Religious Freedom: My Top 10 Potential Clients I Would Discriminate Against for Religious Reasons

 

Now Hiring-blg

I probably should’ve consulted with a lawyer before posting this, but, oh well. I thought I’d go ahead and out myself in advance since it looks as though I’m going to eventually get sued for discrimination anyway.

So I’m outing myself as a guy who enjoys discriminating. I enjoy discriminating in all aspects of life: private and public, religious and secular, work and leisure. I think this amounts to a practical definition of integrity. In fact, I think I sleep more peacefully at night because I practice discrimination, for religious reasons, on a regular basis. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about this even a tiny bit.

Incidentally – You practice discrimination too, when you do things like eat, shop, vote, or choose a career.

My little journey

When I started my art studio business several years ago I figured one of the perks would be that I could take on work that would be personally meaningful to me. I had just left a large corporation, Hallmark Inc., and, while it was a great place to work, I looked forward to putting my creative energies into projects and causes that I could fully and enthusiastically support. I guess I was under the naïve impression that I could enter a profession with the aim of helping to make the world a better place.

But making the world a better place requires freedom to discriminate. Below, I lay out my Top Ten Potential Clients to whom I would gladly refuse graphic design/illustration services, and my religious reasons why.

My underlying religious principle for discrimination

Here’s my bottom line: I don’t want to be a party to participating in projects that I believe will cause harm to, or exploit people. If possible, I would like to do work that is life-affirming, or is at least harmless, in my judgment.

I know…I sound like a crazy person.

This raises a daunting question: Are we all in agreement as to what will harm and exploit people?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. We must each make those judgments ourselves. Sometimes we will disagree. I do my best to use the example and teaching of Jesus when I make my judgments. You may have a different approach. I reserve the right to disagree with your different approach, and I respect your right to disagree with mine. This is sometimes known as “the free marketplace of ideas,” or, “putting on our big boy pants.”

I don’t really want to post my list. It’s kind of personal. I’d rather it remain private, since I’m pretty sure I will now offend some readers, friends, and family members who may feel personally insulted by my choices. But, in no particular order, here’s how my list shakes out. I’m not judging you. This is just my list. We don’t have to agree. Settle down. I still love you. I’m not the boss of you. It takes all the colors to make a rainbow. Okay? No hate here. But I gotta give my reasons. So here goes. Please forgive the broad generalizations for the sake of brevity:

MY TOP 10

  • 1) Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Bayer chemical – I think I see sufficient reason to conclude that genetically modified crops hurt people. The safety of the world’s food supply is a fundamental concern, obviously. The original rational for genetically modifying food may have included humanitarian reasons, but those reasons have not panned out. A sound case can be made that GMOs are bad for human health and the environment. If you disagree, I don’t hate you. I just don’t want to work for these people.
  • 2) The pharmaceutical industry – I’m not anti-drug. I’m drug averse, meaning that, whenever possible, I think prevention is a better approach to dealing with disease than promoting the ingesting of chemicals to manage disease. Personally, I’m extremely thankful for drug technology that was available the few times I’ve needed it. However, I also think I see sufficient reason to conclude that drug companies often push drugs in order to make money, even when they are unnecessary, or even harmful, to people. Knowing this, I generally wouldn’t be comfortable helping these companies with my services. My conscience would bug me. If you work for such a company, I don’t hate you. This is just my decision.
  • 3) The soft drink/junk food/candy industry – This stuff hurts people; especially kids. It’s the cheery marketing and graphic design (my field) that sells this stuff and leads people to think that it can be classified as food. Plus it tastes “good,” so we all voluntarily eat it. If I could catch a leprechaun and make him obliterate all of the Coca Cola in the world, I would do it. And I would blame the leprechaun. But I can’t do that. If you work in this industry, I’m not judging you. Plus, I sincerely hope you don’t become diabetic or die early of heart disease. Actually, I might enjoy working for these people, if only they would let me direct their marketing. I would go for honest packaging, like this:

Mtn dew-blg

 

  • 4) Religions and religious cults with which I disagree – Sorry, but I think some religions hurt and exploit people. Sometimes for money and power, sometimes out of sincere belief. It doesn’t matter. I get to choose not to work for religious groups that I feel are doing this, just like I get to refuse to work for non-religious groups that do this. If you’re my friend and you belong to such a group, you probably don’t know that I think this about your religion, because I generally don’t go around telling people that their religion sucks. If you want my opinion, you’ll probably have to ask for it. Unless I happen to have blogged about your religion. Which is possible.
  • 5) The pornography Industry – I would be honored to refuse service to the porn industry. I would die a tiny bit happier. Pornography preys on the lowest, animal desires of people, often becoming addictive, and hurting human relationships in a variety of ways. Furthermore, pedophiles use porn to introduce and normalize child-sex in the minds of children. Pornography supports, is fed by, and feeds the sex trafficking “industry.” Porn fundamentally contradicts the biblical concept of what a sexual relationship was designed to be. If you work in the porn industry, or are addicted to porn, I don’t hate you, but I hope you get help.
  • 6) Left wing politicians – I would not agree to provide services for a left wing political campaign because I think left wing politics are often hurtful and exploitative. This is a big can of worms and space here is limited. I’ll just summarize by recognizing that right wing politics are also often hurtful and exploitative. But in principle, conservatism is less harmful than liberal “progressivism” because progressivism by definition seeks to achieve its (theoretically good) ends by means of government. And government always equals force. I prefer pluralism, freedom, and Constitutional government. This is a religious value because freedom respects the dignity and value of every person. If you’re a progressive, I don’t hate you. I actually assume that we probably want many of the same things. I just disagree with your means of getting us there.
  • 7) Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry – In my opinion, the Torah has given humankind the only transcendent basis for assigning innate, objective value to all human life. It is this: All human beings bear the image of God. By contrast, if we make the value of human life dependent upon utilitarian factors such as convenience, usefulness, sentience, independence, size, age, functionality, icky-ness, ideology, or other such qualities, we are on a slippery slope where human worth is decided by to who has power. The transcendent basis for the sanctity of life is then lost. An abortion ends the life of an innocent, developing human being. This is a fact. If you are pro-abortion-on-demand, or if you have had an abortion, I don’t hate you. But I’m still not working for these people.
  • 8) Clients that promote materialist/evolutionary beliefs as an agenda – The theory that we exist merely as the result of mindless, accidental, natural processes is a horrible starting place for human interaction, in addition to being technically unscientific. Plus, evolutionary dogma has a terrible track record including institutionalized racism, eugenics, belief in over 100 vestigial organs in the human body, junk DNA, the creation of GMOs, evolutionary psychology, coercive collectivism, postgenderism, transhumanism, biological determinism, and unending Planet of the Apes sequels.
  • 9) Clients that promote hate – I would enthusiastically refuse to work for any group that denigrates or promotes hatred of any other category of persons, including GLBT people, black people, Hispanic people, white people, Jewish people, Muslim people, illegal immigrants, refugees, Evangelicals, atheists, men, women, rich, poor, children, elderly, disabled, incarcerated, or whoever. Love is a fundamental teaching of Jesus. Hatred always works against constructive dialogue, empathy, tolerance, and progress – all of which the world needs more.
  • 10) Clients that would make me a party to supporting “marriage equality”“Marriage equality” is not ultimately about gay marriage. It’s about redefining marriage – the systematic dismantling of the world’s fundamental cultural institution in the service of a false, “progressive” notion of equality. It is the latest and most successful attack in a decades long revolt against the nuclear family as an ideal. Well-meaning people are being led by the short hairs down a path that will hurt children and thus the culture at large. If you’re gay married, I truly wish you happiness. But I still think marriage is by definition a heterosexual institution that benefits society in a way that no other type of relationship does.

That’s my list. If you ask another 10 Evangelicals for their lists, I’m pretty sure you’ll get 10 different lists. Some Evangelicals would bake the gay wedding cake or shoot the wedding photos. Their rational would be to love their neighbor. Other Evangelicals would not want to participate in an event that they fundamentally disagree with. Not all Christians are opposed to gay marriage. Not all gays are in favor of it. Not all children raised by loving gay parents are in favor of gay marriage. So it goes. This is called freedom.

The Left has been claiming that religious freedom laws are merely an excuse to allow bigots to discriminate against gays. This is pure nonsense. Religious people are not discriminating against gays per se. They are refusing to participate in a left wing ideological campaign that conflates equality with redefining marriage and gender. It’s their legal right to do so.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Many states have added sexual orientation to this list. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) does not overrule any of these gains. More to the point, followers of Jesus are not pushing for the segregation of gays and heteros. Nor are we pushing for the right to generally refuse business services to gays as a class of people.

Religious Liberty in America is about the free exercise of one’s religion within the confines of the U.S. Constitution and the legitimate interests of government. It’s not a pretext to subvert constitutional law. It’s not about imposing one’s beliefs on others. I encourage followers of Jesus to freely uphold His clear teaching on what marriage was designed to be from the beginning (Mat 19:4-6,) and to refuse to go along the new, arbitrary redefining of the world’s fundamental societal institution. While doing this, I urge you refuse to be manipulated with labels like “angry,” “hateful,” and “anti-gay.”

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27.)

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My New Kids’ Book: The True Story of Christmas

Blg full spread

After 30 years of marriage and raising 5 kids together, Mollie and I have accumulated a beloved little collection of illustrated Christmas storybooks. When I worked at Hallmark Cards, the Creative Library there would bring in some of the best Christmas books on the market, and I ordered a few of my favorites for my kids (and for Mollie and myself!)

Some we bought for the great artwork, some we bought for the story. The best ones combined both. An important part of our Christmas season included slowing down, snuggling up, and reading Christmas stories to the kids in the evenings in December.

But I could never find a book like the one I’m making available to you and your family today.

Special care has been taken in The True Story of Christmas to remain as true to the biblical narrative as possible while still keeping the story accessible and engaging for children. The book seeks to reinforce the biblical narrative rather than the extra-biblical traditions that have grown up around the Christmas story.

For example, the scriptures do not say that a blazing star led the Magi to the manger in Bethlehem. (The Magi arrived in Jerusalem, where Herod eventually sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child. Bethlehem was just a few miles down the main road.) The scriptures also indicate that the Magi visited Jesus as a toddler in a house in Bethlehem, not in a stable on the night He was born.

Magi wisemen house gold frankincense myrrh

The Magi visiting Jesus in Bethlehem, from The True Story of Christmas.

While these details may or may not be significant, to me it seems best to be in accord with the scriptures regardless of how harmless such extra-biblical traditions may seem. Learning the true narrative at a young age will help to keep faith in the reliability of the Bible intact when such extra-biblical traditions, (and there are many,) are debunked later in a child’s life. The biblical narrative stands up to scrutiny – the extra-biblical traditions do not.

Perhaps more importantly, The True Story of Christmas gives the big picture context of the birth of Jesus according to the Bible.

The true story of Christmas begins at the very beginning, when God created the world. God is good, and everything He made was good. In the beginning the whole world was filled with God’s goodness and light…” (pg 1)

The book begins with God’s perfect creation, followed by the tragic consequences of the fall of humanity – the reason we are all in need of a Savior in the first place. After Noah’s flood, God’s restorative plan begins with His choosing of Abraham and the people of Israel. Kids are introduced to Israel’s prophets and their foretelling of a special child who would be born to Israel to set up a good and eternal kingdom. The Christmas story is the beginning of the fulfillment of this long-anticipated promise.

Following are some of the book’s illustrations and copy:

old testament jewish prophets messiah malachi

“The very last prophet to speak of the promised Messiah was named Malachi. After Malachi there were no more prophets at all in the land of Israel until it was time for the Messiah to be born. Israel had to wait 400 years after Malachi for God’s promises to come true. That is a very long time! But then, it finally happened!”…

Here’s an example of how the type appears on the page:

first christmas stable manger bethlehem swaddling clothes

To Order:
The True Story of Christmas is now ready to order, but PLEASE NOTE: Order by Dec 3rd to ensure that your order arrives in time for Christmas. The True Story of Christmas is not available in stores. You can only get it on my website! (And on Amazon, but I don’t tell people that because I want them to go to my website and sign up on my email list.)

To order now CLICK THIS LINK

Holy family warned in a dream egypt massacre of innocents

The flight to Egypt, from The True Story of Christmas

Thank you so much for your support!
May you and your family have a joyous Christmas season!

Special thanks to my 3 favorite teaching pastors – John Meyer, Pat Sokoll, and Jonathan Williams – for consulting with me on this book.
All images copyright Scott Freeman, 2015

Guaranteeing Time for Family in the Midst of Busyness

Sabbath Keeping-Big Picture PublishingI admit that I might be a work-a-holic, just a wee bit.

Perhaps this is partly because my work tends to be enjoyable and meaningful, and partly because I’ve rarely made enough income for our large family. Or maybe it’s just the way I am wired. I don’t really know.

At any rate, my wife once had a come-to-Jesus talk with me about this that proved to be a turning point for our marriage and family. Had she not called me out, I think I would’ve been too oblivious to make needed changes. After all, my time-sucking pursuits were good, and so were my intentions. I wouldn’t have guessed how important an intentional “work-free” day would turn out to be for all of us.

What started out as an experiment turned out to be a practice on which we have never looked back. In fact all five of our kids came to think of our practice of Sabbath-keeping as an expectation. My wife and I now consider it to be a weekly blessing that we wouldn’t want to do without.

Since it’s the beginning of a busy new school year for many of us, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my story, and hear from others on what works for them.

Before our experiment, here is how my life went: I worked full-time at as a Hallmark artist, and also did free-lance illustration work on the side. I also created a monthly comic strip for an alternative, free newspaper. Nights and weekends were a chance for me to work on my on-the-side stuff. So, on weekends, I would look around the house, and if everyone seemed to be occupied, and no kids were crying or poopy, I would tend to sneak off to my drawing board and get some work done.

Eventually my exasperated wife would come looking for me, usually holding a kid or two. She felt abandoned. We searched for a solution. We had already been toying with the idea of observing a formal Sabbath, but I had pretty much balked at the idea because I was too busy. (What a waste of time. A whole day – shot!) But I remember Mollie telling me, “If I knew I would get you for a full day on Sunday, I think I could live with you working the other six days.”

We decided to try it for one month. Sundays would be solely dedicated to church and family, and I wouldn’t do any paid work at all. Even if no one was poopy, I would be fully present and focused on Mollie and the kids. That was something like 20 years ago. Looking back, I shudder to think of what I almost missed.

Our Sabbath has taken various forms over the years. Mollie and I are interested in the Hebrew Roots of our faith, so for a time we observed a traditional, Saturday Jewish Sabbath as best we could, complete with the lighting of candles at sunset, challah bread, and citing a blessing over each child over dinner, (which my kids thought was weird.) At other times we tried formal family devotions on our Sabbath. But mostly, our Sabbaths have been very unstructured, with the focus being on taking a rest from work, eating together, and, at some point, doing something together as a whole family, usually playing games.

We have tried to not be religious and legalistic about this. As our kids grew older, sometimes they would have homework that had to be done, or there would be a birthday party or a meeting that had to be attended. But for the most part, our kids’ friends knew not to ask our kids to get together on Sunday because that was our family day. Eventually, our kids didn’t even mind that their friends thought our family was weird because they were having too much fun with us.

At times we had fight to keep our Sabbath set apart. We’d make an occasional exception, but we had to say “no” even to some good things. Once, our church’s youth group leadership was considering moving youth group meeting day to Sunday. We felt we had no choice but to decline participation should that change be made. Our Sabbath had become a non-negotiable priority. One parent argued that Sunday youth group could count as our family time, but I knew the dynamic would be different. Fortunately the change was never made.

Today all but one of our five children have left home, but they are closer now to each other, and to Mollie and I, than ever. We attribute this partly to regular, face-to-face time every week. Now that two of our kids are married, some of them decided that we should all get together every other Sunday; whoever can make it. On the off Sundays Mollie and I still observe a Sabbath, and we sometimes use this time to get together with people that we want to “get together with sometime.”

We believe that life is about relationships, and our Sabbath observance has become a practical application of this. (Though honestly, sometimes we’re too exhausted to entertain people!)

For those who may be wondering about my loss in productivity, I believe that observing a Sabbath has actually made me more productive, because I’m never burnt out, and I hit the ground running on Mondays. But even if it hasn’t made me more productive, if I could have all the money I lost because of keeping a Sabbath, I wouldn’t trade it for the wealth of relationship I have today with my family.

If you find yourself frazzled and frustrated by an overfull schedule, why not try keeping a weekly Sabbath for one month, just to see what good might come of it? I’d also love to hear your stories of how you ensure regular family time.

My latest book, Bear Island, reinforces family-time and our need for loving relationship. CLICK HERE for easy ordering!

My Stint as a Political Cartoonist

This week I’m posting one of my old comic strips from 1993, since this one seemed relevant to my previous post on religious liberty.

I’m generally uncomfortable posting most of my strips now for the same reason that I “got out of politics” over a decade ago: because politics is so divisive. I’m much more interested in building bridges, and in focusing on the spiritual aspect of life, because I believe that’s what ultimately matters. But I thought the strip below was fair, pretty innocuous, and good-natured. In my opinion, it’s just describing the water in which we’re all swimming, (or perhaps drowning.)

Freedom-Church and State

Yes, I guess I can say I was a cartoonist for a while. I worked for a free, alternative newspaper for a few years, called KC Jones – the Newspaper of Politics & Polemics. I had picked up the paper one day in a restaurant, and, to my surprise, found that I agreed with its editorial perspective. However, the paper was butt-ugly and as visually dense as the enchanted forest. I looked up the owner, and he immediately hired me to start doing covers. Eventually I asked if I could do a comic strip as well.

The owner, Rich Nadler, ran the paper out of a dumpy little office in Kansa City, MO. Rich was a brilliant, prolific, politically conservative Jew who never actually graduated high school. Long before I met him, he was in the progressive rock band, Pavlov’s Dog. (I think he played violin. The band was successful enough to have a Wiki page.) The rest of the staff included a bright, atheist Libertarian, Rod McBride, who was capable of monologuing for long periods of time. I also remember a very young, ridiculously good-looking, goth-looking dude (before being goth was a thing.) He was called Spit, apparently because he would spit on his audience during his musical performances. I suppose I rounded out the staff by being the born-again, pony-tailed artist Jesus freak.

I used the pen name, Elvis Lackey. My strip coincided with the Clinton presidency.

A few words about the above comic strip
Here is my simple understanding: Conservatives are often referred to as “anti-government” by liberals. This is dishonest political rhetoric. Such a label would more accurately describe an anarchist. But the topic of the proper role of government in America is an interesting one. I believe that sincere conservatives and liberals ultimately want the same things; we just have different understandings of how to get there. I believe the means we choose of reaching our goals has to do with our fundamental beliefs about human nature.

Why are so many Bible believing people politically conservative? Because fundamentally, we believe human nature has been corrupted. It follows, then, that human beings generally can’t be trusted with power. History bears witness. America’s founders believed this as well, and therefore they set up a separation of powers; three branches of government to keep each other in check. Monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies do not have a separation of powers.

Those of us who agree with the reasoning for separating the branches of government are generally also enthused about something the Founders called self-government. Therefore, conservatives who favor constitutional government are not anti-government. Rather, we favor limited government, and self-government. We favor a free arena of competing ideas based on a foundation of inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, as opposed to rights given by government.

The concept of limited and self-government can only work if the people govern themselves. Religion has traditionally served the role of promoting good character and self-restraint in the general population. In believing this, religious conservatives believe that they are in agreement with America’s Founding Fathers, whose political philosophy remains as relevant as ever. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other – John Adams

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty – John Adams

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters – Benjamin Franklin

None of this is to say that “non-religious people” are somehow not welcome here, or that a materialist atheist cannot be a virtuous person. The point is that religion has traditionally served the public order. Whatever means they individually choose today, religious or otherwise, the people must govern themselves or else the government will necessarily step in to maintain order. When the people order themselves, then there is no reason for government overreach or intrusion, and a free and pluralistic society can thrive. Since government necessarily equals force and compulsion, freedom depends on keeping government limited.

Paradoxically, then, the worldview that holds a distrustful view of human nature turns out to provide the maximum amount of freedom for the individual.

Why do liberals believe that human beings can be trusted with governmental power?
I have no idea.

Introducing Our New Greeting Card Line…

Many of you know that I worked at Hallmark Cards for almost a decade before moving to Colorado to pursue a living as a fine art painter. Well, recently, after decades of creating original fine art and illustration, I realized I have lots of nice work sitting around in computer files, not doing me or anyone else any good. So Mollie and I have decided to make the best of this work available in the form of greeting cards, note cards, apparel, and other gifty stuff. Digital technology now makes it super easy and affordable to do this. If you’re a fan of our work, I hope you’ll go to our Zazzle page and check out what we’re offering to you.

We’re resurrecting a business name I was toying with when we first moved to Colorado – The Loveland Company. Originally I wanted to open a store in Loveland selling art, creative gifts, great local music (by locals such as Taylor & Rebecca Mesple, and Dave Beegle,) and other cool stuff. Fortunately, I realized that I really didn’t have the capital and business savvy to open a brick and mortar store. We still don’t, so we’re opening an online store. If we get a decent response, we’ll keep adding new stuff.

Why The Loveland Company?
Because:1) I love the name of our town – Loveland, Colorado, 2) I love the fact that The Loveland Company initials happen to be “TLC,” 3) My town, Loveland has developed a reputation as a great little art town. There are proportionally a ton of artists of all types living here. So how fitting to name our little art & design company after our little artsy town, 4) I love love, 5) I hate hate.

I’m timing this announcement a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day, since I’m featuring a Valentine’s Day card design. Since I’m a (possibly obsessive) storyteller, I thought I’d tell you the story behind this design. (I promise not to do this every time we add a card to the offering.)

The Time Angel
I tried to push a very different version of this idea at Hallmark, but they rejected it. Then, when I got to Loveland, I learned that the City holds a citywide contest each year to pick an official Loveland Valentine card, which is then sold all over town at local businesses and stores. At the risk of sounding like an art snob, I will say that some of these designs seemed to me to be just a wee bit amateurish. Which is fine. It’s a small town. Whatever. So one year I decided to submit my Time Angel idea, which Hallmark had rejected. You know…since I had worked as an artist for the number one greeting card company in the whole freakin’ world. I spent a couple of days creating a new watercolor painting, which I was quite happy with. I submitted the design.

The Loveland Chamber of Commerce Valentine’s-Day-Card-Picking-Committee also rejected my submission. (Sigh…)

So I later sold the little original watercolor at a studio tour, and moved on to the next thing. But I still have a great digital scan, and I still like concept. Whether ANYONE ELSE LIKES IT OR NOT!

LOVE RULES, MAN!!!

Here is the card design, blank inside, suitable for giving to anyone you love, available on Zazzle:

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A Note About Loveland’s Valentine Re-mailing Program
Valentine’s Day is kind of a big deal in Loveland, because of the town name. Loveland is also known as The Sweetheart City. You may or may not be aware of Loveland’s re-mailing program, the largest of its kind in the nation. Each year more than 160,000 cards from all 50 states and over 100 nations are re-mailed through Loveland so that they can be postmarked with Loveland’s Valentine cachet. This year marks the 68th anniversary of this program.

You can have your mail stamped in Loveland by following these 2 steps:

1)     Pre-address and pre-stamp all valentines, and enclose them in a larger 1st Class envelope.

2)     These envelopes should be sent to:

Postmaster – Attention Valentines
446 E. 29th St
Loveland, CO 80538-9998

All valentines will be removed from the larger envelope at the post office, postmarked with the official Loveland Valentine’s Day cachet, and sent on their way!

To ensure delivery by Valentine’s Day 2014:
> Foreign mail must be received in Loveland by Feb. 4

> U.S. destined mail must be received in Loveland by Feb. 7

> Colorado destined mail must be received in Loveland by Feb. 10

> Proper postage must be affixed, especially for foreign mail.

Colorado residents have the option to drop off their pre-addressed, pre-stamped valentines to local King Soopers or City Market food stores, where you can find special drop boxes for this purpose. Feb. 8 is the final day to drop off valentines at these locations to ensure on-time delivery.

Below are some examples of past Loveland cachets. They’re all designed and written by locals, as part of the annual contest.

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More Interesting Details
This year, 2014, the cachet stamp slyly references the floods that buffeted a segment of our community last fall:

From the Sweetheart City
Scenic, Safe and Strong
Comes a flood of Valentine wishes
To you, where they belong.

Here’s something else I just learned from the Loveland Chamber of Commerce website. Apparently, there is a waiting list for people who would like to be one of the 60 plus volunteers who “lovingly hand-stamp” each card with the Valentine cachet during the first two weeks in February. Check out this video. At one minute and forty-one seconds, it’s almost too long, but it’s so stinkin’ cute. Go ahead! Click here and get a glimpse of some local color! (ie: red and white.) When I saw it, it hadn’t quite gone viral yet, at 474 views…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P296xn4b70

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“Retro Family”
Here’s a card design I put on Zazzle that was yanked because I apparently violated John Wayne’s privacy/celebrity rights. (‘Sorry, John.) It’s adapted from a cover I designed for a now defunct alternative newspaper – KC Jones. I thought you’d like to see it before I give the Duke a makeover.

Thank you again for stopping by our ZAZZLE STORE (click here.) Please bookmark the link as we will be adding cool stuff periodically.

Angels: My Quest to Paint a Masculine Angel at Hallmark

It’s the Christmas season, so what could be more appropriate than a story about angels and Hallmark? Okay…I’ll admit I can think of a couple of things, but I thought that was a pretty Christmassy opening sentence.

For me, as a Bible-lover, working on Hallmark holiday product was like walking a tightrope over a yawning vat of pink cotton candy and glitter. On one hand I was excited to be a part of contributing to the shaping of American popular culture in some small way. But on the other hand, it was like trying to deliver a healthy meal as a burger-flipper at McDonalds.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible, you might assume that the Bible and Hallmark would go together like a hand and glove. But as a Hallmark artist who often submitted ideas for religious product, I learned that it was almost impossible to find a “nice,” Hallmark sentiment in the Bible. Even though Jesus was all about love and light, He did not seem to have the greeting card industry in mind when proclaiming His message.

It’s way easier to find statements by Jesus that do not work as greeting card sentiments:

To Our Wonderful Son,
“If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the eternal fire” (Matt 18:9)

Congratulations on Your Promotion!
“Truly, I tell you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:23)

It was in a Hallmark store at headquarters that I once saw the worst example ever of a Bible verse twisted into a commercial greeting card sentiment. There was a bookmark with an illustration of a smiling little girl gardening. The bookmark said, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees.” The Bible reference for this gentle environmental sentiment was Revelation 7:3. Wait a minute…Revelation? I had to look that up. Here’s the context:

“Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of God’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel…”

This passage is describing the apocalypse during the end times destruction of the earth. It immediately follows the opening of the seven seals that include the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” who destroy a fourth of the earth by sword, famine, plague, and death. In the next chapter seven more angels are given trumpets, the first of which introduces the burning up of a third of the earth and trees, and then it gets more horrible from there.

Which brings me back to the subject of angels in the Bible.

They’re not the pastel, Disney-princess-like characters that appear on Hallmark cards. In the New Testament, whenever there is a waking interaction between a human being and an angel, the angel’s first words usually are, “Do not be afraid.” Or, sometimes they have to instruct people not to worship them.  Apparently there is something so imposing about an angelic appearance as to inspire fear and worship.

We see this in the Christmas story when the herald angel appears to the shepherds in the fields. It says the sight of this angel filled them with fear. The book of Hebrews says angelic messengers are like fire and wind (Heb 1:7,14.) Often they are simply described as men with an “appearance like lightning” (Matt 28:2-5.) Never are wings or halos mentioned, and never are angels described as women. In one instance, Jesus seems to indicate that angels are androgynous (Matt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35,36.)

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“Annunciation” – Advent Calendar Stencil, Scott Freeman
Here I experimented with making an angel’s hair resemble flame.

Wings and halos seem like reasonable visual symbols for depicting spirit-beings of light. It doesn’t put my shorts in a twist if somebody wants to depict angels that way. But to depict angels as fragile, placid women from a Jane Austin novel seems to me to mess with the substance of what is depicted in the Bible. As a Hallmark artist, I figured that if I noticed this, then Hallmark’s religious consumer probably noticed it as well. Since Christmas is, after all, a Christian holiday, I thought these consumers might appreciate Christmas cards depicting angels more in fidelity to what the scriptures actually describe.

So I submitted a couple of Christmas card ideas depicting more masculine angels.
I know…I’m such a radical.

I didn’t make them hulking, sweaty warriors with AK-47s, or have them smoking cigars. I simply leaned them away from the popular archetypal Hallmark girly-angel. In other words they didn’t look like Bob Haas angels.

You may rightly ask, “Who is Bob Haas?” If you were a Hallmark artist in the 80s & 90s, you knew who Bob Haas was, even if you had never actually seen or touched him. Bob Haas was one of a handful of artists who dwelt at the misty pinnacle of Hallmark’s elaborate hierarchical creative pecking order. In the world of Hallmark artistdom, Bob Haas bore the title of Sr. Master Designer. This was similar to being knighted. In layman’s terms this meant that Bob had made boatloads of money for Hallmark. He was a legendary greeting card artist.

Bob Haas was known for his angels. In fact Bob practically was an angel. Bob was especially known for his popular Christmas angels. He produced a whole series of them while I was at Hallmark. If you are reading this in America, there is a good chance you’ve received a Christmas card bearing one of Bob’s angels. I just got another one last Christmas. You can see it below. You’ll notice it is very girly.

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Why am I going on about Bob Haas? Well, it turns out that both of my masculinized angel card submissions were accepted for production. Guess who my manager picked to shepherd me through the creation of these 2 projects? That is correct – Bob Haas – the King of girly angels; the very guy whose work I was specifically hoping to not resemble. Why did I need to be shepherded? Because at the time I was a mere Redesign Artist 2, well below the halfway point on the hierarchical Hallmark pecking order.

Newer Hallmark artists were mentored by seasoned Hallmark artists so that we would not commit greeting card sins. I got the distinct impression that I was supposed to consider it an honor to be mentored by Bob Haas. Silently, I determined to do my very best to treat him as a full equal. Cheerfully, I set out on this adventure, to boldy go where no Hallmarker had gone before; to plunge fearlessly into the crucible of wussy Hallmark angeldom and face the King of girly angels himself.

I must say that my story would be more entertaining if the girly angel King had turned out to be a butthead. Or if he had insisted on making me put mascara, nail polish, and print dresses on my manly angels. But in fact, I ended up liking Bob Haas. He turned out to be an interesting and reasonable person, as well as a knowledgeable artist with a very cool library. It was indeed an honor to work with him.

Happily, my angels ended up going into production (mostly) unneutered. Large, sparkly, greeting card snowflakes began to fall lightly as I saw three ships come sailing in. On Christmas day, bells chimed as I carved the roast beast and everyone joined hands and sang together joyfully in the town square. The Mouse King was dead at last. God blessed us, everyone. It was a wonderful life, and the best Christmas ever. And my angels got their wings. The end.

Manly Angels

Here are the 2 angels as they appeared as finished, boxed Christmas card product…

All Hallmark images are reproduced without permission, for educational purposes. Hallmark: Please do not sue me.

Portraiture

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I find portraiture to be a strange genre in contemporary culture. It’s not really my business as to why someone wants a portrait; if someone wants to commission me for a portrait, I’m happy to paint one. Do most people want portraits of themselves in their homes? I doubt it. A couple of times I’ve had guys wanting me to paint their girlfriends, as a gift for their girlfriends. I’ve felt obligated to ask if they had reason to believe their girlfriends would want a portrait of themselves. Do you see what I mean? Portraiture can be a tricky genre. I once saw a home where, in the master bedroom, a large portrait of the wife’s mother hung over the couple’s bed; Hmmm…I think I would hang a portrait of my mom somewhere else.

I can tell you several reasons why people might want portraiture. I’ve had several parents commission portraits of their children. (But I generally only do older children for reasons that will become clear later.) I’ve also had parents commission portraits of themselves to leave to their grown children someday, and I think this makes sense also. Some collectors simply love the human face – the psychological impact, or the personality or stories that a face might suggest. The human face is a powerful carrier of emotion. Oddly, when I first moved to Loveland, which at that time was even less racially diverse than it is now, my gallery sold 2 or 3 portraits of beautiful black women I had painted. I’m not really sure what was going on there.

A few times I’ve had the sobering honor of painting infants or children who have died, for the parents who lost them. I consider this a weighty endeavor because these parents will only have the painting, photographs, and memories by which to remember these children.

Finally, a lot of artists seem to especially enjoy a beautifully painted portrait. Portraiture is an unforgiving subject matter. If one can balance the technical aspects of good drawing, composition, values, color, edges, and paint-handling without losing the grace and sensitivity that painting a human face requires, that is something to appreciate. Over the years I’ve sold off a few unframed portrait studies to artists and students for a couple hundred bucks each, because I know they can’t afford a full price portrait, nor do they care who the subject is. They’re just interested in the art of it.

I’ve been participating in plein air festivals for several years, and I usually paint a portrait during the Quick Draw event (click here for a fun Quick Draw story.) I do this because the public seems to enjoy watching portrait painting. Despite the fact that the Quick Draw models are usually dressed in cheesy period clothing, I usually sell these, and I’ve won several awards for them.

My Approach to Portraiture

I generally only paint from live sittings when doing portraiture in oils. There are plenty of other artists out there who will do a portrait from photographs, and this is certainly logistically easier. However, I find there is an authenticity and spontaneity that results from a live sitting that is very difficult to achieve from a photo. Also, coming to my studio for a sitting creates an experience to go with the painting.

At the Kansas City Art Institute I studied primarily under a painter named Wilbur Neiwald. While my studio work has now taken a departure from Wilbur’s approach, I find his approach to be unparalleled when it comes to portraiture. Wilbur taught a fascinating direct-study painting approach that by-passed traditional aspects of art instruction such as anatomy, perspective, and color theory. In fact he believed these things can sometimes hinder a painter from seeing clearly. Even today, because of what I learned under Wilbur, when I teach a class I tell students it’s a “seeing class” as much as it is a painting class.

Boiled down to its simplest description, Wilbur taught that all we really see are color relationships. That pretty much encompasses everything else, if you think about it. So when I paint an oil portrait, I’m simply seeking to paint one color in its proper relationship to another. If I basically get down the color relationships in the size and shape as they appear in front of me, a likeness appears. It’s almost that simple.3 Portraits

The frustrated-Hallmark-artist portraits 

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“Scott Brown”
Yes, this guy worked at Hallmark. He wore black every day and rode a Harley. It was always refreshing to see him; kind of like bumping into Thor in the lingerie section of a department store.

My previous post describes my 10 years as a Hallmark greeting card illustrator and designer. For me, one of the enriching aspects about working there was that were so many great painters there. A lot of these painters ultimately desired to be full time fine artists, but many us had families to support, so we worked at Hallmark instead; because it’s notoriously difficult to make a decent living as a fine art painter. But we found outlets, and made opportunities to pursue painting “off the Hallmark grid.” One of these opportunities, open to anyone, was a Wednesday lunch hour painting group. I thought of it as the “frustrated painter group,” (not because the group was frustrating, but because our dreams of being fine artists were frustrated by the realities of life.)

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“Roxanne”
One of my favs that I will never sell. Roxanne had exotic features: amber eyes, reddish brown hair, and a lovely almond-shaped face above her willowy neck; so fun to paint! Something gelled for me in this painting.

Hallmark was a fairly cosmopolitan environment, full of interesting people. Every Wednesday we would ask someone from the company to come and sit for us for an hour. Artists could paint or draw in the medium of their choice. Every Wednesday. For a couple of years I organized the model list as a ploy to discipline myself to attend every week.

When I first joined the group, I could not paint fast enough to finish a painting in one hour. However, after regularly painting a portrait a week, over time I eventually was able to consistently get a result I was pretty happy with. For me, an hour is still too short of a time to really nail a portrait, so the time limit forced me to loosen up. There’s just no time to get picky in an hour. I came to enjoy the spontaneity that came across in these portraits.

3 more portraits

Left: ” Tracey” – I like the loose spontaneity of this one.
Middle: “Wale” – This guy was from Uganda. A writer, I think.
Right: “Cathy” – My lovely next-door-cubicle neighbor. I kinda wish I still had this one.

Loveland portraits

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“Redhead”
I lost the likeness on this one, but I like the painting.

I’ve continued to do portraits sporadically since leaving Hallmark to become a full time artist. A lot of my commissioned portraits are gone before I can have them photographed, but shown here is a sampling of portraits I’ve painted since moving to Loveland.

Come visit me and I’ll paint your portrait if you like!

I now tell people a sitting is two and a half hours long. (You get breaks, and I have good music.)

I charge extra for cosmetic improvements, though not as much as a plastic surgeon would.

I’m kidding. I don’t do cosmetic improvements. At least not on purpose.

You must be brave – sitting for a portrait is not for the faint of heart.

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“Bald Guy”
This was a demo piece done at the opening of Wild’s Art Center in Loveland

Unless otherwise noted, all portraits in this post are roughly 9 x 12 inches, and are painted in oils, from life, in a single session.

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“Self portrait” – 8 x 10 inches
This was painted from a photograph, (don’t tell anyone.) I thought a portrait in my plein air painting hat would say something about me. In this painting I wanted to try my ridiculously large brush and experiment with the paint handling.