Clown Series Book Cover Q & A

The author of the Clown book series answers questions about book-cover design.

Q: You create your own book covers?

A: Yes. I love doing it. In seminary, I learned to do rice-paper collage and I’m just crazy about it. Each cover is a collage.

Q: Collage. What exactly is that?

A: Quite simply, collage is affixing materials to a surface with artistic intent. I paint rice paper with rich colors, cut and tear the paper into the shapes, and affix the shapes to illustration board using watered-down glue. Sometimes I add other items as well: beads or threads, whatever gives the needed effect.

Q:  What is it about collage that you’re crazy about?

A: It’s not an easy art form, that’s for sure. Glue gets stuck to my fingers, rather than to the surface; the illustration board bows up with all the water applied, so I have to flip it over and wet down the other side. Getting the shapes I need is a challenge. But collage is very forgiving. When I mess up, I simply peel off what didn’t work, shed a few tears, and start over. And with all the water, it’s a baptism every time I do collage.

Q: Do you have a theme for your book covers?

A: A book-cover-design conference I attended favored  simplicity for book covers. And I get that: I did one book cover that way because the book’s theme is stark. But for the Clown series, I wanted a spectrum of rich colors—and I wanted intrigue.

I love book covers that puzzle me: ones that seem incongruous, then, when I’m midway into the story there’s that “Ah-ha!” moment. Each Clown book features a rendering (related to that book) of the Clown’s three primary-colored orbs. I hope readers enjoy getting to the “Ah-ha!” moment with each one of them. And, of course, reading the stories within the story.



From the Margins

Soul Thirst

Each week of Lent, I’ll share a “personal bio” of a biblical woman. The Bible I love dedicates full chapters to some of these women while others are rendered nameless.

Why this Lenten practice? Two reasons. First, the Bible’s narrative is largely told through men about men, with women playing supportive roles. As a woman, I wonder about the lives of these long-ago sisters. What were these stories, seen through their eyes?

But it’s larger than that, which brings me to Reason 2. Due to their gender and culture, these women lived at the margins. Choices made by the Powerful wrenched women from their homes, labeled them pariahs, stole their dignity and, sometimes, their lives. Looking into and through these women’s eyes, we see in our culture’s marginalized (perhaps it’s you, perhaps it’s me) full souls deserving respect, freedom, and love.

As we read of these women, God’s love moves like a thread: weaving our stories into theirs. That thread connects and ennobles us all—all genders, the powerful, the marginalized. We find we can love our neighbors—and ourselves.

Could there be a truth more worthy of Lenten contemplation?

I hope to see you here next week, Feb. 10, on Ash Wednesday, as we share our first story from the margins.

Living Godward Collage

Corinne Ware Memorial (transparent small)

In Memory of Dr. Corinne Ware

The art piece, Living Godward, honors the life and ministry of Dr. Corinne Ware. The overall design is the Celtic Threefold: a symbol of female power. A woman of strong intellect and resourcefulness, Dr. Ware brought the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest a program that offered a class in Celtic Spirituality. The class made a deep impact on this piece’s creator. The Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, powers the Threefold from the symbol’s hub. The Holy Spirit was crucial to Dr. Ware’s theology and to the practice of spiritual direction to which she was committed.

From the hub spiral three arms. The left arm depicts a planting scene inspired by Dr. Ware’s explication of the “Parable of the Soils” in her book, St. Benedict on the Freeway: A Rule for Life for the 21st Century (16-17). Each of the four soils—hard trodden, rocky, weed-ridden, and good—is depicted. Bluebonnets grow from the good soil, reminiscent of Dr. Ware’s love for and contributions to the state of Texas. The four seeds also represent the four spiritual types, which Dr. Ware explored for her doctoral work and which she later published as a book (Discover Your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth).

The right spiral depicts a basin and towel. Midwifery, a spiritual direction metaphor explored in Dr. Ware’s spiritual direction course, employs these elements (Guenther, Holy Listening 81-108). The basin and towel represent also the daily practice of servanthood advocated by St. Benedict of Nursia and lived out by Dr. Ware. The elements and the setting are, therefore, earthy, homey, and grounded.

The top circle represents St. Benedict on the Freeway ’s theme: a recollected life is possible even on today’s frantic freeway. The wide thoroughfare also depicts Dr. Ware’s concept of “living Godward”: a spacious metaphor for the life of faith. Those who turn their eyes and life intentions Godward, have before them a range of journey choices. The spirals encircling the Threefold whimsically lift off the page, a tribute to Dr. Ware’s quirky sense of humor.

Through the black oversheet, the viewer glimpses spurts of color that promise more beneath. Such is the mystery of God (apophatic theology): much remains beyond our knowing, but at the heart of the enigma is Love (kataphatic theology) drawing us, even with all our unanswered questions, Godward. The darkness is holy, potent, and filled with possibility.

Above all, the piece expresses deepest gratitude for a woman of wisdom, compassion, creativity, astuteness, and wit who lived a daily, real faith— and by example challenged us to do the same.

Dark Night Collage

Dark Night

Dark NIght: Mixed-Media Collage

The mixed-media collage’s overall design depicts the Dark Night’s cyclical nature: successive nights and dawns accompany our entire life’s journey. The waves illustrate our sense of drowning in God’s sovereignty. Menacing, cold figures emerge beneath these waves, enticing us to give in to despair: one such “un-god” is depression. But leaping, resurrected, from the waves are souls who have emerged from the Night golden and grateful—beacons to the sufferers below.

The background, though dark, is not hollow of color—hues interplay in every section, for the Night is many-shaded and filled with marvelous diversity. It is the darkness of mystery and wonder. Two roads lead upward from the bottom portion of the collage. The first, coming in from the lower left edge, is a moving sidewalk. The other, coming up from the bottom of the piece, is a vacant house. I explicate these images in When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion.

The egg-shaped white sepulcher, housing both Dark-Night tomb and Dark-Night flame, is the center of action. The repeat flame above the sepulcher depicts a purgative Dark Night that awaits the sufferer. The sufferer within feels herself alone, off-balance, and tormented. She fears she has become one with the menacing figures that torment her, but her darkness is just a shadow—could she but see the transformation occurring in her soul, she would realize a golden glow is beginning already to radiate through her. She is, even now, becoming one with the One who blessed her with the Night.