(John 10:11,14) This painting was the result of a simple prayer inquiry by me in the early 1980s. Some years into my career as a portrait painter and illustrator I asked God, art can help Him. The answer was sudden and specific: “Paint the Good Shepherd.”
I began researching, starting with the verses of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus compares good and bad shepherds in John 10. I wanted to paint Jesus differently than I had seen him depicted in Western European art – but how? I knew he had to look vibrant and approachable, but it wasn’t until a trip to Israel that ideas began to present themselves. I noticed a certain darker skin type, especially in the military girls and boys. To me, the people of Israel are very beautiful, and created from a sundrenched rough terrain. Their skin glow bronze, had large lustrous eyes, strong brows and noses, full mouths, and thick black hair. They seemed like lions of the desert, strong and courageous.
With God’s guidance and Providence, I eventually produced an image that departed from the mainstream. There was fresh color, reality-based head and hand details, and a radiant joy. The face was a blend of two dedicated young Christian men I knew from church – Kelly, who is now a missionary – and my son Gregory, after a year of building houses, posed at the last minute for Jesus’ arms and hands. His arms produced a muscular carpenter look.