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″.

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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.

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

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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?

 

GOD’s got this

We buried a close family friend today. One of my dad’s oldest friends, a fellow church member, neighbor-down-the-road when my brothers and I were growing up.

It was sad yet triumphant. Cancer and pneumonia are no longer ravaging his earthly body. He’s basking in the splendor029 and radiance of his LORD and SAVIOR, an assurance his family and friends will cling to in the days to come.

A week ago Sunday we buried my dad’s older brother. We gathered with family members we’d seen seldom in the last twenty years. I re-introduced myself to cousins I’d not shared breathing space with for thirty-five years. Elated exclamations of “It’s so good to see you!” mixed with regretful murmurs, “Why did we let so many years go by …”

It was especially tough as he was the first of three siblings to pass. Yet we rejoiced that his twenty year battle with Parkinson’s disease had ended. We remembered his bravery in submitting to experimental procedures that paved the way for promising treatments and applauded his decision to donate his brain to research. He too gained his eternal reward and no doubt welcomed my dad’s long-time friend to heaven.

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Pill Box

My daughter’s most recent battle with medical bureaucracy has heaped frustration and concern upon an already heavy load. Two weeks of shrugs, finger-pointing and “we have no idea what happened…” to secure insurance coverage for a much needed drug. This skirmish comes on the heels of a sixteen-month-and-counting ordeal of wading through mountains of red tape to gain approval and figure out the endless details for another needed medication. And how could I forget the brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art piece of medical equipment that suddenly, unexplainedly stopped working. It appears an act of Congress may be required to get it replaced.

Yet our excitement spiked late last week with the official announcement of FDA approval for a drug that will address the basic defect that causes her cystic fibrosis. The answer to twenty-six years of prayers! When the discovery of the gene responsible for the majority of CF cases wowed the medical world the very week she was diagnosed in 1989, we knew GOD was already at work. What we prayed would be available within ten years, alas, took just shy of twenty-six years to arrive. Yet we rejoice and praise GOD for his provision through those long years.   flag - liberty

As our beloved country rocks with dissension, as hatred threatens the Christian tenets many of us hold dear, fear and uncertainty creep in, clouding the peace and joy that should reign in our hearts. We lament the way things used to be. We dread what may be ahead. We succumb to doubts and worry.

Let us be convinced that nothing that’s happened has been a surprise to GOD. Nothing that will transpire in the days to come will catch him by surprise.

If you are a Christian, you serve a GOD who cannot be defeated or crushed or lessened in anyway by the plots of man. Now more than ever we must seek HIS WORD to get our marching orders because we are soldiers in the LORD’s ARMY.HE has not abandoned us. Let’s not abandon HIM.

We long for smooth sailing, for easy everything—for pain and disease and calamity to pass us by. For longer—much longer—with our loved ones. For assurance of plenty in the days to come. Even as GOD’s word plainly tell us to expect the opposite of smooth sailing, it promises us that HE’s got this. Whatever “this” may be.file000125780080 (2)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Two songs have blanketed my mind in recent days.

Even So Come” by Kristian Stanfill

“Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come…”

“We Won’t Be Shaken” by Building 429

“Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken…”

Will you join me in clinging to the HOPE and PROMISE of Romans 8:31…

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” 

WWJD. What Does It Mean to You?

Several years ago, the fad of WWJD bracelets made the rounds of Christian schools and spread through surrounding neighborhoods. The whole thing irked me. Yes, IRKED me, as in annoyed, irritated, bothered me.

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If you’re too young to remember the fad, WWJD stands for “What Would Jesus Do?”

“How could such a reminder irk you?” you might ask.

Well, (big sigh), I watched my students at school and the teens in the youth group and anyone sporting a WWJD bracelet. I’m sorry to say I saw no difference in their behaviors or their general outlook on life.

What’s more, I had used the phrase, “what would Jesus do?” as one of the major themes in my Christian walk, long before WWJD became a popular acronym. And I meant it. I got in the habit of asking myself that question, really a form of prayer, for hundreds of decisions that I needed to make, big and small. Those four words changed my worldview and my heart.

Do you know where I first learned of the phrase? From the book, In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon.

In His Steps

Written over a hundred years ago, Sheldon created a fictional town where one pastor and a few members of his church pledge to spend a year doing only what they think Jesus would do. The editor of the local paper has to decide what Jesus would want in the news. A wealthy young woman must consider if she is in the same position as the rich young man who met with Jesus. All who participate have some tough decisions to make as they endeavor to help the needy, serve their fellow man, and most of all, please their Savior.

Of course, their decisions affect everyone in town.Some neighbors, even fellow church folk, are not pleased at all, which makes for great conflict, and great conflict makes a great story.

While Sheldon originally wrote the book for adults, Helen Haidle has written a version for children. Either works well for read-aloud if you want to make this part of a family story time. If you’ve never read In His Steps, I urge you to add it to your list. Like me, you may never be the same again.

But God, I had other plans!

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I had close to a thousand things to do the day before our party. Okay, maybe a few dozen, but I admit, my head was not into doing the hospital visits for my church and I hadn’t been able to find someone to trade days with.

So there I was in the hospital comparing the list of admissions to our church member list. Hope spurred me on when there’d been no matches and I only had a few more to look through. Was I going to get off easy? “Oh please, oh please, oh please!”  But there it was, the third last name – Mr. Williamson. His wife was the one who attended, but he was still a member in our books.

I jotted down the room number and hurried down the hall. Perhaps he was going to be asleep, or getting therapy somewhere. Then I was disgusted with myself at even thinking that way. I was determined to pay him a cheerful visit, albeit short.

I peeked into his private room and saw his pale skeletal face and sunken closed eyes. Fear clutched my heart and my face flushed. Had he already passed away? But as I drew near, I heard his quick rattly breaths. I dug into my book for a card thinking that I’d just write a message for either him or his family from the church. That’s when he opened his eyes and gazed at me, freezing me where I stood.

“Who are you!” he demanded, deep grooves in his forehead.

“G…g…good morning, Mr. Williamson! I’m from the United church and you were on my list of people to see.” Normally I asked how patients were, but it was obvious he was in deep distress. So I asked him about his family and where he grew up. At first, he only gave monosyllabic answers but soon we were chatting about his time spent in the air force and how he had to move constantly for his job.

While he spoke, I glanced in my book at the report from the previous church visitor. It said: Mr. Williamson has advanced lung cancer and definitely does not want church visitors.

Well, too late.

He turned his head and stared silently out the window.

I struggled to think of something to say. We both know he only had a very short time left to live.

“Mr. Williamson, our church has a prayer team. Would you like me to add your name onto our list?” The worst he could do was say no, right?

But he didn’t.

“You know,” he started, squinting at me. “I’ve always known there was more to this life than what I saw.” He groaned as he turned on his side to face me. “I just had this feeling…”

Shivers ran down my back as I grinned at him. “Oh, Mr. Williamson, your instincts served you correctly. I’m sure God has been whispering to you all your life!”

From that moment on, his heart opened. His stern character softened and he allowed me to pray for him. The rest of the world drew back. Only he and I existed for those few precious moments. I hastily said goodbye when he couldn’t hold his eyes open anymore, but was humbled by God’s plan for me that day.

I learned later that I was the last person to speak with Mr. Williamson. He’d faded into unconsciousness, and passed away the following day. Had I not been so busy, I might have seen that Mr. Williamson did not want visitors, and stayed away. But God orchestrated the circumstances so that I was at the right place at the right time. When I told his family about our chat, they were overjoyed. The change of plans proved to be one of the most powerful moments of both Mr. Williamson’s life and mine.

It brought to mind many of the stories in the Bible of people who’d been taken on detours of much grander scales: Paul and Silas in prison, (Acts 16:16 – 38) and Joseph (Genesis 37 – 45). Without being forced into different situations, Paul, Silas and Joseph couldn’t possibly have been as affective as God’s tools.

Has your life had detours that have brought about positive changes?

WHY CAN’T GOD USE ICE CREAM AS A TOOL TO SHAPE US?

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Or warm sandy beaches, or ski hills? I clasp my hands together and pray with conviction, “I promise I’d listen if You did! When I’m happy, I’m really flexible and agreeable to change!” However, I know it’s a lost cause. Warm sandy beaches, ski hills and ice cream are blessings and gifts from our loving God, however at times, our master’s tools need to be sharper and more abrasive to bring about any lasting change.

 Failure, brokenness, and pain are just a few of God’s tools.

Failure can be a catalyst that shoves us in the new direction that perhaps we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. For example; my 25-year-old son realized if he hadn’t had such a tough time with sciences, he wouldn’t have gone into accounting where he now thrives. Or if I hadn’t been laid off from a job, I wouldn’t have found another that used my talents more effectively.

When I trained my horse I referred to it as ‘breaking’ him. My ‘broken’ horse did not enjoy the whole process to be sure (he would far rather have stayed in his pasture, thank you very much). However, his will had to be broken so his potential could be brought out and used by me, his owner (thank you very much). He was healthier with the exercise and he became much more than what he would have, just eating and sleeping.

Pain, both emotional and physical can bring us to our knees where we realize we can’t do it on our own. Without a constant thorn in Paul’s side, he wouldn’t have realized that God could sustain him. 2 Corinthians 12:9 My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. An example of emotional pain is my friend who struggled through a very tough divorce. Before that, she was efficient, confident and apparently happy. However, she never knew God until her sorrow brought her to her lowest low. Only then was she open to God’s help.

As much as I do love cinnamon buns, trips to Europe and golfing, I’m constantly reminded through pain of some kind that these are things to be enjoyed, not worshipped. We are not of this world, and the quicker we remember that the better. Pierre Teihard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

I am also reminded of a saying in The Beatitude of Sorrow (1896 by J.R. Millar). Blessed is the night, for it reveals the stars!

Happily, God hasn’t just used pain and suffering to shape me. The miracles of gazing into both my newborn sons’ eyes were about as humbling as they come. And the ‘coincidences’ that regularly happen in my life are reminders that I’m not alone.

So, what kind of tools have been used to shape you?

 

 

 

 

 

To belong…

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At only six days old,
my new family took me in.

They loved me as they could,
but it was hard.

You see I was African American,
adopted by a white Canadian family in the seventies.

Nowadays we see prams full of delightful mixed babies,
but back then I was an anomoly.

I was the only black person in an entirely white community,
and my parents (as most adoptive parents back then)
brought me home to raise as their own
with no thought of where I had come from.

When I was young I thought I was a fallen angel.

I couldn’t bear to think otherwise.
What other reason could there be
for me feeling like I had been abandoned in a hostile land?

This place was not my home.

In middle school I was destined to date the only other black guy.
When I was in highschool white school mates wouldn’t hang out with me
because of how I looked,
and black people  wouldn’t be my friend
because I didn’t talk quite right.

My life was split in two.

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So, my friend, if you want to speak of not belonging…
I truly feel your pain.

The characters in my books are often searching for a home,
a family,
and who they truly are.

And for everyone there is only one answer…
Which I think is best told in a story. 🙂

When I was a teen I hit rock bottom.
If I had been brave enough I would have taken my life.
By the grace of God, I decided to apply to work at a Christian camp,
and although my faith was shallow at best,
I was accepted because I knew the right answers (I was a Pastor’s kid).

It was the perfect place to hide from the world.

Everyday I worked alongside these “Christians”,
caring for kids that truly had nothing.
Three weeks in I walked into the director’s cabin,
and asked the question that was burning like a hot coal in my chest.

“Why is everyone so filled with joy?”

When she told me it seemed too easy.
God could do this?
But when they prayed for me,
I knew it to be true.

I had found home.

I learned that fitting in to this world wasn’t my purpose.

Perhaps you have hit rock bottom.
There is no joy.
You are the prodigal sitting in your own filth.
You stumble in darkness with no light.

There is a place for you.
And He offers comfort,
joy,
peace,

Home.

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Have you struggled with feeling alone or not belonging? When I share my story many people (no matter their background) nod their head in agreement. I would love for you to share your past or present struggles with me either as a comment on this blog or privately at my email address tracking dot truth dot kdb at gmail dot com (no spaces and symbols instead of ‘dot’ and ‘at’) so I can pray for you. 🙂

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck