left arrow
February 4, 2019
March 15, 2023

Process of Inspiration: The Illuminated ESV Bible

What does the church have to do with creativity? And what does creativity have to do with the church?

In this video, Dana Tanamachi outlines the process of her creative inspiration for the artwork of the Crossway Illuminated ESV Bible.


So now onto the process of creating the art. What I typically like to do when starting a new project is to put together a list of words that act as my north star. This is a check-list that I’m always going to be coming back to. Every piece of art that I create will need to be sifted through this filter. This is the list of words that we came up with as a north star:

Reverent: We would approach the art seriously and with respect to the holiness and beauty of the text.

Historical: We wanted it to be inspired by past art movements. Things that have stood the test of time, things have been steeped in the tradition.

Heirloom: Could someone pass this down to the next generation and it still be relevant?

Beauty: Does it inspire? Is it pleasing? Can your eyeballs rest and be at peace when you look through this Bible?

Timeless: Would it be considered classic in five, ten, or fifty years?

Simple: Does everything that is there need to be there? Is there anything unnecessary or distracting and yet still –

Complex: Are there rich layers that intrigue the mind and the eye?

What I want to point out is that it was also really important for me to have this list. But it was equally important for me to clarify what I didn’t intend this project to be and where I didn’t want the artwork to necessarily veer. I think it’s imperative to construct boundaries to maintain focus, and I 100% agree with what Brett just said earlier. It’s within these boundaries that there’s a lot of freedom to roam and explore as opposed to aimlessly wander and shoot in the dark. So I put together another list of words that would keep me in check as we moved along. Things that I wanted to avoid:

What we didn’t want was art that was LOOSE or sketchy or had an unfinished quality. I didn’t want the art CASUAL or unconsidered, I wasn’t going for fun, quirky, or wonky – though I think there can still be elements of energy and playfulness; and I wanted to stay away from bouncy caligraphy and anything that was overly trendy, because I didn’t think that aesthetic was going to stand the test of time.

The foundation of the house is mapping out what I want the visuals to look like. So after making these list, I will pull a lot of visual resources from other books that I have, or scans that I’ve collected from over the years, some from online, some from physical specimens. I’ll run you through some of my inspirational material here. I was drawn to this black-letter typography, it feels very formal, but the flourishes add a bit of softer elegance. I pulled a lot of drop-caps from reference reminiscent of William Morris and arts and crafts movement, very dense, interlocking forms, mostly floral in nature. Art Nouveau illustrations, where the line-work is very wavy, almost groovy, this is definitely the main aesthetic I wanted to stick to; along with Art Nouveau typography which I’ve always been inspired by. Lastly, these Arts and Crafts book plays, where there is a lot of play between type and ornamentation.

Article Details

Dana Tanamachi
Related Congregation
Related Ministry
Related Initiative
Austin Stone Creative
No items found.