Monday, January 13, 2014

Far Too Long

"Far Too Long", graphite and watercolor and photoshop.
"You've been a captive
in these chains
far too long..." 

I have some friends who are musicians.  They wrote a beautiful song, called "Captive".  Their song inspired me to make a painting.  Some time later, my friends recorded their song.  One of them decided to make a music video for the song.  She asked me for some ideas.  I sent her some, along with the painting.  Then she sent me the music video.  I was inspired again, and this time I made this drawing. 

I wonder how far this cycle of creativity will spiral? 

Soon I'll be able to share a link to their video and song, and perhaps you, too, will be inspired in some way.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Advent: Waiting

Ink on paper. 11.16.13
When I was asked if I'd like to make the artwork for my church's Advent bulletins, I was glad to accept the challenge.  I've done it several times before and each painting has meant a lot to me and taught me something new about faith.  The theme for this year's Advent is "Waiting"--waiting for Christ to be born, and waiting for his return to establish his kingdom on earth.  I began to turn this concept over in my head and read some scripture that we'll be focusing on during the Advent season (the book of Isaiah). 

However it seemed like the more I thought about it, the harder it was to come up with a good image for it.  I even made a painting (as the deadline drew closer) but decided to start over again since it just didn't have the meaning behind it that I'd hoped for.  It wasn't genuine, and the design felt rigid and cookie-cutter like.  I was browsing around online looking for any more inspiration I could perhaps tack onto the painting when I came across a verse that I really loved.  And what do you know, it was from Isaiah!  Isaiah 46:4, which says:

"I have made you.  I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."

I wondered if this verse might relate to the theme of Waiting and realized that to me, it absolutely does: it is about God's promises to us while we're waiting.  He doesn't deny that "in this world, you will have trouble" (John 16:33), but He promises that as we wait for Him to return and "make all things new", He will carry and sustain us.  The previous verse continues "But take heart! I have overcome the world."  As we celebrate Christ's birth, we can remember the promises He gave to strengthen and sustain us as we wait-- wait through the suffering, the bone-wearying labor of life; assured in our faith that it will never be more than we can bear, and that we will grow stronger the more we depend on Christ's promises.  "When I wait, you strengthen my heart" (Psalm 27:14).

With this inspiration, I tore off a new sheet of paper and dove into a second painting.  This one was much more loose and expressionist.  I incorporated the star that shone above the birthplace of Jesus, and an inky black night being furled away from the light of the star, where the verse is descending.  It brings to mind another great Christmas verse, also from Isaiah (9:2): "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


"Warrior", ink and pencil and digital, 10.1.13

I've been fighting off a lot of things lately.  Sometimes it feels like under the surface, behind the scenes, all I do is fight.  Each time I think I've survived a battle, a new one begins or an old one flares up again.  Over and over, I am forced to fight.

There comes a time when the frustration of it all overwhelms me and in my mind I shout 'Is this what my whole life is going to be like??'

The answer isn't 'Yes, life is going to be a blasted drag'; nor is it 'No, everything will be just fine and dandy'.  The only answer I've been given is this: I'll just have to learn to be a warrior.

Not so much the Aragorn sort of warrior who knows what he's doing and kicks major orc a$$ while fighting ten against one.  More like Frodo clawing his way up the side of Mount Doom sort of warrior: the one who hangs in there through endless weariness and corruptive thoughts and the leaching of his hope.  The one who just never gives up, never stops fighting even when the cause appears hopeless.

Because that is the one thing that I know to be a lie: this fight is never hopeless.  My mind or the forces influencing it may keep trying to convince me that it is, but I will keep fighting that lie if it takes all of my strength.
I have a hope; it is an anchor for my soul.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


"Jeremiah", ink and watercolor and charcoal, 9.18.13

I borrowed this line from a song by Sara Groves, who is a very talented musician that I've been listening to for years now.  So many of her songs have lyrics that just stand out in my head and I think about them again and again.  (Another favorite song of hers is 'You are the Sun', I recommend you check it out).  If you'd like to listen to 'Jeremiah', you can hear the full song on her Myspace page: Sara Groves, Jeremiah.

This portion of the song is what made me want to illustrate it:

"I was looking to myself
and I forgot the power of God.
I was standing with a sparkler in my hand -
While I stood so proud and profound
You went and burned the whole place down -
Now that's a fire.
...I was warming my hands by this little light of mine,
but now I know, I know it's time
...come stir up these coals in my soul, in my soul
till it burns out of control."

The passage from the Bible that her song refers to is Jeremiah 20:9, which says:

"But if I say, "I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,"
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweet Treats for tarte

I'm so excited to finally be able to share a project that I did a few months back for tarte cosmetics!  A friend and fellow art major from college, Daniel, works for the New York based company and contacted me about providing a watercolor painting that they could use as a backdrop for a trade show in Chicago.  They would be showcasing their new bronzer 'Brazilliance' in a candy shop setting, with the motto of "Ooh la la, not Oompa Loompa" :).  I was ecstatic to work with them for this, which was (between you and me) my first 'big' freelance job!

With loads of ideas and inspiration provided by Daniel, I made this watercolor painting, which I promptly shipped off to tarte where they scanned it at high resolution and had a huge banner made to hang behind the tables of products, pamphlets, and goodies at their trade show.
(Give the image below a click to see it closer)

Here's the painting with text added. (This image is property of tarte cosmetics)

And here it is in action:

Photo by Daniel Kiyoi, image property of tarte Cosmetics

Everyone was thrilled with how it came out, and I'm so glad I got the chance to dip my toes into the realm of freelance work.  It was a very enjoyable experience, probably thanks to being able to work with really nice people who knew pretty well what they wanted, and were familiar with my work (having been in art classes together).  So thanks Daniel and everyone at tarte!

Photo by Daniel Kiyoi, image property of tarte cosmetics

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You've got to choose it

Black ink on paper. 9/9/13

I have my Dad to thank for bringing this line from a Bob Dylan song to my attention (thanks Dad!).  I've thought a lot about it this last year.  Taking it out of the context of the song, this quote speaks to me about 'truth' in the spiritual sense.  As in, the Truth told in the gospels.  The Truth, which if I truly believe it, I must live my life as a response to it.

As I am beginning to grow into the adulthood of my Christian life (and there have been quite a few growing pains), I have found that 'knowing the Truth' and even 'experiencing the Truth' are just not enough.  You can know the faith backwards and forwards, you can see it working in your life and experience God's faithfulness to you...and yet still not embrace the Truth as your own.

In the end, faith is a choice.  You've got to choose it.

And not just once and for all, but every day and with each thought and footstep.  Every space of time you set aside for prayer, every verse or chapter you spend moments studying or meditating on, every small act of mercy or humility--these are the acts of choosing the Truth.  It's a lifetime of choosing. 

God has put the Truth into our hands.  Whether we embrace it or not is up to us.  Let's choose, today, to live it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

That Hideous Strength

Black ink on paper. 9/9/13

Just wrestling with the world inside my head.

Title for this piece was borrowed from one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis.  He in turn got it from a line of poetry written in 1555 by David Lyndsay referring to the Tower (strength) of Babel.