When it came time to paint John the Baptist, I really wasn’t that worried. I had been painting the image of Jesus, which holds many more expectations and preconceived notions. I remember some of the movies, and I looked through images of how other artists have portrayed John. I read the Bible, and other than the animal skin, his diet, and where he lived, everything else is left up to artist’s interpretation. No problem.

I jumped right in, and after a bit, I stopped, and was rather amused I had painted Saddam Hussein as John the Baptist. Uh, boy. I guess too much scowl, and the mustache and the nose. I made that smaller and went a more “mountain man” look.

john_baptist_02The problem with that is that sometimes it needs to be less “realistic” and more artistic. My guess is a first century man living in the wilderness was probably filthy, and not the best smelling fella around. But my job as an illustrator is to deliver a picture that’s pleasing as well as in the “neighborhood” of possibility. That’s why when people ask what sort of artist I am, I usually go with imaginative realist. I paint what’s not there. I have little or no visual reference.

john_baptist_03Ok, so less mountain, homeless man look is needed. I need to shorten the hair and do something different with the clothing. I give him a haircut. I feel like I’m playing play-dough barbershop with paint! Wait a minute, now he looks like General Ulysses S Grant. I then have to figure out why he looks like Grant. The hair and nose stand out most, so I change that.

john_baptist_04The final image of John the Baptist, I can assure you, looks nothing like what John the Baptist actually looked like. It’s my picture. But it’s an interpretation. In the end I wanted it to look like the rough guy in your church, who is a deacon or usher, but is way out of place wearing that ill-fitted blazer and out of date tie. You can tell by his hands he’s more at home in the “deer woods” or working in the yard.


About the Author Kyle

Kyle Douglas Henry (born 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an american illustrator. He works in a realistic manner, usually in oils, in the tradition of the illustrators of the early 20th century. His work is characterized by strong, dramatic lighting and mood and visual story telling. Henry studied art at Pensacola Christian College under Brian Jekel, receiving a BS in Commercial Art in 1998. It was while in college, he worked as an illustrator for A Beka Book. Henry has completed illustrations for companies such as DaySpring Cards, Dicksons Gifts, Anchor Wallace, Barbour Books, JourneyForth Press, Howard Books, and Moonstone Books. His art is in the private collection of notables such as Kansas City Royals owner, David Glass.

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