The Unexpected Gift of Critique
Yay for my friend, Susan Manzello! Yesterday we had lunch together and came back to my home studio to chat.
After looking at my hurriedly-put-together concept drawing of “The Feeding of the Five Thousand”, she immediately came up with solutions to all sorts of compositional problems I had not yet addressed. Here is the scheme as I laid it out in January to hold us until the concept was agreed-upon by the church congregation:
As you might guess, I spent more time on each of the first three panels, then, as the night wore on, I was scribbling furiously to get a semblance of an idea onto the paper.
It helps if you know that this story, as well as its companion, “The Feeding of the Four Thousand” are found in all the gospels, told in different ways each time. But, this version is pictured in contemporary Austin, Texas, borrowing a device used by artists throughout history.
What we know:
1. The first three panels have a flow to them, from one panel into the next.
2. The last three panels interrupt that flow because of the composition and use of color. I need to use composition and color to create flow in the entire work.
3. To help this process, Jesus preaching in the fourth panel will take a bunch of steps backward and be present in the viewer’s space. Color and value will seep over from the third panel into the fourth, fifth, and sixth.
4. The boy with tuna fish and bread will walk far down in the picture plane and will look up at the viewer from a foreshortened downward angle. His eyes will look directly into ours.
5. The last panel will focus on one group of picnickers in the dark, illuminated by flashlights or cell phones. I can’t even list all the artists to whom I’m indebted for this trick, but one who comes to mind is Caravaggio.
My thought is this: By the fifth panel, the boy, who is making his offering to Jesus, will actually be making his offering to the viewer, thereby completing the idea from another scripture found in the book of Matthew, chapter 25, verse 40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” The boy, one of the least in his own time, is giving his offering to us, who are now in the position of being ‘least’, and like Jesus.
This turns our mental picture of ourselves on its head- we think we are magnanimous in offering our great resources, knowledge, and know-how to ‘those poor people over there whom we pity’, but, turns out, we are the ones who need the gift the most. And we are receiving it from a little boy.
Stay tuned for updates on the development of this composition.