Illuminating the Cover!

In honor of my newest book, The Luminous Mysteries (which you can either buy here at the bookshop or at Amazon here) I’m going to start a blog series featuring some of the cool artworks of the book.

Starting with… the cover art!

This is what I finally chose for the cover art. Isn’t it cool? It features William Blake’s, The Last Supper.

The Luminous Mysteries, by Karina Tabone. Via IllustratedPrayer.com

Now, I would like to pretend that this was an easy choice but… actually, it wasn’t. In fact, choosing artwork for the cover is usually one of the toughest art choices of the whole book. Not only does it have to somehow fit into a predetermined space and match the chosen color scheme, but it also must somehow encompass the entire set of mysteries in a simple visual that hooks your eye.

And that is not an easy thing to do! After all, the Luminous Mysteries covers the entire ministry of Christ. How does one pinpoint one single scene of Christ’s ministry?

I honestly didn’t know where to even start at first. So, I decided to try out just a simple picture of Christ. Thus, I tried several icons of Christ as Pantocrator — or Christ as Lord of the Universe. Typically those icons showed Christ’s head with his hands extended in a blessing. I figured that could be a fair representation of the Luminous Mysteries — after all, didn’t Christ bless so many people?

But… the icons didn’t fit the space. At all. And don’t even get me started on the color scheme… that was a disaster.

So then I looked through Western art and tried to find a headshot of Christ. That… almost worked. Take a look at this demo cover that I made!

Rejected Cover Art for Luminous Mysteries. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
This is one of the cover finalists of The Luminous Mysteries that I ultimately rejected.

It uses this picture! (And yes, I edited out His fingers in the cover.)

The Redeemer Giving His Blessing, by Alvise Vivarini, c. 1498. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Redeemer Giving His Blessing, by Alvise Vivarini, c. 1498. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Yet, it still didn’t seem to fit quite what I wanted to convey. I wanted Christ to be in glory… yet not in the resurrected glory, but as He appeared to us during His ministry. This picture, as lovely as it is, didn’t seem to convey what I wanted.

My husband suggested maybe a Transfiguration picture. But, once again, that didn’t quite either: the artwork depicting the Transfiguration wasn’t the right shape.

All while this was going on, I had been sorting through the Last Supper pictures that I had to do some last minute replacement of some images that didn’t quite look great in print. And I found this artwork of The Last Supper by William Blake.

The Last Supper, by William Blake, c. 1799. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Last Supper, by William Blake, c. 1799. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.

Isn’t it beautiful? And so wild! Jesus sits with His disciples for the Last Supper, offering up bread and wine to His disciples. They recline at the table, each one reacting to the offering in a different way. Some of them pray, some of them look astounded, and some of them hold their hands to shield their eyes from the brilliance of Christ at that moment when He makes the sacrificial offering. At that moment, it is clear that something special and miraculous is happening, even if they aren’t totally aware of it at the time. There is only one of them who turns away from Christ entirely — Judas, who will later betray Christ with a kiss.

While I loved this artwork, it didn’t quite fit inside the book as well as I hoped. It was just a tad too wild among all the other pictures of the Last Supper — after all, Jesus is fully illuminated to the point where he seems to be the Light of the World — in a very literal way. Mind, I had an image of Tintoretto’s Last Supper in the book, in which Tintoretto carefully crafts the shadows of the picture so that it appears that Jesus is illuminating the room as well, but it’s a lot more subtle!

So, for an inside artwork, this work was not great.

But for the cover, in which I wanted to convey Christ as the source of all Light?

It was perfect.

So, I chose this artwork, formatted it so that it fit the cover space, and then showed it to my parents. My dad immediately replied, saying, “Karina, your choice of William Blake who pioneered illuminated printing is Genius on your part…you’re very, very  scary!”

I stared at his reply dumbfounded.

I knew, of course, that Christ was illuminated, and I thought it was a cool sort of visual pun that the Luminous Mysteries featured Christ illuminated. But that little detail about illuminated printing? That took me off-guard!

So, I looked into this more and apparently William Blake was a skilled printer, typesetter, and engraver. Lamenting the fact that the printing press had allowed for mass production of books and thus didn’t allow for the personalized art of old, such as the illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages, he developed a printing process called “illuminated printing.”

The process is a complicated one, which you can read more about here, but essentially it involves engraving the background into a woodcut for printing and then hand-coloring the print with watercolors. In other words, it could not be mass produced. He used this type of printing for his illuminate poetry books! (Click here to look at a poetry book of his which features his illuminations!)

And so! The cover art of The Luminous Mysteries which featured a picture of Christ illuminated was made by the man who pioneered illuminated printing.

Perfect, isn’t it?

This blog starts off the series of artworks that I used for my new book, The Luminous Mysteries, which you can either buy here at the bookshop or at Amazon here. All links to Amazon are affiliated links. 🙂

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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