I wanted to share a series of images showing the process of the making of an underpainting which I have been working on for the past few months. The image itself is an illustration of a vision of the biblical prophet Zechariah laid out in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Zechariah in the Old Testament. It is a beautiful story of God’s grace and restoration, rich in symbolism and images. It is not very long and is certainly worth reading.
This grisaille is done in egg tempera on an oak panel, built from an oak that came down on my father’s farm in Greenwood county, was subsequently milled (quarter sawn) and air dried for 10 years. The panel has been cradled with walnut and ash to help keep it flat over time. The surface is a traditional gesso as describe out by the 14th century Florentine Cennino Cennini in his Il libro dell’arte. Once the grisaille is complete, I will start to paint layers of translucent colored oil glazes, hopefully to beautiful effect.
The Lawrence Arts Center, in Lawrence, Kansas, recently had an exhibition featuring work from across the rich artistic career of my Aunt, Chris Wolf Edmonds. There are many creative people in my Aunt’s immediate family: her father (my grandfather), her children, Jason Edmonds and Brynn Edmonds Burns, all of them making beautiful art. The happy idea surfaced that it might be interesting to include some work from my Aunts creative family. They even reached back to her great grandfather (my great great grandfather) Johann Severin Kiemig, who filled his farmhouse in Zenda, Kansas with murals and paintings. They graciously invited me to participate. I am very grateful for this, for I respect my Aunt and my cousins very much, and my grandfather was a profoundly important figure in my life. Often, I contemplate the creative legacy that flows through my family, the generations who celebrated making things with hands, and placed a high priority on light, color and beauty. That benefaction shaped me and continues to do so. It is incredibly meaningful to be a part of an exhibition that celebrates that legacy and especially honors the one who has worked so hard and gracefully in her carrying it forward.
Deeply principled, generous and compassionate, my Aunt Chris always seems to know exactly who she is. Nurturing a deep love and kinship to the land, specifically Kansas, she has taken a path in life that I seek to emulate: a multi-disciplinary agrarian artist/craftsperson, manifesting excellence in craft, remembering tradition while pushing her own creative boundaries, and constantly evolving and growing as an artist and human within a flowering context of family and community. I know that she is a treasure. I am grateful to be part of her legacy.
As you look through the images from the show, you will see the quilted and fiber based art of my Aunt, carved wooden birds from my grandfather, wooden sculptures of my cousin Jason, photographs from my cousin Brynn, and paintings and prints from me. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it up to see the exhibition, and I don’t have titles to provide for all of the works at this point, so I apologize for not providing more detailed captions.
All of these photographs were provided by, and used by permission of the Lawrence Arts Center.
This print of Mary Magdalene is based on and inspired by the fifteenth century master, Rogier van der Weyden’s painting of Mary Magdalene from the Braque triptych in the Louvre. The text around the print reads: May I be Your witness, God, and a record of Your goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. You can purchase a print in our store here.
Archival Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God Are Available for Sale!
We have produced two limited editions, one large and one small, reproducing the oil painting I made of Jacob Wrestling with God. These reproductions were painstakingly digitally edited and then individually printed by my good friend Mike Schultz in his Portland, Oregon studio. The image is printed on a satisfyingly thick Epson hot press bright white paper using Epson inks. The colors are vivid, rich and archival. Each print is personally signed and numbered.
The original painting of Jacob was made in 2012. I have continued to be amazed and humbled by the impact the painting has had on people. I often receive heartfelt messages from individuals expressing to me how the painting has helped them through a difficult season, or has helped to illustrate challenging and meaningful theology. The image has even found its way onto album covers, book covers, and countless church bulletins.
As a result, many have expressed a desire to have a reproduction of the painting available for sale. This is the first time I have attempted to produce and sell reproductions of any of my paintings. I hope that the final product is a blessing to you.
The first glazing layers on Thomas Touching the Side of Christ
After years of working on the underpainting, this autumn has seen the first color appear on my painting of Christ and Thomas with all of the disciples gathered in a room together. I am taking a lot of cues for the colors in this painting from Rogier Van Der Weyden’s famous Descent from the Cross in Madrid’s Prado museum.
It is a clunky and halting phase of the process, trying to use the appropriate colors, and the right medium, and the right balance of medium to paint ratio. I’ve had to rub out hours of work at a time, when I’ve come back the next morning to realize the color isn’t working.
It is tempting to render the layer to a finished state, even though I know there will be subsequent layers. It is foolish to carry detail too far just yet, and it is difficult to leave certain problems alone until a more appropriate time. I caught myself over-rendering the blue of Nicodemus’ robe and had to stop myself midway through.
Glazing takes advantage of the semi-transparent nature of many pigments when mixed with linseed oil as a binder. By building up multiple thin layers of paint, it is possible to achieve unique and special color and luminosity in a picture, especially in the correct light.
This painting is a huge learning experience. They didn’t teach this sort of thing in art school while I was there, so I am having to work through a lot of discovery and failure, even while taking advantage of the many written treatises on painting throughout the centuries.
Last year, in collaboration with Crosstimbers Woodworking, we designed and built a series of coffee tables and end tables for the Big Horn River Lodge in Montana. Most of the walnut was salvaged from the rejected timber from the logging of a farm in Winfield, Kansas. Photographer Steve Hebert traveled to the lodge and captured some beautiful images of the tables for us.
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV
He came to see me when I was on the margins, lonely and far away and he celebrated the paintings and the puppets I made. He was not a common man. He made room for me and the others like me to exist in a world that drew lines so sharp that we were cut off. Not only did he make room- he invited me in to a wider place- with light and life and hope. My wife, Amy, received word of the passing of the Reverend David Bridgeman only a few weeks ago, though he left for home back in August.
I know woefully little of his personal story. I know that he was born in China to missionary parents- and he was always drawn back to that land, returning as often as he could to share the God that he loved wth the people that he loved. He delighted to share stories and photos and artifacts of the land and people of south western China whenever I saw him.
Always an old man to my eyes- older by at least a decade than i am now (42) when I first encountered him nearly 30 years ago. His prayers were beautiful and rich, authentic and long. I respected them, though my tired teenage body would often nod then lurch back awake in my pew before he finished. He possessed both ancient wisdom and childlike awe with genuine humility. His old blue hatchback was a persistent reminder of his values. It was a solitary and quiet voice amongst the ostentatious suv’s and sedans in the church parking lot, not unlike Colombo’s oxidized Peugeot.
We shared a love for Gruenwald’s unparalleled Issenheim Altarpiece, and especially the figure of John the Baptist, of which he would speak with a beautiful passion. It could bring us both to tears. He once bought for me a reproduction of the closed state of the altar, featuring the crucifixion, from a seminary in China. Framed and on my wall with its captions in Chinese characters, it is more than a relic of my favorite painting, but of mentorship, friendship, and of a man whose embrace circled the globe.
I have long considered David one of my painting teachers. When I came home on break from art school in Kansas City, I would bring the paintings I was working on with me so that he could see them. He would prop a picture up on a chair in his office and look at it in silence. Then after a while he would start to speak about what he was seeing. He would go through every detail and talk about what it made him think about- how he saw it relating to God’s story. As a spiritual painter in a secular school, I had no shortage of technical conversations about composition and color and line, but nobody would touch the spiritual implications with a ten foot pole. David could talk about the formal aspects of art, but he would dive right into the symbolism and wouldn’t come up for an hour. When he did he had more associations and story from a picture I painted than I had ever imagined could be in there, and I was the one who painted it. He helped lay a foundation for a core belief I hold about painting; being a deeply poetic visual language that always caries more information than what the artist intended. At my best, I am an apprentice/collaborator with the Holy Spirit, and any viewer might hold keys into the symbolism of my work that I hadn’t seen before. This dynamic has become one of the things I treasure most about making art: learning from the insights of the audience about what is really in there. It is a big part of being a student in the School of the Transfer of Energy.
David and His wife Mary waited patiently, over five years, for the painting they had requested. I had free reign and it took quite a while before I felt I had a fitting subject. On one of my repeated visits to the Loretta Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a dark corner far above and to the right of the altar is a painting of a fish resting on top of a loaf of bread. I had never noticed it before- but it captivated me now. I loved the simplicity and power of the image- so straightforward in the story it was referencing, the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Soon afterwards as I contemplated the image and how I might approach it, I was reading Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his and his countryman’s pacific voyage to the Polynesian Islands from South America on a Balsa log raft named Kon-Tiki. I was struck (as were the sailors) by the almost miraculous provision of flying fish that helped to feed them on their long journey. From that day the flying fish became a new symbol for me of God’s unexpected provision. It became the centerpiece for David’s painting.
I wish my account of David wasn’t so self-centered. But I knew him through his self-less investments into me and my family. He also sponsored my wife Amy through her own ordination process. I am grateful for all that I have received from God through David. The greatest honor I can give him is to say truthfully that he was like John the Baptist in our painting, always pointing and crying “behold! the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world!”
The Reverend Jason Carter, who also grew up under David’s mentorship has written a much more fitting and beautiful remembrance of David here.
My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly. There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe. If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.
Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position
Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position