Posted 11 Jan 2012
Yesterday (10/01/2011) I got an email from a company that is interested in publishing my Easter Activity Book 01 (available before Easter) but there was a problem… they would only publish them if I changed my artwork, & turned the Jesus figure, so that no-one could see his face. In previous cartoons that I have drawn, I have shown the face of Jesus; it seems appropriate for me to do so, since I enjoy a close relationship with God & not to do so would be to diminish the impact of the illustration.
I wonder if this concern/request is based on some people’s understanding of the 2nd of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus, chapter 19, which says (in the Amplified Bible version), ‘You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ Historically this commandment has been interpreted to mean that we should not show the face of Jesus in any image, film, illustration, etc. Certainly I wouldn’t want to willingly cause anyone to stumble in their faith, because of a cartoon I have drawn.
After getting the email, I started to re-draw the book cover cartoon I had begun to colour up, but then something inside me just kept welling up & really bothering me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was greatly troubled by this request, so much so that I found tears streaming down my face, as I re-work the cover design! At the time I wasn’t sure why that request bothered me so much. I talked the matter over with my wife when she came home from work, & we prayed about it – always a good idea!
It could be argued, “It’s just a cartoon!” & “It’s just a cartoon activity book – what’s the big deal!?” And on the face of it, that sounds true… but I have discovered that this matter of whether I show the face of Jesus or not is actually a LOT more important to me than I realised… hence all the tears! I hope I am not making a mountain out of a molehill here… I don’t think that I am!
I now realise that it was the concept of turning away the face of Jesus in my cartoons which was deeply bothering me. Until yesterday I didn’t really know just how important this issue was to me. I have been trying so hard & for so long to “see” the face of Jesus myself, in my Christianity, that someone asking me to turn His face away in my artwork was deeply disturbing. I’m not averse to criticism of my work, in fact, I welcome it, since I can often improve my artistry by that means! But the fact that someone would ask me to change my artwork in that particular way (turning the face of Jesus away from me?) really bothered me, & was something, in the end, that I simply couldn’t do… I guess it was synonymous with Jesus turning his face away from me/us, which He has promised in the Bible that He will never do.
I realise that yesterday I was at a very important crossroads, in terms of the inter-relationship between my Christian faith & my artistic journey. This is the first time someone has placed a decision before me, which means I have to choose between either continuing to pursue my artistic integrity or choosing what is a financially expedient route to take (changing the artwork.)
I have come to believe that I don’t think it is blasphemous or wrong to show the face of Jesus, in fact, not to show the loving, accepting, kind expressions on Jesus’ face in my cartoons would be to remove the central message of them: the acceptance of the Christ, & Him reaching out to mankind, through the Bible.
In a way I am glad that this “test” of my conviction has come up, even though it caused a lot of upset, tears & distress! I realise now that I am convinced of a deeply held belief that it is imperative that I continue on this uncompromising artistic course of action where I show the full face of Jesus the Christ in my cartoons & merchandise.
This morning I have sent a long email to the company, outlining why I do not feel it is appropriate for me to change the artwork. I await to see the outcome. There may well be negative financial connotations to my decision, but we are willing to accept them, if it means that I/we can look our Saviour Jesus the Christ in the eye & know that we held on to our Christian convictions.
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