Making St. Michael & All Angels
Next month marks a very important milestone for me. It will be exactly one year since I started Paramentics, creating weekly art for the readings of the church year. It's hard to imagine that it's been this long, especially when considering the months of preparation before I even got the website up and running. But here we are—with the first series nearly complete, a large collection of templates, and other useful artwork—and it's only the beginning.
To celebrate this occasion and to answer one of the most frequent questions that was asked from the many emails I've received, I will walk you through my creative process when making each set of art. I will be using the art for the festival of St. Michael and All Angels as the basis for this article.
Every Sunday evening, I plan out my week and the art that I will be making. I briefly look over my custom lectionary database to see what the lessons are for a particular service. Over 90% of the time, the art will be based on the Gospel lesson, and if I want to make text art based on a verse, I will look at the psalm of the day.
After reading the lesson—in this case, Revelation 12:7-12—I'll begin taking notes. Sometimes I find it beneficial to look at the original Greek (or Hebrew for O.T.) and read through my seminary notes on a particular section of Scripture. This also keeps me active in these languages to avoid the risk of forgetting them.
By this time, I already have some idea of what I want to sketch out and the way I want it arranged. I then head to the internet and research the art that's based on the text. Artists like Dürer, Cranach, and others from the Reformation era are useful for me when looking for symbolism and how they used the images to capture a scriptural truth. Stylistically, I look at Byzantine art and the icons of the Eastern Orthodox church. This process doesn't take long, since much of the art has already been conceptualized after reading through the text.
After about an hour or two or research, I then begin to sketch out the preliminary framework for the art on a plain piece of paper. You can see in the image to the right that I originally wanted the wings to bend downward, but I still wasn't sure if I wanted them that way, so I lightly drew other configurations.
The final sketch is made in my Moleskine notebook, but since this piece is much larger, I used a large 17" x 11" piece of paper to make the final copy which was scanned and uploaded to my computer (You can see this sketch in the gallery at the end of the post). I only make a wireframe version of the art and always keep in mind how it will look when certain elements are eventually filled in with black. This is crucial, since there must be a proper balance between the black and white space in the art.
Now for the most time-consuming part of the project. The sketch is now scanned and opened with Adobe Illustrator on my MacBook Pro. In Illustrator, every line is traced over manually using the Pen tool. I try to follow the lines of the sketch accurately, but in some cases I will alter the design a little. I then begin filling spaces in with black and changing a few of the lines from black to white. For this particular piece, many of the lines were changed to white for the angels' wings.
I then systematically start to make minor alterations to each individual vector. This amounts to about 300-500 adjustments that I manually adjust to create a more stylized rendition of the art, and also to maintain a good balance between black and white. Other elements are also added that may not have been included in the original sketch. Art is now separated from the main art board to create the smaller pieces of art included in the set. If there is text art, I'll begin making it at this time.
The near-final art is printed on regular copy paper to test how it physically looks when used for worship folders. I will mark with a red marker any corrections that need to be made and fix them in Illustrator. I attempted something new for this set and made the wings extend out of the 4 x 6 frame. This decision was made after printing it out and realizing that it would actually work quite well if done this way.
Watch the video below for a time-lapse of the entire process of making the art in Adobe Illustrator. I cut out large sections from the video to keep it short, but it will at least give you an idea of how much labor goes into making one set of art. The clips were sped up to about 4000-times their original speed.
Once the art is done, I then add my initials to one of the bottom corners and export the art as PNG, JPG, TIF, and EPS files. I go through my checklist of things that need to be done after exporting the art and eventually the art is uploaded to Paramentics for you to purchase.
That's pretty much it. Each set takes about 6-12 hours to complete, including the research and early sketches. This set took longer (about 16 hours) due to the fact it was much larger than a normal set, and I produced a video and music to coincide with the release of the art.
It has been a wonderful privilege to serve all of you for nearly a year, and as a special thank you for all who support Paramentics, I am releasing this new set for only $1 through September 29th.