[Update: Chapter Seven is now available for download. Check your app.]
The Rabbit Room has always been about stories. More than that, it’s about what’s behind the stories. That great and loving Mystery moves behind the veil and speaks every once in a while through artists, poets, and starry-eyed priests.
As for starry-eyed priests, I have long thought of the Apostle John as one of them. From the resounding prose of John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word…”) to the grandfatherly way he called his readers “dear children”, he seems to be the kind of man you might see shuffling through a coffee house to the corner seat to scribble in his journal and smile at the kids seated nearby. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that God would reveal the End of All Things to that kind old man whom Jesus loved? Who better than a poet to write down the truth of what is to come–not perhaps because of any great skill on his part, but because of his willingness to accept the mystery—the horror and glory of all those symbols and images and unearthly utterances—without troubling to decipher them for his readers. “This is what God told me,” he seems to be saying. “Do with it what you will.”
Some choose to decode it. Some choose to interpret it. Some choose instead to simply experience it, to marvel at it, and in the end, to rejoice that, at the very least, the book promises that Christ on his steed will come running with his army at his heels.
Well, my friend Christopher Koelle is an artist, and the Revelation App is what he did with it. (You may remember Chris’s work from the cover art for Andrew Osenga’s The Morning and Derek Webb’s The Ringing Bell, or from the Prodigal Son painting hanging in the Rabbit Room office.) If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, download it and experience Chris’s vision of John’s vision like never before. Get thee to the App Store, then come back here and let us know what you think. I’m so glad for artists like Chris, who use their craft to draw attention to Scripture, and ultimately, to Jesus. I asked him (Chris, not Jesus) to write a little about himself and what led him here. This is what he had to say.
As a kid, my answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” yielded an automatic and resounding, “artist”, every time. More specifically, I envisioned myself creating comic books, animated movies, video game character art, or all of the above. Because, after all, like a lot of kids, my treasury consisted of comic books, animated movies, and video games…of course.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college where I pursued my dream of being an animator by taking an elective cinema class in the basics of hand-drawn animation. After persevering through the physical rigors and mental gymnastics – the sheer imaginative force – required for creating seemingly living, breathing characters out of mere stacks of blank sheets of paper, I forsook my attempts at animating and instead re-focused my energies on a dedicated exploration of my materials, subject matter, ideas, and moods – what some would call art for art’s sake. Inspired by the directness and forcefulness of the stark black and white prints of German Expressionism, I soon discovered a profoundly exhilarating enjoyment in the act of printmaking – creating etchings, drypoints, monotypes – which offered an element of danger (sharp pointy tools, corrosive acids, jagged metal plates) and surprise in the way an image could unfold and develop apart from my own deliberate choices about where to draw that next line or how to make that next mark. Intaglio printmaking was a world of discovery, a realm of unforeseen frustrations and beautiful surprises.
So in my work, I began striving for a sort of gradual revelation. I continually tried to enter into an unpredictable process of making marks and playing with ideas in order to produce a strong, graphic image of something emotionally resonant, allowing the individual lines and scrapes and blocks of tone reveal themselves and exist because they are simply beautiful, but also for the sake of the resulting image itself.
Enter Portland Studios, an illustration collective founded by fellow art majors Brannon McAllister and Justin Gerard during our time in college. I was brought into a young circle of immensely talented artists who strove to perfect their craft as illustrators, creating and telling great stories through the pursuit of excellence in art. We were friends and artists excited by the same things, and so my career as an illustrator began.
Over the next several years I created illustrations for a seemingly unending stream of projects, and in 2007 The Documentary Group hired me to visualize a segment in the Oscar-nominated documentary Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. The 6-minute animated sequence visualized U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell’s harrowing journal entry titled “Men in Black“, which recounted a terrorist ambush on his platoon in Mosul, Iraq.
A few years later, after having transitioned to the life of a freelancer, work was slow, and on a Wednesday in February 2009 I drove around town dropping off applications at several local businesses. When I arrived home that evening, I had an email in my inbox from a producer in Los Angeles who had seen the Men in Black segment and expressed interest in hiring me to illustrate a graphic novel about a military surgeon. Within a few days I had landed the job, and thus my relationship with Matt Dorff, scriptwriter extraordinaire, began.
Through an entire year spent transforming Matt’s script into a fully-illustrated 130-page graphic novel, the bond of our long-distance friendship grew strong across the continent, and we began discussing the possibility of future collaborations. After countless discussions over phone, email, and a few times face to face, we had come to a decision. Next up on the list? The Book of Revelation, illustrated verse by verse as never before, from beginning to end. At first, the prospect was overwhelming and, quite honestly, paralyzing. In the Summer of 2011, I was commissioned by Austin Stone Community Church to create about 50 illustrations to accompany a selection of Scriptures titled The History of Redemption (edited by Ronnie Smith, published by Austin Stone, 2010). Over the several months of production, it became clear to me that this robustly Biblical and deeply resonant project in many ways was preparing me for the task of illustrating the epic Book of Revelation. So in the Fall of 2011, the work began.
Being given the utterly unique opportunity to visualize the final statement of the New Testament, which has both fascinated and appalled for centuries, has been both a profoundly sobering task and a continual source of deep-rooted joy. There have been times in creating this imagery when I’ve shouted and laughed for the sheer joy of it, moments where I’ve wanted to quit, overwhelmed by desperate feelings of inadequacy and fear, and moments where I have sat silent and still as tears welled up in my eyes, no longer staring intently at the image on the screen, but rather imagining the Reality behind the symbols, listening to the Truth speak of itself, my eyes wet and closed in a quiet surrender of gratefulness and worship of the One Who Is, and Was, and Is To Come.