From a Word Processor to Paint Brushes

“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”

I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!

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My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.

How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.

After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”

That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.

I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.

To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.

In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.

I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.

I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.

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To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.

To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.

Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.

first contact thumbnail

Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″

 

first contact full size

 

Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.

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I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.

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In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.

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Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.

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And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.

The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.

finished vision quest

The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine,  and the wild foal jumping over it.

foal and seedling

Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.

One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!

Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?

 

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The Aesthetics of Genre: Horror

deep-sea-anglerfishWhen it comes to the genre of horror, many Christians have pronounced it ugly, sinful, nasty, and won’t give it the time of day. Others may enjoy the adrenalin rush of a good scare from the safe distance of a book or theater seat, but may not admit it to their church friends. Then there are individuals, like myself, that find the genre of horror useful.

 

I like to read things that make me better, challenge me in someway. Good horror, like good science fiction and fantasy, will do that for me.  That’s not to say that contemporary fiction or YA fiction doesn’t do that either, but good horror has a very special way of challenging a reader on deeper topics. Before you chastise me for not mentioning the Bible, remember that you will find all the known genres, including horror, in that Book of books.

People seldom equate being frightened as useful.Like I pointed out in my last blog entry, being afraid of the right things can be helpful. To me, good horror isn’t about inciting blind fear or terrifying an audience. There is horror like that, and I almost never waste my time on that. Good horror it’s about challenging fear in the right way. This is where aesthetics come in. All genres have aesthetics (linked to definition above), it is what happens when an author’s story collides with a readers expectations, imagination, and world view. These are a few that a great horror story will touch on for me.

  • What is beauty?
  • What makes something beautiful?
  • What is good?
  • What makes something bad?
  • What is evil?
  • What makes something or someone evil?
  • If something looks beautiful, is it automatically good?
  • Can God redeem Evil?
  • Should God redeem Evil?
  • Should those given to Evil be redeemed?
  • If something is ugly to me does that make me the monster?
  • What happens when a human tries to play God (you know mad scientists)?
  • What does it mean to be human?

As frightening as a horror story may appear on first blush, it is my response to it that always interests me. Some of the most frightening stores to me portray Evil as banal or everyday. A good example of this is the bureaucracy of Hell in Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

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There are several things I find useful in good horror, and it isn’t blood and gore or the fact that a story may give me nightmares for months. In fact, the shock and gore horror is something I rarely care for, much like jump scare scenes in movies. Such tactics are nothing more than a trick at your audience’s expense, tricking an audience is inexcusable.

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All fiction has the ability to challenge and inform. What makes horror so different is it’s ability to challenge specifically the things we fear. When done right, even cause us to evaluate those fears and perhaps strengthen our humanity. For your viewing pleasure, here is a good example of something from a sub-genre of horror. Something that actually hits a little closer to home and current events. The type of horror I find useful (It’s in two parts).

 

 

Would you classify these videos as horror? Why or why not?

 

The next post I do is on the topic of sub-genres of Horror. You might be surprised as to what you find in them.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Biblical History or Entertainment?

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week I watched Sir Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. A cast led by Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, epic cinematography, a sure formula for success. Right?

 

Colossal statues at Abu Simbel 1

Colossal Ramses Statues 20th Century Fox – Exodus Gods and Kings

 Colossal statues of Abu Simbel by torchlight in their original glory, detailed sets of Pharaoh’s palace, and intriguing portrayals of pyramid-building made my inner archaeologist turn cartwheels.

 

Several character-driven scenes establish the conflict as sibling rivalry (Moses and Ramses) which deepens to a war of of cultures when both men learn Moses was born of the slave cast.

 

Moses and Zipporah.  20th Century Fox - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Zipporah. 20th Century Fox – Exodus: Gods and Kings

So far so good. Then Moses—exiled and married to a Midianite—attempts to retrieve three sheep from what his wife refers to as the Mountain of God. He stumbles and is partially buried in a rockslide. When the burning bush appears, Moses is lying in the rubble with a broken leg. No voice admonished Moses to remove his sandals while standing on holy ground (perhaps because Scott had Bale lying flat on his back?). Instead, a boy with a British accent cryptically encourages Moses to help his people. Meh.

 

bow training EntertainmentWeekly

Moses showing Hebrews low-intensity-warfare Entertainment Weekly

Back in Pi-Ramses, a most-unhumble Moses returns to train Hebrew men the skill of low-intensity warfare—attacking high value targets and quickly withdrawing. This turn of events surprised me, but I can’t say it’s impossible, given that human nature first strives to solve our problems without supernatural assistance. I’m still pondering that one.

 

Plague of Hail.  20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

Plague of Hail. 20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

And then the first plague begins. Instead of Aaron jabbing his staff into the Nile and turning the waters to blood, a cadre of giant crocodiles kills several fishermen and animals, enough to turn the entire Nile and all the canals red with blood. In fact, Aaron was largely absent the entire movie. Odd, given that he was the designated spokesman for a stuttering Moses.

After the brutal ‘crocodile’ plague, the rest follow, each shown as a natural consequence of the previous . . . except the Passover. In the evening, a dense dark shadow steals across the city, swallowing up the light one street at a time and stealing the breath of each firstborn who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb in the door. It had the kind of supernatural shock and awe that gives me the shivers.

 

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Near the end of the movie, hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses despairs of leading the Hebrews to freedom. Frustrated, he throws his gold Egyptian sword into the water. Immediately, the entire sea retracts southward until completely out of sight … huh? Even Disney’s Prince of Egypt got that part right. Are we to believe the sword was imbued with magical Egyptian power?

At the conclusion, the Hebrews were depressed, not joyous as depicted in Miriam’s song, even after the Pharaoh’s demise. And speaking of Ramses … I don’t have enough space here to explain all my objections to Ramses being depicted as the Pharaoh of the exodus. An excellent analysis of the Exodus within the historical context is postulated in the Associates for Biblical Research by Dr. Bryant Wood http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/09/Debunking-The-Exodus-Decoded.aspx. The site contains many other valuable resources about the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Bible and Spade Magazine

Bible and Spade Magazine

 

I can enjoy a Biblical movie even if it omits minor details due to production time constraints, but to turn the actual events on their heads and remove the Lord from the equation is another story. I struggled with my final opinion of the movie, due to the well-researched historical settings, but in the end, I remembered John Calvin, who said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

If you’ve seen Exodus: Gods and Kings, what did you like/not like about it? Do you think it’s permissible for movie adaptations to take creative license with the Bible?.

Hinds’ Feet on High Places

My good old 1980 edition of the New World Dictionary of the American Language defines (in my own paraphrase), “classic:” 1) being a model of its kind, 2) having a balanced, formal, and objective style, 3) well-known, 4) able to last because of its simple style.

classic little black dress courtesy of www.elleink.wordpress.com

classic little black dress courtesy of http://www.elleink.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I choose to review class books, and a few others that have not yet stood the test of time, because I don’t want these marvelous stories to fade into oblivion. We are a culture that constantly anticipates the next hot item, another shiny, new bauble. Some of the bright and attractive novels of today will become classics; most will not.

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

 

To start 2015, I’ve chosen to review (or introduce you to) Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory.

“Allegory:” a story where people, things, and events have symbolic meaning; used to teach moral principles.

Do kids even read allegory anymore? Think about it. Every novel that teaches Biblical truth in an author-created fantasy setting is a subtle form of allegory.

Hurnard and Bunyan are more direct. People’s names describe their personalities. Place names inform the reader of the problem to be solved, the obstacle to be overcome, or the conflict to be resolved.

Would I have read Hinds’ Feet as a child? I’m not sure. I wasn’t brought up with a Biblical worldview, but I’ll assure you of one thing. During the rare crises in my family, I would have read Hinds’ Feet from cover to cover.

The main character is named Much Afraid. How many teens do you know who are afraid? Of peers, of the future, of their own inadequacies. Much Afraid goes on a journey with the Shepherd.

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

For nineteen chapters, the Shepherd leads her on a circuitous route to the High Places. He assigns to her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. As they travel together,  Much Afraid gains strength until she —

I don’t want to give the end away! For now, be content to know Hurnard uses wonderful parallels to portray the Christian walk and dying to self. (And for more on dying to self, check out this month’s post at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com on taking tests over and over again.)

If you know a kid going through rough times, if you are going through a tough, terrifying season in your own life, I can’t recommend Hinds’ Feet on High Places highly enough. In fact, I believe if your walk with Christ is going smoothly right now, you can read it, enjoy it, put it down, and say “nice story.”

KEEP IT. Jesus leads all of us on a circuitous route of rugged mountains to climb, desert wastelands to cross, and raging rivers to ford. When those times come, read Hinds’ Feet again. Hannah Hurnard’s words will soothe your soul.

 

When I am afraid

Yearning for Smooth Sailing

An experience from many moons ago… that means as much or more today!

Every time I open the refrigerator door, I’m greeted by a pool of water surrounding the vegetable drawer. The little hole in the back that’s supposed to drain excess moisture is plugged. So far, our attempts to fix the issue have been unsuccessful. So I sop up the water and groan about an old refrigerator that needs replacing.

As I thrfile7631292337511ow the wet towels into the washer, I pause as  the sound of my three-year-old daughter’s cough echoes across the house. “It isn’t even officially fall yet,” I grumble, closing the washer lid a little harder than necessary. Reports of widespread illness in the community make this cold seem more serious than the last one.

Walking past the kitchen table I can’t help but notice the stack of paperwork waiting for my undivided attention. My husband was forced to change jobs earlier in the year leaving our health insurance in limbo. Because of our daughter’s cystic fibrosis, it appears our only option for covering her is to apply for the state’s comprehensive insurance plan for chronic illnesses with it’s high premium and exorbitant deductible.

“Mommy, he’s here!” yells my three-year-old Jenna. Glad for any reason that let’s me put the insurance crisis on hold for even a moment, I hurry to the front door.

Another groan. It’s the man from Roto-Rooter. “Mrs. Steury? I hear you have a problem with your sewer line.” I show him to the backyard all the while praying the solution will be quick, uncomplicated and inexpensive.

By the time Jenna is tucked in for her nap, I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. Too tired to even think, I stretch out on the couch and close my eyes. Several minutes of quiet my_photography_199soothe my weary mind until once again my thoughts can focus.

Although I am powerless to change the present circumstances of my life, I know that GOD is not. With the slightest touch of His outstretched hand, every one of these frustrating situations could be quickly and painlessly resolved. While I believe without a shadow of a doubt that He could choose to instantly solve every issue, I have doubts that He will.

Why? Because some lessons can only be learned in trying times. Sometimes important truths only become evident in the darkness of adversity. Many rough edges resist through all but the toughest of life’s dilemmas. These daily studies in patience, faith and trust have the power—under GOD’s authority—to make us stronger and more Christ-like.

While my mind accepts these truths, my heart still yearns for the tranquility of smooth sailing. No annoying dilemmas, no difficult decisions, no worrisome waiting.

And so we press on, fully assured that He loves us and is deeply concerned with every aspect of our lives. It is comforting to remember that His footsteps will not lead us where His grace cannot sustain us. His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” has proven true time and again and will continue to dsailboat_01o so.

Whether he chooses to miraculously resolve every situation in our lives or to use them to mold us into His likeness, the choice is His. It is enough that He promises peace in the midst of the storm. I would rather have that peace with all my current and as-yet-to-be-known issues than to be living a tranquil, problem-free life without His daily presence and provision. No contest whatsoever.

Some twenty-two years have passed since I put this experience to paper. It will come as no surprise that we survived those issues and went on to bigger and more challenging situations! All of which we also survived.

I like to think we are wiser and more trusting now. Yes, more trusting for sure. Hopefully, a little wiser. Definitely a lot grayer! I do believe if anything, our belief in GOD’s provision and compassion, His caring and power are even firmer.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself thinking, if not uttering aloud, how grateful and thankful I am that what happens in this life is not up to me but up to Him. His ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts. And that’s a very good thing!

How about you? Does trust come easily OR are you a worrier?