Thursday, August 20, 2009

Illustrating the Unknown

Illustrating my biography on John Calvin seemed like a breeze. My artist did a wonderful job and I barely had any comment or correction to make. But the book on Augustine has been tough, because we know so little about the time period. Also, most artists throughout the centuries have depicted Augustine as he would have looked in their day, wearing what people would normally wear in their time. So we are left with a ton of questions: Did Augustine have a beard? What clothes did he wear? Was the Bible read in books or in scrolls? Did churches have a baptismal bowl? I read somewhere that new converts were usually baptised naked (something obviously inappropriate for a XXI century children's book). How about crosses? It seems that early Christians did not wear them around their neck (just like we would not wear a model of an electric chair). Did bishops wear a tiara? Did Augustine travel on horseback? (one artist wanted to have him travel on an elephant, but that was a bit too extreme). Most of the time, we stuck to the ancient rule: "When in doubt, don't". If a questionable detail was not needed, we just skipped it.
If I were to list all the questions that come up as the artist illustrates this book, I could fill pages of this blog. I might write a short story about each illustration, as I am sure most readers will never know how much effort has gone into this small children's book!
to be continued...

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