Welcome to Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h.

Welcome to the new e-magazine/blog for Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h., the Inland Empire's Christian fine arts organization! We hope you will find this to be a useful, enjoyable and worthwhile resource. Here are the newest items in the blog. Just click on the titles to go to the articles:

Christian Songwriters' Showcase

Introducing the Book Club

The Psalms Project--get creating!

The December Master Class: Getting Beyond Cliched Art

Fine Arts Bible Study, Part 1

Fine Arts Bible Study, Part 2

Extra Credit: How to Protect Your Original Work

Poetry Corner: Heaven's Snowflake

The Cafe (where we share interesting Fine Arts related links we have found)

Local Profile: Studio On Location

Artist Profile: John "Drumbo" French

Artist Profile: Lynn Yoder, a passion for painting

Happenings: Local announcements and things to do

Also, don't forget to vote in our poll on the right hand side of the screen and tell us what kind of artist your are! So, brew a cup of coffee, herbal tea, or whatever you like, and stay a while. This page will be updated monthly with new articles and interviews. Enjoy!

You are part of a growing group.
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So, what is Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h? This is a place for Christian artists in the Inland Empire of Southern California to mix, network, relax, share, and learn. What types of Christian artists?

1. Visual arts (sculpture, painting, glass blowing, etc.)
2. Dance (performing, choreography, etc. )
3. Music (playing, writing, learning, singing, etc.)
4. Creative writing (poetry, stories, etc.)
5. Drama/theater (acting, playwriting, directing, etc.)
6. ??????

Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. is for Christian artists: simply, people who are Christians and who are also artists. Some Christian artists make art exclusively for Christians, but many use their talents in secular ways as well (writing screenplays for television, jingles, playing in a philharmonic orchestra, acting in a community theater, displaying their paintings in a gallery, etc.) All are welcome here.

Christians follow the Creator of the Universe, and therefore should be the most creative people in the world. The church has historically been the patron of great artists. Hildegard, the writer of the very first opera, was a nun. Michelangelo, Donatello, Edward Hicks, and many others made art for church and used church subjects.

But, today, Christian art is not considered "forward" or "interesting" in many circles. This reputation is well-deserved in most cases. Christian art has become a punchline. In our own little way we hope to change some of that perception.

What does Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h. stand for?
B=BUILD new Christian artists, ministries, avenues.
E=ENCOURAGE Christian artists to use their talents.
N=NETWORK with Christian artists, churches.
C=COORDINATE opportunities for Christian artists to use/exhibit their talents.
H=HELP Christian artists and help churches utilize artists.

This group is for people who fit one or more of these categories:
1.) Just starting out
2.)Being used mightily for God
4.)Seasoned professional
6.) Talented amateur
7.)Wanting to learn/improve
8.)Not sure if God can use your talent
9.)Good enough to teach others
10.)Wondering if your talent (flower arranging, calligraphy, photography, etc.) even qualifies as art.

Christian artists--unite! Let's be creative, interesting, and forward thinking enough to lead the artistic world, while still making quality pieces that reflect our worldview.
Heaven's Snowflake
by Wendy Kohlhoff

So Curious about the Christmas snow.
Hoping in every flake to spy.
God's magic in all its intricacies
Released from His cupped hands on high.
Why were they created, each so unique
And precious in every way?
Mesmerized by the thought He took
To bring such vision to light today.
Each snowflake holds a priceless key
For our Lord's heart of all things.
Each crystal unlike its neighbor
Glide to earth on heaven's wings.
Alone we too are dramatic and rare
Each life gifted in His eyes.
But united together in tender prayers,
Our voices will blanket the skies.
-Wendy L. Kohlhoff
© 1998

Palmdale resident Wendy Kohlhoff writes poetry. She has more poetry posted on her website http://home.earthlink.net/~wkohlhoff/.

Do you have a poem to share? You can post it below in the comments, or contact Todd at epistrophy@aol.com for consideration in a feature on this website. This month, poems about Christmas or winter themes would be recommended.

Master Class: Getting Beyond Cliched Art

We believe that our highest calling is to work for God in any situation, whether it is sorting socks at a homeless shelter, baking a pie for someone who has just experienced a loss, or pastoring a church.

As artists, when we create work, whether dances, paintings, songs, poems, or other things, we should strive for excellence. This is one of the guiding principles that we want to encourage our fellow artists to pursue. There is nothing wrong with a new guitarist who only knows four chords joining the worship team. But if that guitarist plays on the worship team for ten years and still never learns to read music or play all the chords on the charts, where is the commitment to excellence in serving the Creator? While we all have stresses with family, jobs, and other pressures, shouldn't we put as much effort into learning to serve our God better as we put into learning to serve our earthly bosses?

In an effort to promote excellence, Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h. seeks to help artists learn new techniques, and help them find the tools they need to keep improving. The following is a master class on getting beyond the cliché.


Here is a sample conversation that could be heard before service in almost any church in the USA.

George: Hey, Elvis! How have you been?

Elvis: Oh, hey, George. I’m always doing great. You know, greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.

George: You bet. I’m so glad I have Jesus in my heart. I would not want to be following the wisdom of the world right now.

Elvis: Sometimes I get tempted, but, I always ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”

George: Yep, Jesus is my firm foundation.

Elvis: Hey, I would like to pray for my neighbor. He’s not a Christian. I want to share my testimony with him, but I haven’t had a chance yet.

George: Yes, well, just put it in the Lord’s hands. He will direct your path.

Elvis: I hear what you’re saying. God gave me a special burden for this neighbor.

George: Well, I will be praying for you. You know, one day soon, that neighbor will walk through the doors of this church, fall down on the altar, and become a child of God.

Elvis: Thanks for your prayers, bro.


Does this conversation sound familiar? Do you know why? Christians have a special subculture, and within that subculture we have developed a secret language. But as the language gets overused, idioms and clichés develop. That works fine if you are a Christian who is deeply entrenched in that subculture, but it makes it difficult for any outsiders to feel comfortable, let alone decipher the message we are trying to get across. This is one reason why non-Christians feel so unable to relate to the church community. We simply forget to speak their language sometimes, instead concentrating on our specialized, clichéd vocabulary. Clichés also run the risk of losing their message; if you repeat something out of reflex often enough, you tend to forget the real meaning of what it's supposed to say.

The most obvious place where Christian clichés abound is in Christian music. For example, let's look at a tune recorded by Hillsong, called “All Things Are Possible.” It’s a very catchy, upbeat tune, to be sure, but examine the lyrics and raise your hand if you see any clichés. (OK, maybe the person across the cubicle aisle from you will think you are strange if you raise your hand, but at least take note of the clichés in the lyrics.)

Almighty God, my redeemer
My hiding place, my safe refuge
No other name like Jesus
No power can stand against You.
My feet are planted on this rock
And I will not be shaken
My hope it comes from You alone
My Lord and my salvation
Your praise is always on my lips
Your word is living in my heart
And I will praise You with a new song
My soul will bless You, Lord
You fill my life with greater joy
Yes, I delight myself in You
And I will praise You with a new song
My soul will bless You, Lord
When I am weak, you make me strong
When I'm poor, I know I'm rich
For in the power of Your name
All things are possible
All things are possible
All things are possible
All things are possible

Did you see the clichés, all of the phrases that have already been used to death in dozens, or hundreds, of other Christian songs? I counted 18 cliches in just that one song. Now, look at the lyrics again. What is this song even about? It goes from having feet planted on a rock to praising the Lord, to singing, to being weak and poor (but really strong and rich), to the phrase “All things are possible,” which is repeated several times. All nice ideas, but they really have nothing to do with one another except in the loosest possible context. In songwriting parlance this type of song is called a "laundry list", simply a string of ideas with no real connection.

Personally, I love the song because it has a very catchy, upbeat tune, but I am not sure this is what Jesus meant when he told the woman at the well that true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. In this case, it seems more like parroting a bunch of catchphrases that we're apparently supposed to spout if we're Christians in worship.

Whether you are a songwriter, a poet, a visual artist, or a dancer, it is easy to accidentally let Christian clichés slip into your work. So, how do you avoid clichés in your art? Here are a few ideas.

Method 1: Triple brainstorm

Say you read a Bible verse in your devotions that really speaks to you. You want to communicate that message to others through your art. Begin by listing everything possible you can draw out of that verse in 5 minutes. It’s a brainstorm, so you can list everything, and I mean everything, even if you don’t think it belongs.

An example is hiding God’s word in your heart, from Psalm 119:11. Here is my sample brainstorm from that verse.

Hide and seek
God’s word
The Bible
Jesus spoke
Use it later
Know it
Meditate on it
Keeps me from sin
Teaches me new things
Advises me in problems/decisions
Takes time, motivation
Daily devotional time
Learn the word

Then, look over your list and choose one aspect that you think is intriguing. Circle that one thing and start a new brainstorm on that one. For my example, I have chosen advises me in problems/decisions. Here is my new brainstorm.

Advises me in problems/decisions
Lets me know the way
Start with what I know is obviously wrong
Should I change jobs?
Choices, choices, choices.
Not all decisions are black and white
God wants us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.
A new bride… did I marry the right man?
How do I deal with a scary diagnosis?
What do I do with money I find?
Make the decision to be Godly before being confronted with the problem.
People get persecuted and need to know an answer.
If I know God’s word, I can remember it even when my Bible isn’t around.
How do you deal with a traffic accident?

Now, I read over the list I made and choose the one item I find most compelling. In this case, I like the idea of a new bride wondering if she is making the correct decision. So, now, I do a brainstorm on this idea as well. (That’s why it’s called a three-way brainstorm. You brainstorm the topic 3 times.)

A new bride… did I marry the right man?
Before the wedding—jitters
Biggest decision of my life
Gets assured from God’s word.
Cannot find assurance from God’s word.
Reading the Bible before the wedding.
In prayer, asking for God’s guidance.

Then, I chose the idea of a new bride getting ready for the wedding, reading the Bible for assurance that she is making the right choice. I think this idea could make a great song or a wonderful painting/sculpture. And, although the original idea is an overused verse in the Bible, it’s not an art idea that's based on cliché.

This brainstorm method is a proven winner, relied upon by many highly successful songwriters, and anyone can apply it. Some time ago my husband found a song that was posted on an online songwriters' board. It was similar in spirit to "All Things Are Possible", just a list of three dozen or so clichés that sounded straight out of Christianity 101 and had no real interrelation with one another. My husband liked the music and told the writer so, then encouraged him to take one or two of those three dozen ideas and develop them further into a more coherent song with a real message to it. The gentleman did so and ended up with a song that he, and many other people on the board, enjoyed far more than the original draft.

Method 2: Begin with non-clichéd sources

There are over 31,000 verses in the Bible, yet it seems like Christians seem to use the same 100 or so over and over again.

How many more pieces of art must be done on Noah’s ark? How many more pieces must be done about the Nativity? Maybe you have a fresh, new approach to these stories that you think is original and innovative. If you do, then go ahead and try. But, if you don’t have any fresh ideas on overdone stories, then stop grasping at straws and find one of the other 31,000 verses you can hang your hat on.

Use the cross-references in the center margin of your Bible, if you have them. If I get inspired by a verse or story that I think is overdone, I like to look up all the references to it and make a wiser choice for a verse or a story. Another idea along that line is to depict the chapter (or passage) just before or just after the famous, overdone story. For instance, the Nativity is overdone and very commercialized, but Mary’s visit with Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist are stories that are not.

Method 3: Use Your Tools

If you must use a cliché, use your tools to find a fresh new approach to it. I am not suggesting adding to or taking away from the Word of God itself. But a good thesaurus is an artist’s friend. And with all the information available on the internet, it is easy to find someone who can help you find the original Hebrew meaning of a word in the Psalms, or who can give you a cultural perspective you didn’t think of.

Of course, any advice to use the internet must come with a warning. Not everything on the internet is true, and not everything can be trusted. Even if you see a “fact” on several different websites, that doesn’t make it necessarily true. Once, when writing a research paper about an Olympian who won the silver medal in an equestrian event, I found one website that had her birthdate obviously wrong (it would have made her 4 years old when she participated in her first Olympiad). The more I searched the internet, the more I found websites that included the bogus birthdate, obviously copied from someone’s original gaffe. So be careful with the information available. Make sure it makes sense, and check it out with some trustworthy sources. Even so, I think the internet is a great tool for artists to use to help hone their ideas.

My husband was researching an idea from 1 Kings 18 where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal. He has them try all day to call down fire, but nothing happens. Finally, old Elijah gets sick and tired of these prophets, douses God’s altar with water (so there can be no mistaking who set the fire), and calls on God to set fire to the altar. I told him that one of the words translated as “busy” in the story was actually about going to the bathroom. My husband knows I am not a Hebrew scholar, so he searched on the internet and found one. This particular scholar confirmed the answer he was looking for (yes indeedy, when Elijah taunts the priests of Baal, he says, “Maybe your god is….ahem….relieving himself.”) It makes me wish that Bible translators weren’t so prudish, because that picture is just so funny, and the word “busy” doesn’t even begin to paint the whole picture.

For another example, take the now-clichéd phrase, “I will not be shaken” from Psalm 62. Looking up the word “shaken” in the thesaurus, you get the following list: surprised, stunned, dazed, upset, traumatized, and taken aback. You could look any one of those words up in the thesaurus and find even more items to choose from. I know, I know: Quoting the Bible is good. A lot of Christian clichés are actually Bible quotes or phrases taken from the Bible. But the definition of a cliché is a phrase that is so overused that it loses its meaning. You want your art to communicate, and it's hard to do that when people don't process the message.

I am suggesting that you find new ways to communicate phrases that have lost their meanings. What about making a line of a song say, “Though bad things happen, I will not be traumatized/ I know I can rely on God because he is so wise”? Does that convey the meaning of Psalm 61, but without relying on Christian-ese? Sure, it might not be the most functional line for a song, but it's a fresh perspective on an old idea, and that is what we encourage artists to pursue.

So, hopefully you can find new inspiration and stop the cliché insanity. Just remember these helpful hints:

1. Triple brainstorm.
2. Begin with non-cliched sources.
3. Use your tools.

(Extra credit: To experience one really creative, deliberate use of Christian clichés, hunt down the album "Dad" by Breakfast With Amy and dial up "Mermelstein and the Disappearing Sink"...)

Fine Arts Bible Study 1

"In the Beginning", Rob Schouten, watercolor on paper, (c) 1987

The Bible begins with the sentence, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). This proves that there were at least two things around from the very beginning: God, and creativity.

Creativity is the first attribute of God that is mentioned in the Bible. When asked about the attributes of God, often people will cite love, patience, light, holiness, and so on. But, how often do people forget to list creativity when discussing the attributes of God?

***Question to ponder-- Do you think creativity is an important attribute of God that should be celebrated and emulated by His people?***

Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is often summarized “be in the world but not of the world.” That phrase is thrown around by people who don’t like a particular aspect of modern culture, as well as those who want to prove that embracing most aspects of the culture isn’t actually bad.

What does Jesus actually say about the subject? He says, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not. I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am.” (John 17:14-16). Notice that Jesus doesn’t say anything at all about Fine Arts. In fact, he is not talking about professions, talents, or hobbies at all. He is talking about focus and priorities.

People have twisted this to mean that Christians should only listen to Christian music. Music, like all arts, is neutral. It can become good or bad depending on how and why it is created, and how and why it is used. Just because an artist isn’t a Christian doesn’t invalidate his/her work. And, just because an artist is a Christian doesn’t mean that the artist should be forever boxed in by the often bland and uncreative artistic sensibilities of some people in church leadership.

***Question to ponder- How can you reconcile Jesus' prayer in John 17 with your ability to make or enjoy artistic works that are not cookie-cutter Christian?

***What are your thoughts on these subjects? Read the Bible, pray about these two questions, and post your considerate response/discussion under this topic.

Fine Arts Bible Study 2

In Exodus 32, the Israelites use their art in a way that dishonors God by melting down their jewelry and making a golden calf to worship. Just three chapters later, in Exodus 35:30-35, God commissions artists Himself, including those who are to teach art to others.

Interestingly, in verse 30, one of the artists is identified as the grandson of Hur. It’s Jewish tradition that Hur was involved in the whole golden calf incident, although as a detractor, and was killed because of his stance. God chose an artistic legacy and commissioned talented artists.

Later, in Numbers 21, God tells Moses to have a bronze serpent made and lifted up on a pole. So, even though the Israelites used a golden calf sculpture for ungodly purposes, God didn’t simply condemn all art whatsoever. In fact He taught them how to use the art correctly by commissioning godly artists and by inspiring them to make a bronze sculpture that would become their salvation. (Later, Jesus teaches that this particular bronze serpent sculpture was actually a representation of taking our sins upon himself on the cross, so not only was it a piece of art, but it was a piece of “modern” art in that it had a difficult and unobvious interpretation).

In the same way, God didn’t condemn architecture simply because Nimrod made the Tower of Babel. In fact, He commissioned the temple and taught His people how to use architecture to glorify Him.

***QUESTION 1--Why doesn't God "give up" on art despite its obvious misuse in Exodus and other times?

QUESTION 2--In addition to the golden calf story and the Tower of Babel story cited above, God specifically condemns "graven images" or material images of God Himself. Where should lines be drawn between proper/improper use of art for the Christian artist?

QUESTION 3--When answering question 2, does it make a difference if the Christian artist is making "Christian art," or if the artist happens to be a Christian but is not making particularly "Christian art?" ***

What are your thoughts on these questions? Read the Bible, pray about these three questions, and post your considerate response/discussion under this topic.

The Psalms Project

One of our first group-wide projects is The Psalms Project. Use your artistic talents to create a piece that reflects or comments upon a Psalm in the Bible. There are 150 Psalms to choose from, so you have many options. Create a dance, play/skit, song, sculpture, painting, performance piece... there is no limit on artistic genre. You can post lyrics, poetry, or links to pictures or video of your piece in the comments section for this blog post. If we get a good enough response to this, we would like to put together a performance night or an exhibit. So get creating!

David with his harp (M. 133). Original color lithograph, 1956. Marc Chagall. Price: $2850 from http://www.spaightwoodgalleries.com.

Psalm 119:33-40, from The Message

God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!

Introducing the Work B.e.n.c.h. Book Club!

Start now! Save your pennies. Put it on your Christmas list!

Artistic and Creative Christians, you are not alone!

We encourage you to study the Bible first and foremost. But, we also want you to educate yourselves and get inspired by some of the great thoughts great thinkers think. Really! Or, perhaps you will be repelled by those very same thoughts and thinkers.

That's why we're starting the Work B.e.n.c.h. Book Club.
  • We will choose a book quarterly, starting with the first quarter of 2009 (January-March).
  • We will encourage discussion on the Web.
  • We will also strive to provide places in the Inland Empire where people can meet face-to-face and discuss the books.
  • Participants will obtain and read the books during the first two months of the quarter, and the discussion will take place during the third month of the quarter (discussion questions will be posted). For instance, this first quarter, you have January and February to get the book and read it. All discussion will take place in March.
  • All books will have something to do with Christians and the fine arts.
  • Suggestions for upcoming books for the book club can be sent to epistrophy@aol.com. No promises, but we do take your suggestions seriously.

Now, are you ready? Drumroll please!

The first book is Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner.

You can get the book at

  • Berean.com for $11.44 plus shipping (free shipping for orders over $40)
  • familychristian.com $13.99 plus $0.99 shipping (yes, 99 cents on any order, any size)
  • christianbook.com for $9.99 plus shipping
  • amazon.com for $10.40 plus shipping (free shipping for orders over $25)
  • and many other stores, both actual physical stores and online.

Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. is not affiliated with, nor do we promote any bookstores. If you purchase online, you purchase at your own risk.

Worshipmusic.com plugs the book this way:

Imagine art that is risky, complex and subtle!

Imagine music, movies, books and paintings of the highest quality!

Imagine art that permeates society, challenging conventional thinking and standard morals to their core!

Imagine that it is all created by Christians!

This is the bold vision of Steve Turner, someone who has worked among artists--many Christian and many not--for three decades. He believes Christians should confront society and the church with the powerful impact art can convey. He believes art can faithfully chronicle the lives of ordinary people and equally express the transcendence of God. He believes that Christians should be involved in every level of the art world and in every media

Yet art and artists have not always been held in high esteem by conservative Christians. Art rarely seems to communicate clear propositional truth, rarely deals with certainties and absolutes. And the lifestyles of artists too frequently seem at odds with the gospel. So the arts have often been discouraged among Christians.

Throughout this stimulating book, however, Turner builds a compelling case against such a perspective. He shows that if Jesus is Lord of all of life and creation, then art is not out of bounds for Christians. Rather it can and should be a way of expressing faith in creatively, beautifully, truthfully arranged words, sounds and sights.

This stirring call is must reading for every Christian who has been drawn to the arts or been influenced by them.

The Cafe

These are links that might be interesting to Christians who are artists, and also possibly to church leaders. Some are inspirational, some are thought-provoking, some may be controversial, and some… well, you decide. We will not post things on here simply to make judgments about them one way or another, but we do want to get people thinking about the nature of art, worship, the Christian life, and so forth.

This month’s installment of The Café is all about Christmas.

These two videos are taken from a two-day, sold-out Christmas show that was put on by Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugarland, TX. In these videos, you will see Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics, indoor kite flying, lots of aerial rigging, and many dancers. It’s an amazing multi-media experience put on by a church that is obviously large and not hurting for tithers. Sugar Creek Baptist describes its Sunday worship services this way:

Our worship has elements of music, creative arts and technology also used to communicate and inspire. Depending on the service you attend, you will see a
choir, orchestra, band or a mix of all three onstage. During times of congregational singing, a worship leader along with a team of singers comes to the front of the stage to lead.

These two videos definitely show exciting creativity, and the end result can be awe-inspiring. All music is live, according to the blurb on one of the videos. But, the question must be put forth: Is it worshipful as much as it is entertaining?

Most churches don’t have the budget or the number of possible performers to put on a production such as this. However, Sugar Creek isn’t the only church doing events such as this. Camarillo Community Church (Camarillo, CA), The Assembly (Broken Arrow, OK), Central Wesleyan Church (Holland, MI), and Mariners (Irvine, CA) have put on similar shows, most of them for Christmas. Still, it’s worth a look-see to get the creative juices flowing and see if there is something you can take away from this production for your art, ministry, and church.

This Christmas dance is in stark contrast to the production described above. The theatrics, acrobatics, lighting show, multi-media effects, etc. are not present in this church’s Christmas production. Still, it is a beautiful and interesting dance that inspires a spirit of worship, I think (if you can get over the camera angle that seems to have been taken from the third row of the congregation; a few heads are in the way).

Some of these dancers are well-trained, but most seem to view dancing as a hobby and a joy rather than a profession or passion. That’s the gamut that most churches in the real world have. The dresses are interesting as well, and I think they tie this whole production together.

This news report from FoxNews starts with a piece about Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA (near Irvine). The music is at 1:11-3:08 and again at 4:42-5:18, so you can fast-forward to those parts if your computer loads quickly enough. It brings to mind the question of what is a proper song to play/sing in a church service. I mean, "Feliz Navidad" is a great song that makes me just want to sing along, even when it’s played in the grocery store. There is definitely nothing inherently bad or un-Christian about the song, but except for the mention of Christmas, which is, after all CHRIST-mas, there is nothing inherently Christian about the song either.

Is this song a good use of a church’s time and resources? Most churches have a service that is about 1 ½ to 2 hours long, some a little shorter, some a little longer. Out of all the waking hours we have (approximately 98), a 2 hour service takes up about 2% of our awake time during the week. Add a Wednesday service and a Bible study, and a committed, plugged-in church-goer might spend about 5% of his or her awake time at church each week. I would hope each church leader would weigh heavily each choice he makes about what is included in each service.

That aside, the people in the choir seemed to be enjoying themselves, and maybe putting on a happy show is as important as putting on a hard-hitting show. After all, no one wants to hear a message that’s boring, even if it is the most important message ever.




These three websites have paintings about Christmas. The first two (joyfulheart.com and makedisciples.com) have many older paintings of Christmas or Christmas-related pictures, all taken from Bible stories. You will recognize some of the masters in this list.

The third one (mattstone.blogs.com) is a series of thumbnails of Christmas art that depicts the difficulty many Christians have coming to terms with Santa Claus. Some of this art is okay, but most are not exactly shining examples of art at its best. In fact, some of it I struggle to call “art” at all. But it does give someone interested in Christian arts food for thought, even if it is greasy, high-fat fast food.



Here is an activity that’s fun for the whole family! Maybe you remember making paper snowflakes as a child and hanging them up in your classroom’s window. The sites above have wild patterns that you can actually print out to impress your friends and family with your snowflake-making prowess. Of course, you don’t want to lie about your talents, but it’s a new way to think about an old artform that’s considered somewhat childish by many… and a bunch of the smaller ones would look pretty on a Christmas tree.


Finally, Diana Wolverton, a Christian artist who makes word art inspired by hymns, has a very interesting site. If you click on “Art,” a drop-down menu gives you the option “Free Christian Art.” Click on that, and you can print out some of her work for your own, non-commercial use, such as gift tags and Christmas tree ornaments. Very cool!

Post your comments and ideas inspired by these links, and/or links to your own artistic endeavors as "comments" to this article.

Extra Credit: How to Protect Your Original Work

The well-known poem “Footprints in the Sand” is printed on coffee mugs, paper weights, greeting cards, posters, and many other items usually sold at Christian bookstores. But who wrote it?

It is most often attributed to “anonymous,” but several people have stepped forth to claim the rights to that poem, saying that they are the actual authors. No doubt, someone wrote it, although that particular person may or may not be in the current crop of claimants.

Among the others who did not actually write the poem, there might be a few who really, truly believe they actually wrote the poem. Perhaps they have seen it so much that they internalized it, and then they thought that this internalized poem was actually something coming from their own creative enterprises.

Then, there might be some people who did indeed write a similar poem (but not exactly like the one printed on coffee mugs), because, let's face it, the idea of Jesus’ footprints is not very original. For starters, I found a hymn written in 1871by Mary B.C. Slade called “Footsteps of Jesus,” among other examples.

And, there is always the possibility, perhaps the probability, that one or more of the current crop of claimants knows, deep down, that he/she is not the true author, but is willing to campaign for the rights to the poem because there are dollar signs visible where the word “anonymou$” is printed.

Whatever the case, all of this could have been easily avoided if the original author would have filed for a copyright on the poem very soon after it was written, before it was distributed to anybody else.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, you hold the copyright to every original piece of writing, art, music, etc. you create, from the very first moment it was put into some tangible form, either directly, or through the aid of a computer or device.

But, how do you prove that you created a work? The only way to officially prove you created a work is to register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Let me repeat myself: that is the only official way to prove you wrote or created a piece.

There is something called a “poor man’s copyright” where a person seals a work or a photo of a work in an envelope and mails it to himself/herself. The postmark will provide an official date, and if the envelope remains sealed, this could be proof that the work was created by a certain person sometime before the date on the postmark. This is not a great way to copyright your work because it could easily be faked (envelopes can be steamed open and resealed), and, as far as I know, it has never held up in a court of law.

Another way to try to secure a copyright is to get the document/photo date-time stamped. If you got it date and time stamped several different times by obviously different machines in, say a 24 hour period, or in, say a week’s time, it might hold some authority (notice the word “might.”)

Also, you could get a work dated and notarized by a notary public, although they will only do this for certain types of document.

Or, you could take a photograph or video of your work next to a recognizable dated item, such as a television broadcast of, say an election (Decision ’08), or a disaster (9/11/01), or, a personality who is going off the air for good. These possibilities might not hold much water in a court of law because you could easily fake those as well. How many news programs have re-hashed 9/11/01 each year? How many channels show reruns in syndication? Many times you can find clips from years ago on YouTube as well, and I am sure judges are aware of that fact.

These methods can be just as costly (or possibly more costly, with the price of gas rising) than simply sending your work in to be registered by the U.S. Copyright Office. They are also quite complex, while the official copyright process is fairly simple.

Perhaps you don’t want to register your copyright because you feel that your work is “God’s property,” and you don’t want to profit from it anyway. That’s fine if it’s your decision or philosophy, but by registering a copyright, you can still make those decisions while also preventing anyone else from profiting by claiming authorship/ownership of your work.

I was once enrolled in a poetry class, and in casual conversation, I dropped a line that made me think for a minute. “That would be a good line for a poem,” I mused to my friends who were talking with me. One of those people was also enrolled in the same poetry class, and when she produced a poem with my line in it, I was blue with anger. How could she? It was my line! I invented it! To make matters worse, the poem she wrote with my line in it earned her an A grade, and she was praised for her inventiveness.

Both she and I knew that that particular line was mine, but I had no way to prove it, since I had not written it down, had not trumped her and turned in a poem with the line first, and had not taken steps to protect my intellectual property. It wasn't actually copyrighted until it was put into a tangible form, so just saying it casually in conversation made it "mine," but not "protected."

It is important to take steps to protect your intellectual property, especially when posting it electronically. Think about the problems you would have proving something (say a poem or a picture) you posted on the web is actually your property and you hold the copyright to it.

1. Screen names are easy to come by and easy to change. Yes, someone could, right now, be using your actual name as a screen name on some service, and that is permissible. That’s not usually a problem, but if a screen name were the only proof of ownership you had, it probably wouldn’t hold up in court, and that would be especially true for screen names that aren’t real names, like “Angelfire” or “PhilliesFan.”

2. Internet service providers might hold records to prove that you (or the person to whom such and such credit card was issued) do indeed hold that e-mail address account, but there is no guarantee that any ISP will still be in business in five or ten years, so those records might not be available when or if you need them.

3. People can post any e-mail address, even a fake one, as a return address on a post.

4. Once something is posted on the web, it has the potential to be passed from this person to that person, sent in spam, and distributed to thousands of people worldwide in just a few minutes. That probably won’t happen, statistically, to your piece, but it does give one pause that at any given time, even months or years after it is first posted, someone can “discover” a poem or a photograph of a piece of art and distribute it to 10,000 of his or her closest friends.

5. Many people don’t understand (or simply don’t care) that copying and pasting something they found on a website can be a form of plagiarism. Go to Yahoo Answers and look at how many people paste an answer they actually got from a Google search, and don’t attribute its source (passing it off as their own). Also, go to Snopes and see how many poems and stories are passed around the country and world through e-mail but are actually attributed to the wrong person. You could be the victim of ignorance on the part of someone who “discovered” your piece and copied and pasted it, implying it is his/her own work.

These things should make you pause before you post. Is the copyright registered? Can you prove it is your work? Would your proof hold up in court if need be?

Any time you post something original on the web, you should identify yourself as the copyright holder (whether or not you have registered with the U.S. Copyright Office). Legally, you hold the copyright as soon as you put your work into tangible form. You can help to protect yourself by putting: (c) + your legal or professional name, and the date or year it was originally created. For example, the copyright notice for this article is:

(c) Christie Jenkins, December, 2008.

The c with the parentheses is an online adaptation of the c with the circle (the official copyright symbol) found on most hard copies of published works. If you are making a hard copy instead of posting it online, take the time to find the official copyright symbol in your font. If you are posting an image file, a photograph or a scan, you should post the copyright notice as a watermark on the picture. This can be done in anything from Photoshop to Windows Paint.

Although I urge you to consider officially registering your work with the U.S. Copyright office, you can put the copyright symbol on any original work you created, even if it is not officially registered.

At Artists Work B.e.n.c.h., we encourage you to post your work for the good of the “community.” What good is art if no one sees it? What good is a story if no one reads it? But, please read this article thoroughly and consider the implications of posting work that does not have a registered copyright.

It costs $35 for online applications for copyrights, and $45 for paper applications. To stretch your money farther, it is possible to register collections of works, such as a whole album of songs, a collection of short stories, or a collection of photos as long as the items are united under a single title. In the past, the U.S. Copyright office had many different forms depending on the type of work you were copyrighting. They have streamlined the process now so that all copyrights except for group copyrights are done on form CO (or eCO for electronic filing). If you file by paper application, you can expect a certificate within approximately eight months of filing. If you file electronically, the process is quicker than that. For more information, go to the U.S. Copyright office's website at http://www.copyright.gov/.

Artist Profile: John "Drumbo" French

BEEF ART REPLICA: Drumbo Brings on the Magic
by Todd S. Jenkins

Behind his cymbal-heavy kit an average-sized yet imposing, bearded drummer vigorously grinds out complex, jaw-dropping rhythms as if he were an octopus, in support of a rubbery band that follows his every hitch and turn. Later in the night he stalks the stagefront like a caged animal, long white duster coat trailing behind, white fedora covering his pate. His voice is a raspy howl as he blurts out arcane, blues-steeped wordstreams:

Distant cousins, there’s a limited supply
And we’re down to the dozens, and this is why
Big-Eyed Beans from Venus! Oh my, oh my!!

Drumbo is in the house, reviving the avant-garde spirit of Captain Beefheart for an ecstatic group of über-alternative music fans. The crowd came to enjoy a relentless blast of futuristic nostalgia, but almost certainly didn’t expect the Christian testimony shared by the frontman when fans asked him about his faith after shows.

In 2003, after more than two decades out of the fold, John “Drumbo” French and friends reformed the Magic Band, the rag-tag crew who played an odd hybrid of gutbucket blues, avant-garde jazz and psychotic rock and roll behind vocalist Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart. Years of bitter feelings and media pigeonholing were left behind when French, bassist Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston, and guitarists Gary “Mantis” Lucas and Denny “Feelers Reebo” Walley reunited to bring Beefheart’s bizarre musings – largely drawn from Drumbo-driven albums like the legendary Trout Mask Replica (1969, Reprise) – back into the public ear.

Born in San Bernardino, French was still a scrawny teenager when he began drumming and singing in surf, rock and blues groups around Lancaster in the mid-1960s. Inspired by skin-pounders like rock-and-roll pioneer Sandy Nelson, Joe Morello (of the Dave Brubeck Quartet) and Jack Sperling (clarinetist Pete Fountain’s drummer), and lacking a snare on his first used drumkit, French developed an unusual, tom-heavy sense of rhythm. French and his friend, guitarist Jeff Cotton, made the rounds of several bands, including Blues in a Bottle where they met Mark Boston. John mostly stuck to harmonica and vocals at the time, emulating old Delta bluesmen and younger cats, including a local white upstart named Don Van Vliet, already known as Captain Beefheart.

Above: Circa 1968, Drumbo front and center, with (L-R) Art Tripp, Zoot Horn Rollo, Captain Beefheart and Rockette Morton

At that time the Captain and his band played a raw-boned variety of electric blues, straight out of Howlin’ Wolf. Around 1963 French and Van Vliet met at a local jam session. Three years later, shortly after French graduated high school, he was singing for Blues in a Bottle when the band opened for Beefheart. On that night Van Vliet debuted some of his new, avant-garde material to decidedly negative audience response. Despite the letdown, Van Vliet perked up when a friend reminded him that French was also an excellent drummer. Thus, French came into the Beefheart fold. Jeff Cotton and Mark Boston joined the Magic Band later, becoming part of the revolving cast of players upon whom Beefheart bestowed strange nicknames to enhance the enigma. For better or worse, John French became the man forever known as Drumbo.

Although everyone in the band usually developed their own parts, Beefheart demanded center stage at all times. Recalls French, “Don would really not allow anyone else to write music in the band, nor even solo or improvise over sections of the music. This was a bit frustrating for the guitarists, who were stuck playing the same exact thing every night. For me it was a bit more fun, as I could at least create some of my parts.”

Besides playing drums, French arranged much of Trout Mask Replica, for which he failed to receive credit on the original release. He hasn’t returned to that piecemeal manner of tune-building for his own music. “I hear music in my head, like a stereo playing in the background. When I create, I attempt to write what I’m hearing. I think Don had this often. However, he always used the band as his ‘writing tool’, so to speak. It was unnerving to sit completely still and be at his beckoned call. During these sessions, he would often become extremely irritated if anyone distracted him, and absolutely livid if anyone suggested a musical idea.”

The band’s living situation was equally difficult. They resided communally for a time and often subsisted on a small ration of soybeans each day. Van Vliet was subject to violence, once shoving French down a flight of stairs during an argument. French’s burgeoning Christian beliefs became an added source of ridicule for the drummer. “I think we were basically considered minions,” says French, who came and went from the Magic Band. He finally left for good in 1980, after playing guitar on Doc at the Radar Station (EMI). Following 1982’s Ice Cream for Crow (Virgin), Van Vliet went into seclusion, abandoning music to focus on a more lucrative career in painting. His bandmates have rarely heard from the Captain since.

Above: Beefheart, with Drumbo over his shoulder, 1980

Freed from Beefheart’s sway, French found time for a number of activities, including writing songs for the Magic Band side project, called Mallard. From 1987 to 1991 he work with bassist Fred Frith and guitarists Richard Thompson and Henry Kaiser on two albums, now cult classics, and a mere handful of concerts. Kaiser and French have remained occasional partners on recordings like Crazy Backwards Alphabet (1992, SST), which married free jazz and alternative rock.

By the mid-1990s French had written a number of songs inspired by his Christian walk, and decided it was time to cut an album under his own name. Waiting on the Flame (1995, on the unfortunately named Demon Records) featured friends like Kaiser, Magic Band guitarist Bill “Zoot Horn Rollo” Harkleroad, and Dregs bassist Andy West, performing French’s well-crafted, spiritually grounded tunes. French’s clean, strong baritone voice was the primary feature, though he left plenty of room for his legendary drum skills and excellent sidemen.

Sadly, the disc tanked on the market due to poor label promotion. It also seemed that too many people were still expecting French to fit the Beefheart mold. “I do wish that the world was such that I could do my own material without being compared to Don. I felt Waiting on the Flame had some decent material and was certainly as good as a lot of stuff in a similar vein. One review I read actually stated that I was making a conscious effort to portray myself as totally different than Don. I don’t know if it ever occurred to this fellow that I am totally different than Don. I suppose that, to the public, I was viewed as an apple attempting to pass itself off as an orange.”

In 1998, the London Musicians Collective invited French to perform a solo set at their festival. The drummer turned around and recorded O Solo Drumbo (Avant), a one-man disc presenting new material and some of the most fascinating constructions from the Beefheart era, enthralling longtime fans with his undiminished skills. Ironically, by then French’s fortunes had taken a poor turn and he was forced to borrow drums from friends. It took some effort to put together enough of a kit for him to actually play the melody of Beefheart’s “The Thousand and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole” on the drums, highlighting his immense technical skills.

The Magic Band reunion arose during this severe downturn in French’s career. “Right after I took computer classes (around 1999), I was looking for work in that field when I was contacted to do the liner notes for the Revenant set (Grow Fins: Rarities (1965-1982), a five-disc boxed set of Beefheart’s scarcer music issued in 1999). I called about eighteen people and transcribed three hundred pages of interviews with former Magic Band members, friends of Don, and just people who were around and recalled certain instances. The Revenant set was a bigger success than anticipated. Not only was it well received, but the liner notes were actually considered for a Grammy nomination! Then BBC producer Elaine Shepherd, for whose documentary ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart’ I was interviewed, encouraged me to write a book.

“Since the royalties for the set were substantial, I took some time and began to write. I took questions from Graham Johnston’s website, ‘The Captain Beefheart Radar Station’, to find out what fans were interested in. Many seemed to want track notes of the music, something I really didn’t plan to do. As I listened to the tracks, I found myself reacquainted with the music from the unique perspective of having not heard most of it for years. Although I am a gigantic fan of Don’s singing, I also thought much of the music could stand on its own. This gave me the vision of a reunion in which my friends and perhaps (percussionist) Art Tripp were onstage doing instrumental versions of this material.”

As the project developed, some musicians whom French wanted to approach were unavailable, so the band finally boiled down to French, Walley, Boston and Lucas. The concept took a slight turn when they opted to do their first sets instrumentally, but add vocals for the second sets. When it was decided that French would handle vocals, fellow alumnus Robert Williams was chosen to fill the drum chair for the second sets.

Above: Rockette Morton and Drumbo today

A set of twenty tunes was assembled, including the blues “China Pig”, “Abba Zaba”, “Veteran’s Day Poppy” and “Sun Zoom Spark”. Some selections took more work than others, said French. “’Floppy Boot Stomp’ (from the unreleased album Bat Chain Puller) caused me some problems because of the poor quality of the tape. Many of the others I could play the first time through. Also, not being able to hear the vocals, which are strong cues, during recording made this difficult. The easiest things were the Trout Mask tunes, because I had revisited those pieces during my drum solo rehearsals. Even then, I didn’t actually listen to the songs but played them from memory.”

The band felt that French’s clear, admirable voice wouldn’t cut the mustard for die-hard fans who loved the Captain’s synthesis of Howlin’ Wolf through the space-jazz of Sun Ra. French made the decision to sound as close as he could come to the original article. “Absolutely, I have tried to emulate Don. This is even the word I use to describe what I do. My singing is a tribute to him in the context of the Magic Band. I don’t think any other vocal style would do justice to the pieces.” French also made the conscious decision to share his Christian faith after each performance when people asked him about his beliefs. He didn’t turn the last set into an altar call, simply taking a moment now and then to share the difference that Jesus has made in his life.

French says, “The difficulty in the dual role of drummer and front man makes it a lot more work than if I were to do either one or the other singularly. Also, I handle a lot of the business. The reason I wanted to do this was primarily for the musical experience.” Their first shows were at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Camber Sands, U.K., and the performances were widely acclaimed. In 2004 ATP Records released the album Back to the Front, a chronicle of the band’s rehearsal process. It was followed in 2005 by 21st Century Mirror Men on Proper Records.

All this activity delayed work on French’s much-anticipated book, Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic, Volume 1. It will finally hit the stands in early 2009, and he is presently editing the second volume. In 2008 he released a new album, City of Refuge, recorded with Harkleroad, Boston, guitarist Greg “Ella Guru” Davidson, and keyboardist John Thomas. The disc continues the evolution of the Magic Band vibe, with French replicating Beefheart’s vocal style and wearing the now-iconic white fedora and trenchcoat on the cover. He has also assembled a touring band of sharp young players who learned the difficult music quickly.

City of Refuge was inspired by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. French says in his blog, “I know some people are really offended by any mention of religion, but I can't help but be blown out of the water by that last line: ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ I just turned 60 a few days ago, and I realize that even though I am in good shape for my age, have taken care of myself, stayed away from alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, bad food, etc., the inevitable is that we all eventually come to the end of our lives. So, when facing that reality, I read these words written thousands of years ago and wonder at both the sheer simplicity of the statement and the profoundness of it possibility as a reality. The song, ‘City of Refuge’, was inspired by this possibility.

“Other groups use Biblical themes – one is Avenged Sevenfold, whose very name comes from a reference in the Bible. So, it's not just the old farts like me looking at this stuff. I remember Bobby Kennedy who said, ‘Other people look at things as they are and say 'why?' – I look at things as they could be and say 'why not?'’ There's a lot of bad going on in the world – terrorism, murder, economic disasters, natural disasters, explosive human conflict – and they all promote fear in our lives. My way of coping with this has been to believe that there is a higher power that watches over me and protects me. Most of the people I know have spent their whole lives planning their retirement rather than living their lives. many people in recent years have lost their retirement and are desperate about what to do. I may be wrong, but I wanted to live my life and enjoy the world while I was young and had the energy and health. I still feel young enough to want to tour, and so tour I shall.”

French finds time to nurture his Christian faith in various ways, even playing with the worship band at Lancaster First Assembly of God between his global jaunts. His walk with God has helped him to stay focused as he reevaluates life as Drumbo. “I have definitely been pigeonholed as ‘Beefheart’s weird drummer’ and it has been exasperatingly limiting at times. I suppose I’m sort of like Leonard Nimoy; they’re all expecting the ears… A few years back, I resigned myself to just accept who the public saw and put on that hat musically… If one facet of my musical character is recognized, I suppose that’s something to be very grateful to have achieved.”

Above: The Magic Band in concert, Stockholm, Sweden, 2006

(NOTE: Portions of this article were previously published in Signal To Noise Magazine.)

Local Profile: Studio On Location

"Hey, did you know there is an art club over there?" a lady wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt asked as we pushed our kids on the swings at Rancho Cucamonga's Red Hill Park. Actually, we did know. It was the whole reason we came out to the park on that particular Saturday. But still, we wanted to press her for information.

"Are you with that group?" we asked.

"No, but I think it's such a good thing for my kids. I'm gonna go check it out. My daughter is already over there, because she's not shy," the lady said as she walked toward the group gathered around two tables in the grass. Over the next hour, she chatted with the leaders of the group while her daughter learned painting skills and had fun with art.

Above: Gia Minardi works with a young student.

We had been invited to the park by Giovanna “Gia” Minardi to check out her cell church's arts ministry, Studio On Location. The pastor of the church, John Henry, had the vision to use arts as a ministry back in early 2007. After much prayer, deliberation, and discussion, the group started their arts outreach about six weeks ago, in the autumn of 2008. They presently meet each Saturday at Red Hill Park in Rancho Cucamonga.

"We're getting out there, into the community. This is church for us, reaching out," explained Kim Henry, the pastor's wife. While they do have what they call "celebration" services on Sundays, they consider this ministry such a natural extension of their cell church that they see the lines blurred between church and outreach. "Sometimes we paint during our celebration services, too. That's becoming more common. Lots of churches now use painting as part of their worship and celebration."

Above: Kim Henry, a founder of Studio On Location

A person who stops by Red Hill Park on any given Saturday will find many interesting things. On the particular Saturday we went, one family was having a big birthday party, with a rented jumper and four reserved shelters. Several baseball games were taking place. A quinceañera party clad in bright magenta was piling out of a limo for photographs before the night's festivities. Many families were having picnics under the shady trees, and kids squealed as they played on the playground and in the sand.

Within this context, this group of artsy people set up shop to reach out to their community. They usually set up north of the parking lot, nearest the corner of Baseline and Vineyard streets. On the day we went, they had a clothesline strung between two trees with photographs on display, hanging by clothespins. Several young adults and teenagers had professional cameras and were obviously trying to hone their artistic skills. On a blanket nearby, some people were working together on guitar chords. Some others had video cameras, and, as Kim Henry explained, later they work on editing the videos and put them on YouTube. Kim also makes jewelry and perfumes on the side. It seems like everyone in the church has an artistic bent.

The focal point of the art activities on this particular Saturday was a class where seventeen-year-old Kalie Henry was teaching kids to paint using shape and color. They used art paper and regular acrylic paints in several colors, and a variety of brush sizes. "When we started, I bought some cheap brushes, but they were really bad. The bristles came out on the paintings. We're trying to get better brushes, slowly but surely," Gia said. The kids in the art class ranged from approximately three to ten years old. The youngest person in the small cell church is twelve years old, and there are many teenagers and young-twenties who are friendly and eager to teach and reach out. The Studio directors ask each person who participates in lessons to provide his/her name and contact information, so that the church can follow up later.

"Sometimes we do vision painting or vision poetry," Kim Henry explained. "We pray for God to give us a vision for a person in the park, then we walk up to a person and ask if we can write a poem or paint a picture for him." Some vision poems are centered around a single word for the willing participant, even though the participant is a complete stranger. They have also written impromptu songs in the same manner. "Sometimes people look at us and think, 'Oh, okay. This is kind of strange,' but we have had other people cry right there saying, 'You've been reading my mail! How did you know? I really needed to hear this.'"

Starting a ministry like this at another park around the Inland Empire would be easy enough. This particular ministry set-up consisted of a square card table and a longer, rectangular table, along with a few blankets for people to sit on the ground, and the attention-grabbing clothesline strung with photographs. Since they do not use a shelter, they have not needed to get permission from the city to conduct their art classes in the park. "These things should be checked, though, because every city is a little different in their rules," Kim Henry advises. Eventually the Studio wants to branch out into series of classes, where students can return each week to learn a new skill, as well as offering instruction in dance and other art forms.

Above: Kaylie Henry supervises the kids' art lessons.

The process from idea to actual ministry took about eighteen months. During that period, the participants spent a lot of time on their knees. "We did some prayer walks around the park, and we prayed together in church," Kim Henry said. Although they have a studio space, they have found the ministry in the park to be more successful in drawing the public. Studio On Location has a contingency plan with a church down the street in case of rain, but they see that as a compromise out of necessity, should they ever need it. "We like being out here, outside, in the community. This is where God wants His people. We try to make this as un-churchy as possible during this time," Kim said.

A few larger canvasses leaned against one of the shade trees nearby, and they attracted a lot of attention. One of the paintings was of a small blue hand holding a larger red hand against a yellow background, an interesting painting that attracts attention with its size and color scheme. The artist who created that particular work, Kalie Henry, had painted it during the church's art ministry time on the Saturday prior to our visit. "She sat over there and just painted and painted. She did the whole thing in just a short time, and she had lots of people all around just watching. It attracted a lot of attention," Gia said.

Above: Kaylie Henry's painting

"I didn't really notice if there were people around me or not," Kalie said later. "I was focused on painting." She explained that the inspiration for the painting was a boy they had met while they ministered at a nearby skate park. "He got shot when he was standing up for his friends and he did not survive. We never really knew the impact we had made on him, but later, someone found us and told us that he had started going back to church and gotten off drugs because we had reached out, and we never knew."

Kalie took art classes for two years, but when her teacher moved, she could never find another instructor who clicked with her the way the first one had. She improves by trial and error and by reading about techniques in books. She's a senior in high school and plans to take a year off after graduation to go on a missions trip to Thailand and Kenya. She has paintings stacked up in her bedroom, and she has never attempted to sell a painting. We suggested that she sell some or have prints made to fund her missions trip.

"Why can't Christian art have a hidden meaning? The message doesn't have to be out there in plain sight all the time," Kalie said. Other participants in the Studio echoed her ideas. This is a Christian ministry that is unashamedly Christian, but not overtly Christian. They believe in making contact, beginning relationships with people to draw them to Christ. They use art to start the conversation, and to make people think about deeper things. What some people think is just another day at the park could turn out to be an appointment with God.

Above: A young artist proudly displays his painting.

For more information:
E-mail: studioonlocation@yahoo.com
Web: www.jlocation.com
Facebook: Studio On Location

Artist Profile: Lynn Yoder, A Passion for Painting

Above: Lynn Yoder with his painting “The Visitor” (oil on canvas, 18x24”)

Somerset County is a charming, bucolic section of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A scenic place of Amish farms and rolling hills, it provides beautiful vistas of inspiration for residents like oil painter Lynn Yoder, who makes his home in the village of Springs.

Yoder began pursuing art at a young age. “I gained a passion for drawing at the age of nine, when I discovered that I could draw animals from a children's magazine. A year or two later, I worked with my grade school art teacher who developed my gifting and pointed me in the direction of college. She introduced me to oil paint, which has become my medium of choice. She guided me through my first human portrait. The figure, applied to various settings, has since formed the bulk of my portfolio.

Playful Thoughts, oil on canvas, 16x26”

“After graduating from high school, I immediately attended a local college for two years, then transferred to Frostburg State University in Maryland, where I graduated (Summa Cum Laude) in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Design. Since then, I have developed my gifting through continuous studio practice, honing in on the particular style of realism that I seek to achieve. My childhood dream of creating highly realistic paintings has grown into a larger vision. Education and experience have provided me with a deeper appreciation for the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual qualities of my subject matter. Art serves my larger life experience, reflecting my development as an artist and person.”

Yoder’s keen eye for detail is evident in his well-focused paintings, which reveal more details with each new glance. In the nature scene “Swim Mates” (below), for example, he took painstaking care to recreate ripples on the water’s surface, the wavy light-play on the bottom of the creek, and details like the fishes’ scales and the tiny drop of water on the Canada goose’s bill. Likewise, note the stitching details and the rainbow sheen on blown soap bubbles in “Playful Thoughts” (above). The resulting pictures approach photorealism, but retain just enough character to show off his painterly touches.

Swim Mates, oil on canvas, 24x36”

Though he does not specialize in any one type of subject, Yoder does favor portraiture a bit. “People are the most intriguing subject for me to paint. I place figures in various settings which tell something about the subject's personality or what he or she might be doing, thinking, or feeling. Usually I plan and work out problems for a painting before starting the final canvas. I make small pencil sketches to understand details, or quick painted sketches to decide what colors are harmonious and create the mood that I want. This allows me to proceed to the final canvas with more confidence. My technique involves layers of paint with drying time in between. If I have derailed from the vision in one layer, I simply correct it in subsequent layers.”

Though there is always a strong element of realism in his work, Yoder likes to experiment with unusual elements, such as visualizing music on the canvas. “I sometimes imagine colors when I hear sounds. Higher notes are associated with cool blues and purples. Warm lower notes give visions of orange and yellow. (In ‘Sound to Sight’) I've indicated lower-range wisps of sound. The musician is lost in his magical world of vibrations and soundwaves in this fiddle painting.”

Sound to Sight, oil on canvas, 20x32"

“I see many parallels between visual and musical artforms. Since I am a lover of classical music and am learning to play the piano, music has found its way into my paintings. In some instances, I've tried to match abstract colors and shapes to the sounds, feelings, and pitches that I experience in music. These wispy shapes float around realistic images of musicians and their instruments. In addition to the piano lessons which I have taken over the years, I enjoy writing. Most times this craft is used privately to journal my experiences or to state my Biblical gleanings.”

Yoder’s Christian faith plays a major role in his everyday life and creative expressions. “Art serves my larger experience of living and not the other way around. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and my testimony might be that I need Him for my existence on a daily basis. My art making is more of an extension of that daily quest for God and finding how He relates to my life. I seek to do more spiritually-themed paintings in the future and am looking for a market focused on this type of work.”

Yoder’s church has provided an occasional outlet for his painting and other talents. “Currently, my musical gifting is used to direct congregational singing at the Mennonite church which I attend. The church holds a strong tradition of a cappella, four-part harmony. We have done some drama and choral programs at Christmas and Easter. I am glad to see other churches cultivating instrumentalists for musical worship, especially through the use of violinists, pianists, and other instruments from the classical tradition. The visual arts are not a focus at my church, but my painting, ‘His Tears’, was displayed over the pulpit for a period of time. I would like to see my church use creative people even more for the glory of God and for the development of people.”

His Tears, oil on canvas, 54x54”

One of Yoder’s passions – and professions – is sharing his artistic knowledge with the community. “I am currently the art teacher at the grade school where I grew up. I start by teaching freshman students the basics of drawing – proportion, perspective, light and shade, and a systematic approach to building up form by shading with a pencil. Only after they have drawn a still life arrangement do I allow them to attempt to paint. I suggest that they paint something simple at first, such as a sunset. Here they learn to mix colors and blend edges to match their reference photos. Understanding the color wheel is important.”

Despite coming up in a Mennonite community, Yoder has embraced technology to facilitate online marketing and production of giclée prints of his work. The internet has increased his visibility as an artist, but hasn’t exactly been a full-on boon for his career. “I have recently disabled my shopping cart because it hasn't been profitable enough. I still have an ordering page on my website that can be printed and mailed to me, but I can no longer accept online sales by credit card.”

Still, Yoder feels that the Web is indispensable as a 21st-century marketing tool. “I strongly recommend that an artist invest in creating a personal website, as it functions as an online portfolio and catalog of your work. Perhaps shopping cart functionality also would be profitable when selling in the right price range, or a style of art that doesn't need to be seen in great detail. If one wants to sell online, then he needs to be found. I am not an expert on this, but here is what I have learned. Get as many links to your site from external sources as possible. Also, use keywords (words that describe your particular work) within your site, as search engines such as Yahoo and Google use this information to categorize what type of site that you have. The obvious way to get word out about your site is to put your web address on your promotional materials and to tell your potential clients about it.”

Searching, oil on canvas, 24x36”

Aside from the internet, Yoder has found several outlets to sell his art. “Prints of my work sell at small local galleries and stores. I have demonstrated my craft and sold prints at a local festival for a number of years. Most sales of my original paintings have been through personal contact with clients who have seen my work. Some work has been commissioned.” He has had exhibitions at the General Art Store in Frostburg, Somerset’s Philip Dressler Center for the Arts, Frostburg City Hall, the Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery and other locations. Yoder is active in supporting his local arts community, as a member of the Allegany Arts Council and Allegany Area Art Alliance. His honors include People’s Choice Awards and Best In Show at the Somerset County Artists Association.

When we contacted Yoder for an interview, he was happy to find that our group shared his vision for Christian artistry. “Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h. sounds like a very worthy cause. I didn't know such an organization existed. That is wonderful. Too bad you are not here in southwestern PA.”

Yoder is hopeful about the increased use of art as a means of Christian communication. “I pray that God is raising up artists of various art forms to proclaim the truth about His character, to bring Him worship and glory, and to get us in touch with His heart and what He is doing today. I believe that the creative arts have a way of communicating to us at a deep level and can solidify particular beliefs in our hearts about God. They are a way of romancing God, as we can be stirred to great passion and emotion for Him. I am overjoyed to see more professionalism in Christian filmmaking over the past several years. I believe that anointed, artistically talented believers need to be proactive and learn how to perform their craft with the professionalism that the secular world has long been doing. This opens up the door for our voice to be heard by a hurting world that needs to know Jesus.”

Website: http://www.yoderart.com

Happenings: Artistic Events Around the Inland Empire

To view events for August 2009, click here.

Got an event we should showcase? Let us know!

Attention: No Songwriters Showcase in December due to the holiday season. The next Christian Songwriters Showcase will be Saturday, January 24, 2009 at GFE in Highland from 4:30-6:30.

December 5th-7th and 12th-14th, First Baptist Church of Hemet is having its 27th annual Christmas Celebration concert. Call (951) 658-7133 for tickets, directions, and more information.

December 6th, 20th, and 30th, Lifehouse Theater in Redlands, performs Miracle on 34th Street. Call (909) 335-3037 for tickets, directions, and information. Ticket prices: adults $12-$18 and children $6-$9. Group prices are available. Also, see Lifehouse auditions schedule below if you are an actor/actress.

December 7th, The Packinghouse, AKA Calvary Chapel Redlands is putting on a concert with the Packinghouse Choir on Sunday evening, at 6:30 PM in the main sanctuary. This is a family event, so bring your kids and grandma. For contact information, call (909) 793-8744.

December 10th (Wednesday) Calvary Chapel of San Bernardino (The Red Barn) is hosting “The Three Wisemen.” Who are they? See their webpage at http://www.thethreewisemen.com/ The Red Barn is located on Baseline Street between Del Rosa and Tippecanoe Avenues. For directions or information call (909) 381-5353.

December 11th-14th (Thursday-Sunday) Living Christmas Tree at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside. Thursday and Friday performances are at 7:30 PM, Saturday has three performances at 2:00, 4:30, and 7:30 PM, while Sunday has two performances at 2:00 and 4:30 PM. Tickets are $7-$10 depending on night, and group size. Call 951-689-5700 for directions and more information.

December 11th-13th (Thursday-Saturday) Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, CA presents “Bethlehem’s Big Night.” This is a Christmas dramatic musical and dessert theater. Cost is $12 per ticket, and tickets for a full table of 8 are $90. For any questions, directions, or advance issues, please contact Sharon Paul at spaul@ibchighland.org or 909-425-1777.

December 12th (Friday), Apple Valley Baptist Church will host a Christmas Concert 7:00-9:30 in the sanctuary of the church. The church is located at 22434 Nisqually Rd. in Apple Valley. For more information or directions call (760) 247-5891.

2009 Lifehouse Theater Auditions:
January 13th 2009- auditions for Ecclesiastes: The Wisdom of King Solomon* (non-musical production)
February 5th, 2009-auditions for The Hiding Place* (non-musical production)
March 5th, 2009- auditions for Peter Pan
April 16th, 2009- auditions for Zorro
June 4th, 2009-auditions for Little House on the Prairie

For more information on Lifehouse auditions or Lifehouse Theater, go to http://www.lifehousetheater.com/.

Do you have a Southern California concert, theater production, art gallery exhibit, dance show, etc. that you would like in the Artists’ Work B.e.n.c.h. calendar? (Events do not necessarily have to be connected to churches.) Please e-mail information to epistrophy@aol.com. If your event meshes with the mission of Artists’ Work B.e.n.c.h., we will post it.
-It has to promote a mainline Christian worldview (although it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a church or even church-y).
-It has to be fine arts related (concert, gallery show, performance, etc.)
-It cannot be on Sunday morning because that conflicts with the hours most of our members go to church. If you have an event taking place on Sunday morning, you want new people, unchurched people, to come, not a bunch of Christians on a field trip.
-Priority is given to events that include active Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. members