Friday, July 8, 2016

Painting the Face of God

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Sometimes sacred artists are at a serious disadvantage.

Painting a face is work enough. Some art students avoid modeling the human face on paper and canvas as if it were The Plague. Mastering the properties of light and applying them to the nuances of a likeness takes years of education and practice. Sometimes even that much doesn’t help.

But what of the face of Christ? What kind of a challenge is that?

Sure, He is a man in every sense, so it follows that the same approach to recreating a visage of the average man can be applied in like manner to our Savior. Jesus Christ, however, is also true God in every sense, and therein lies the challenge.
“The King of Kings Chancel Piece”
(In progress) Edward Riojas.

Someone recently asked me of one of my sacred pieces, “Where is the light source?” A simple enough question. Whether the person was genuinely unclear or whether they were trying to find fault and increase their own artistic superiority, the question got me thinking – and not about getting more art credits under my belt.

How does one paint the face of God? The same that once killed stupid folks in a fleeting glance is now often what I stare at for hours at a time. How can the principals of light and shadow be applied to the Creator of those same principles? How can one come even remotely close to representing the visage of He who is Light of Light; He who shines with uncreated light; He in whom there is no shadow of turning; He who is the Light of the world?

Self-preservation can be a useful thing. Otherwise, I might go mad being consumed by the enormity and impossibility of portraying an infinite, multi-dimensional Christ and confining Him on a finite, two-dimensional surface. I would die the same death of Old Testament unfortunates when faced with the face of God.

Yet The Lord is gracious. I am not destroyed; He preserves me. The miracle – beyond being preserved by the Lord – is that He gently guides my hands with His own, even without my knowledge, to show what I otherwise cannot, and by it reminds those who view my work that His face is infinitely worth the seeking.

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