Have you ever wondered how I create my ‘Illuminated Expressions” each week? Before embarking on the design I reread the entire parasha. Why reread something I’ve read many times before? In hopes of understanding it on a deeper level. Although the 54 parashiyot (Torah portions) do not change from year to year, I do, and as I continue to grow, my relationship to the text changes. Each year I try to discover new meanings in the familiar biblical tales.
After refreshing my memory of the parasha, I read it again actively looking for words that call to my soul. Sometimes they practically jump off the page– other times I need to read through multiple times to find a verse that inspires me.
Once I narrow down the verse(s) I want to illuminate, I read the parasha a third time scanning for possible imagery. I make sketches of the concepts that come to mind before embarking on the final art and lettering. Over the past decade I have honed a hybrid physical/digital process, drawing, lettering and painting the art components by hand, then composing the finished piece in PhotoShop. The process of doing this work on a regular basis has allowed me to grow both artistically and spiritually. It’s one of my most cherished spiritual practices.
With that background, let me give you a glimpse into the specific process I used to illustrate this week’s Parasha, Ki Tisa, which offers some of the richest imagery in the Torah. I thought about depicting the Tent of Meeting, Betzalel’s craftmanship, the golden calf, Moses on Mount Sinai, and the broken and replacement stone tablets. For text I debated between Exodus 31:3, “I have imbued him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship; Exodus 33:21, “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand on the rock” and Exodus 34:6, which lists the ’13 Attributes of Mercy’.
As you can see from the four sketches, I tried to incorporate Mount Sinai, the tablets (both whole and broken), and a heart to represent God’s Chesed– loving kindness. In the end I decided to illuminate the 13 Attributes of Mercy, and opted for an abstract mountain so the words would create the focal point of the design.
I am trying to come up with a name for this process, and would value your suggestions! At the moment my working title is “Illuminated Expressions”, and I’m developing a class to teach the process. If you (or a group you know) are interested in learning, please leave a comment or PM me, and I’ll get you some information.
As always, you are welcome to share.