Bullying, refugees, forgiveness, outsidership and support, the wonder of being alive – the Finnish Evangelican Lutheran church is evoking these important current issues and linking them to stories from the Bible in a publication aimed at engaging young people. They’re publishing an activity pack re/introducing young people to Bible stories such as the good Samaritan, the creation, the resurrection, Ruth and Noomi, the prodigal son – and in the mix of games, meditation texts and music they’ve included colouring-in pictures by Development Cartoons.
My brief was challenging: drawing colouring-in pictures of Biblical stories that teenage boys would also want to colour. Boys!!! The book hasn’t been published yet so I don’t know whether I succeeded in that… Another, self-imposed, constraint was freshness. These stores have been depicted for centuries, from Ethiopian rock churches to kids’ books, so how could I draw Zacchaeus in something that wasn’t a tree, Jacob and the angel in something that wasn’t a greco-roman wrestle step and the road to Emmaus without it just being three dudes on the road?
Luckily the book team had prepared the ground and drawn parallels: the woman with haemophilia compared to sufferng from ostracism and bullying. Zacchaeus the rent collector as an outsider facing racism, and as a sinner who changes his ways. Ruth and Noomi compared to refugees leaving everything behind. For the Creation I was told “go ahead and put some dinosaurs!”.
The niche of Development Cartoons is illustrations for development, and I’m happy to include the Evangelical Lutheran church as a client. The EVL is, in my experience, a progressive force for good. It’s a solid institution, the state religion, and although it includes the word “evangelical” it has little in common with these fly-by-night churches that are such a foolproof business model, charging 10% tithes and exorcising demons… the EVL is very straight-laced and has been Lutheran since the time of Luther, the mid-1500s. The churchy people I know are as a rule kind, tolerant, supportive people who take “loving your neighbour” seriously (and have an excellent sense of humour). Its development arm, FinnChurchAid, is also a well-functioning NGO. So yes, I was proud to have this commission!
I used a mix of contemporary and iron-age settings and included a varying amount of details. There’s a fine line (ha) between putting enough detail to keep it interesting, and so much that it’s impossible to finish a picture. These are drawn for kids with about 30-45 minutes of time and pretty sharp coloured pencils.