sketches and a finished sketch of the upcoming print I'm working on from John chapter 9. The next steps will be transferring the drawing, inking, adding inkwash, scanning, coloring and printing.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Refrigerator of Nosferatu

I made my first report to the Better Business Bureau yesterday. I made the complaint after a near four week saga to get our refrigerator properly fixed. Since it makes for an interesting saga, I thought I'd post my complaint. It gives a play by play.

For conscience sake, I've replaced the business name as well as the name of the serviceman.

(Appliance Store) first came out on Friday, June 30 to look at our refrigerator. Gus, the technician didn't find anything immediate that he thought was wrong, so he put a bead of silicone somewhere in our refrigerator then charged us $73.00 for his visit.

The next day, our refrigerator went out and we were forced to put all our food in coolers and at in-law's house. Gus came out several more times during the coming weeks trying to determine what was wrong with the refrigerator.

Nearly 2 weeks of dawdling after the initial visit they agreed to take the refrigerator into the shop. (I wish they would have just done this the first or second time they had come out.) We were told by Gus they would pick it up on Friday, the 14. After waiting the better part of the day we discovered they weren't going to come until Monday. The customer service lady on the phone at (Appliance Store) was completely cold and unsympathetic about the mix-up.

Monday, the 17th rolled around (after another weekend without a refrigerator). (Appliance Store) picked up our refrigerator and were nice enough to give us a "loner" refrigerator. This would have been a nice gesture, (they said they were the only ones in town who offered this service). The only problem was that the "loner" refrigerator was from the 1970s, was filthy, smelled like rotten food, stunk up our house, and had food still in one of its drawers. It took my wife close to an hour to scrub down before she could even use it.

I called to complain about the putrid refrigerator they dropped off and once again, there was no apologies, no sympathy, (my wife has been at home with 3 small children during this whole nearly 3 week long ordeal). Again, this place simply would not fess up to the poor customer service they were giving us, and acted like we were expecting way too much to expect a loner refrigerator that was clean. My wife called to talk to a owner and was treated rudely once again by the customer service lady.

They told us they would have our refrigerator looked at and fixed as soon as possible.

Another week passes. On Monday, July, 24, the "loner" refrigerator stopped working. This required me to make a late night, 10:30 PM trip to the grocery store to buy ice so that our food didn't spoil.

On Tuesday, July 25, after us taking the initiative to once again call (Appliance Store), we finally received our refrigerator back. No apology. They did refund $16.00 of our original $73.00 back. The repair for our fridge was under warranty.

This has been hands-down the worst customer service experience we have ever had. (Appliance Store) just didn't seem to care, and their lack of willingness to take responsibility for poor customer service at every level shows this.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Constipated Illustrator

You never know when it will strike.
You never know how long it will last.
You think it may very well mark the end of your artistic career.

Artist Constipation.

For the last three and a half months I've been in the preliminary sketch stage of the fifth of a series of five commissioned illustrations on the life of Christ.

This last one has been a stinker indeed. I've literally been banging my head against the door trying to get it to come together. It's an illustration from John chapter 9 when Christ spits, makes mud, sticks in on a blind guy's eyes, and tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam to reclaim his sight. Sounds easy enough right?


I literally have pages and pages of preliminary thumbnail sketches agonizing over this piece. To no avail. I'm ruined. This is the end. I'll never draw again.

Finally...last night it arrived (I think, I hope, I'm pretty sure...I think). It all came together in my mind in the chicken scratches I was spitting out in my sketch book while my beloved and I were watching "The Return of the King."


I forgot about the magic that a crappy ball-point pen can work during frantic, thumbnail, sketching sessions. The artist constipation was over and I felt great.

The hardest part of any illustration is the prepatory stage. Every once in a while, you can hammer something out quickly and it looks great. Not usually though. The laboring comes in the preparation. In times past, I've often tried to "wing it," and that only makes the project take all the longer because you're trying to make up stuff. So, as I settled and approached this illustration, I was forced to ask myself the following questions:

What point of this narrative am I illustrating?
What point do I want to get across? (In other words, what lesson do I want the viewer to learn?)
What kind of composition do I want?
Where is the light source coming from?
what else is going on in the image background?
What about facial expressions? Do these look natural?
What kind of photo references will I need?
What subtle things can I add that will make the different elements of the illustration act cohesively?

I just got done taking the photo references about 25 minutes ago. My wife and kids might make cameo appearances in the background. Once I get the photos back, I will begin the final drawing, then proceed to ink it, add ink washes, scan it and color it in the computer.

For anyone who's reading, stay tuned. I'll be posting the stages of this illustration during the next week or two until it's finished.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Frank Sinatra and Hell's Hit Parade

I just got done listening to an amazing Peter Kreeft lecture. Towards the end of it he mentions Frank Sinatra's song, "I did it my way."

He jokingly makes the point, that this song is the philosophy of Hell, and that it's on Hell's Hit Parade list.

So I checked the lyrics out for myself. Just give these egocentric lyrics a read, pretty amazing:

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, Ill say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and evry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Theology Lesson From a German Dunghill

You could learn alot from a German dunghill in Winter. So could I.

Martin Luther thought so at least.

Last week, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine (who, much like Luther, speaks a great deal about his bowels). I will spare you the details of the conversation, (it had much to do with beans); but I WILL tell you of an interesting analogy it brought to mind.

In the religion of Christianity, there are two closely related concepts I'm going to speak about. These two concepts are "imputation," and "justification."

Imputation simply means, "to put to the account of another." In Christianity, imputation serves a dual purpose; a "swap" of sorts.

First, God deals with the problem of mankind's sin and evil, by God placing on Christ ("imputing" to Christ) our sins, and then punishing Him for them. That in essence is what happened on the cross two milennia ago. Second, God's standard of perfection, (which has not been met by anyone save for Christ Himself) is satisfied by God placing on the believing sinner (imputing to him) the righteousness of Christ.

This brings us to the second concept, justification. Justification, is the state in which the sinner now stands, when, upon believing in God's Son, Christ's pefection has been placed ("imputed" to him) to his account.

It is like a condemned criminal standing before a just judge. The judge slams down his gavel and declares the condemned man, "Innocent" on account of someone else serving his sentence.

So then, nearly 2000 years ago, our sins were "imputed" to Christ. Upon belief in Christ, God "imputes" Christ's righteousness to us, and we are "justified."

Now for the Martin Luther analogy I was reminded of. I will quote from the book, "The God Who Justifies," by James White. (James speaks far more eloquently about manure than I ever could.) Here then is Luther's rather "earthy" illustration of justification:

One of Luther's most famous illustrations comes from the rural farms of Germany. Famers, needing a way to fertilize their fields, would collect the refuse of their farm animals into piles to be spread out on the fields when the weather demanded. These 'dunghills,' would at times dot the landscape and were, of course, anything but attractive to either see or smell....He likened our sinful state to a dunghill: ugly and offensive, it has nothing in and of itself that would make it pleasing to anyone, let alone to God.

Justification, he went on, is like that first snowfall of the approaching winter, the one that covers everything in a blanket of pure white. Unlike later snowfalls, where man has shoveled and plowed and otherwise worked to clear a path for himself, that first snow is clean, beautiful. Everything is covered in the same uniform blanket—even, Luther points out, those piles of dung. What was once foul is no longer. The smell is gone. The repulsive sight is gone. All is white and clean and pure.

In closing, I was quite moved (no pun intended) when I first heard Luther's dunghill analogy. Being an artist I wanted to explore this concept visually. Thus was born the following two works. Simply titled "Imputation 1" and "Imputation 2." Hopefully these pieces will demonstrate visually what Luther was trying to do with words. Enjoy...