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.
Why God? 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).
“I looked for God. I went to a temple and I didn’t find him there. Then I went to a church and I didn’t find him there. Then I went to a mosque and I didn’t find him there. Then finally, I looked in my heart and there he was.” —Rumi
Any regrets? 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.
“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fat and actions of human beings.” —Albert Einstein
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.
“Nothing is commoner than to assume that of Gods there is only one, and of religions none but the speaker’s.” —Virginia Woolf
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.
“All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so give them the power to pull ours.” —Aldous Huxley
“Every day, people are straying away from the church and going back to God.” —Lenny Bruce
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