Michael Quin Heavener

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Creating a commemorative bookmark

When I was asked to serve on the planning committee for the 1994 Lay Witness Mission at Redmond (Washington) United Methodist Church, the first thing I thought to do was present all participants a commemorative bookmark. The committee agreed.

My reasoning was that the event—hopefully—would give participants a warmth and fullness in the Holy Spirit that they would want to remember and relish. Apparently I was right, because several church friends still use their bookmarks in their Bibles, which we see when they look up scriptures during Sunday School.

The core of the bookmark are graphic swashes with filigree and lots of busy work (see below). I did not create the swashes, they came from a nameless, source forgotten, otherwise mediocre royalty-free CD-ROM bought and discarded by a graphic designer where I worked. However, I did spend considerable time working these swashes to get them right.

Wrong Colors Righted

The bookmark was conceived and printed as a three-color project—medium blue, medium pink, and light gray. Straight off the CD, the swash artwork was in four-color process (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black), and it had a color (yellow) that had to be eliminated, which affected EVERYthing about the remaining colors. Tweaking the other colors, changing their hues (cyan to blue, magenta to pink, black to gray), lowering the screen (halftone) values, and color-balancing them to look right in print took more than half of the project's total time.

Doing it, I learned quite a bit about how the different "color spaces" work. I was already familiar with process … CMYK or four-color … subtractive printing but was only beginning to immerse myself in additive or RGB (three-color). Additive is so-called because the monitor adds increasing values of red, green, and blue to create white—increasing the voltage of each scanning gun adds color. Black is achieved by turning off all three scanning guns. Whereas, layering increasingly heavy values of the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks onto a sheet of paper reduces the amount of white that reflects through—thus "subtracting" color until a dense black is achieved.

The two color spaces are so fundamentally different that color mixing techniques from one cause counterproductive effects in the other. Printing red, green, and blue on a sheet of paper causes interesting but not very pretty color shifts; I've seen a four-color monitor (very expensive) that showed everything in pretty pastels but couldn't produce much contrast. Photoshop has a code-intensive set of algorithms that thankfully make the conversion seem almost effortless. But tinkering it one color at a time with the color density sliders, as in CorelDRAW, was a study in "I wonder why it did that?" Still, as you can see, the final effect had just the right subtlety and was worth the effort.

Once the swashes were set, the rest of the bookmark flowed like a river of life. The type was done in a playful face called Benguiat Frisky ATT by Miles Inc., also known as Befrisky. The publicity chairman pushed hard for me use it—and I'm glad. It seemed that no matter how I pre-visualized this bookmark as a polished dedication to Christ, it insisted on being a whimsical, odd mix of casual effects. Sometimes you have to let go and trust.

Words of Faith

"Keep the Spirit!" was our operational slogan, so of course it's included. Overall, the event was positive—most church members found renewal and justification for their faith. I know I did. But one of the visiting couples tried to "convert" one person who wasn't quite ready for total immersion into their calling and overzealously condemned him for not complying. It was the first experience I had that Satan will attempt to spread his darkness through ANY door, and the incident rocked our whole congregation.

The person was fairly new to our church, so several of us left the following Sunday's worship and went to his house to offer our support and prayers. It was my first experience knowing that God will use Satan's misdeeds to do His own Holy work. The person is still a member of the church and has served as chairman of almost every committee, so clearly God won that battle. Still, we'll probably never have another Lay Witness Mission.

The words to the poem on the bookmark appeared mysteriously into my own darkness, spoken softly one Sunday by my friend Al B., who knew I was struggling with the loss of my job and worrying too much. Through the depths of my unemployment, I clutched it as a mantra. It lent me a much needed anchor at a time when life's waters were less than unruffled.

The Holy Symbols

The cross with the descending dove is my work. I originally traced a clipart bird using CorelDRAW but didn't like the results, so I drew a new bird by hand (though I've never had confidence in my manual dexterity). As by divine intervention, what you see above is my first attempt. I scanned it and converted it to a line (vector) drawing.

I positioned the bird against a conventional cross (i.e. right angles and perpendiculars) but it just didn't seem to jell, although the committee liked it. I squashed and prodded, and tweaked and stretched … and finally the roughness of the shape began to make sense. Jesus carried, after all, two rough-hewn timbers with no artistic merit of their own.

Once over this hurdle, it was easy to see and create the three-dimensionality of the graphic. I used the CorelDRAW nudge function to position clones of the cross slightly above-left and below-right, then lightened the top one and darkened the one underneath, and—oh yes, set them behind the cross itself. I repeated the same process for the descending bird. Everyone liked the new version of the cross-and-bird so much, it became our official Lay Witness Mission event logo.

Tying It Together

On the bookmark itself, by committee request, the name of our church adorned the bottom in a dark mixture of gray and pink … but it was an afterthought, pressed up too tight against the large type, and didn't really fit. I had some bookmarks left over; before I handed them out, I trimmed that line off, even though it nicked into the bottom swash.

My original CorelDRAW artwork went missing soon after the event. It appeared, briefly, on a ZIP disk which I gave to my very close friend Frank S., who owned a print shop and always wanted to reprint the bookmark to distribute to his friends and associates. Sadly, Frank passed away in 2002 and never saw the project done. I don't know what happened to the ZIP disk when he became sick and sold his shop, and I never wanted that to burden him in his other struggles.

Frank did not actually print the original Lay Witness Mission version of the bookmark. He and Chris had only just started attending Redmond UMC. Instead, a young couple on the committee volunteered the husband's mother and she graciously donated the thick paper stock, the inks, plates, press time, and labor. The service bureau I used professionally imageset the three negatives.

The Lay Witness Mission bookmark and the event it represented left a living spiritual legacy that taught me about God's cause-and-effect management of the universe. It was valuable to me, both in the spiritual aftermath—seeing Satan's serious attempt to disrupt us, and feeling and participating in God's righting of the situation—and in the physical realities of color, ink, electronics, and the learning curve when they converge.

 

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