I had the opportunity to design a poster for a Christians in Science event coming up on 22nd November. The focus of the event is a talk called Science and Faith – Friends or Foes? and the speaker, Dr. Rodney Holder, is eminently qualified to speak about this as he’s a mathematician, astrophysicist and an ordained priest in the Church of England.
I chose to explore a style of illustration using photos and mixing imagery found on the internet such as photos under creative commons licenses. Designs that use photographic imagery can be very striking and have a wider massmarket appeal than cartoon style illustration, but take different techniques to put together than the skills I typically practice. This wasn’t something I’d tried before seriously, but I had a bit of guidance from a tutorial in the Imagine Publishing magazine Illustrate with Photoshop. Since I spent about three hours on the tutorial it justified the cover price and it’ll get better value from here onwards!
The event’s theme gave me a juicy big reason to search for some truly epic imagery to incorporate.
I looked for pictures from space to evoke a sense of wonder and refer to humankind’s scientific accomplishments, and for pictures of cathedrals built for worship using engineering and mathematical disciplines. In reflection I’m glad I chose a figure as the focal element of the composition. Research shows that peoples’ eyes are drawn to faces, so this is a solid choice.
The central statue is one from a set called La Gloria y los Pegasos in Madrid. The angel in the middle represents Glory, bearing a palm frond and laurel-wreath crown gifts to Science and Art either side of her. I was prompted to search for allegorical figures to use from a radio discussion which mentioned the symbolism in the frontispiece illustration to Diderot’s Encyclopédie. I played around with fragmenting this image, assuming that viewers will interpret an angel as representing the faith part of the title to suggest the idea that historical forms of faith are eroding, or perhaps being transformed. The fragmentation also creates movement, which I try to put into (almost?) all of my artwork.
The stars, galaxies and nebulae in the image add colour and movement. I wanted something that would recall a particular Hubble Deep Field image which helps to visualise some of the staggering figures about our universe such as the existence of 100 billion stars in the Milky Way amid 100 billion galaxies like it. (The image linked to above has too much noise (that grainy look to it) for use itself.)
There are two cathedrals in the image, one is the Mezquita-Catedral World Heritage Site in Córdoba, the other is The Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragosa, also in Spain! The interior of the former arches over the top of the composition while the latter forms a horizon line in the lower half of the poster and creates some background-foreground depth in concert with the focal statue.
The device with an array of cylindrical shapes is the Cosmic Background Imager telescope. Again, this is a reference to a landmark scientific discovery, this time of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964. Compositionally, this gave me some good techy-looking angles and geometric shapes to contrast with the stars and storms and statues and their organic shapes. It also was a handy generally pale colour on which to place the important text conveying the details of the event!
Finally, where other designers start with a background texture such as stone or concrete underneath other layers of the illustration, I decided to search for a papyrus texture, as this is the material on which fragmentary manuscripts of the New Testament, from as far back as the second century (such as the St. John’s Fragment) survive.
Overall the process of finding and combining images allows for a richly symbolic treatment of the poster. I hope it conveys conflict as well as harmony between science and faith; I do think there’s a bit of both in my collection of views!
Additional source images used in composing the final image which have not already been linked in the text above: