The Artistic Imagination and the Word: Reflections from Jim LePage (Woodland Hills Church-Graphic Artist)

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

 

At the beginning of every year, I think about what types of changes or growth I’d like to see in my life over the next 12 months. Nearly every year, “reading the Bible more” is at the top of that list. For a long time, I’ve believed that the Bible is filled with wisdom and power. Yet it always seemed incredibly boring to me. I’d try to read it with fresh eyes and ask God to help me see it in a new way, but it never took long before I’d give up. I knew the Bible was full of life, but I’d much rather eat popcorn and watch reruns of “The Wire”versus spending time in the Word. Can I get an “Amen?”

In January of 2010, after 6 years as a graphic designer, I decided to finally put together a portfolio web site. As a way to hone my design chops and to have continually fresh content on my site, I decided I’d do some type of weekly themed design series. And being the beginning of the year, I was of course thinking about how I wanted to read the Bible more. So I thought, why not combine Bible reading (B-O-R-I-N-G) with something I’m passionate about (DESIGN!). And that is how Word came about.

With my Word project, I create a design for each book of the Bible, posting a new one every Friday. I also include some reflections on the book and design. Some designs are violent, some are weird and some are plain offensive, but so is the Bible, right? Currently I’m in the middle of the New Testament, have completed 75 designs (several books have more than one design) and have prints available of all of them. If you’d like to see all my Word designs, feel free to visit my web site at jimlepage.com/word-designs.

I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about the Bible during my Word project and also share a bit about how Word has changed the way I experience reading the Bible. I’m not saying that this is some sort of prescription that will work for everyone. This is just what has worked for me.

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

  1. Let’s just admit it, the Bible is weird. This is something that you probably already know, but it became immensely clear to me after just a few books that the Bible is weird. Really weird. Many times, it feels like a David Lynch movie. There are animals that talk to people, bread that falls from the sky like rain and prophets that command bears to eat teenagers. This realization was refreshing to me. I tend to think of the Bible and most things spiritual as very prim, proper and reverent. Never confusing, humorous or, heaven forbid, weird. This book ain’t always nice and proper and I think it’s good to acknowledge that.
  2. The Bible is bursting with visual imagery if you allow your imagination to come out and play. When I’m reading through a book preparing to do a design, I read it visually. By that I mean when I read, I’m imagining everything I’m reading as a movie in my head. Not just that, but I’m the director of the movie which means I can choose the angles, the genre and how the different characters say their lines. It’s amazing how much life that breathes into stories and passages that had become sorta stale to me. For example, David and Goliath. I’ve heard that story hundreds of times and really felt like there was nothing new there for me. But as I read through it this time, running the whole thing as a movie in my head, it occurred to me that there was a lot of smack talking leading up to the battle and that reminded me of how there’s smack talk leading up to a boxing match. Just that little thought led me down the path where the battle of David and Goliath became a boxing poster from the 1930s.
  3. Jesus is frickin’ awesome. Like, really frickin’ awesome. I’d always placed all the stories in the Bible on kinda equal footing. Elijah did some cool stuff. Daniel did some cool stuff. Jesus did some stuff that was a slightly more cool. But after finishing the Old Testament and starting the New Testament, I was struck by how completely unique Jesus was. No one else in the Bible is like him. No one is even close. I was so amazed by how different Jesus was that I ended up devoting 7 straight weeks to designs based on passages about his death and resurrection.

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

As I got going on the project, an interesting thing happened… people started to follow along. Then those people started to leave comments on my site. Then they started asking me how they could get prints of the designs. Before I knew it, this project had taken on an interactive dimension and that was really cool. In fact, these days I usually ask the awesome folks on my Facebook page for thoughts on what passage they want me to do for the next design.

I know most of you out there love reading the Bible, using your concordance and doing things like parsing the Greek and cross-referencing verses. But for those of you out there who are not wired that way, who may struggle to see the power in the Bible and sometimes may even think it’s boring (gasp!), I hope this project encourages you. After all, if a moron with an imagination can see the Bible in a fresh way, you can too. Can I get an “Amen?”

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Jim LePage is a graphic designer living in St. Paul, MN with his wife and 2 cats. In addition to freelancing, he currently works as the Design Manager at Woodland Hills Church (where Greg Boyd is senior pastor). Find out more about Jim’s Word Bible Design project on his web site.

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Art Giveaway Contest! (Click Here To Sample)

  1. Like Jim’s Facebook Page and let him know you found him on the Pangea Blog.
  2. Share this article on your FB Wall and / or Twitter.
  3. Leave a comment on this post with the name of the print you’d like.

We will be selecting a winner at random by the end of next week.

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Other Sample Prints

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

Copyright © 2011 Jim LePage

  • http://www.facebook.com/vee.tran Vy Tran

    I’ve been following Jim’s Word project for awhile. Looking forward to when he finishes and makes a book out of all the designs. :)

    Also, Word: Crucifixion (Denial).

  • Ellen

    I teach preteens – these are so much more engaging than the kiddy posters I find everywhere. I’d love the Exodus (burning bush) print. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    There is a place in this world for artistic people to share the stories within the bible with this new world of visual learners. thank you for such inspiration!

  • http://twitter.com/BeccaTatum Rebecca Tatum

    I like rally in the valley the best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627782202 Kim Beyer

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a graphic design/illustration major headed for the “real world” soon and this was incredibly inspiring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wmonn Whitney Monn

    I really love this! Although not a visual artist, I have used poetry to spice up my time in the word… Especially writing about the prophets!  I know how it helps me to connect to and process God’s love book:) 

    Word: Zephaniah

  • Meg Moseley

    Love it! I got lost in the portfolio for a while. I have liked and posted on FB, tweeted, and just might blog about it too. I’m a novelist, not a visual artist, but I do understand how a creative project can create new insights into the Word. Oh, and it was hard to choose, but my favorite design (for now) is Deuteronomy.

  • http://www.theology21.com jonathan Keck

    I seriously LOVE his stuff! Ever since I am across his stuff, I can’t stop reflecting on his concepts! I am pumped you put this up Kurt!

  • Caroline K

    great stuff!  I really like Word: Crucifixion (Revolting Beauty) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/martha.mouner Martha Mouner

    yes U can get Amin :) it is great . Ur article is God’s voice for me , I am thinking in the same issues nowadays 

  • Kari Kopf

    amazing stuff. seriously, this could start a collection for me.

    word: 1corinthians 

  • Anonymous

    This is incredible! Love his work! 
    I added his Fb and going to post this blog on FB right now.
    I’m really digging the Song of Solomon images. 

  • http://twitter.com/Jim_LePage Jim LePage

    Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! It’s encouragement like this that makes it easy to keep going on such a long project!

  • http://www.glitterinthesun.com Jane Wells

    I need Philippians. Really. A lot.
    And now I’m going to bookmark Pangea because anyone who likes Jim LePage has to be cool.
    Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1441590623 Terri-Anne Williams

    Truly incredible ~ I love it!
     word ~ 2 Samuel

  • Ryan Hodges

    Been looking through your art for the past several days and showing it to my friends.  I would love the Easter: Revolting Beauty print.  I think it would make an incredible engagement gift for my girlfriend as well. 

  • chibidani

    I have been following Jim’s designs since his 6th or 7th. My first favorite was Ester, it really spoke to me when he first designed it. He’s put out a lot of solid designs since then though too.

    If I had to choose one (and I would love to have one!) then I would say Romans, since I loves me a good hex (grid).

  • Braden Mogler

    This is incredible. I just spent an hour looking through the entire site & reading a few of the words. Thanks for sharing! 

    I think my favorite is Word: Crucifixion (Revolting Beauty).


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