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Captain Tortuga

Back in 2004 I was sitting at my desk at Warner Bros. thinking about how I could pursue a lifelong dream of being a children’s book illustrator. I started doodling and the image you see here started to take form. I later painted it and it started me down a path that lead me to illustrate thirty three books,lots of daily cartoons, editorial and animated artwork. I didn’t realize it then that art had become something more to me than just making pictures it became my religion. I practice it daily, I believe in it not only as a way for me to make a living but as a way to give something back deriving joy from the “doing” of it. I believe if more people thought about art the way I do there would be more peace in the world. Last night while watching  Nightline I saw a piece about a young man that resonated for me and furthered my belief.

Jefferson Bethke created a video called “Why I Hate Religion, but love Jesus” In it he raps about his own version of faith and love for Jesus and actually I liked his perspective. No I am not a born-again I am Jewish and proud of it. But I too hate organized religion. I have spent many years in temples and at affairs for my religion and all I see for the most part is hypocritical behavior. The kind of rhetoric and actions that lead to conflict. As Jefferson so rightly states in his video “If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars and why has it built so many huge churches and failed to feed the poor?”

While I share Jeff’s point-of-view about organized religion, I believe art and creativity is the most powerful tool to bring love and harmony into this world. There is a certain level of respect and admiration for creative people who can make things that are beautiful and provocative to look at and have the power to move people to tears and actions that they would not dare to do otherwise.

Think about how the Nazis hoarded great artwork and hid it from view burying it like the pirates of old used to bury treasure. If any of you has seem Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” at the Louvre you will know how powerful art can be as a statement. Completed when the artist was 27, the work has become an icon of French Romanticism. It is an over-life-size painting that depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today’s Mauritania on July 5, 1816. In choosing the tragedy as subject matter for his first major work—an uncommissioned depiction of an event from recent history—Géricault consciously selected a well-known incident that would generate great public interest and help launch his career. Not unlike Jeff Bethke’s rap video. Géricault’s work attracted wide attention almost immediately from its first showing, and was subsequently exhibited in London. It was acquired by the Louvre soon after the artist’s early death at the age of 32. The painting’s influence can be seen in the works of Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet.

The take away here for me is an image can in a moment change history faster than any war. Witness the many images that went out during the “Arab Spring”. The Middle East will never be the same. The power of art whether it be a video, a film, a painting or music is unchallenged by any act of violence. And this power if understood and followed by more of the world’s leaders and population would change hearts and minds for the good. Bethke’s video and his imagery has affected millions of people in a very short time. Why? As he tells it his generation has grown up and seen the hypocrisy and they want authenticity. We want leaders who tell the truth and live it out”  I agree. For me that means  I practice every day to be better, to mark more assured marks, brush strokes or lines whether traditional or digital. To bring imagery into the world that may inspire, entertainment or give joy. This in the hope that what I do touches others and fosters more creativity and undertstanding about the world we live in.