As It Is

I love this woodcut by artist Robert Hodgell. The first time I used it was on a banner for a day of prayer (you’ve also seen it before in RW). Because of the line work, we knew that it would be impractical to use cut fabric. We considered using paint but were afraid that the lines could not painted on fabric as solid as the original print. So we decided instead to glue black thistle seed to the white fabric. It took us forever, but the natural unevenness of the seed added an appropriately rough texture. In the darkened sanctuary, the stark black and white of the hanging had a powerful effect.

Getting Started

Getting started can be the toughest part. After all, we want our visual work to engage God’s people. We want to move them to praise or bring them to a deeper understanding of ideas they may have only thought about so far with words. Sometimes it helps to ask this question: Do we want to show something as it is, or as we would like it to be?

Put Away the Happy Colors

For the issue of justice, for example, we could have done a blue and green globe circled by people of all shapes and colors and costumes holding hands. A pleasant image. But stronger and more effective, I think, is to represent the state of justice in our world as it is. Not very pretty. A figure, arms raised heavenward, pleading for mercy.

With Robert Hodgell's permission, I’ve simplified the lines of his original woodcut. For your reproduction of this art, you could use seed as we originally did.* Or, to achieve a similar rugged look, cut irregular pieces of black fabric and glue them down, in mosaic fashion, along light pencil lines you’ve drawn on the fabric. Whatever you do, don’t paint this human form in natural colors of skin and hair. The focus needs to stay on the upward movement of the figure, not on any particular detail.

* Some years later, when we retrieved our banner from storage, we found out that the prayers of some church mice had been answered. It was obvious that they’d enjoyed more than one meal of white glue and thistle seed!



Download the 1pg/36k banner pattern.

Download the 2pg/116k PowerPoint® projection file or the 1pg/96k projection graphic.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 68 © June 2003, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.