Benj Lawrenz of the band Koine ( presented me with a particularly challenging problem.  This illustration is to present itself at first as a familiar night time nativity format.  Further inspection would reveal some odd elements that may or may not have symbolic value.  Eventually it can be revealed that the arrangement of the brightest highlights in the image form the Hebrew letters that make up the name "Emmanuel".  The name Emmanuel means "God with us".  Benj spoke about the tremendous miracle of the incarnation of Christ in which God became human and spent a life with us.  
I'm all about a challenge, but this seemed nearly impossible at first.  It's like I'm supposed to make one of the clues to "National Treasure".  I actually tried to get out of it or change direction, but that didn't work.  So I've embraced the project and have grown to appreciate the layers of meaning.  I think my big fear was that it would turn out like a jumbled mess.  Once I committed to a medium I calmed down.
My chosen medium for this project is scratchboard.  I chose it for several reasons.  I think working with white marks on a black ground references the tradition of engravings such as Gustave Dore's Bible illustrations.  The band plays updated versions of ancient hymns so I thought that a similar approach to referencing traditional visual media with a fresh composition would be appropriate. The black ground also helps with the "dead of night" that we are hoping to evoke.  It will help to isolate those highlights that reveal the hidden Hebrew text.  Perhaps most importantly...I've never used scratchboard so there is an exciting element of risk involved as well.  
In this post you see the beginnings of work for this illustration.  Though there is a good deal of work done on the scratchboard itself, I won't show those photos until there is enough to merit another post.  When the scratchboard portion is complete I plan to work a blue color scheme in photoshop.  Stay tuned.

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