Photography and Painting

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Original photo.

Watercolor painting  in progress,
by Timothy Rossow.

Watercolor painting,
by Timothy Rossow.

I love it.

All good art reflects the truth and beauty of God’s creative word.  Below is a video I took in the same area about the same time.

To God alone be the glory.  Soli Deo gloria.

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Realm Makers 2015

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The Realm Makers held their 2015 writers conference on the University of Missouri, St. Louis campus from August 6-9.  The Realm Makers are Christians who write and illustrate speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction refers to stories containing elements that are fantastic, futuristic, or supernatural; in other words, science fiction, fantasy, allegory, steampunk, and time travel.

The reason I enjoy speculative fiction is because it often expresses a sense of wonder.  Children have a natural sense of wonder about the physical world, but as adults we sometimes lose that wonder.  We forget to look around, we forget to notice the immensity of the universe or the smallness of its particles.  We forget the almighty God becoming one of us as a small baby.  We forget the mercies of God.  We forget.  But speculative fiction can sometimes take us outside of ourselves, and help us to remember.

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All the pictures in this post are from the costume awards banquet held on Friday evening.  Almost everyone wore a costume.  I didn’t have much of a costume, but I did have a hat.

During the conference, there was a great feeling of camaraderie, shared purpose, and friendship.  I enjoyed and also benefited from the conference.  Others did as well:

At the costume awards banquet, the Clive Staples Award for best Christian speculative fiction for a novel released in 2014 went to The Warden & The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson.

The Parable Award for Excellence in cover design went to The Ghost Box designer Kirk DouPonce.

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The Jedi Twilek family was chosen to have the best costumes at the awards banquet.  The Jedi-Twilek baby might have won it for them.

God bless the Christian authors.

Beauty Exists

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Silvery water reflects tall pine in gentle ripples through warm dreamy air.

After taking this picture, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Was it good?  Would others appreciate it?  I sent it to a friend who liked it a lot.  Her enjoyment caused me to like it a lot too.  Getting feedback is good for any artist.  Otherwise, the only reaction some pictures will ever elicit is a question: “Is this good, or not?”

Taking pictures for one’s own enjoyment can be a good hobby, but photography, as with any art, is really about communication with others.  Art should be a communal experience.  I’m not sure if the picture above communicates anything deeper than that God is good and beauty exists, but at least we can share that pleasant thought together.

Beauty exists whether we perceive it or not.


Notes:

This post was originally published in 2012.  For this re-post, I increased the size of the photo, modified the wording slightly, added new tags, and changed the title.

The picture was taken at Hartman Creek in Wisconsin, and it is now one of my all time favorites.

God bless.

Physical Books

Ashlee Willis has published a delightful article about her love for physical books called, “Paper and Ink: 3 Reasons I’m not an eBook Girl.”  She followed that post with another featuring phenomenal pictures of old books from Ireland.  One can almost feel the texture and breathe the old book scent right through her pictures.

She loves physical books because they are real.  They appeal not just to our intellect, but also to our senses.  We are real.  We are physical bodies, and our physicality has purpose.

We are not just spiritual creatures.  God came in the flesh.  (1 Timothy 3:16).  God gave us sacraments.  (Luke 22:19).  God redeemed our bodies.  (Romans 8:23).  God did this because he loves who we really are.  We are not ghosts in machines, but rather we are bodies and spirits united as one.

Further, because we are made in the image and likeness of a maker, we can make.  We can create stories and characters through physical words and books.  The physical expression of ideas is what makes them communicable and real.

Just as there is pleasure in the physical sensation of reading a book, I imagine an author must also feel pleased to hold their first book.  Writing a novel often takes years of effort.  So there must be some satisfaction in interacting with that first physical copy.

Here is a Facebook post with a picture of the very first physical copy of my brother’s book, The Death You Deserve:

May God bless the Christian authors.

Are book covers important?

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Writing is the most important part of any book.  However, book covers are also important in their own way.

Realm Makers has announced the finalists for the Parable Award in book cover design for Christian speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction refers to stories containing elements that are fantastic, futuristic, or supernatural.  The winner will be announced at the Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis in August 2015.  I’m planning to be there, and look forward to seeing which cover is chosen to win.

Is book cover design important enough for its own award?  Are art and design important?  Yes.

First, any art that communicates truth is innately valuable.  Therefore, any cover that is truthful about the content of the book, has succeeded.

Second, a poorly designed book cover says “unprofessional.”  Potential readers might reasonably conclude that if the cover is unprofessional, then so is the writing.  At a minimum, a book cover should not turn away potential readers.  The professionalism of the cover is a marketing tool.

The cover should invite the reader to ask, “Am I interested in the subject matter of this book?”  From there, the reader can make their own decisions.

I am not familiar with the nominated books; however, my favorite covers are for The Fatal Tree and Dream Treaders.  The cover for The Fatal Tree makes me want to check it out because its subject matter also seems interesting.

Soli Deo gloria.

Book Cover Design

The Death You DeserveAshlee Willis has published an interesting interview with authoress and book designer Anne Elisabeth Stengl regarding book cover design.  Anne Elisabeth designed the cover for Ashlee’s novella, A Wish Made of Glass.

Stengl said the most important part of cover design is the readability of the text.  The text should be designed right along with the image so that the image does not overwhelm the text.

Stengl is an accomplished author and book cover designer, however, she does not design her own book covers.  “I feel much too close to my own stories to dare design covers for them,” she said.

I would struggle to get out of my own head and think in terms of dynamic imagery rather than specific scenes or character looks, etc.  These days, I am often very much involved with the talented artists who create my cover images … but ultimately I try to let the creative invention and imagination be theirs.  I’m usually much happier with the covers I end up with as a result.

On the other hand, my brother designed and produced the cover for his own book, The Death You Deserve; and it turned out very well.  Almost from the first sentence, it is easy to tell which character is depicted on the cover.  However, designing one’s own cover might not work so well for authors whose novels have multiple character perspectives and many beautiful scenes.

What do you think?  Should authors try to avoid designing their own covers?  Are there any good science fiction and fantasy book cover designers that you can suggest?

Lutheran Artists

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We glorify God through art because through it we reflect the image of God.  Our art reflects us, and we reflect God.  We make because we are “made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”  (J.R.R. Tolkien).

In pursuit of my interests in art, specifically the visual, liturgical, and writing arts, I’ve discovered other Confessional Lutheran novelists and artists.  Here are some worthies:

If there are any worthy Confessional Lutheran artists that I missed, please leave a comment letting me know.  Thanks.

Are Fantasy Stories Just for Children?

Some people used to say that fantasy and fairy stories were just for children.  Here are some thoughts by J.R.R. Tolkien about whether any branch of genuine art should be just for children:

The process of growing older is not necessarily allied to growing wickeder, though the two do often happen together.  Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans.  Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey: that journey upon which it is certainly not better to travel hopefully than to arrive, though we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive.  But it is one of the lessons of fairy-stories (if we can speak of the lessons of things that do not lecture) that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom.

Let us not divide the human race into Eloi and Morlocks: pretty children … with their fairy-tales (carefully pruned), and dark Morlocks tending their machines.  If fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults.  They will, of course, put more in and get more out than children can.

Then, as a branch of genuine art, children may hope to get fairy-stories fit for them to read and yet within their measure; as they may hope to get suitable introductions to poetry, history, and the sciences.  Though it may be better for them to read some things, especially fairy-stories, that are beyond their measure rather than short of it.  Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it.

— J.R.R. Tolkien
Tree and Leaf, pages 44-45,
First American Edition, 1965 A.D.

Fantasy and Reason in Writing

The Death You DeserveMy younger brother, Jonathan, recently wrote a novel called The Death You Deserve, and it is continuing to receive very positive reviews and ratings both on Amazon.com and Goodreads.  It is available on Amazon.com, and if you like medieval style fantasy mixed with gritty realism, I encourage you to check it out.

I am writing a novel as well, and am pleased with how it has worked out, so far.  My story is set approximately 40,000 years in the future, and is a science fiction and fantasy type story.  The current title is “Tuin.”

The vocation of a novelist is first and foremost to entertain, so I hope to complete a fun and adventurous story with well drawn characters.  But I also hope to reflect the truth of the world from a Confessional Lutheran Christian perspective.  God willing the completed work will be reasonably okay.

J.R.R. Tolkien said that creative fantasy was derivative in the sense that we take real things that we know and rearrange them, and that the clearer the reason, the better the fantasy.  We were created in the image of a Creator, so we create with what we have been given.

Said Tolkien, “Fantasy is a natural human activity.  It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity.  On the contrary.  The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.”  (54).†

“For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it.”  (55).†

In defense of myth and fairy stories Tolkien wrote:

“Dear Sir,” I said — “Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons — ’twas our right
(used or misused).  That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.”

— page 54.†

“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”  (55).†


“Leaf by Niggle” is a short story  that I recommend all artists to read.  It can be found at the end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Tree and Leaf.


†  J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, First American Edition, 1965 A.D., page numbers cited above.