The Portrait Gift

Hello Kingdom Pen Community!!

This is Rachel Ramm, the very behind-the-scenes, the so-far-behind-the-scenes-it’s-like-I’m-not-even-there web designer.

portrait project pinThe reason for that extended title, is that I’m not actually a full-time web designer. In fact, I’m not even 25% web designer. It’s more like 5-10%. Most of me is actually a fine artist, specializing in oil painting.

However, I’m writing to you now to let you know about a watercolor portrait project that I’ve been working on over the past year, and which is now nearing it’s end. I also created a video about it and entered it into a Korean Beauty contest, but more about that later.

For now, let me start the story from the beginning:

In the Spring of 2015, having recently returned from a trip to South Korea, I searched for a way to synthesize what I was learning about this new culture, with my concern for children and my vocation as an artist. At that time, a documentary called The Drop Box was released, telling the story of that same country, whose misplaced values do not allow for the flourishing of “the least of these.” This society, while outwardly succeeding, is seriously wounded at it’s core, as evidenced by the lowest birthrate, highest rates of abortion, and one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Processing this information led me to the idea for a series of portraits, where I could reveal both to the children themselves, and to all people viewing the art how beautiful children are, making visible how intrinsically valuable they are. The concept of human dignity and the value of children is centrally tied to our understanding of who God is, and what it means to be adopted as his sons and daughters, members of His eternal family, and younger siblings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who can possibly understand this without first experiencing loving a child with a pure love, not based on ability or connections or education or wealth? Who can behold the beauty of God’s grace without first seeing the dignity of an individual, and wonder at the First Artist’s best creation?

By God’s grace, I am walking a path that will lead back to Korea to work on portraits of children in the orphanages of Seoul, and for now I am doing and learning what I can closer to home.

table portrait spread

As a way to test this idea, I searched for a children’s home close to where I live now, and my search lead me to Edgewood Children’s Ranch in Orlando. Here, kids with behavioral and academic issues could get help 24/7. Each child that came to the Ranch had a heartbreaking story, and was on their way to continuing the cycle of brokenness unless they could get intervention.

I went and took a tour of their small campus, and got to walk around the small village of “cottages” where the kids lived, learning to keep their things clean and organized. I got to see their classrooms, where they took a more self-directed method of learning, similar to home schooling. I also saw the fields where they grew their own vegetables, and then ate lunch with the kids and enjoyed hearing about how God had provided for their needs in George Muller-like miraculous ways.

More than all this, I saw the love and care of the staff, from the “cottage parents” to the administration, everyone was dedicated to helping these at-risk kids get back on track.

I really didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but I knew I was on the right path.

In October of last year, I went back with all my photography gear, and took photos of all 42 students. I took the photos back home and ended up painting watercolors of every face.

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Each portrait took 4-5 hours, not including the time it took to edit the photos, photograph the art, mount and mat the final pieces. I also created a printed book that would serve as a yearbook for the Ranch, since they hadn’t had the budget for one in 6 years.

It was so fascinating to paint so many different faces! What impressed me most was not what made each face different and unique (although there was plenty of that!) but the realization of how many similarities there were!

Fast forward to this Spring, and as I neared the end of this project, I found out about a contest whose theme was “How do you make people smile?” The prize was a trip to California, and coincidently, a certain graphic designer and I had been planning our own trip there and had been saving up the money. It was an eerily perfect match!

So I submitted my first video, which introduced the Portrait Project and included some speed painting, which was really fun! Apparently everyone else thought it was fun too, since I was selected as a semi-finalist!!

painting

For the second round, I had to create another video, with the same theme, except this time making it a commercial by including this company’s skin-care products in some way.

Well, KP Community, you know better than anyone that the best way to deliver any message is through story! Even commercials. So I packed up my paintings, and made the 3 1/2 hour drive back to Orlando. I wouldn’t just give the kids’ their art, I would get their surprised first-reactions on film!!

And this is where I need your help! The story is currently to be continued, because this final video is still up for public vote!! And the winner won’t be decided until this Thursday night 🙂

If you’d like to be a part of this story and help decide how it ends, please go vote for my video here!!

There’s not much else I can write that would be any better than seeing the looks on the kids’ faces yourself. I guarantee that watching it will bring a smile to your face as well 😀

With all my heart,

Rachel

Here’s a little teaser trailer:

If you have a project you’d like to share with the KP Community, we want to hear about it! Email us at kingdompenmag@gmail.com

*UPDATE 6/8/16*

Well, I didn’t win the contest, but I got a much better prize! Sometimes rewards are much different than you think, so don’t stop sharing what you create and pursuing the dreams that God puts on your heart. You never know how what you do may impact others for the Kingdom, so don’t grow weary while you wait for all your hard work to bear fruit! Be patient and give thanks along the journey.

All Art is Christian Art

All art is Christian art. That’s a rather bold statement. Immediately, objections start to pop into our minds. “But what about modern nihilistic art?” “What about a novel that teaches spiritualism?” “What about someone screaming viciously into a microphone with zero identifiable words?” All of these are good objections, but rather than disproving my statement, they lead us to the deeper question that lurks behind them all.  allartischristianpost

What is art?

We are Christians and we base our lives and beliefs on the Bible. Let me bring you to the very beginning of that book. Genesis 1? Yes, Genesis 1:1 words 1-5, “In the beginning God created…” Two words stand out most in this string of five words. “In the beginning” is kind of like an announcement that a big statement is about to be made. Then we get to “God”: “In the beginning God.” Now that’s something. God is preeminent because He is first. How fitting for the first four words of the Bible. But if He was in the beginning, how does the story continue? Well, God created. God created. The first doctrine we hit after the preeminence of God is art–creativity. Art comes before the doctrines of marriage, work, sacrifice, etc. Perhaps this is because art is what is most obvious and sometimes most important to us. We know God exists by His art. We are deceived, rarely by argument but more often by the art that is tied into the argument—the emotions, the symbols, and the imitations of cosmic ideas.

“God created.” That is our first introduction to art in the Bible. Shall we move on? Shall we keep looking for the meat of what art really is? No! It’s right here! Let’s slow down a bit and dig into the depths of richness right before us. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Daeus
Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.
He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.
If you would like to sample his work, you can get a free copy of his novella, Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin at the link below.

Viewing Your Story as a Form of Art

The-Art-of-WritingAs Christians, all of us likely have some message we are trying to actively communicate in our writing. And those of us who are not actively trying to communicate a message still can’t keep their worldview from slipping into their work. As Douglas Wilson writes in Wordsmithy, “The independence of art from worldview and worldview concerns is a myth. Every work of art is produced within a framework of worldview assumptions. […] It is not whether certain values will be propagated by art, but rather which values will be propagated.”

As Christian writers, hopefully our central concern is less on what values we should propagate, but more on how we should propagate them in our novels. We have all likely read that book where the author just preaches the morals through the characters rather than showing us them through their actions. We have all likely seen that story where the values are poorly presented in the book. We have all likely seen such examples of unsuccessful ways to communicate messages in a story. Most readers not already in agreement with the author will tend to reject such messages that are so blatantly preached through such works and will be turned off by it. They reject it because the art was sacrificed for the message.

Stories, therefore, will most effectively communicate their message when they are first a beautiful form of art. By pursuing aesthetic perfection in our stories, we will be taking important steps toward more effectively communicating our message. “Art forms add strength to the worldview which shows through, no matter what the worldview is or whether the worldview is true or false.” Francis Schaeffer, in his work, Art and the Bible correctly points out the power that forms of art hold in their ability to persuade. Like the old adage goes, “Give me control of the nation’s songs, and I care not who makes the laws.” Even as songs, poems, and paintings are works of art, even so are stories likewise a form of art. As Annie Dillard wrote in Living by Fiction, “Aesthetic perfection in a work of fiction carries with it a certain felt tension of tone which not only awes the reader, so that he judges the work to be absolutely excellent, but also inspires him to consider it more deeply.” As a form of art, although the message of the novel remains important, a story is first and foremost a work of art. In other words—it’s supposed to be a good story. And simply being a good story can be enough.

In an answer to the question of how a person can read literature to the glory of God, Leland Ryken in The Christian Imagination replies that it is, “By enjoying the beauty that human creativity has produced and recognizing God as the ultimate source of this beauty and creativity.” As a form of art then, stories must pursue a type of perfection in the grammar of the writing itself, in the depth of the characters, and in the intricacy of the plot. When this has been done, a well-crafted story will more powerfully bring out the message contained in the story. The better the art, the more powerful the message becomes. As Schaeffer writes, “The effect of any proposition, whether true or false, can be heightened if it is expressed in poetry or in artistic prose rather than in bald, formulaic statement.”

How does this art communicate the message? In his blog post “How Stories do their Work on Us,” Jonathan Rogers writes, “Being mere mortals, we can’t really understand any of those things if they aren’t grounded in what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You can talk about grace until you’re blue in the face, but you aren’t going to come up with a definition that improves on the parable of the Prodigal Son: a father, arms outstretched, welcoming a rebellious and wicked son back into his home.” In order to communicate their message, stories do not need to be explicitly Christian. Although Christ’s parables bore powerful Christian messages in them, many did not have explicitly Christian characters in them. In Esther, we even see an entire book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God. And although Esther details real events which actually happened, it also forms an excellent story, told by the greatest story-teller of all: God Himself. And so, although Esther is not explicitly Christian, it remains still a very Christian book and still presents many truths for us to grasp. Art in stories therefore communicates the message by giving us examples of people  who either hold to or reject the truth, and then goes on to show us the end of such course of action. We learn by example.

So what does it mean then, to refine the perfection of the form of art which is your story? What makes a good story? There is no easy answer because there is no single right answer. Like the multiplicity of well-done paintings and the different forms they can take, stories can go many different, yet legitimate, ways. As Christian writers, we ought to be assured that, to some extent, the message of our story will take care of itself, since we cannot keep our worldview from infiltrating our story. But although no easy answers can be given for what makes a good story, advice can still be given and received, like it is in any other form of art.  Read recent articles by Kingdom Pen about how to make your character their own person or how to learn from your poor writing in order to get some of this advice. Through these articles, when we first understand that stories are another form of art, we can work to refine our understanding of and our skill in the craft of story-telling. And through that, we can pursue greater aesthetic perfection in our stories.

So where does the rubber meet the road and the theoretical meet the practical in this article? Compare The Lord of the Rings to your average modern Christian fantasy work today and you may be able to see the difference. Although modern Christian writers mean well, many focus more on the message of their novels than on the art form of it, and thus sacrifice the beauty of their story to the message being told. And while the message of our story is important, it is most effective when the story is first pursued as an art form. Don’t sacrifice the quality of your story for preaching your message. Relax, and let the message slip into your story. While there is nothing wrong with explicitly Christian stories, don’t be afraid to write an implicitly Christian novel. We can rest assured that we can still communicate specifically-Christian morals while writing in a less-explicit framework. When we pursue our stories as a form of art, we will more effectively communicate our message. And as the beauty of the trees, waves, mountains, and stars all proclaim the glory of God, so our stories will express the truths and beauty that ultimately find themselves in the glory of the risen Messiah.

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Art

As writers, we are all creators, mimicking the One who created us. Let us never forget that we are the greatest artistic works ever crafted, created to enjoy God, and glorify Him forever.

By Leanna Newby

Paint. Living splotches of sympathy streaked across the alabaster portrait.

The rough hands caressed the canvas,

The brush of creation danced with a life of color.

A creamy white glaze appeared along the ridge,

Across the page, a golden heavenly glow peeked out of the rocky pinnacles,

Observing the child below.

The young boy gazed down into the deep azure ripples,

Hoping to capture his heart’s desire.

[Read more…]