Saturday, February 5, 2011

Poetry: Pain is NOT my enemy | Pain is NOW my enemy | Evil is my enemy (the most personal, profound poetry I've posted)

I composed this poem about 10 months ago, but I kept it to myself until now because it is so deeply, INTENSELY personal. Its like an MRI of my soul!

I decided to post it because I've found that direct discourse is utterly inadequate to describe what my life has become. I also thought it might help give voice to what other sufferers experience, and those to whom I've shown it have confirmed that it is quite apt of their experience as well.

I posted it as an image not text because when I composed it, I "saw" the white space, the indentations... they were there from the start. More, the poems on the left and the right HAVE to be right next to each other, in apposition. (That is why they are in inverse color.) While they are seemingly opposite in meaning, both are true.

So I will never post a pure text version of this, though I did have hopes to do a video of it. My recent computer crash and the horrible weather here have sapped my energy to the point where that's now nothing but a fond hope.

I've written other poetry which is also deeply personal and is similarly intense which I do intend to post in due time.

Of interest to fellow artists... it was hard to find software which would present the text and photos as I wanted to. Photo editing software failed, pretty spectacularly. I wound up using Open Office, the superb open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Just my experience in using it for this poem has convinced me to switch to it. I got it into image format by printing to PDF and then doing a screen capture of it. The final step was cropping it. (So I could have posted it as a .PDF were that allowed on the blogs and facebook.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Word Pictures 2010 as 5x7s

Oy... why is it that CVS and Walgreen's insist on cropping every photo, and don't give you the option to opt out? Because of that, I needed to create versions of all my Word Pictures so far in 5x7 format such that the butchers at the pharmacy photo counters can't chop them.

I didn't do my monochrome images, and a few of my color ones which were variations of a theme aren't included either.

Still, this does serve as a nice overview of the project so far, and a handy quick reference. I'm not putting the large Multiply thumbnails in this post because you've seen all these before, but here are the smaller ImageShack ones.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1 Peter 4:12-13 - The Fiery Trial - sharing suffering and glory with Christ (Word Picture)

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Most "Word Pictures" I do because someone else requested them, or because of an event in someone else's life. This one sprang from one in my own.

A few weeks back, my dear wife was in the hospital getting treated for her migraines (she'd spent the previous 3 weeks never getting below "8" on the pain scale.) My mother was visiting family. I was home alone.

The fibromyalgia pain hit me harder than any pain had since I was walking along and my femur snapped. Even for someone accustomed to pain, this was INCREDIBLE.

I took all the meds I could, talked to my wife on the phone as long as I could, brought in Ambrose the Papillon. All through those dark, scary, lonely hours I kept thinking of this verse and its sister in chapter 1 (verses 6 & 7), and I kept thinking to myself Either this is true and its what is going on, or I have died and gone to hell.

Its hard for those of us who live in suffering to find meaning in it, much less hope or proof of God's love. This is one of the texts which most speaks to us in such times.

While my suffering was physical, it need not be for this text and this Word Picture to be applicable. I've known emotional and spiritual suffering of equal intensity to my current physical suffering. (I greatly prefer physical suffering to the other kinds!)

The 4x6 and other standards

This is now the 2nd Word Picture I've done which is standardized to print correctly at 4x6 without cropping issues. Since the original image was a stitched together panorama, this took more math than I thought I'd ever do in my life!

Similarly, it features the smaller file size and standardized credits information first seen in the Psa 46 Word Picture. The credits are differently placed in this one because the source was a panorama not a still picture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Psalm 46:1 - God is our refuge & strength - Sunrise over Lk Michigan | Why this project so consumes & energizes me

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This is both a redo and a return to the roots of the "Word Pictures" project. It also marks something of a new beginning as I've standardized some things about the way I do this, including the proportions of the images and the way I put my credit & contact info in the images.

4x6 printing
The last first- Its been a great frustration to me that my Word Pictures would not print out properly in 4x6 format at CVS or Walgreens, or even on a photo printer unless you adjusted the settings. Since my hope is that people will print these images and give them to shut-ins, people in hospitals, and others suffering, this printing problem was a big deal. 

Math has never been my strong suit, but I finally figured out how to increase the length/height of of the images so that they will print properly without having to manually over ride the default settings. This will make it a lot easier for people to use these for one of my intended purposes.

The way I did this was to create a boilerplate "credits" image to add to each image. So from now on my contact information and the licensing terms of the images will appear in a standardized way. This has the added advantage of being a lot easier for me to do than to find some place in each image to artistically work that information in.

A return to the beginning

This project's roots go back almost a year. I was recovering from having my right femur fixed with a titanium rebar when a dear relative was given 6 weeks to live. I couldn't get out of my house much less go to his deathbed. When I was able to walk etc, I'd used "care cards" which often had a picture with a Bible verse on them in my professional life.  This relative loved the hymn "A mighty fortress" so I decided that its source psalm- Psalm 46- was the Scripture to use. That psalm uses imagery of God's control over nature- roaring waters, mountains, etc- so I wanted a picture which featured nature strongly, but one which would be peaceful and calming to look at. This relative loved Lake Michigan, so I chose this picture of a glorious sunrise over it in Chicago.

This first "Word Picture" was printed at 8x10, so I was able to put the entire Psalm in the black rocks at the bottom.

After I created it, I realized that what I had done to help my relative could be helpful to other people, and began this project.

Most times people use Bible verses in pictures as part of ministry however, they use them in smaller formats. At 5x7 or 4x6, the words became mud. So last summer I tried redoing this using just the first verse of the psalm. That resulted in something which looked "cool" but wasn't really useful... the first half of the verse was in the clouds, and it took great effort to read.

Our own time of need gave birth to this improved version

Last week, my beloved wife entered the hospital because her migraine syndrome was no longer responding to the treatments available out patient. My wife also loves Lake Michigan and Chicago, so this was the natural choice for her. 

However, the earlier version needed to be improved for the full desired effect to be achieved. That is part of why I did this now.

The other thing which fed into working on this project while my wife was in the hospital was that I needed to be immersed in art and Scripture. So when I wasn't visiting her, tending house, or dealing with the ravages of fibromyalgia, I was working on "Word Pictures." Psalm 46:1 went through several "drafts" before this. I also started work on several others you'll see in due time. I've spent a lot of time and energy on this because this project was the only thing in my life compelling enough to distract me from the savage pain running amok in my body or the loneliness in my heart.

Why does this project is so consume & energize me? Romans 8:28 meets Ephesians 2:10
You see, working on this project unites all the strands of my life in a way nothing else does or can.
  • My passion for photography & art
  • My compassion for the suffering
  • My previous pastoral vocation 
With my wife in the hospital and my fibromyalgia hitting me with the worst pain since my leg broke 13 months ago, I really needed this project.

Even when my pain is a little less and my wife's at home, I still very much need an outlet for my photographic & pastoral passions and a distraction from pain. We're both disabled, we're both in pain every day. I need beauty, I need to be doing something which can help others suffering because I'm not able to do so directly and personally.

See what I mean about it uniting the strands of my life? I also like to think that this project is the intersection of two of my favorite verses- Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 2:10

Romans 8:28
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.

Ephesians 2:10
 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.

(Both from the World English Bible - a Public Domain translation I often use or consult in this project. Generally its a very good translation, maintaining much of the "ear feel" of the King James while also balancing more recent scholarship. In most cases, I think its better than "proprietary" translations.)

I've pastored far out in the country and deep in the city, to gunshot victims in trauma bays and the homeless in alleys . These days, its dicey if I can even drive or walk without a cane... couldn't imagine writing a sermon much less delivering it. Yet in making these, I find as much personal and vocational fulfillment as anything else I've done in my life.

A lot of words for this one picture.  Well, a lot of me went into it, there's a lot of me in this project in general.

While I am currently working on several more Word Pictures, I'm always eager for suggestions. If you have a special need I'd consider it an honor to assist you with it in my small way. You'll see that I have a new email address dedicated to the project. Its a Latin phrase a dear friend suggested for me as fitting for the project. Its not as easy to translate as some, but essentially it means "The work you do which is most true." PERFECT!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Job 19:26 Word Picture - Flesh fails, yet shall see God

This verse was the original one requested and

this picture is what got me to act on the request.

When I saw it laterI was taken with how

vividly and perfectly it illustrates the


That water is present in both pictures is not coincidental. I never miss an opportunity to take photos of flowers after a heavy fog or rain, the results are always quite impressive.

This is the same kind of flower- a cosmos- as the one for verse 25. Could even be the exact same


It had been my intent to do this in landscape format as the previous one was, however when looking at the photos the words of this verse worked as perfectly above and below the flower as the ones to verse 25 had worked along side it.

Should the need arise

I could do a version of it in landscape mode,

however I decided it was better to go with the

artistic "dao" than to force conformity between the

two for conformity's sake.

The monochrome

versions are below. The first looks better, the

second prints better. This is not a picture which

converts well to monochrome... far too much of the

intensity of the withered petals and faded center

is lost.

Better looking mono, using Floyd-S dithering

setting 160, then inverted.

Prints out better. Same dithering as above. This

was the first mono version I created.

Job 19:25 - I know that my redeemer lives

Foreword: There are some creative endeavors which have meaning even beyond the obvious. These are those which let us still engage in the pursuits and interests we had before suffering and disability came. I was a pastor/chaplain/missionary/evangelist. When I create these "Word Pictures" it engages me both creatively and spiritually.

The latter is something accessible to anyone who is disabled, whether they were of a spiritual vocation or not, and regardless of their particular spirituality. I find that engaging in the creative endeavor always brings me closer to God because God is the creator, and when I'm creating, I'm in unity with him. Additionally, since visual arts are my primary medium, I'm always working with the beauties of creation. Those are both dynamics which anyone who is disabled or suffering can engage in, and I highly urge you to do so.

Color, full sized

Only "fx" a bit of sharpening. Photo when taken was under exposed with fill flash, right after a heavy rain.

Mono, full sized

Converted to black and white by Floyd–Steinberg dithering, setting = 19

Color, half sized

Mono, half sized

There are many interesting aspects about this project.

To begin with, this started with a suggestion from a friend that I do Job 19:26. I agreed, its a great verse and often used in funeral liturgies, but when I looked at the context, I was taken with the previous (this) verse as well. It is the most beautiful expression of the Gospel in the Old Testament. Initially I thought to do both verses in one image, but that would have been too cluttered- neither the words nor the images would have been of a size to be worthwhile.

So how is it that I wound up doing this verse first? I worked backwards. I had been sitting on the request to do Job 19:26 for a couple of months. Then last week I took a picture of a cosmos withered up not at all thinking of the verse, but just because it was visually compelling. When I looked at the pictures though the verse immediately came to mind.

When I realized I wanted to do verse 25 as well I had to find a picture of the same flower with the same tone as the withered one. Here's where the story gets exciting (for me anyway)

I picked out eight candidates and reviewed them with my wife this afternoon. This photo was her immediate choice and I concurred. I had thought to leave it with that and proceed to do the requested verse first, but somehow this photo and the verse grabbed hold of me... and 10 minutes later, it was done except for adding in the credits and doing the reduced colors and sized versions.

I've never had a word picture come together so quickly, nor have I ever been so pleased. The words just naturally flowed around the shape of the flower. It was magical. Not only was I pleased with the end result, but I was pleased at how transparent to the process I became as I was doing it. I used to have that experience all the time before fibro took over my life, this is the first time I've had it in months.

I hope to do verse 26 soon so you can see them as I do in my mind, as a pair. The verses go SO well together and so will the finished projects.


This is in landscape mode and I do not plan on doing a portrait mode unless asked because of how well the words flowed around the image. I can't image a portrait format being as artistically perfect, but if needed I will give it a try.

I usually create multiple monochrome versions. In this case though, with the dark and deeply saturated original, I am not going to. It was hard enough to get one good one. This image is a PERFECT example of why I go to the extra effort to create monochrome versions. When I printed the color image to my B&W laser printer, it was a disaster.

At the moment the images are only on Multiply and Facebook. I do plan to upload them to the other sites where I make my "Word Pictures" available but I'm worn out right now... doing things on the web still takes a lot out of me, so that will have to await another day. I'll probably wait until I have the image for verse 26 before I do those uploads.

Improved, MUCH better monochrome version

This goes again to show why I put the extra effort into creating high quality monochrome versions of my Word Pictures ... the previous mono versions looked great on the screen but when I printed them they were ugly and muddled.

So I simply inverted the colors ("negative" in most software) and replaced the black "F" with white in the "For" because when I printed the invert the first time the "F" was not as clear as I'd like.

The same trick could be applied to any of my previous mono versions which are darker. I've come to see that monochrome versions need to be predominately white with black details. One is always learning as long as one is living.

half size

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"I'm but a stranger here, heav'n is my home" - my first hymn word picture

Did most of this in a 50 minute burst of lucidity Thursday. Kept waiting for another so I could write about the process which went into it, its some of my most satisfying monochrome work since my darkroom days, but I've not had any since... in fact most of the last 30 hours I've been hallucinating.

So decided I'd best just get these up and out here for folks.

Hope I can post more about in the future.

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