Growing up, Ashley Bloom, a London-based illustrator, saw some great examples of illustrated children’s Bibles, but often felt frustrated that the depictions didn’t do the actual stories justice. “When drawings were too childish and didn’t communicate reality, or where prophecy illustrations looked very amateurish, I felt it took away from the sense of realism and believability,” he says. That drove me to study illustration and graphic design at university, and ever since, I have always tried to use visual communication as a way of bringing the Bible to life.”
Taking on Bible-based projects has allowed Bloom to strengthen his relationship to Scripture. “In illustrating the story of David, I tried to interpret it as a graphic novel. In my effort to illustrate the story as accurately as possible, I began analyzing small parts of the text that I had previously overlooked.” As a youth leader in his local congregation, using art to convey biblical truth is an important educational method. “Whenever I teach young people, even if they’re not artistic themselves, I still make them illustrate things like prophecies based on the text, because it causes them to question details they might otherwise gloss over, and it increases their understanding,” he says.
Bloom has a unique way of looking at the notion of placing Christ at the center of his art. “There are two elements to it,” he says. “One part is that it’s actually as important what I don’t draw as what I do draw. There are some things that I’ve committed to not try to depict. One of them is the face of Christ Himself. That’s just my understanding of how it relates to the commandment of not making graven images and realizing the reasoning behind that is to keep us from doing a disservice to something that we could never accurately portray. So there are certain scenes that I’ve committed to not actually draw, and it’s because I think, as an artist, your level of reverence for your subject matter has to come across.”
In the creative and emotive world of the arts, inspiration is often taken from the culture, the times, and the way in which the world moves. But for the artist who places Christ at the center of his or her work, how does one juxtapose Christ with culture? “I try to make sure my culture doesn’t influence my work too much,” says Bloom. “I recently worked on a T-shirt design for a Christian client who wanted to make a line of shirts that appeal to young people outside the church. So I drew a few superhero characters looking like they are about to take on an enemy, but with Jesus’ hand just visible, raised in front of them saying, ‘It’s all right, guys. I’ve got this.’” That kind of relevance, reaching out to people and meeting them where they are, if done well, can be effective.”
Daniel Bruneau is creative director for Adventist Review Ministries.