September 2009 Artists Work B.e.n.c.h.

Welcome to the 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 Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h. blog. Just click on the titles to go to the articles:

Fine Arts Bible Study 11- In pursuit of Excellence

Master Class-Vocal Warmups (Or, What to Do in the Car Before Rehearsal)

Happenings for September, 2009

The Cafe for September

The Somgwriters' Showcase Keeps Evolving

Bookclub: It Was Good

Gaudi's Folly: La Sagrada Familia and the Face of Barcelona

Artist Profile: Hugo Distler

Artist Profile: Debora Iyall

Poetry Corner: Morning

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.
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
3.) Frustrated
4.) Seasoned professional
5.) Curious
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.

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Fine Arts Bible Study 11: Excellence

Colossians 3:23

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

There is nothing wrong with being a beginner. It means you are branching out, trying new things, walking new paths. Sometimes those new things just don’t pan out. Maybe you realized the road was going to be more difficult than you originally thought, and you just don’t have the time to devote to it right now. Perhaps circumstances change in your life. Once, you were a bachelor and all of your free time was yours. Now you are a husband and a father, plus a boss at work. Your hobby was fun for a while, but you gave it up long ago when time became a premium for you.

Other times, a beginner takes to a new path like white on rice. It becomes something you enjoy, which feels natural, and something you wish to move forward in your talent and vision. There is certainly nothing wrong with being a beginner.

There is something wrong, however, with someone who has been doing a certain thing for a long time, but still has the talent and knowledge of a beginner. Even worse is when said “artist” is on the worship team, choir, drama team, etc. at church.

Psalm 33:1-3

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;
it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.

1 Chronicles 15:22

Kenaniah, the head Levite, was chosen as the choir leader because of his skill.

1 Chronicles 25: 6-8

All these men were under the direction of their fathers as they made music at the house of the Lord. Their responsibilities included the playing of cymbals, harps, and lyres at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman reported directly to the king. They and their families were all trained in making music before the Lord, and each of them—288 in all—was an accomplished musician. The musicians were appointed to their term of service by means of sacred lots, without regard to whether they were young or old, teacher or student.

God wants our talents to increase. Many people who research how the brain processes things say that it takes about 1,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, whether it is basketball, guitar, or cooking. If you practice at something for an hour every single day, including Christmas and your birthday, it will take almost three years to get 1,000 hours in. It takes 5,000 hours of practice to become a genius at a skill (that’s about 13 years of practicing for an hour each and every day, more if you skip holidays). Even Mozart himself had an overbearing father who made him practice as a small child, and could have easily gotten in 5,000 hours when he was young.

Some people will cite Stephanie Meyer, who supposedly awoke from a vivid dream in June, 2003, had drafted the book Twilight by August of that year, and had a six-figure book deal by 2005. That seems extremely serendipitous until you realize that she also earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1995 and has been writing since she was twelve.

As it turns out, overnight success stories rarely are actually overnight. It takes practice, it takes determination, it takes instruction, it takes learning, it takes perseverance through mental blocks, and it takes a lot of time.

Matthew 25:14-30

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Did you catch how long the master had been gone in this parable? Jesus said he had been gone “a long time.” Talents don’t materialize overnight. That should be a comfort for those who feel like they have to work hard at getting the chords right on every single worship song every single week, and it should also be an admonition for those who don’t want to put in the time to develop their talents.

Check out the story of David and Araunah:

2 Samuel 24:20-25

When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

“Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

“But, I’m just a volunteer…”

If you are calling yourself a Christian artist, you are using the name of Christ to define your art, whether or not it is appropriate for using in a church service. If you are using the name of Christ to define your art, shouldn’t you give God your excellence? Take a night class in music theory from your local community college. Hire a tutor or instructor to teach you for a half hour each week. Go to the local library and check out books that teach you more about your art. Developing your talent means increasing your talent, and that glorifies God. If you are creating your art for God, then do it for God with excellence, because He deserves excellence.

Finally, a warning from Malachi 1:12-14:

“But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord.

“Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!”



1. What are some free or inexpensive things you can do to increase your talent?

2. How would you counsel an artist who says, “I don’t want to study this. I think it will just cheapen my work. I want my work to be authentic, and I want God to be glorified by my weakness. What good is it if I develop this as a strength through my own learning?”

3. Is it easier to be creatively inspired as a beginner who hasn’t been boxed in with limits yet, or as a well-trained artist who has the skill necessary to execute the inspirations that come?

4. If you are skilled in an art, how have you helped other Christians you know develop their talents? What more could you do to help other Christian artists have a more excellent sacrifice to give God?

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #1 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #2 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #3 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #4 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #5, click here .

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #6, click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #7, click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #8, click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #9, click here.

To Read Fine Arts Bible Study #10, click here.

Master Class: Vocal Warmups (or, What To Do in the Car and Before Rehearsal)

Musicians tune their instruments and warm up their fingers, dancers stretch their bodies. How do vocalists warm up? The sad truth is that many don’t. They should, of course, because vocal cords and mouth muscles are like any instrument in that they need warming up. Also, unlike musicians, vocalists play an instrument that is not only physically attached to their bodies, it is also extremely useful and probably necessary for their regular daily tasks and employment. While most people don’t literally sing for their suppers, they do need to talk, and therefore, it’s important that they don’t stress their vocal cords while singing.

Here are some simple things you can do to warm up and protect your vocal cords.

1) Hydrate!

Keeping your throat hydrated is perhaps the single most important way to protect your voice. Dry throats not only sound bad, they can cause damage to the vocal cords when you try to sing without the proper lubrication. The best way to manage this is to keep a bottle of water handy at all times. Drink from it regularly throughout the day, not just when you are planning to do some singing. Stay away from milk and sugary carbonated drinks because they will cause more problems than you would have with a dry throat. Milk and sugar syrup coat the throat and keep the air column from vibrating properly.

2) Silly phrases and tongue twisters

Nothing limbers up one’s voice like practicing something difficult. Not so difficult that you strain your vocal cords, obviously, but it’s good to run through some words and phrases that make you think about how you articulate sounds. When you start off, go slowly and really over-enunciate (it’s okay to sound like a bad actor) so that you can get your throat and facial muscles working. Think of it as a workout from the neck up. Try to speak every syllable clearly; if you trip over one, go over it again and again until it flows easily. As you progress, increase your speed until you can no longer enunciate correctly. Here are some phrases you can use for practice:

Red letter, yellow letter
Good blood, bad blood
Eleven benevolent elephants
She sells seashells by the seashore
Teaching ghosts to sing
The big, black-backed bumblebee
A critical cricket critic
Really rural
The tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth
Unique New York
Hemorrhoidal removal

And for a really good workout, try this long tongue-twister:

What a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two,
a thing distinctly hard to say but harder still to do.
for they'll beat a tattoo at a quarter to two:
a rat-ta tat-tat ta tat-tat ta to-to.
and the dragon will come when he hears the drum
at a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two

3) Massage

Yeah, sure, some nice shiatsu would probably do everyone a world of good. But we’re not talking about the full-body type of massage here. We mean simply massaging the cheeks, jaw and sides of the neck to help relax those muscles. Tension is the killer of many things, and singing is one of them. If your cheek muscles are so tight that you can’t open wide enough to articulate certain sounds, or if your neck is too stiff to move the way you would like, it’s going to throw off your ability to sing well.

First, relax your jaw as much as you can, and gently rub your cheeks with both hands. Use a circular motion to cover the full cheek area. If you would like, you can make some vowel sounds as you do this massage to see how the different positioning of your jaw and cheeks changes the sound.

Work your way up your jawline to the point in front of your ear canals. This is where a lot of tension headaches begin, right at the joint where the jaw attaches to the skull. After a minute or so, work your way down your jawline to the area under your chin. These are some of the muscles that close your jaw. Hold your head back a little and massage the frontal area of your neck, from your chin down to your thyroid cartilage (“Adam’s apple” for guys).

Next, place your hands at the sides of your neck, directly below your ears. These muscles don’t really affect the jaw or throat, but they do help to relax your neck and remove more tension. Be sure not to apply too much pressure anywhere; this is not the deep-tissue type of massage.

4) Diaphragm, not shoulders

Breath control is one of the most difficult but important skills for the singer to master. Most of us tend to breathe shallowly, using only a portion of our lungs to move air in and out. This is fine for everyday breathing, but it greatly reduces the volume and quality of sound when we try to sing.

Here’s how to check for proper breathing. Look at yourself in a mirror, stand up straight and watch as you take some deep breaths. Do your shoulders move up and down? If so, you are drawing air into the upper portion of your lungs but neglecting the lower part. Does your abdomen move in and out when you breathe deeply? That indicates just the opposite: you’re using the lower part of your lungs more than the upper part. The ideal situation is for your chest area to rise and fall as you breathe, right in the middle of these two extremes. To do this you must use the diaphragm muscle that lies directly under your lungs. It enables you to maximize airflow through your lungs, and therefore through your vocal cords. You can experiment with using different sets of muscles until you come up with the ideal way of breathing. Simply watch the way your body moves as you try these different methods of breath control. When you have good chest movement with minimal shoulder and abdominal movement, you’ve arrived.

5) Head position

This is another severely neglected point of control when singing. Have you ever seen one of those First Aid videos where they show someone tilting back an unconscious person’s head to open the airway? Why is it, then, that we see so many people trying to sing into a microphone with their chin practically touching their chest? Holding your head straight forward, or even tilted upward, as you sing will increase the size of your airway and permit more air to flow through without overexerting your vocal cords.

Some singers, most notably Lemmy Kilmister (seen below) of the British metal band Motorhead, have their mikes elevated high enough that they have to tilt their heads back to sing. Lemmy began doing this specifically to compensate for some vocal deficiencies, but it can be a good practice for many singers. Try to experiment with the position of your head and microphone as you sing to see what gives you the best airflow.

Look here for our prior Master Classes:

Photographing Water

Writing Good Poetry, July 2009

The Five C's of Songwriting, June 2009

Experimenting with Abstract Landscapes, May 2009

Preparing for Excellence, April 2009

It Builds Character, March 2009

Labanotation, February 2009

Singability, January 2009

Avoiding Cliches, December 2008

Happenings for September 2009

Sept. 5: A Song in My Heart - Two shows only!

At Lifehouse Theater in Redlands, “A Song in My Heart” presents in humorous verse the amazing true stories behind some of the greatest worship hymns of all time. A man discovers he is going blind. Another loses his family and fortune. A young couple face death at the hands of terrorists. Each incident has led to the writing of great hymns sung to this day. Enjoy the stories behind these classics and leave with a song in your heart! Show starts at 7:30 PM on Saturday, Sept. 5 and 2:15 PM on Sunday, Sept. 6. For more info, call (909) 335-3037 or visit

Sept. 6: GraceFest in Antelope Valley

On Sept. 6, GraceFest arrives in the Antelope Valley with Point of Grace, Superchick, 33 Miles and more. Show runs from 2-9 PM at the Palmdale Amphitheater, 2723 Rancho Vista Blvd., Palmdale. Tickets are $5-25. For more information, call (661) 265-6069.

Lewis Library: Emphasis Art

Free art classes for children 5 years and older every Tuesday, 3:30-4:30 at the Lewis Library, 8437 Sierra Ave in Fontana. The classes are held in the toddler room. For information call (909) 356-7184. Hosted by Fontana Art Depot.

September 8- Underwater watercolors
September 15- My drawing has texture
Sept 29- Artistic freedom
Sept 22- Make that abstract

Sept. 11: Revolution

At 7:00 PM on Sept. 11, Roots Church of San Bernardino presents Revolution, a night of prayer and worship designed to uplift the community. Led by Pastor Evan Doyle, Roots Church is located at 1379 East Highland Ave. in San Bernardino, west of Del Rosa Avenue. For more information, contact or visit

Sept. 11-12: Women of Faith

“A Grand New Day” Women of Faith Conference with special guests Allison Allen, Sandi Patty, Sheila Walsh, Patsy Clairmont, Steven Curtis Chapman and more. Held at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Tickets are $79-109. Visit or call 1-888-49-FAITH.

Sept. 11-20: Noah at Lifehouse

Beginning on Sept. 11, Lifehouse Theater in Redlands presents a fun, zany but ultimately reverent and inspirational new take on the familiar biblical story of Noah. A smash hit when it was first performed at Lifehouse, critics and audiences alike praised the contemporary music, comedy and symbolic staging of this timeless account of the flood story. 2:15 PM matinees and 7:30 PM evening performances through Sept. 20. For more info, call (909) 335-3037 or visit

Sept. 11-20: Taming of the Shrew

Combining Shakespeare and the classic 50s in a production of Taming of the Shrew, we present this classic play in a style reminiscent of Sid Caesar and Your Show of Shows. In a time not too long ago, before political correctness was a term, penniless Petruchio sets out to tame the untameable Shrew, for a price. The Shrew, Katharina, must be married before her beautiful younger sister. What follows is Shakespeare's most violent and entertaining love story. Come hear Shakespeare's words, and actually understand and enjoy them! Buy tickets at Productions will take place at Sturges Center for the Performing Arts, 780 North E Street San Bernardino, CA 92410. Tickets are $10-25.

Sept. 12: Bryan Duncan

Hacienda Christian Life Campus presents ‘The Gathering,’ featuring Brian Duncan. 2-9 PM at the Lamb’s Fellowship, 21901 Railroad Canyon Rd., Lake Elsinore. Tickets are $20. Call (951) 679-4667 for more info.

Sept. 13: The Rave in Chino

The monthly Rave features Broken Veil (above), DJ Steve, Cafe, prizes, and more. 6-8:30 PM at New Hope Christian Fellowship, 13333 Ramona Ave. in Chino. Call (909) 702-3736 or visit .

Sept. 15: KJ-52 in Indio

Lighthouse Ministries presents KJ-52 in concert at Fountain of Living Water, 82-025 Bliss Avenue, Indio. Doors open at 6:30; show starts at 7:00. Purchase tickets through or call (760) 347-0054 for more information.

Sept. 15: Auditions for “Unto Us”

On Sept. 15 from 6 to 9 PM, Lifehouse Theater in Redlands will be holding auditions for the cast of their Nativity drama, “Unto Us”. The show features more than thirty speaking roles and many extras. For more info about audition requirements, call (909) 335-3037 or visit

Sept. 19: Fall Hallelujah Jubilee at Six Flags

Come join the Fall Hallelujah Jubilee with Newsboys, the Afters and Project 86. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. Show is free with park admission. For more info, call (661) 255-4500 or visit .

Sept. 20: Casting Crowns

Casting Crowns’ “Until the Whole World Hears Tour” comes to the Bren Center at UCI Irvine. 7:00 PM. Call (800) 840-0457 or visit .

Sept 20: Family Art Day at the Claremont Museum of Art

Simply Sculpture- Come try your hand at sculpture. The museum will provide the materials, you provide the vision. 12-3 PM, tickets are free. The museum is located at 536 West First Street Claremont, CA.

Sept 22: Korean Classical Music and Dance

Join the fun as you experience the Korean culture. See traditional dance favorites including: Flower Crown dance, Fan dance, Hourglass Drum dance, and the Drum dance. Admission is free. 6:00 PM at the Steelworker's Auditorium at the Lewis Library, 8437 Sierra Ave in Fontana. For more information, call (909) 428-8818.

Sept. 25-26: Temecula GospelFest

Starting at 7:00 PM on Friday and going until 10:00 PM on Saturday, this series of three Gospel concerts at the Old Town Temecula Theater, located at 42051 Main Street in Temecula, should prove to be fun for everyone. The cost is $22 per concert, or $55 for all three concerts and a catered dinner. For tickets or more information, call 1-866-OLDTOWN or visit

Friday Night - Spirit of the Valley- 7:00 PM
Contemporary Christian Night, powerful praise and worship music. Featuring two-time Grammy nominee Sarah Kelly, Immersed, Gospel recording artist Vince Brown, and many other powerful local and regional worship ministers.

Saturday Matinee - 2 pm Choir Sound Off and Arts Showcase. Choirs from all over SoCal go head to head competing for a chance to be featured on Gospel recording artist Vince Brown's new album. The featured choir is the award-winning Shield of Faith Pomona. This concert also features Maura Gale, dance and drama. A fun show, great for the whole family!

Saturday Sept 26 -7 PM - Gospel Gala - a victorious declaration of good news, featuring Jerone Lee (Lifetime Achievement Award winner for Impact of Music in Ministry), the Mighty Women of Gospel, Pro2call, Lillian Crawford, Immersed, Vince Brown and the Temecula Mass Choir - a finale of powerful praise.

Sept 26-Oct 10: If you Give a Mouse a Cookie

This hilarious adaptation brings this favorite book to life as an innocent boy's offering of a cookie to a small mouse goes from mishap to calamity to catastrophe! Whoever thought that one little cookie could lead to so much chaos? Presented by the MainStreet Theater Company at the Lewis Family Playhouse, 12505 Cultural Center Dr. Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Tickets are $13.50-16.50. For tickets or information, call 909-477-2752.

The Cafe for September

Here are some links to get the ideas swirling in your brain. Perhaps one of these will give you a great idea for a dance or a painting...or maybe it will just be a diversion with a few interesting links.

September birthstone: sapphire

Did you know that, chemically, sapphires and rubies are exactly the same? They are forms of a stone called corundum. A ruby is a corundum that is colored some shade of red, but not too pink. All other corundums, no matter what their color, are sapphires. Blue corundums are considered to be the prettiest sapphires, and are therefore the most popular and expensive shade. If a corundum is pinkish-orange in color, it’s called a padparadscha, from the Sanskrit words for the color of a lotus flower.

You may have seen star sapphires, like the one above right, that look like they have a glowing white star in the middle of them. This is an effect called asterism, and it is caused by another mineral in the stone. The crystals of that mineral, rutile, are long, thin and arranged parallel to each other inside the stone. When light passes through the cut stone, it’s refracted into the shape of a star. So while star sapphires are considered impure because of the rutile inclusions, they are very beautiful and prized in their own right.

And hey, one more factoid for your artists: rutile is one of the most common sources of the white pigment used in titanium white paint!


September flower: aster

September is full of stars! Besides the star sapphires we mentioned above, the flower for the month of September is the aster. The name, of course, comes from the Latin word for star because of the flower head’s shape. There are about six hundred different types of asters found all over the world. In ancient times, people believed that burning the leaves of asters would drive away snakes. It was once customary to lay asters on the graves of soldiers to acknowledge that their memories would endure over time.


There are plenty of people out there who bang on things all the time to see what kind of noise they make. To my wife’s chagrin, I’m one of them. But I don’t know of too many people who have gone this far:

And then there’s violinist and composer Jon Rose, who makes music with the fence along the U.S./Mexico border:

Mr. Rose has made a whole career recently out of musical fences. Below he performs a duet with Hollis Taylor on a wire fence.


Satirist Mike Hadley (above), from Minneapolis, makes some great videos about the goofier aspects of the Christian culture. We especially like this one (“Tomlin, Tomlin, Brewster, Crowder, Hillsong, Brewster, Brewster, Tomlin… Tomlin!”):


DeAnna Putnam, belly dancer and Master of Divinity (wow, there’s a combination!), has written an extremely interesting article about the history of dance in the Bible. She looks at what the different Hebrew and Greek terms used in the Biblical texts actually tell us about the context and style of dance in the times of Moses, David and Jesus:


Steve Carroll is a local musician from Forest Falls who appeared at our Christian Songwriters’ Showcase in July 2009. Here’s a video clip of Steve performing his song “Fall” at the Monrovia Coffee Company:


One of the better bands on Southern California's Christian rock scene in the late 1980s was The Reign. Fronted by Harold Bloemendaal, the band played a good number of concerts around the Southland and released one excellent album, “Back from Euphoria”, before calling it quits in 1989. This past August, the band decided to reunite for a one-off concert celebrating the album’s 20th anniversary. That stupendous concert was filmed and recorded for an upcoming CD/DVD release, due this fall. We don’t have any footage of that show yet, but here’s the band playing “Cold Desert Wind” at the Redlands Bowl back in the day (Rock of Love, 1989; thanks to John Smeby):


And, to close out with a giggle, here’s some creativity applied to safety gear:

Songwriters' Showcase keeps evolving

Above: Jeremiah Johns, one of our featured Showcase artists for September 2009

We have had two successful Christian Songwriters' Showcases at the new venue, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Redlands. In August we were entertained and blessed by the music of Justin Reid, our first returning artist, and Chris Ryan, an excellent young musician who played at this year's Cornerstone Festival and has been making good waves around the state. (He comes by it honestly; his mother is Dawn Wisner-Johnson, former singer of Crumbacher and Almost Ugly.)

The Showcase will now be held on the third Saturday of each month, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM. The September 19th lineup includes:

Jeremiah Johns from Lancaster, a quickly rising artist who recently opened for The Reign's 20-year reunion concert in Fullerton (yes, Jeremiah was on the roster for August, but his car broke down en route...);

local poet Jim Cox, a resident of Reche Canyon who has been writing and performing poetry and short stories for more than four decades. Cox will present some of his poetic works with musical accompaniment;

and more artists to be announced!

For more information about the Showcase, including how to line up a slot for an upcoming event, contact us at See you on September 19th!!

Book Club: It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God

Our Artists’ Work B.e.n.c.h. Book Club selection for the third and fourth quarters of 2009 is a profoundly inspirational collection of essays entitled It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. We are spreading the book out over the last half of 2009 because it is a sizeable book with a lot to think about and discuss.

Edited by Ned Bustard and published by Square Halo Books, this marvelous collection discusses subjects like conveying the concepts of good and evil in art, developing a sense of community, beauty, substance, mission, truth and many other issues of importance to the Christian artist. The contributors include:

Ned Bustard, founder of the graphic arts company World’s End Images, author of children’s educational books, and artistic director for Square Halo Books;

Charlie Peacock, award-winning musician, composer, author and producer;

Sandra Bowden, founder of Christians In the Visual Arts, whose vivid artworks were featured in a recent Work B.e.n.c.h. issue;

Makato Fujimura, cross-cultural painter and founder of the International Arts Movement;

Roger Feldman, large-scale multimedia artist;

Edward Knippers, painter renowned for his compassionate but stunning depictions of the human form;

and several other artists across many disciplines. Here’s what the publisher has to say about It Was Good:

“The Christian looks at the world through the eyes of one who has a restored relationship with the Creator, and receives a new vision affecting every area of life—including the creative process. So what does it mean to be a creative individual who is a follower of the creative God? It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God seeks to answer that question through a series of essays which offer theoretical and practical insights into artmaking from a Christian perspective. The Christian worldview is foundational to the approach a believer in Christ takes to making art and artmaking inevitably raises difficult questions. This book offers aid in developing some of the internal tools needed to work through those questions, and so to glorify and enjoy God while trying to speak with a clear and relevant voice to a fallen world.”

Please note that we will be working with the 2007 expanded edition of the book, not the earlier, smaller edition. The updated edition doubles the number of essays and should be considered an essential resource for any Christian artist.

Gaudi's Folly: La Sagrada Familia and the Face of Barcelona

Above: Antoni Gaudi, the architect that helped give Barcelona its distinctive skyline.

Many elements have come together to make Barcelona, Spain, one of the most utterly unique cities in the world. Part of its uniqueness comes from the Catalonian culture, with its own dialect and an almost nationalistic spirit. Part stems from his ancient history as a Roman outpost founded by Hannibal’s father, absorbed into the Kingdom of Aragon and dominated by hostile forces many times over the centuries. The city is one of Europe’s industrial and financial powerhouses. But, perhaps more than anything, Barcelona is notable for the innovative, often downright bizarre creations of one lone architect. One could say that no single structure summarizes the character of Barcelona more than the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família: the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family.

Above: La Sagrada Familia, under construction for 127 years and counting.

Antoni Gaudi, the creator of La Sagrada Familia, was born in a village of southern Catalonia on June 25, 1852. His family had a long history of coppersmithing on both sides, so it was logical that Gaudi would take up some sort of artistic pursuit. As a child he frequently battled bouts of rheumatic fever, remedied by sitting outside and breathing in fresh air while admiring God’s natural creations. Young Antoni’s appreciation for nature and its forms colored his artistic sensibilities, right up through his development as an architect. In 1873 he enrolled at Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura, where his instructors did not know quite what to make of his creations. Reluctantly they issued him the formal title of Architect in 1877, although one of his professors quipped, “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.”

Gaudi’s first professional jobs were fairly simple: some lampposts for a pavilion here, a showcase for a glovemaker there. Then, in 1883, he received a commission to design a home for Manuel Vicens, a local industrialist who operated brick and tile factories. It was a grand opportunity for Gaudi to strut his stuff, and he achieved more than expected. The Casa Vicens is an enormous structure of four stories and 12,500 square feet, made of rough stone and bricks with staggering checkerboards of tilework. Gables and towers, topped with Moorish domes and arches, jut out from the building at odd heights and angles. It was a strange but auspicious debut for the young architect, getting people’s attention without going too far overboard (yet).

Above: Casa Vicens, Gaudi’s first major architectural achievement.

Gaudi found his key patron in Count Eusebi Guell, another industrialist who saw a lot of potential in the young man (although he once told Gaudi, “I don’t like your architecture, I respect it.”) Guell contracted the architect to build some stables and an entry pavilion at the businessman’s palatial compound. Inspired, Guell began to envision something along the lines of what would today be a contemporary gated community. In this case, however, the concept was more of a utopian community for the rich. Unfortunately, Gaudi’s work was not as popular among Barcelona’s wealthy as either man would have liked. Little was done for the project, aside from two houses and a crypt. The two men continued to work together, with Gaudi building the strange Palau Guell as a new residence for the eccentric businessman. The palace was freakish even by today’s standards, surmounted by bright, twisting, bulbous chimneys and wavy rooflines.

Above: the roof of the Palau Guell, with Gaudi’s multicolored spires, rough pebbled towers, and extensive brickwork.

Similar in spirit is Casa Batllo, a home built in 1877 that Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujol remodeled and redesigned from 1905 to 1907. The new façade, inspired by the story of St. George and the Dragon, carries images of the tale including a turret and cross that represent the sword plunged into the dragon. The roofline of the building undulates like a dragon’s spine, and the façade is covered in broken mosaic tiles ranging from green to orange. There are very few straight lines visible on the entire surface of the building, the windows are mostly framed in warped ovals, and the very stonework is sculpted into splashes, drips and tapers.

Above: the façade of Casa Batllo.

In 1882 Gaudi’s religious convictions began to weigh heavily upon his heart. He felt led to build a new monument to God’s glory, one that would be completely unique in the world but reflect the creativity of the Creator. Gaudi began designing La Sagrada Familia as an enormous cathedral with eighteen towers: one each for Mary, Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the four Evangelists of the church. The design includes myriad features out of Christian symbolism, with sheaves of wheat and bunches of grapes to indicate the Eucharist, inscribed words from the liturgy, the traditional symbols of the Gospel writers, and primitive-looking scenes of the Nativity and Passion of Christ. He even put much thought and prayer into the height of the towers; the one representing Jesus will, with its finishing cross on top, measure one meter less than the nearby hill Montjuic because Gaudi did not want his creation to surpass God’s in height.

Above: the eastern façade of La Sagrada Familia, representing the Nativity.

The whole structure of La Sagrada Familia somewhat resembles a melting wax model. Sections of stone seem to ooze like mud from the towers and walls of the cathedral. The spavined arches of the entryway are held up by columns like thighbones and angled as if they will collapse any moment, though they are structurally very sound. The towers, tapered like elegant candles, are perforated with long columns of small windows, and the still-glassless rose windows give an eerie, lacelike effect. It is simply one of the most remarkable architectural achievements in history. Once considered Gaudi’s folly, the church defines the skyline of Barcelona, and much of the Catalonian character.

Since Gaudi’s death in 1926, additional designers have had their say in furthering the work on the church. Josip Maria Subirachs’ design for the Passion Façade reflects some elements of Cubism, a style that departed from Gaudi’s Art Nouveau emphasis and stands out distinctly. As time goes on, La Sagrada Familia continues to develop as a unique landmark of religious architecture and Catalonian creativity. Though work isn’t expected to be completed until 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death, part of La Sagrada Familia is expected to be opened for church services by September 2010.

Above: Subirachs’ Cubist-inspired design for the Passion Façade.

Above: A graphic artist’s fanciful interpretation of what the Sagrada Familia might be like when it is finally completed, sometime around 2026.

Artist Profile: Hugo Distler

A quiz: This Germanic composer, who died at the young age of 34 of mysterious and dubious causes, was a musical prodigy who showed early genius. His innovative compositions are enjoyed worldwide.

Who could this be? If you thought of Mozart, give yourself some credit for knowing music history. But it’s not Mozart, although this particular composer’s life does parallel Mozart’s in some ways (Mozart, by the way, died when he was 36, not 34).

No, the man from the first paragraph was a 20th-century composer named Hugo Distler. He is considered to be one of the century’s greatest liturgical composers, yet he is not very well known today. Distler’s great promise as a musical figure ended in tragedy as the Nazi menace grew.

Distler was born in Nuremberg on June 24, 1908. Like many German children he was brought up on a rich diet of music and the arts, learning the piano at an early age. He was a teenager in the Weimar Republic era, when the full history of German culture was the predominant subject of public education. As Distler studied piano, organ and composition at the Leipzig Conservatory, the Nazis were just beginning to mass and spread out from Bavaria, corrupting the nationalist vision of the Weimar government into a racist toxin.

As German’s finest scientific and artistic minds, from Hindemith to Einstein, were driven out of the country, Distler was young and unknown enough to fly under the Nazi radar. He was placed in charge of the chamber music department at Lubeck Conservatory, an ideal position to explore his new ideas of religious music. He also served as organist in the Church of St. Jacobi in Lubeck, trying out some new material in that venue. In 1933 he married Waltraut Thienhaus and, naively, joined the Nazi Party as many younger Germans who were hopeful for positive change had done.

Above: Distler’s organ piece “Christe, Du Lamm Gottes” (“Christ, You Are the Lamb of God”), performed by Ronald Ijmker at Oude St. Helenachurch in Aalten, Holland.

Distler had a unique vision to change the face of liturgical music in the 20th century, using some modern techniques while retaining the austerity and humility of traditional choral forms. In the spirit of the Biblical “new song”, he sought to develop a modern style for church music that would be accessible to those who did not appreciate the older hymns and monophony. His concepts were best realized in his most popular choral piece, “Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied” (Let the People Sing a New Song). As heard in the recent performance below, Distler magnificently balanced spiritual peacefulness with a modern ear.

Above: Distler’s “Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied” (Let the People Sing a New Song), performed in April 2009 by the Grand View University Choir, Des Moines, Iowa.

Distler often set new words to existing folk songs and Reformation tunes, making a bright new creation out of conventional materials. He used simple pentatonic scales in polyphonic structures (melody and one or more harmonies moving together) and colored his tunes with melismas, sliding streams of vocal inflections similar to those used by contemporary R&B singers like Mariah Carey. His first wide acknowledgment as a promising composer came at the 1935 Musiktage in Kassel, where some of his works were debuted to strong acclaim.

Above: Distler’s “Totentanz” (Dance of Death), performed in 1992 by the Kammerchor Munsterland.

As happened with many German visionaries, Distler and his art were soon labeled as “degenerate” by the Nazi Party. The Brown Shirts not only sought to eliminate the voice of the church in Germany, but also to suppress any and all forms of art that departed from the respected, traditional styles of the Fatherland. As a contemporary liturgical composer, Distler thus became a target on both counts. He was not only oppressed personally, but suffered as his friends and family members were either killed, deported or forced into the Nazi military ranks. Desperate to avoid his own conscription into the army, recognizing the true evils of Nazism as they were, Distler committed suicide on November 1, 1942, by blowing out the pilot light of his gas oven and suffocating himself.

Today Distler is known for a collection of twenty-one existing works, including some multi-part choral pieces, organ partitas, piano duos and an adventurous string quartet. His music, and the story of his life, have continued to endure and inspire the German people and the world. In 1992 he finally received some overdue recognition from the German government, when a 100-pfennig postage stamp was issued in Distler’s honor. His works continue to be performed and recorded around the globe, though not always in his beloved churches.

Here are links to our prior artist profiles:

Debora Iyall
David Carranza, Jr.
Albrecht Durer
Rev. Howard Finster
Sam Maloof
Thomas Blackshear
Dr. He Qi
Sandra Bowden
Laura Kramer (Psalm 23 Jewelry)
Chris Schlarb John Newton
Vincent van Gogh

Artist Profile: Debora Iyall

Above: Debora Iyall. Photo by Billy Douglas.

One of the ubiquitous radio hits of the early 1980s was spawned by a most unlikely band. Romeo Void was a phenomenally strange punk outfit fronted by a chunky, fierce-looking young woman who half-sang, half-snarled their songs. In 1981 they hit the charts with “Never Say Never”, a violent, suggestive anthem of the punk-era sexual revolution. A few years later they followed up with “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)”, a response to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” that leaves the listener wondering whether the girl has an abortion or keeps the baby when she “takes care of business”.

Fast forward to 2009, when elegant-looking Debora Iyall is busily working in her art studio in Citrus Heights, California. Married to sound engineer Patrick Haight, Iyall still carries a bit of that punk flair but, by and large, isn’t the type of lady you’d have expected to howl about sex with old men. She has become one of the most respected visual artists and art instructors in the state today, and has a firm connection with the Inland Empire.

In 1954, Debora Kay Iyallwahawa was born of Cowlitz Native American heritage in Soap Lake, Washington. She was brought up in Fresno and attended the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1970s. Iyallwahawa experimented with poetry, sound, performance and visual arts, sometimes incorporating Native American references into her works. Her friends at the school included musicians Peter Woods, Jay Derrah and Frank Zincavage, who talked the young artist into forming a band with them. She trimmed her surname down to Iyall (pronounced like “Hi, y’all”) and became the frontwoman of Romeo Void. Inspired by then-huge British bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four, the band added saxophonist Benjamin Bossi to bring a free-jazz flavor to their infectious, hammering music.

Romeo Void recorded their first album, It’s a Condition, for the local 415 Records label, home to other Bay Area punkers like Translator, Wire Train and Red Rockers. The record was packed with powerful songs about the denial of emotion, using sex as escape, and the hardships of modern life. On “White Sweater” Iyall muses about the clothes her sister wore when she committed suicide, while “Myself to Myself” (video below) speaks of withdrawing from society.

Cars frontman Ric Ocasek got wind of the album while on tour and invited the band to his studio in Boston. Under his producer’s hand Romeo Void recorded the EP Never Say Never, which was released on Columbia Records and gave them their first major national exposure. On tour the band’s brand of spectacle, with their oddball saxophone and portly, ferocious frontwoman, earned them a sizeable audience. There was, quite simply, nothing else like them on the market.

Romeo Void continued to record and tour into the mid-1980s. Benefactor, their 1982 album, kept up the punk mode of the first releases, but in 1984 they went in a more accessible direction with Instincts. Bossi’s saxophone was less harsh and Iyall’s singing became more melodic as well. Her anger was tempered by resignation and perhaps even a sense of hope. Despite reaching the Top 40 with “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)”, the band suffered internal tensions and broke up in 1985.

Debora Iyall recorded her only solo album, Strange Language, the following year for Columbia. It didn’t fare well in the marketplace, due more to changing public tastes than to the vivid performances. She took a step back from the music business and returned to the visual arts, becoming an acclaimed painter, printmaker and instructor. For more than a decade Iyall taught art at the Palm Desert satellite campus of Cal State San Bernardino and at the 29 Palms Creative Center and Gallery, holding regular exhibits of her own works and those of her students. She came back in touch with her Native American heritage at this point, working those references into her prints while embracing the beauty of the Desert Southwest. At times she presented workshops as an artist-in-residence in San Bernardino, creating pieces like the one shown below, “San B Nights”. Of this piece Iyall says, “I wanted to show a narrative work done in a monochromatic color scheme, that may be considered ‘tight’ and is appropriate for high school. I wanted to present an evocative four-directions composition with radiant lines around a portrait. Beyond my intentions it reflects an essence of my reality.”

Above: Debora Iyall, “San B Nights”, acrylic.

Iyall’s specialties include monotypes, a process that produces a single print from a flat painted or inked plate, and relief prints, in which the raised surfaces of a carved or incised block are inked or painted to produce a print. She has created a number of strikingly beautiful monotypes in the subtle palettes of the Southwest Desert, as well as many monochrome and two-tone relief prints.

Above: Debora Iyall, "Sky/Mountain", monotype, 2005, 29 Palms Creative Center

From 2006 to 2008, Iyall worked as an art instructor for the Navajo Nation in Arizona, teaching young Native American students to express their heritage, spirituality and life experiences through visual and performing arts. In 2009 she and Haight moved to Citrus Heights when he obtained a teaching position in audio engineering at Pinnacle College. Iyall is presently continuing to create artworks, teaching as a private instructor, and seeking a more regular teaching position in the area.

Iyall has continued to make music as well. In 1999 she formed Knife in Water, a duo with guitarist Peter Dunne. In 2004 Romeo Void got back together for an acclaimed episode of VH1’s series “Bands Reunited”. In 2006, while completing her master’s degree in art at Portland’s Lewis and Clark College, Iyall began collaborating with local musicians in Nvr Say Nvr, revisiting Romeo Void’s music and other original and cover material. September 2009 marks her tour as a solo artist alongside Wire Train and Translator, two reunited bands from the old days of 415 Records. She continues to be a dynamic, multi-faceted, always engaging creative artist.

Above: relief print, inspired by a Native American full moon gathering at Corn Springs Wash in the Chuckwalla Mountains of Riverside County, northeast of the Salton Sea.

Here are links to our prior artist profiles:

Hugo Distler
David Carranza, Jr.
Albrecht Durer
Rev. Howard Finster
Sam Maloof
Thomas Blackshear
Dr. He Qi
Sandra Bowden
Laura Kramer (Psalm 23 Jewelry)
Chris Schlarb John Newton
Vincent van Gogh