Behind the Work: The Art Department
An inside look into the workings of the artistic component of the Work.

Has any particular photo or graphic on this website or in one of our publications caught your eye? Good. That’s what we want. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at the art department, especially the artists who produce original work.

Officially, the art department began in the summer of 2012. According to editorial manager Joel Hilliker, the department was needed because Pastor General Gerald Flurry wanted biblical figures and depictions brought to life. Initially, Mr. Hilliker worked with Gary Dorning, a professional artist who lived in the Pacific Northwest, sending sketches back and forth of illustrations like the Daniel 2 image, the Revelation 13 image, and the cover of the April 2013 Trumpet magazine. Soon after, Mr. Flurry approved the formation of the art department, and Mr. Dorning moved to headquarters. You have seen his handiwork on many recent Trumpet covers and illustrations. Mr. Dorning brought years of professional experience to the fledgling department: “I became a self-employed artist after high school, both in painting and scrimshaw [ivory engraving], and have been doing this non-stop since. The experience has taught me to perfect my craft, and to problem solve with ever new challenges.”

Steve Hercus, a four-year hwac graduate, oversees the department, which has three main branches: graphic design, photography, and original art. In addition to Mr. Dorning and him, five hwac students are employed by the department under the work-study program: junior Brooke Davis (currently located on the Edstone campus), freshman Melissa Barreiro, sophomore Victoria Terrell, junior Lauren Eames and senior Reese Zoellner. Miss Davis and Miss Barreiro focus on original art, Miss Terrell does photography and photo selection, Miss Eames helps with graphic design, and Mr. Zoellner contributes to both photography and graphic design.

“What? There is no way!” Miss Davis exclaimed, reminiscing on when she received the news of her employment in the art department. “It was like a dream come true! This is something I have wanted to do all my life, but never thought being an artist was a very realistic job. I had kind of given up on it, but God never forgot!”

Miss Barreiro was hired a couple years later and felt much the same as Miss Davis: “I was relieved, ecstatic, and nervous all at the same time because this was what I wanted, but it meant the responsibility to make the highest quality art possible just got a little bigger.”

For a typical project, Miss Davis or Miss Barreiro will first read the text that needs illustration and then quickly sketch out several ideas. They will propose their ideas to the text’s author and Mr. Hercus, and they will decide on a final idea to be reproduced. In some cases, the author might provide advice on the clothing or building styles of that particular historical period. The artists must be careful to make historical features as accurate as possible. Even exact skin tones are important, Miss Barreiro commented.

Then they will set to work drawing an image on a digital tablet, first outlining basic human form and structures (see the illustration progression above), gradually adding detail to complete the product. Most pieces end up finished on the computer, notes Miss Barreiro, so that the finished product is ensured to be “nice, neat, and crisp.” Along the way, Mr. Dorning will supervise them, giving his advice on improvements to the image. Once completed, the image is ready for insertion into publications like the Bible Story or the Trumpet.

Of course, it takes a lot of preparation to be a good artist. “It seems as though everything I did in high school prepared me for the job I have now,” Miss Barreiro said. For one such opportunity, she was given the task to design original shirts for both her high school’s mock trial team and choir. She held frequent meetings with teachers and students for design input. She had to meet deadlines while being prepared to change or alter designs at the last minute. “It really was a great lesson in learning how to work with people, and that’s one of the biggest challenges of a working artist,” she said.

One of the Bible Story illustrations Miss Davis was working on is a depiction of an Israelite building a pagan altar around the 8th century bc. For the Bible Story, she illustrates approximately three pieces per chapter.

Miss Davis is no stranger to challenges either. “Be willing and eager to take on projects that you don’t think you can handle,” she said. Before the 2014 Feast of Tabernacles, she was given a seemingly insurmountable project: completing the Bible Story Volume 8 illustrations in time for the publication to be distributed at the Feast. 50 images had to be completed in a short space of time. It was a stressful, yet valuable, experience. “Put yourself out there and pray about it,” she said. “You are capable of a lot more than you think, especially when you are relying on God.”

One of the challenges Mr. Hercus has to deal with is the student assistant turnover rate—they eventually graduate. One such assistant was Tabitha Burks. Miss Burks, one of the first students to work for the department, primarily worked with the blueprint and design of publications—especially the re-launched True Education. She created the initial design of the magazine before handing off her responsibilities to Miss Eames. Turnover is built into the ac work-study program, but that doesn’t take away from what they accomplish. “They make a tremendous impact,” said Mr. Hercus. “They grow the department, they add new skills. So when they leave they are really missed. But they do leave a legacy that is highly appreciated!”

Advice from the Artists

On becoming an artist, Mr. Dorning said, “it is certainly not for everyone. It has its challenges, and my biggest piece of advice would be hard work. Talent is way overrated, and what will get you to a level of professionalism is the basics, learning to draw, color theory, and so-on.”

Brooke feels the annual Teen Talent Contest is a great asset for young art enthusiasts—and she felt it helped prepare her for the job she has now. “The Teen Talent Contest is really an amazing thing for people to participate in,” she said. “They [the Church] are looking for young people who can benefit the work and who have a ‘go-get-em’ attitude.”

To those who dream of one day becoming an artist, Melissa advised: “Study art as much as you can: painting, sculpture, drawing, animation. Read about art. Copy art. Watch tutorials. Keep a small sketchpad or clipboard and pencil with you wherever you go so you always have an opportunity to practice. Don’t limit yourself or what God can do for you!”