Thursday, 29 October 2015

Elijah's cloak

I've been tying myself in knots with historical research again (surprise surprise).

But I was rather amused when, on doing a Google image search for 'Elijah Cloak', it came up with this picture:

I was thinking of the biblical character, but Elijah Wood in a cloak from Lórien - fair enough :-)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Colour matters

I was telling this story on Sunday,  and I was using the Go Teach visual aids, which I drew.

It was quite a tricky picture to make clear. The point of the story is that it's such a dense crowd that no-one notices the lady creeping up to touch Jesus' cloak. But, of course, while the picture has to look confusing and busy, the children in the class do have to see what's going on.

One of the ways I did this was to use colour. Colour is not just decoration. It can be used for clarity and emphasis, and for atmosphere. In this case, clarity was the main issue.

Here's what I did to make Jesus and the woman stand out:

  • Jesus and the women are dressed in strong colours: the other characters are in paler, muted colours.
  • Jesus and the woman are in reddish shades: most - though not all - of the others are in blue/green shades which stand out less.*
  • Jesus and the woman are the only ones with jet black hair: everyone else's is paler. Light hair is possible in the middle east - in real life it would not be this common, especially among adults, however that's what you call artist's license.
  • Each individual person does not have much contrast in their clothes - the patterns on the clothes are a similar colour to the clothes themselves (more artist's license - in real life the stripes were quite strong). Also, the woman's shawl and dress are of a similar colour to each other, as are Jesus' cloak and tunic. This holds each person together as one object instead of breaking them up. That's the opposite of the principles behind camouflage, which is designed to break up the person's shape to make them stand out less.
  • I've also used aerial perspective - making things in the distance (and their outlines) paler, so they recede.

Just for fun, I made another version of this picture, using colours to make the picture harder to understand. Here it is:

  • Everyone is dressed in strong colours.
  • Jesus and the woman are in blue/green shades which stand out less: random unimportant people are in bright reds or yellows
  • Jesus' hair is brown, like most of the others, and the woman's hair is pale grey: but several unimportant characters have jet black hair.
  • Individual people have quite a lot of contrast in their clothes. The woman does not, but she is coloured so that her sleeve is a similar colour to the girl behind her, and her hand is a similar colour to the man behind it. This means that they blend into the background.
  • I've used no aerial perspective, so the background is more prominent.

And here's a comparison - it flicks from one to the other:

Half shut your eyes - in which picture can you see at a glance who the main characters are and what's going on?

Of course, all of this is subconscious as far as the viewer is concerned. You don't analyse the colours - you just look at the picture. But it's important, because it makes such a difference to your understanding.

Actually, this post happens to fit really well with the quote I posted on Saturday. That was by a colourist - someone who makes his living by colouring other people's pictures (much more complicated colouring than I do!).

*Unless you have red/green colourblindness - sorry :-)


Just downloaded the Skelly App.
Looks like it should be useful.
One issue with it is that you can't save your pose to come back to which is annoying (although you can take a screenshot.)
I can see myself using this for tricky poses.

Edit: Can now save poses - will use much more now :-)

Saturday, 24 October 2015


“If I can look at the page from across the room and I know what’s happening, it’s a good page.  The story has to be clear. All the characters have to be separated. I shouldn’t have to ask ‘What’s this?’ If I don’t know what’s going on it’s not a good page.”

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Black or white?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could research ancient people without getting tangled up with white supremacists (who insist that all the great ancient civilisations were white) and black supremacists (who insist that all the great ancient peoples were black), and someone who appeared to be asserting that every single ancient civilisation (except the black africans) had the identical mid brown skin colour to her son.

They sling insults and racial epithets at each other, assume bad faith of everyone of 'the other race', selectively choose only the pictures that might seem to support their assertions, and are completely incapable of analysing ancient pictures rationally.

It's so silly. Your value as a human being does not rely on people of your skin colour ruling the world in ancient history.

Plaster cast of a relief from the temple of Beit el-Wali, 1279-1213BC. In the British Museum.

I've seen this picture used as 'evidence' that Egyptians were 'black'. I don't doubt that some of them were, but in the context of the whole painting these ladies are clearly from further south in Africa.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone some time tries to claim that the right-hand lady proves the Egyptians were blond aryans with a bit of a suntan - stranger claims are made :-)

What it does show is that the Egyptians were well aware that - shock horror - there can be a number of different skin colours in a single civilisation.

That's how I approach my illustrations. I use a large mix of skin colours - in which I am more fortunate than the egyptian artists who had a very limited pallette. Most people are brownish/olive. Egyptians tend to be darker than Israelites, but there's no hard dividing line, and a fair bit of overlap - both Moses and the apostle Paul were mistaken for Egyptians. Outdoor people are darker than people with indoor, sedentary jobs - meaning poor people are darker than rich people who can keep out of the sun. Women on average are paler than men - which was exagerated greatly in ancient pictures, adding to the confusion.

We know there was migration, slavery and intermarriage, meaning you can add a bit of a mix. Moses married a Cushite (african) wife. David happened to have a Cushite in his army. Ebed-Melech the Cushite happened to work in the Israelite palace, and rescued Jeremiah. By the time you get to the New Testament, you can add in the results of Roman slavery, making black africans, blonde scandinavians and ginger celts all reasonable gentile minorities. Herod had a Gaulish bodyguard. Haven't drawn any of these yet.

I do tend to lean towards the darker colours for my Bible people - when you look at real people, you can easily get a white person who is much darker than a middle eastern person. But in a simple style of drawing, you don't have the subtleties, so I use skin colour. Strikes a balance with all the illustrations out there that seem to think Bible people were just europeans/white americans in funny clothes.

Oops - I'm supposed to be researching the widow of Zarephath (Phoenician) - I didn't mean to get waylaid!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


I teach P1 & 2 (4½ - 6½) in Sunday School. The kids are mostly fairly good, but they're kids. Sometimes - like this Sunday - they can be a wee bit hyper.

So you say to them, "Wheesht," and you say to them, "Calm down, please."

And sometimes they do (sort of). And sometimes they don't.

Jesus was in a boat in a storm. The wind was howling, and the waves were tossing. The disciples were terrified.

So he said to the wind, "Wheesht," and he said to the waves, "Calm down please."*

And there was silence and a flat calm.

"Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

P1&2 having fun.
Foil pie dishes, fun foam squares, scratch art tools for masts, stuck together with blu-tack (note: use plenty of blu-tack or the masts will come off when manhandled by small children!)

*Well, obviously he said it in Aramaic which has been translated into Greek and then into English as "‘Quiet! Be still!" But I guess my translation's as good :-)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

EU VAT >:-(

Just think, I could be drawing pictures, or designing something, or otherwise being productive.

Instead I'm trying in vain to figure out why my EU sales VAT is not being recorded. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm sure it was working before. I don't understand any of the instructions I read.

I know the point is to catch big multinational companies. But it's making it really awkward for small businesses (I mean one-person part time businesses). I know some people are just stopping selling to the EU altogether, to save the hassle. But a) I definitely don't want to do that and b) soon it will be most countries - that would be over half of my sales!

moan moan moan

Design 100 Somethings

This sounds like a really good idea. Those chessmen are really cute!

I could do something that would be useful to me like 'First century Judaean men" - something I have to draw a lot, but it's hard to get variety. And then I could go on to "First century women" and then pick another time period...

I'm not good at doing these 'practicing scales' kind of exercises, which is why I then struggle so much with my actual illustrations. I need need need to practise life drawing as well. 20 mins a day - sounds good in theory...

Sunday, 11 October 2015

One day...

In heaven, what we want to do and what we ought to do will be the same thing.