Creation of the Week

Creation of the Week Returns! - Novum Collective

With the revolutionary advancements of the technology, transportation, Internet, social media, etc., collaboration is no longer as difficult as it once was, and yet in the Catholic world it is still often times a source of power left untapped. That’s why I was so pumped when I saw the Novum crew’s newest collaboration, the Novum Collective Christmas Album. It’s not because their site is amazing or because I absolutely love every piece of art on there. I think it’s all great, but the fact that they are teaming up to put their collective energy and effort behind a common cause together, that’s what gets me pumped.

I remember three years ago feeling totally alone and like I was the only one who thought the way I think about creativity in the Church. Now I’m friends with a couple thousand new like minded people, some of whom I feel like I’ve been to war and back with. 40% of our clients at Sherwood Fellows have come from the CC community, 100% of our team members and freelancers have been brought together through the community, I’ve been mentored, I’ve been challenged, I’ve been stretched to my limit and beyond it, and literally everything in my life is better for it.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy person when I tell people that CC is one of the most powerful forces for transformation in the Church today. When I say that, I don’t mean the organization behind Catholic Creatives, because (shhh don’t tell anyone) there isn’t some big organization behind Catholic Creatives. I mean the decentralized network that’s powering crazy things like this wacked out crowdfunding campaign from Novum Co.

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Here’s the reality: Most of us musicians, artisans, makers, and artists are really in the beginning stages of our careers and the odds are mostly stacked against us. We have might have 1-5k followers on our social media platforms and we’ve fought hard for each and every one of them. We’re not that connected, and though we’re talented, we don’t have access to the kind of force multiplier following that let Audrey Assad jump ship from her label and go solo. We don’t have big names, there’s not a connected economy for what we do that’s supported like it is in the protestant world, we don’t have a lot of mentors or infrastructures that exist to help us. That’s how I felt 3 years ago, and CC has totally changed that for me. Now I’m getting to see that happening for others as well.

As the Catholic Creatives movement picks up momentum,a great side effect has been a new awareness of other creative communities around the country (and globe).  With this greater connectivity comes greater potential. Will Hickle, Eric Wilkes, and all the other people involved in Novum saw the distributed network of CC and saw it for the force multiplier it is. What was once Novum (just Eric and Will doing their thing) they’ve expanded into a collective of Catholic creatives musicians who are putting out a super sweet Christmas Album together. They are crowdfunding it not simply by preselling the album, but by teaming up with a whole bunch of other Catholic Creative artists to sell unique Christmas gifts.

I asked Will why the move towards collaboration, and he told me that it started with the music:

“in my experience musical collaborations yield amazing results when compared to trying to do it on my own.” YES WILL. PREACH. He talked about how they leaned on each other’s talents and gifts to make the music amazing, but looked to leverage each other’s following by opening it up to one another. By collaborating instead of going it alone, “we build awareness of every artist that’s a part of the project. Every artist gets exposure to every other artists’ following.”

Everyone reading this, be like Will. Will was smart. He saw that his following might not be that big, but if he joined with 12 artists who all also have small followings, those numbers turn into a force to be reckoned with. 12x5,000=60,000. That’s a tide that can raise all ships.

Collaboration is smart, but it’s also what’s best for our souls. Will was really emphatic about that point when I asked him about how this project got rolling. He told me that as a part of the process all the musicians cleared their schedules to go on a writers retreat together. “I personally have never experienced such a wave of inspiration that came from being around so many creative people. Many of us had never been so productive or so excited to write music. Sadly I've observed that many circles of creatives work in isolation - a lot of people work alone because of schedules, location, or lack of community.  This is where CC offers hope, and if you're reading this I encourage you to reach out to someone you've seen on the group that you have thought "I would love to work with them"!

Listen to Will. Find a team. Also, go buy some Christmas gifts on their site and support them. Their crowdfunding ends on Friday, so go show ‘em some love.

By Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Cofounder of Catholic Creatives
Creative Director of Sherwood Fellows

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
 

Creation of the Week #45 Matthew Alderman's UW Catholic Center

Matthew Alderman joined the community last week and posted his designs for the University of Wisconson's Catholic Center. I'm curious how many of us promptly started researching graduate degrees there, because DAMN. This Church is going to be impressive. College students generally get the dregs in terms of Church architecture, but this is going to be an incredible gift to the students there and all of the surrounding neighborhood. I would travel at LEAST 45 minutes to go to mass in this building. 

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I'm not an architect, so I do not have the credibility to critique this building from that field of competence, but I will say this: If our Churches look and feel like shopping malls, UFO's, or Unitarian Universalist "churches" our evangelization efforts will be sluggish and poor at best. Our experience of Mass is the PRIMARY place where we live out our faith. I'm becoming more and more convinced every Sunday that I go to mass that our parish buildings are the starting point for good liturgy.  Architecture affects absolutely everything. Have you ever been to a modern Church in the round where they tried to do Gregorian Chant? It falls on its face. Ever been to any of the Triduum floor at a church sanctuary with a carpeted floor and lit by floodlights? No matter how spiritually rich the liturgy is, if it is encased in a building that inherently contradicts the liturgy's meaning, it is going to feel empty. 

I'm not saying that God is not present or that the Priests holiness or the musician's prayer doesn't matter. I'm just saying that the experience of God will be greatly impaired when the building's grammar denies the truth that is present in the liturgy. 

That is why I'm so excited for to see the people at the University of Madison's Catholic Center investing so much into this beautiful architecture which speaks of God's grandeur and holiness, of the wonder of heaven, and the glory of the Paschal Mystery.  Matthew, great work. We're excited to see more!

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

 

Creation of the Week #44 Fabiola Garza's "Coco"

One day I will stop fangirling over Fabi, but that day is not today. For those of you who don't know her, she works at Disney as an illustrator and also illustrated a children's book called "The Boy that became Pope" about the life of JP II that will make you cry. If you don't have it and have kids of the reading age, make that happen asap.

Last week the cover for the new Pixar book is dropped and guess who did the illustration for it? FABI. Yeah. And it's amazing.

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The detail on this thing is incredible. I love how everything Fabi does looks like she captured it at the golden hour. It's all motion, light, and life. This cover captures that especially well. All of the lines in this image lead to Coco (presumably the boy?) and his dog, leading the eye towards his face and give us a feeling of some great and exciting adventure which awaits right off page.  Both characters are mid-stride, plunging into the leaves in a playful and excited gait. This scene could have so easily been so boring as to be stupefyingly bland: A boy with a guitar and a dog in Mexican town." Fabi, however, makes this scene extraordinary, magical, and full of emotion. I love it. Fabi, we're proud of you! Keep repping Jesus out there in the real world by being amazing at what you do.
 

 


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows

 

Creation of the Week #43 Creation of the Week Diego Diaz' Augustinian Recollects Branding

Good design is universal.

As Catholics, we believe that beauty isn’t simply a matter of how you grew up, what age group you fit into, and what language you speak. There is a subjective experience that you bring to the table every time you see or hear art or music, but there is something objective to art.

That is the standpoint from which I want to approach Diego Diaz’ branding project for the Augustinian Recollects. It is a significant work. It is deeply meaningful in its symbolism, very attractive even on first glance, and easily recognizable in all its forms. Any American high school kid would scroll up on Instagram, give it a double tap and call it a day. But Diego Diaz didn’t design this for American kids. He designed it for an order of Augustinians in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that our culture hugely influences the way we look at art and this is especially true of branding. Just look at the way that people experience soda differently when they are shown it’s a coke. That said, design principles are part of the practical reality of composition. Certain color combinations look better. Whether you’re from Nigeria or from Scandinavia, the color wheel still applies. Contrast matters to anyone that can see, taste, or hear or feel. The Golden Ratio works every time whether you intend to use it or just happen to use it because it’s a part of nature. There are some objective rules that govern what we find beautiful and what we find inauthentic and ugly. I think Diego, along with many other designers in the community from South America show just how universal excellence in design really is.

Diego’s site says that he designed this identity to represent St. Augustine's charism, “the search for truth, service to the community, and the love for God without conditions. Colors and aesthetics are linked to the cultural identity that's manifested in each flag of the province's nations.”  In addition, he writes about how the search for truth and the church mission part was associated with exploration, which leads them to draw inspiration from maps and compasses.

Here are the criteria by which I judge a logo’s success or failure:

  1. It needs to reflect your organization’s "why" in a single, simple form.

  2. It must be distinguishable in positive and negative. This necessitates the use of negative space.

  3. It must be able to be represented in black and white.

  4. It must be distinguishable at the size of a penny, and still look amazing blown up on a billboard.

  5. It must last for at least 10 years, but probably more.

I think it’s safe to say Diego achieves each of these marks. Everything about this brand conveys energy, exploration, and friendliness while saying at the same time “take me seriously, I’m legit.” It speaks to the core values of the religious order and incarnates their "why" effectively. It has great contrast so it looks good in positive and negative and works in black and white. It’s simple and balanced, so it preserves its effectiveness no matter what size you view it at. It’s elegant and fashionable, not simply trendy, so it'll last for many years with a minimal need to update. 

Keep rocking and rolling, Diego. You make us all proud to be Catholic by doing great design, brother. Keep it up!


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
CoFounder of Sherwood Fellows

 

Creation of the Week #42 Therese Bussen's NFP in Real Life

In honor of NFP Awareness Week, which begins July 23, let’s talk about sex.
— Therese Bussen

What a great way to start an article! Bravo, Therese. For those of you who don’t know Therese, she’s a journalist at Denver Catholic. She used to blog for FOCUS and was known for her authentic, vulnerable writing. She has a knack for taking conversations that are simmering on the periphery and bringing them into the forefront of Catholic conversation.

That’s why I picked this article. It’s not necessarily the most personally vulnerable or edgy piece I’ve ever read on NFP, but it is the first honest article that wrestles with the lived experience of NFP I’ve read by a Diocesan news outlet.

I believe that the Church is entering a new season in its life. For lack of better terminology, I’ll call it the post-Culture War Era. For the last half century, the Church in America has been fighting the Culture War. We’ve been primarily concerned with defending the faith, and doing so through politics and apologetics. There is a place for both in the life of the Church, but they were over-emphasized to the detriment of the lived experience of discipleship.

We fought tooth and nail to prove to Protestants and the rest of the world that we were right and they were wrong, never mind the fact that the music at our parish is terrible, the architecture is laughable, the homilies are boring and unrelatable, and that our parishioners are leaving in droves. We would cover over these things by saying things like: “If people just understood the mass better, the mass would stop being boring.” I’ve been Catholic my whole life and was raised by a theologian. Sometimes mass is boring, and when that happens, it’s usually because the liturgy was unintentional and bland, not because I didn’t know enough about transubstantiation. The post-Culture War Church is pausing for a second and wondering why our arguments aren’t being effective. It’s a great opportunity to take a good hard look at our reflection in the mirror. We’re haggard, wrinkled, disheveled, and look like we haven’t showered in 2000 years.

We got so caught up in arguing that we lost our ability to look at ourselves and acknowledge the messiness of Catholicism’s lived experience. Thankfully, this is changing.

It’s changing because modern man doesn’t want perfect, white-washed, meticulously proven facts anymore. The culture has changed. After a couple centuries of massively up-heaving warfare, industrialization, globalization, the internet, and big marketing, we’ve grown disillusioned with our rational ability to understand and be sure of anything. We’ve come into contact with a rich diversity of beliefs, a multitude of contrary ideas and thoughts. We are suspicious of every message, and test its perceived value not by the air tightness of its argument, but by the authenticity of its bearer.

Struggling with our faith, and showing that struggle is actually what humanity in the post-Culture War Era is looking for.
Those who try to live NFP in their marriages struggle. That’s the truth. We have to be OK with showing that, or else we will have NO credibility with a world who’s done with perfection. We have to show our wrestling so that those of us who struggle don’t feel like we’re alone. We have to show it so that we can give others insight into the actual lived actions and perspectives that can carry us through their own trials.

That’s why I love that Therese Bussen is willing to go there and open up the conversation to the Diocese of Denver and to the rest of the world.

Keep on wrestling with the reality of the lived gospel, Therese. You are giving us all a voice.


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows

 

Creation of the Week #41 Father Tansi's Garden

This has been a hard past few weeks. I've been wrestling with deep dissatisfaction with myself. I've been drinking from the barrel of self doubt and just trying to see if it has a bottom. It doesn't.

There are times when I really don't want to face the world, and times when I want to face this community even less, when I open a fresh Google Doc and stare at it for an hour and hit the backspace more than any other key. Today is a day like that.

I've been listening to Fr. Tansi's record, Garden, and I've really needed it. It's been speaking to me in some vulnerable places and I can't say thank you enough to Fr. Tansi and to all of the people at Renewal in Motion who were a part of making it happen. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You were there for me today. 

I feel like Fr. Tansi is opening up a secret door into the garden of his own prayer, into his dialogue with a God who loves him, who's proud of him, and who is eminently present. Especially in "Rising," and "Rest." Often when I'm struggling to believe that about God and about myself, the pathway out has been encountering God's love through someone else's invitation into their own experience of the Divine. 

Garden is a work that does that for me. It's not just the arrangements, the vocals, the melody, the instrumentation...all of these are worthy of recognition. It's the heart that's behind it all.

It's beautiful in every way. Even the album art, which was done by Daniela Madriz, one of my personal heroes. 

Thanks again to you guys at Renewal in Motion for being so awesome. We love you guys!


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows

 

Creation of the Week #40 Glass Canvas' Anthem Philly Rebrand

There have not been many moments in my life where my jaw has literally dropped in amazement after perusing a Catholic ministry's website.  Last week when Anthem Philly went live, I stared at my screen for at least 4:33 seconds in disbelief.

These were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I saw this:

"This is Catholic?! THERE'S NO WAY!"

"When is my Diocese going to let me do something like this?"

"Who did this?... of course. Glass Canvas. Of course it was."

"I can not believe Bishop Chaput let them do this!"

Then I looked at the blog titles and my jaw dropped even further. At this point, I'm pretty sure I could have swallowed my desktop whole.

"I don't have my {poop emoji} together?" EDGY, Anthem Philly, edgy. Did you think I would fall for that click bait? DID YOU?
Well. I did. And I read the whole thing, which I NEVER do.

As you can tell, I think this brand the good people at Anthem Philly have adopted is freaking fantastic and puts every other diocesan rebrand I've ever seen to shame. Let me tell you two reasons why:

1. Clarity

They've clearly defined what their mission is, and who it's to.  At least 75% of the effort in my ministry when I was a youth minister was wasted because of a lack of clarity. I don't think it's just conjecture to say that most other ministries suffer from the same thing. We have bake sales that take a week to prep and raise $80, we have 3 retreats a year, a mission trip, Steubenville Conferences and DCYC's, small group ministries, discipleship programs....etc. We try to reach out to parents, to young adult core members, to punks, gangsters, bro's, and homeschooled Catholics and every other category of kid. I learned the hard way: when we try to make our ministries relevant to everyone, instead we make them relevant to no one. 

Generally, I've found that the more responsibility an organization has, the less clarity it operates with. Diocesan ministries, then, are some of the worst offenders in this category. They often don't know if they are trying to minister to the ministers or directly to the youth themselves. They don't know if they should fade into the background or lead the charge, going back and forth between the two.

Anthem Philly, on the other hand, knows EXACTLY who they are trying to reach.
Check out their brand manifesto.

Anthem Philly is calling young people back into belonging in the Church. That means they need to brand themselves in a way that they will be seriously considered by those who do NOT feel they belong in the Church. In doing so, Anthem is waving the banner for the whole Diocese, giving vision and setting the example for all of them.

I also love the language they use on their about page:
"It’s our passion to see youth ministers killin’ it in their roles serving the youth in Philly. We provide training and support to make sure they get the encouragement and backup they need."

Youth & Young Adult ministers are not known for being buttoned up professorial types. It usually takes someone who is pretty rough around the edges to dive into ministry. This site isn't speaking some political diocesan jargon or high-minded systematic theology. They are speaking the down to earth, rough around the edges language that youth & young adult ministers ACTUALLY USE. The tone so many ministers get from their Diocesan office says: "We're here to tell you what to do." In using this language and brand, Anthem Philly is saying: "We love you, we get you, and we want to help."

2. Raw, authentic outreach.

All too often, in ministry, we hide our true selves behind teaching, behind scripture, behind everyone else's story but our own for fear of being vulnerable or "making the ministry about us." It's the absolute worst thing we could ever do. Used car salesmen do the same thing. They'll tell you everything there is to know about that car they're trying to sell you. They'll tell you about how awesome you'll feel driving this model and sing its praises to high heaven. Have they ever driven it themselves? No. Would they ever buy it themselves? Hell no.

Jesus came and testified to the one who had sent him. Then he sent his disciples to do the same thing. We were sent to bear witness to Him who we know personally, not sell young people a set of doctrines that will make their lives better. In an age that is increasingly cynical about religion, the only chance we have to the younger generations is to speak to them from personal experience, to witness to the God who saved us from our own desperate struggle. 

This is why Anthem's brand is so amazing. It's gritty, It's real, and It's going to speak deeply to the audience they've targeted. 

Bravo, Anthem Philly. Good work. We hope many more Dioceses will notice and follow suit. 


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Creative Director of Sherwood Fellows
 

Creation of the Week #40 Madi Myers-Cook's Portraits of Rwanda

Some of the best art created by humanity was made to show the nobility of a people often seen as sub-par or helpless. Madi's recent project, Portraits of Rwanda, is one such as this. 

When we think of Africa, the images that often come to mind are images of helpless children covered in flies, or of women, bare breasted with a hopeless stare. We think of the ads we've seen from countless NGOs and non-profits asking us for resources to solve hunger once and for all. 

Though none of these organizations intend to give us the impression that all Africans are helpless and in need of the salvation we wealthy and wise Westerners bring, that can be the unintended result. This, my friends, is a terrible brand issue that needs to be resolved. Part of returning dignity to the poor is returning their dignity. This means believing in them to accomplish great things the way our God always has.

ENTER MADI MYERS-COOK

Madi went to Rwanda to tell the stories of women rising above poverty and their past to be entrepreneurs and chase their own dreams. She did this not by bringing financial relief, but by giving the gift that she did have, the same gift Peter gave to the cripple at the temple - the Holy Spirit working through her.

In her portraits, you can see the nobility of each person shot, the passion, the joy, the strength, the life present in each face. It takes a special gift to bring out the true heart of a person and capture it in a moment. Madi has that gift in abundance. I'm super excited to see more from her, and I especially hope that she writes about the project so that we can see more.

Be sure to check out Madi's Instagram account for more photos and details about each shot.

 

This Creation of the Week is by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Creative Director at Sherwood Fellows

Creation of the Week #39 Imagine Sisters by Dan & Christina Rogers

And as we ask God – “What is it that you have created me for?” – we pause for a moment and listen for the whisper: “Can you imagine?
— Imagine Sisters

Imagine Sisters was one of the first Catholic media movements I ever saw that truly impressed me. I remember seeing it for the first time and being so amazed at the simplicity of the idea and its impact. Instead of arguing people into an appreciation of the religious vocation, they just showed it. They shared photos of sisters in authentic, beautiful, and joyful moments, and that was enough. It had a huge impact on religious vocations in the US, and now it's back.

Thanks to Dan & Christina Rogers of Avenue Creative, Imagine Sisters 2.0 is here, and it's amazing for all of the same reason it always was-  it's showing, not telling. 

Every photo on this site displays beautiful young women in love with their vocation and their commitment to Christ. It feels alive and joyful, it beacons but never begs for attention. The website is well thought out, never being pushy, but always giving the visitor calls to action that leads deeper into an encounter with the feminine religious vocation. 

The amount of work that it must have taken to relaunch this apostolate in these new, beautiful garments must have been astounding. Especially the full-length documentary "the Light of Love," which is just as intentional and professionally created as everything else Dan & Christina do.  

 

Just to show the reach that this movement already has, look at the numbers they are boasting.

This goes to show the impact that professional media can have when it is used to reveal God's love to the world in the faces and story's of his children, but I have a feeling that Imagine Sisters is just getting started. 


This Creation of the Week is brought to you by Marcellino D'Ambrosio of Sherwood Fellows.