Last week I read a book by Austin Kleon, an artist and writer, called Show Your Work. I’ve been reading a lot about sketchnoting, doodling and art recently, and I’ve heard Austin’s name mentioned quite a few times by other artists. One of the things Austin is known for is his Newspaper Blackout art and poetry. If you haven’t seen his stuff, take a look at his site, because it’s very cool. So cool, that in the spirit of another book by Austin, Steal Like an Artist, I decided to steal his idea, but make it my own.
And so, I grabbed a Sharpie and my Bible.
Then I decided it might be better to make a photocopy of a page from my Bible, rather than taking a Sharpie to the actual Bible. And then I thought that naturally, I’d turn to Leviticus for inspiration. Here is the initial text:
Tell your brother Aaron that he cannot come whenever he wants into the holy area inside the inner curtain, to the front of the cover that is on the chest, or else he will die, because I am present in the cloud above the cover. No, but Aaron must enter the holy area as follows: with a bull from the herd as a purification offering and a ram as an entirely burned offering. Aaron must dress in a holy linen tunic and wear linen undergarments on his body. He must tie a linen sash around himself and wrap a linen turban around his head. These are holy clothes—Aaron will first bathe his body in water and then put them on. He will take from the Israelite community two male goats for a purification offering and one ram for an entirely burned offering.
The above image, which I call “Leviticus 16:3” is the first Bible Blackout I did. I just spent some time reading through the text, being aware of which words were jumping out at me for whatever reason…and then I drew a box around those words. When I was done, I blacked out all of the other words from the text. When I was done, I had come up with: “I am present in holy water.”
Then I scanned the image, played around with it a little bit in Photoshop, and came up with something that I think is a pretty cool piece of art. Now, one question that I’ve gotten asked already on Facebook relates to copyright law. And let me be the first to say that I know next to nothing about copyright law, but found Austin’s NY Times piece, “Copyright Rules and the Art they Inspire” pretty interesting. Apparently if you black out at least 75% or more of the original text, then it could be argued that your new work is “transformative.”
But really…can you imagine a Bible publishing company suing a pastor?
Well, I suppose I could…
As I’m getting into drawing and art, I’m finding this to be a very fun way to produce some very cool art, but also a really interesting way to engage scripture, and as a pastor, I’m always looking for ways that I can get people to do that. So, I’d encourage you to try it and share a link to your photo in the comments below.
Find your favorite passage of scripture, or a random one from Leviticus, and sit down with it and see what stands out to you. You just might be surprised what you end up with.