Creation of the Week #54 The Pal Campaign

If you struggle to figure out Christmas Presents for all of the white elephant gift exchanges you've got coming up, look no further. The PAL Campaign's got your back.

Those of you who know me, know that I grew up rocking Blink 182 albums in my beat-up old homeschool minivan on the way to some skate spot while I was playing hookey and killing time between rock shows. Needless to say, my Catholic retreat t's have mostly tended to serve as workout shirts, rags, and dust collectors. Thankfully, the Church has picked up it's t-shirt game since I was in high school. Joe Kim of the PAL Campaign (Peace and Love) has been on the front lines of this t-shirt design revival. Take a gander:

Joe's design is super fresh, minimalist, and worthy of wearing by any twenty one pilots fan. His shirt's range from the subtle "Peace" shown above, to more explicitly Catholic designs, but even those are so edgy that you almost put them in a totally different category.

I also love how attentive Joe is to his brand. All of the mockups show good looking artistic people sporting PAL merch the way you'd want it worn. It's quirky, fashionable, and interesting. When I asked Joe what inspired his design style, he had an interesting answer:

"Because I believe that this universal faith we call ours is the most attractive thing in the world, PAL Campaign's products never pander to fleeting trends or desperate attempts to stay relevant. That is the difference. Industry experts assert that the average t-shirt is read about 3,000 times before it gets discarded. Because of this, a core value behind the design process is to allow the t-shirts to solicit questions about their meaning. It's my prayer that the dialogue created from curiosity can lead one from beauty to goodness, and eventually to truth. "

It's not enough to me for faith based t-shirts to simply be designed according to the current trends. I really need any shirt that I wear say something about the faith that's interesting or different. I love the Verso Alto, Donna Nobis Pacem, and More than Flesh and Bone shirts for that reason. 

PAL Campaign. Do it. 

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Catholic Creatives Founder

Creation of the Week #53 Ascension's Marriage is Dance

Ascension has been seriously upping their game over the last few years, and I'm not just saying that because my sister works there. The team has been producing stories with stunning visuals and really rich meaning. They've recently updated their Joy-Filled Marriage series, and thank God they did because speaking as someone currently in marriage prep, let's just say that the gap in production value is noticeable. I've never seen something done by any Catholic organization on marriage that's beautiful, artistic, and shareably short.


Tell people all you want that sex outside of the vision God created for it is wrong. Anyone can do that. But to make someone want the vision that God has for sex, now that is a task for an artist. This video is awesome because it points to God's vision, and lets you feel the difference between that vision and the one the world gives us. The man and the woman dancing are in sync in all of their innocence, strength, and passion.

The team told me that they were given the challenge of addressing sexual honesty in a way that wouldn't be preachy or trite. They said that they instantly knew they wanted to tackle this piece from the perspective of a dance. They couldn't have been more right. There's something so real about how dance shows the complementarity of man and woman, you need only draw attention to it. That's why this can be so powerful, but only 4 minutes long. Christopher West only needed to point to set the stage for the dancers, they did the rest.

The dance is art worth commenting on in and of itself. The choreography captures the dance of man and woman so well. At some moments, the dance is noble, they waken each other's hearts to life, they learn one another, delicately. They embrace with the desperate childlike glee of young love and then chuckle at the jokes that come only with the dignity of years. It makes my heart yearn for marriage even more than I already do. This kind of art should not be an anomaly in the Church. It should be the norm.

My fiance and I did our marriage prep weekend last week. All of us were more or less forced to be there. We watched a talking head video of a Catholic speaker who did a great job explaining to people why they should save sex for marriage and not look at porn. It was fine. It probably didn't do a great job of changing anyone's mind. It is so much harder to create art that lets you taste and feel God's vision for marriage. It's much more costly, but the truth is that it's not worth doing it any other way. We are the only ones who are going to champion the sacraments. Where else are people going to see a glimpse of the beauty God has stored up for them? It has to be us. 

We're proud of you guys for the work you're doing over there at Ascension. It always amazes me how many people and how much intentionality is involved with video. Nick DeRose directed the film, Matthew Pirrall produced it, Sean Boyd ran the lighting, Matt Longua did all of the close-ups, Kate Camden and Christopher West visioned the script, and Felicia Cruz choreographed the dance. 

For that many people to all work in harmony with each other to create something this effortless is amazing. Nick and Matthew pointed out the light sweeps as a particularly difficult part of creating this. They had to block out their own movements as cameramen so that their angles would be perfectly in line with the light reveals and that they wouldn't get in each other's way. According to Matt: "Our dancers, Felicia and Alrick, were amazingly professional and danced this difficult piece over the multiple takes and nailed it every time. For me personally, moving with them with the camera felt like being a participant in their dance, and was a dynamic that I had not experienced behind the camera before.

That's some next level artmaking right there. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the rest of the series and all that you guys at Ascension have in store for us this year! 


This Creation of the Week by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Catholic Creative and Cofounder of Sherwood Fellows

 

 

Creation of the Week #52 William Price III's "Together We Are Motherhood"

Brave Love is doing some powerful stuff for the cause of life and William Price III of Whiskey Ginger Please is helping to show it. 

Video is a powerful medium to work in, but that's part of what makes it tricky. Because it engages three senses at once, video grips us in a way that still images on their own simply can't. It's almost too easy to make the viewer watch and illicit at least a semblance of an emotional reaction if the subject matter has any substance. Because of this, it's (sometimes) easy to set up space for an interview with good lighting controlled sound, grab a mostly surface level interview, cut in some stock b-roll, and post a video on youtube and still get some good results.

But no one remembers those videos. We remember videos that tell stories, where characters experience life-changing events and we learn the lessons they learn. We experience delight, elevation, insight, and achievement with characters in videos offer us a story and not just ideas. William Price does an awesome job of capturing these impacting moments on screen and allowing us to experience some of the journey these two women took as their story intersects. 

One woman yearns for a child, the other discovers she's pregnant. One woman prepares to give birth, the other prepares the baby's room. One woman delivers, the other receives the child and holds him. 

The task of video, and of all art is to draw us into an encounter with the specific. To take us out of the realm of ideas and submerge us in the small moment that matters in all its reality. Not every line of this video feels like that, but the line at 2:20 just hits me in the heart with its unpretentious smallness. It's so authentic. "I wonder, will he have my nose, my sweet tooth, what will make him laugh?" In that line, the difficult choice that this mother is making becomes real to me as I'm drawn into her experience and feel the heartache of that decision with her.  Well shot, William.

 

by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Catholic Creative and Creative Director at Sherwood Fellows

Creation of the Week # 51 Will Armstrong's Work On "The Long Road Home."

It's always such an honor to get to recognize one of the community members whose doing work out there in the real world. Our members have done some amazing things, from designing the titles for Wonder Woman, to launching a kickstarter that made 200,000 in a day. Will's work in "The Long Road Home, a National Geographic mini-series that chronicles the events of April 4th, 2004, when a platoon was ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad, in an attack that came to be known as "Black Sunday."

Will was one of the assistant art directors for the series. They work with the production designer and art director to create a vision for all the locations and sets, which is saying something considering that the set was the largest working set in America during it's filming. Will and his team's work on this is beyond a shadow of a doubt a massive undertaking that ultimately lead to this series' unique visual identity.  I mean, honestly, to get a handle on what kind of set design we're talking about just look at this picture:

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Learn more about The Long Road Home.

Will, keep up the good work, brother. You're making us proud.

Creation of the Week #50 Blessed is She's 2017 Advent Calendar

Blessed is She never ceases to amaze me. Those ladies are such incredible pioneers in every non literal way possible. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Blessed is She circles got started on mars in the next 10 years. Their Advent calendar this year is another example of how consistently they reinvent themselves and push the boundaries of what they offer to women through their ministry.

Blessed is She is known for beautiful design. Many of us know this. But many organizations that start there find their one look and stick to it for 20 years. That doesn’t work for anyone. First it’s cool, then it’s a fad, then it’s cheesy. It also takes what once gave voice to some deep guttural utterance in the spirit of an artist and turns it into a disembodied commodity. That is how many organizations approach design. Blessed is She embraces the significance of art in a way that so few ministries do. Good art doesn’t subtract from the meaning of its content, but rather it emphasizes that meaning, allows it to breathe, and gives it a dwelling place.

That is exactly what this design does. It's sophisticated, it's fresh, it's alive, and it opens up Advent to the viewer to look at it from a new and different vantage point.

Jenna Guizar led the charge, Laura Fanucci wrote the gospel intros, Erica Tighe designed the calendar and prints, and Katie Haviland Waldow took all of the amazing product shots that show off all the inside details.  Every single lady involved in this collaboration deserve special shout-outs for breaking new ground. We're proud of you guys!

Creation of the Week #49 Created Book by Cory Heimann

In some way we are all artists, we just have to recognize it.
— Cory Heimann

One of my favorite things about Cory is how fascinated he is with the creative spirit. It's his obsession to understand the spiritual nature of creativity, how it functions, and what it's role is in our lives.  The Created book is just one amazing fruit of that obsession, and it is awesome.

The Created Book is a beautiful book about beauty from the wells of wisdom found in the creative expertise of so many amazing creators. If you haven't already pre-ordered a book through the kickstarter, do it now. It got fully funded in one day and the stretch goals are pretty epic, so help him out!

The Battle

What I love about this book is the most is that Cory inadvertently is fighting a battle against a certain set of beliefs that we hold as Westerners. We think that creativity is some handicap that only a select few oddballs get saddled with.  For us, creativity is a great added bonus, but productivity and responsibility are absolute necessity. Our western, american view of human natures says that there are some kinds of people who are creative, and others who are not. 

This book flies in the face of those assumptions.

A lot of people tend to think that Catholic Creatives is really for the art crowed, that it's for hipsters with round glasses who own wacom tablets and use macs. Creativity isn't just about art. In the words of Sam Sorich: "Art isn't just about art, it's about being human." 

This book isn't just about sharing some wisdom from a bunch of creative folks or showcasing some beautiful design. It's a manifesto for the regaining of a creative Church. It's a blueprint for a revival of Catholic culture because it stakes a flag in the ground and says "we are ALL called to be creative." 

The first five words of the Bible are also about creation: “In the beginning, God created.” (Genesis 1:1). That is the beginning of all things. According to Cory: “I realized that's why it's so innate in us to create – because we're sharing in the first thing that God shared that He did,” he said.

Cory didn't just find sacred artists or designers for this book. He called together Catholic architects, chefs, musicians, calligraphers, podcasters, painters, theologians, and teachers. He talked both to artists who are doing specifically Catholic work, and creators who are Catholic but working in the secular world.  That’s because, as Catholic author and philosophy professor Peter Kreeftsays on his page: “We're artists because God is.”

Pope John Paul II in his 1999 letter to artists  he wrote: “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”

If we want our Church to be the creative masterpiece that we know God intended her to be, we need to take up the mantle of creativity. We need zealous visionaries on fire for their prophetic love for the world to join our God in his ongoing work ofco-creation.

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Cory, more than anyone else I've ever met has taught me by example the love of the act of creation as a participation in God's generative being. There is no one better to draw from such a well of wisdom as Cory, so I'm grateful to him and to all of the community members who participated in this awesome collaboration. I can't wait to put the prints I'm getting with my book up on my wall.

If you guys have not already watched Cory's talk from the CC Summit, do it now. It'll change your life.

Blog by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
CoFounder of Catholic Creatives

Creation of the Week #48 LIFE Collage by Life Teen's Ryan McQuade

This year Life Teen is creating a new series on what it means to value life. Life Teen knows the value of art for both attracting and challenging young people to and with the faith. They got Ryan McQuade on it because we all know that Ryan doesn’t disappoint, and sure enough he blew it out of the water. He designed a collage for each life issue in the series that both sparkle in your eyes and punch you in the gut.

This year Life Teen is creating a new series on what it means to value life. Life Teen knows the value of art for both attracting and challenging young people to and with the faith. They got Ryan McQuade on it because we all know that Ryan doesn’t disappoint, and sure enough he blew it out of the water. He designed a collage for each life issue in the series that both sparkle in your eyes and punch you in the gut.


The primary message behind the series is that being pro-life is much more of a mentality you carry through life than a just a political cause to rally behind. Each life night in the series covers a marginalized group or life issue. Just looking at the collages will tell you that this is not the same kind of ProLife series many of us probably had in our youth groups. This series is going to feature ever so popular topics like immigration, the poor, the death sentence, and assisted suicide. Most of us that are working in the Church know that on the ground in parishes, those topics are not the safest to break open. I’m proud of Life Teen for pushing their youth ministers to talk about these issues and equipping them not just with teaching, but with art.

I asked Ryan why he decided on collage as his medium for this project. This is what he said:

“I’ve never really worked in collage before but I felt it was the right project to try it out on. It was really important to me to show photographs of real people. I didn’t want any of this project to be idyllic. I wanted it to challenge your perception of being pro-life in someway. I’ve been happy to see that working as I get peoples reactions and opinions of the work. It seems that something different stands out to everyone and I’m really excited about that. I hope that it challenges everyone differently.”
— Ryan

Collage is particularly powerful in that it gives the artist the ability to build metaphors into the creation of a single image. Take this image of the prisoner for example.

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The orange wall behind the prisoner’s prisoner’s head is cut out to resemble a halo. A blue cloth is draped over his orange jumpsuit, which is often how Christ is portrayed in traditional icongraphy. A hand in the gesture of blessing in traditional completes the icon, inviting us to see this prisoner as the image of Christ. The symbolism deepens as you notice the white space and numbers behind the prisoner’s head. This recalls the mug shot, a particularly unsettling moment of condemnation. To his right, the arm of a crucifix protrudes and above it the words “death sentence.” Below his arm, the plaque that marked Jesus’ cross is placed. “The King of the Jews.”

We cannot help to see Christ in the image of one of our culture’s undesirables, a black felon condemned to death row. This relationship between Jesus and the prisoner created through the collage leads us to contemplate both the prisoner and Jesus in a new way. We tend to think that “these people are get what they deserve” and are happy that “they are off the streets.” But when I look at this collage, I feel challenged by the question: is that not how people thought of Jesus? A trouble maker? Got what he deserved?

It puts the rejection that Jesus experienced in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

It also makes us consider the death sentence in that new light as well. How can we be so quick to condemn another human being to death when we condemned the most innocent of men, Jesus, to a brutal torturous end. The prisoner and the Christ are drawn together and made one in this image. It’s powerful, it’s beautiful, and it’s alive with meaning. Great work, Ryan. Keep on creating!

Blog by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Cofounder of Catholic Creatives

Creation of the Week #47 Elissa Voss' Verily Magazine Shoot

Elissa Voss is an incredible photographer. I keep realizing this every time I see one of my friends get married. Chances are if you want to FSU or Ave Maria, she probably took all of your friend's wedding shots. So, hi five Elissa for cornering the Catholic wedding market. That's probably the best wedding market to be in since we tend to do a lot of them. Incidentally, now that I'm actually on my way to getting married, weddings photos are starting to look a lot less alike, so I'm actually beginning to really appreciate what all of you go through that brave the harrows of wedding photography. In any case, Elissa has always been awesome, but her most recent shoot for Verily was definitely some next level stuff.
 

Elissa's style is beautiful, nostalgic, and real,  She captures something so deeply of the feminine genius in her work. When I asked her what she was trying to accomplish with the shots, she said: "My focus was to capture the happy and healthy Verily woman through lifestyle images. My hope was to capture the beauty of womanhood and how we interact with others in everyday life, fully alive and loving well." In these shots you don't see some dark brooding woman, sensual and mysterious, you see women just alive and living their femininity in a real way. You really see that with the dinner party shots. "For the female friendship part," she said, "I really wanted to show the beauty of community/intimacy in friendships and how important it is just to 'be' together." That's exactly what Verily is about, women just "being," not trying to impress, not trying to put on a face, just being as they were meant to. Mission accomplished, Elissa!

That style is not so easy to capture, however. There's a lot that had to go into planning this thing, which is one of the biggest reasons I admire this work. If you go through the whole gallery on Elissa's site, you can see just how many sets, models, and wardrobe changes, and props that needed to be worked with. She had to think about light and time of day, which location to hit first, hire models,  and work with them to get authentic looking moments. A shoot like this with so many pieces can very easily fall apart. All it takes is some random unexpected detail to get dropped and you're screwed. Your battery runs out and you realized you left the spare at the last location, your SD card is full and you only bought 5 and you needed 10, you get stuck in traffic on the way to the sunset and by the time you get there its dark... so on and so forth. You get the idea. It's not exactly a cakewalk.

Elissa had to have spent countless hours in the planning for this shoot and it shows. We're proud of you, Elissa! Keep up the good work.

 This shot needs an honorable mention. Erica Tighe volunteered her house and studio for Elisa's shoot. That should be #lifegoals for all Catholic Creatives. May we all create our spaces so beautiful that professional photographers ask us to set up photo shoots in our homes. 

If you want to see more of Elisa's work, go here. If you want to reminisce on last year's CC Summit, or get really really excited about next year's CC Summit, go look at her CC Summit Gallery. It's amazing.

Creation of the Week by
Marcellino D'Ambrosio
CoFounder of Catholic Creatives