God exists differently for each of us, which means there are hundreds upon thousands of interpretations. At 86, R.O. Blechman is still trying to figure it all out. In God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk About God, compiled by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Blechman (Running Press), the artist writes: “I’m not really a believer, so I may be the wrong artist. But then I thought, well, art, when it’s honest, has something to say to people, has a spiritual aspect. And what is religion but spiritual?” This is a small book loaded with much insight. The short questions I asked Blechman about this project provide some divine answers.
I took it on as a job, like any other job, because I love illustrating and the chance to maybe stretch my talents (by treating some of the illustrations more graphically than is usual for me, or allowable by a client). It also gave me the opportunity to use Photoshop (which I still can’t believe I managed by myself).
Sure, I would love to do some of them over again. But the deadline worked against me. That said, on the whole I think the book turned out well. I was lucky enough to have had an editor and an art director who questioned nothing I did. Nothing. It was a troika, all pulling together.
Did you seek advice from clergy?
No, but I did contact a Rabbi Mark Sameth, who I read about in The New York Times. He said that, “Counter to everything we grew up believing, the God of Israel—the God of the three Monotheistic, Abrahamic religions to which fully half the people on the planet today belong—was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered deity. He/She is God?! I had to illustrate that.
Has anything odd happened to you since you completed the book?
Yes, I didn’t have to do an illustration a day to make the deadline.
What’s next? Buddha?
A film, of course. On my deathbed I’ll probably be thinking: I’ve got to make a film about this.
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