@Kellyd has asked for details on the stained glass window I designed, so here they are!
Time: 1996. Place: Tinley Park, Illinois. St. George Catholic Church was doing a renovation, which would include a new, 10-foot-tall stained glass window in the children’s area. My parents donated two windows–the children’s window and a crescent-shaped etched glass window. I was picked to do the design for the etched glass window (one of my first public speaking experiences, giving that presentation to the committee…nervous? Naaaahhhh….) and chose to donate my services.
The window was to depict Christ standing with His arms outstreched, welcoming the viewer. How to draw the Lord? That was a challenge, an awesome one. We always think of Him as a “carpenter.” I did some research, and discovered that the original Greek word we translate as “carpenter” was “tekton”–a term which describes a person who is not only a craftsman, but a scholar, an architect, a construction engineer. A tekton would do more than work with wood; he would design houses and temples, hew the stone, cut the trees, cart them to the site, and build from his design. Emaciated figures from iconic representations were entirely inaccurate. A tekton would be pretty buff…for lack of a better term.
Keeping this in mind, I created a drawing that I hoped was as realistic as possible–feeling my inadequacies every step of the way. But I drew strong hands and muscular arms–a Savior needs to be strong. I tried to give Him a lean, intelligent face; and my Mom requested a bit of a smile, since the Lord of the Bible stories always had a sense of humor. Once I had the drawing as right as I could make it…
I erased it.
Sad part of graphic design, it wasn’t possible to translate the details of a pencil drawing into etched glass, so I simplified it as much as I could while still keeping the impression I hoped to capture. The drawing was full-size, four feet high. (Apologies for the scanned photographs–poor quality)
Here is the final result of the window:
At least they kept my design for the hands…Well, moving right along.
Some time later, when the design for the children’s window encountered some problems, the church asked me to do that one, also.
The extent of my stained glass design experience was drawing fan artwork based on Disney’s incredible designs for “Beauty and the Beast”; but I was up for the challenge. I undertook the research project into the window–and for us, this was pre-internet, so it was like the dark ages. Like…I had to read books and things.
I also studied every stained glass window I could lay eyes on. I studied the construction as well as the design–the placement of rebars, the capabilities of detail. I dove into my drawing head-first, figuring that what the company needed from me was a basic design. I thought to myself, their engineers will fix the rebars later. But of course, I still did my best to make them as close to accurate as possible, working from the designs of the other windows in the church, among other resources.
The window was to depict Jesus and the children; my parents had ideas on what they wanted, but left the rest up to me. I thought back to my childhood–how, during church services, I would spend most of my time staring at the beautiful colors of the windows, while the sermon blended into words in the background. I thought to myself, a child may not be listening to the message of salvation in the sermon; so let’s see if he can find it in the window. I put myself into my childhood, and tried to depict a picture of Jesus as the Bible describes. Not distant and iconic–warm, friendly, caring, strong. Someone a child would want to be close to.
Here is the final result–ten feet high, my large calling card:
Being a writer, I also wanted to tell a story in the window. The service, after all, lasts about an hour, and colors can only hold so much attention. So I put as many curious details into the design as I could, so a child could imagine a story about the scene. There are also different ages, so that any child can relate. One youngster is playing in the sand at Christ’s feet; the littlest one is safe in His arms, playing with His hair, as babies do. The teenager has his hand on the Lord’s shoulder; a younger boy is sitting nearby, listening; a young girl is giving Him a hug.
Shortly after I completed my design, I moved out of state. I never saw the completed windows until ten years later.
When I walked into the church and saw that towering window aglow with afternoon light, it was unreal. That was my drawing. I could see my hand in the style–I knew the way my fingers turned, made lines. I was looking at a representation of something very personal to me–my art. I wondered if that’s at all similar to having children–to look into another face and find signs of yourself. The window company had basically just photocopied my design–rebars and all. They used my lines to the exact detail, and it actually WORKED. It hadn’t collapsed. Oh, my. The edification…
Even though I had done my research, I wasn’t aware of the full capabilities of stained glass. So when I drew the faces, I made them very abstract, not realizing that details could be painted directly on the glass. The company used my drawing as an outline, and had one of their artists paint details into the features. This artist did an amazing job.
So that’s the story. My calling card. Thrilling in its inspiration to me. A bit too big for a business card holder, however…