This piece was created for the 2018 Peoria Illinois Community Festival of Nativities, where I was asked to be the guest artist. This no-cost interfaith event features hundreds of nativity sets beautifully displayed as well as live music. The director loved my “Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him” piece and asked if I would create something in keeping with their 2018 theme, “Hallelujah!” in order to have it printed as a nine foot banner. The dimensions of the banner determined the size ratio I used (the prints of this piece are not a standard size). I pulled out my own marked up copy of Handel’s Messiah to choose the phrases that appear in the artwork. I initially typed and printed out these phrases to get a sense of where I wanted them and what size and style they should be on my 26X45″ page. I worked on a piece of gridded drafting vellum to get the calligraphy and illustrations positioned just right. I did a color trial with Prismacolor pencils on tracing paper to get an idea of how to position the colors throughout. One tricky thing about layering the colors on this piece is that I had to do the lettering and illustrations in acrylic so that when I put a watercolor wash over them, they would not move. Another difficulty was working on such a big piece of paper; I had to make sure that I did not crease it on the edges of my light table. It seems that everyone wants to know how long something like this takes, so I will tell you: 63 hours.


Giclée print, 18×32”
Limited edition of 500; each print is signed and numbered out of 500 by the artist
Original is 26×45”
Acrylic ink, watercolor, gouache, and Micron Pigma pens on 140 lb. Arches hot press paper
Text is from the Bible and used in Handel’s Messiah

A print purchase includes an explanation sheet of all the symbols used in the piece to enhance its meaning, which are:

  • Grapes: the blood of Christ; grapes used to make Eucharistic wine.
  • Water: life-giving and cleansing; represents baptism and purity; impossible for man to control.
  • Trinity knot [Triquetra]: ideogram representing the Godhead. Mandorla (almond-shaped frames or aureolas) have surrounded deity in art across countries and centuries. The mandorla shapes represent God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and are formed by arcs of three interlocking aureolas that emphasize unity and eternity.
  • Palms: the victory of the spirit over the flesh; Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-13).
  • Peacock feathers: immortality and Christ’s resurrection; from the ancient belief that peacock flesh never decayed.
  • Evergreen boughs: immortality and eternal life, as the needles stay green throughout the harshness of winter.
  • Red [featured color of the title of this piece and the Messiah banner]: the blood of Christ.
  • Wheat: abundance; the staff of life; bread, and therefore the body of Christ; Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:48).
  • Hyssop: purification, cleansing. Hyssop was a plant used in purification rites by ancient Hebrews.
  • Alpha and Omega [hidden behind “Counsellor”]: first and last letters of the Greek alphabet signifying the eternal nature of Christ (Revelation 1:8).
  • Pomegranate: Christian symbol of the resurrection and hope of eternal life; the fruit broken open is symbolic of the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.
  • Fish: fish made by drawing two intersecting arcs are said to have been used by early persecuted Christians as a secret symbol of identification. Also, the Greek word for fish (ichthys) forms an acronym for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”
  • Olive branch: ancient symbol of peace; from the account of Noah when a dove brought back an olive branch to the ark (Genesis 8:11).
  • Holly: pointed leaves represent Christ’s crown of thorns; red berries represent the blood He shed.
  • Nails: used to hang Jesus on the cross.
  • Sun: life, energy, force, strength, and rebirth. Jesus said, . . . I am the light of the world . . . (John 8:12). Also, the power of light to shine through darkness, as good will shine over evil.
  • Circle: eternity, unity, perfection, unchanging, wholeness, infinity.
  • Square: the material world (four corners of the earth, four seasons, four compass points, four elements); stable, orderly, a firm foundation.
  • Circle inside a square: the incorporation of heaven (circle = eternity) into earth (square = material world).
  • Interlocking squares [eight-pointed star]: the number eight is associated with resurrection, new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal.
  • Eight-sided forms were believed to mediate between the symbolism of the square (earth) and circle (heaven), as Christ is the great mediator between heaven and earth, man and God.

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