Monday, March 31, 2008
Our third Bible artist interview is with Diana Shimon. Diana, who is based in Israel, and is a regular reader of the Bible illustration blog, has very kindly taken time out of her very busy day, as both a Bible artist and mother of two young children, to take part in the following interview. Diana has been illustrating a children's 'hebrew version' of the Bible for the last 15 years!
Diana, what can you tell us about the children's Bible that you've been working on, and what will be its title?
I am working on the Children's Bible in modern Hebrew for youth, it's called 'The Testimony'. Right now, I am working intensively on the third volume –'The Prophets'. For years we dreamed of a Bible for children with authentic illustrations that would be true to the times, geography and cultures of the Bible, accurately depicting architecture, ritual and landscape. Not just a Bible story book, but a faithful edition of the scriptures, with attractive pictures to serve as a stepping-stone toward our children reading and studying the full word of God for themselves. Now the dream is beginning to be realized.
How long have you been working on this Bible, and when should it be finished?
I have been working on the Children's Bible Project since 1992. The whole of the Bible is being illustrated, Habbakuk and Job, Zephaniah and Jude, 1 and 2 Timothy and the Song of Songs, Daniel and Leviticus. There is not a book in scripture that has not been illustrated, including many that would have not been illustrated in modern times, certainly not in full color and to such a high standard. I did around 1000 illustrations for 5 volumes and around 1000 figures for the genealogy tree in 1 Chronicals. All the illustartions are ready, we are just waiting for the completion of the text. We plan to finish the project completely by 2013.
How do you produce your Bible pictures, are they watercolors?
I work in gouache. The illustrations are meant to explain the facts, so the process of devising the illustrations is taken very seriously. The style is realistic in order to convey a sense of reality rather than fantasy. There's a fictional atmosphere conveyed today in so many Bible illustrations. The gouache colors are sharp and emphatic and the illustrations are true to the topography of Israel and to its ancient flora and fauna as well as to its various material and religious cultures.
I remember reading some time ago that you are trying to be as accurate as possible when illustrating Bible clothing etc. How did you go about researching this?
I have the aid of professional archaeological, linguistic and Biblical scholars and will be consulting a control-body of young readers.
What have you found most difficult about illustrating the Bible?
I think the 2 Temples, (Solomon's Temple and The Temple from the book of Ezekiel), were the most difficult illustrations. For me the goal was high quality large illustrations with the correct details, sizes and proportions. Some of the details are not clear in the Bible, and some are missed. It was hard to imagine the whole picture.
Diana, you live in Israel now, but where are you from originally?
I was born in the Soviet Union (Soviet Georgia, Tbilissi) in 1967, and grew up during the times of Breznev. I emigrated to Israel with my family in 1990. I have been working in Hagefen Publishing (CWI brunch in Israel) since 1992 as an illustrator and graphic designer. I am married and I have 2 young children aged 6 and 4 years old.
It must be really inspiring actually living in Israel. Have you visited Biblical locations for inspiration?
I came to Israel from the Soviet Georgia at age 22. I had never been in Israel before. I grow up as a painter in my motherland and I absorbed the colors, culture and the beauty of that country. In the beginning, when I started to work on the Children's Bible project in Israel all the Israeli people that I drew looked more like Georgians, and the landscapes were exactly like those in Cavcaz. I understood, that I needed to change everything. I did a special trip around Israel, from the south to the north, I took photos, learned more about it's history, and did many sketches. I still do it even now, after 18 years here!
Have any other Bible artists inspired you?
Yes, of course. I like the art of Jewish artist Abel Pann. I like his attention to detail on Bible costumes and the natural atmosphere of his pictures, also his use of realistic colors.
what advice would you give to an artist illustrating the Bible?
I have a few bits of advice to give an artist illustrating the Bible.
a. Do you plan to illustrate the Bible? Is it on your heart? Pray and ask God to help you!
b. Read the Scriptures again and again. Try to understand every word, and don't miss any small details, sometimes they are very important!
c. Don't use blond hear and blue eyes on Israeli people. They were dark haired people! King David had red hair, not blond!
d. Think about Israel, it's a dry hot desert land! not much water and few big rivers, avoid illustrating green mountains and fields. Use more brown and ocher colors in your palette. It is only a few weeks in the year when we have flowers and green landscapes. By the end of May it is already yellow until December.
e. Go and see the artworks of different Biblical artists and illustrators, look at different photos of the Holy Land in books, websites and on postcards.
Would you say that illustrating the Bible has had an effect on you spiritually?
I think that I have a great privilege! Isn't it amazing to open a workday with a prayer and a chapter from The Bible? I really appreciate it! God is faithful!
Have you always had an interest in the Bible?
I grew up in a family of believers, my father is a pastor. I remember myself talking about God with my friends from a very young age. My grandmother was strong in the faith and I learned from her how to read the Scriptures and how to understand. I remember her old antique Bible with the illustrations of Gustav Dore. Yes, I always had an interest in the Bible.
Where can we purchase a copy of this Bible from when it's published?
'The testimony' Volumes 1,2,3 in modern hebrew will be available from:
Rishon Le Zion,
English version: 'The pilgrim Book of Bible Stories'
Illustrations above are © Diana Shimon/HaGefen Publishing 2008
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview Diana. I can't wait to get a copy of this Bible when it's finished! Over 20 years of hard work will have gone into the production of it. As soon as I know of a publishing date I will re-post all the details.
It's true to say that all of the Bible Artists that I've interviewed so far have found that illustrating the Bible has not been "just another freelance job", it's been a vocation that has consumed them for many years and, in the case of Jeff Anderson, led to a complete change of career!
I'm always on the lookout for Bible illustrators to interview for the B.I.B. So, if you know of one, please get in contact!
Interview with Jeff Anderson
Interview with Keith Neely
Interview with Dr Leen Ritmeyer