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like the rough guy in your church, who is a deacon or usher, but is way out of place wearing that ill-fitted blazer and out of date tie.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 Henry

I grew up in the Atlanta, Georgia area (small town called Lithonia to be exact) and started drawing at an early age. After high school, I entered the commercial art program at Pensacola Christian College. There I was able to work as an illustrator in the art studio of A Beka Book, where I worked for 3 years. After graduation I pursued a career of freelance illustration and continued learning my craft by studying with great artists and illustrators both past and present. I am fascinated by light and how it relates to edges and color. My goal is that each of my paintings capture the emotion of the subject, and not just the mere superficial facts. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

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