Design with the Renaissance in Mind

After the last two concerts, I had several people ask what the background patterns and designs are that I use for our concert graphics. While I certainly love a good unsolved mystery, I have always intended to share my design inspirations. I believe it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and to pay homage the pasts artists who have made my work possible.

Queen Elizabeth I is pictured George Gower’s 1588 painting, which inspired the design for HELIOS’  “Fair Oriana” concert graphics.

Queen Elizabeth I is pictured George Gower’s 1588 painting, which inspired the design for HELIOS’ “Fair Oriana” concert graphics.

For the 2015/16 season, I’ve chosen to use Renaissance paintings as the inspiration for concert graphics. I often choose a small section of a much larger painting, focusing on a cool pattern or texture.

A surprising amount of “Photoshopping” (cloning, cropping, fading, rotating etc.) was involved in designing the graphics for the first two concerts. However, for the upcoming concert “Lament & Atone,” I simply cropped the art as it was. The colors, lines and movement of the piece just felt right.

And besides being artworks from the Renaissance period, all of the paintings that I choose relate — in some way — to each of the concert themes.

But this is not a completely solo project.

Before I start looking for artworks, HELIOS Executive Director Kenny Miller and I discuss the concert theme. From there, he usually gives me an idea of the kind of art he envisions.

Adriaen van Utrecht’s painting captures an abundance of food in the spirit of Thanksgiving. The c. 1650 work inspired the “With a Thankful Heart” graphics.

In the case of “Lament & Atone,” Kenny had envisioned something relating to Lent or lamentations, but was very specific in that he did not want art relating to the crucifixion. He also mentioned that “something with hands” could be good — perhaps something like (but not) Christ giving Saint Peter the keys to heaven.

Finding this specific, unknown, magical piece of art proved to be a difficult chore.

I spent hours (more than two, less than five) searching for Renaissance artworks (remember, I only wantedRenaissance art, not just any art) relating to suffering and forgiveness, but one that also centered on human connection.

After I had settled on a piece that I wasn’t quite working (but time was ticking), I searched through Google one last time and stumbled across this beautiful version of The Return of the Prodigal Son. And, surprisingly, this is not the work of Rembrandt, whose painting portraying the same parable is most well-known.

Besides the fact that I love the emotion this artwork evokes, I also find it particularly fitting that the artist is unknown.

After all, HELIOS strives to find the lesser-known early music composers and illuminate their music using contemporary insight.

I like to think I’ve done much the same for this powerful painting.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, is located in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London.

The narrative behind this artwork is based on the Biblical parable, Return of the Prodigal Son. In this particular scene, we’re given a glimpse into the intimate moment when a son, after squandering his inheritance, returns to his father’s house in a state of contrition — he is incredibly remorseful for his acts and is seeking forgiveness.

Knowing that we are all human, and we can all make mistakes no matter how pure our intent, the tender embrace of the man’s father — coupled with his tears — reminds us that experiencing sorrow is part of the human condition, and through grief, we learn to make amends.

I hope you enjoy these artworks as much you enjoy HELIOS’ music.

“To learn to lament is to become people who stay near to the wounds of the world, singing over them and washing them, allowing the unsettling cry of pain to be heard.” —Chris Rice/Emmanuel Katongole.

Buy tickets to “Lament & Atone.”

When: Saturday, Feb. 13, 2017 @ 7:30pm Where: Central United Methodist Church, 1875 N Central Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85004

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