With less than a week until Spring Retreat, our graphics team and videographer got together to share the story behind the the art and their journey through the retreat’s theme: Prodigal.
The Graphics: Annie, Mike, Gabi
What does Prodigal mean to you?
Prodigal to me can me multiple things. Wasteful, temporary, or unappreciated are a few words that come to mind. I see the core of its meaning rooting from a form of unawareness.
I actually had to look this up because, you know, English degree = bad vocab. Anyway, I had always associated “Prodigal” with the returning, the celebration, and the belovedness of the Son. I guess that was the moral of the story, so I associated that to the title. When I look up the definition though…
“spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”
I’m kind of bummed by this. I think there is a lot more beauty in this story than there are faults of the son, and it sucks that he is labeled this way, but then I think about how the story has totally altered my definition of a negative word and I think there is a lot of weight in that.
I think in the word Prodigal is a longing, and that’s what this story has always been about for me. We live with desires of things that are and are not ours, things we can and cannot touch, things that do and do not come from our father. It’s a constant journey of wandering, running away from an emptiness.
Where did inspiration for the design come from?
My inspiration behind the design originated from the story Prodigal son and the weight of each section of the story. I wanted to take multiple elements and create relatable, modern day imagery that would speak to our generation. Using recognizable objects, I thought that the story could be interestingly reinvented.
So, obviously we really wanted to portray the story of “The Prodigal Son,” but we wanted to do it in a modern way (four representations following a modern day version of the prodigal son). I think the weight however, lies in the combination of realistic and fabricated elements. There is something about this multimedia, at least to me, that kind of forces intrigue. And in some ways, I feel like that joint real and unreal can symbolize the relationship of God to us. Not that God is unreal in any way, but he’s there and interacting with us in an abstract way, just like the items in their place with “the prodigal.”
Inspiration from the design came from the compare/contrast of the two sons in the story. We wanted to include elements that were vastly different from one another but we wanted them to breathe in the same story. After some brainstorming at a Subway, we came up with photo and sketch elements to communicate this difference as we told a story of a man leaving and coming home.
What do each of the scenes in the graphic mean to you?
Each scene is a piece of the story, all coming together to create a unified narrative.
The graphic of the man carrying a backpack, to me, alludes to the son taking his inheritance and going his own way. The backpack is simplified and a bit obscure, but is used to visually represent carrying objecthood as the model exits the viewing frame.
The graphic depicting the model walking towards an open door represents the son returning home once his inheritance is depleted. The door is open, just as the father, and more broadly, our Lord, is openly accepting even in the worst situations.
The graphic of the model seated in a chair is a visual depiction of the understanding that there is an open seat at the table for all in God’s Kingdom who returns to his love. In the story, this is the son welcomed back into his family’s home.
The final image of a window frame peering in to see the model with friends represents communal celebration. This is the rejoicing Kingdom that displays love for all who accept Jesus. These graphics are simple, but I’m interested to see how others find meaning from them.
Do you remember that Spongebob episode where Spongebob is teaching Squidward how he drew the perfect circle? And he starts with an elaborate drawing and then slowly takes away key elements? Bare with me, because I see a lot of that in these drawings haha. Obviously, these weren’t the intentions behind the design, but as that English major, I want to dive into things that maybe weren’t intended but could possibly be there.
The backpack: We are literally taking away burdens in that picture for me. We started with a realistic backpack. Annie drew over it, took away some details, and we end up with less of a backpack. Less weight on this guy’s shoulders.
The celebration: same thought. We are in the process of tearing down walls starting with the details.
These are alternated with the chair and the door where I take the opposite approach. Maybe here God is adding to the picture? The chair offers support, and the door is a “welcome back” ? Just thoughts.
We hope the visuals are open enough to mean something new for each student who is hearing the story this weekend. All three of us, though we worked on the graphic together, get different stories from it. Each of our walks with God are so individual and unique that I hope God can speak personally to each student, while also bringing us communally together through this art.
For me, I like to start with the chair. I have a seat at the table. This is the most important part to me. I then see the door as a leaving my seat to look for something other than my Father. The backpack is all of the things I took with me on this journey of searching for what I don’t have, all the things I wanted to keep me company while I find something to fill the longing in my heart. The window is a look into the community I left behind. I can still see them on the inside, quietly hoping someone leaves to come find me.
We all have a journey through Prodigal, and I think we all interact with these elements in some way throughout this journey.
What do you hope the graphic communicates to the students?
I hope that these graphics can take the story of the Prodigal son and give modern day meaning to the viewer. This is a well known, powerful story with such weighted meaning, so I wish that they draw the deserved attention to this message.
I love everyone here at CCW so incredibly much. I hope that these graphics can facilitate them in understanding the welcome of God’s Kingdom, as God is Love.
How great the media team is! Duh!
Just kidding. I’m hoping we can provoke some of that aforementioned thought when you look at the pictures closely. If not, the bare bones of the prodigal story mindedness accompanied by the thought of God as an artist would be pretty great to convey.
I hope the graphic communicates a journey, because I think that’s something we can all relate to. We all are on a path, whether it’s finding our seat or leaving our seat, carrying baggage with us or leaving it behind, walking through an open door or out of an open door, seeing out of a window or into one. I hope each student can find their place in this graphic through their story that is important and cared about by the Father who beckons us to come home.
The Video: Mandy
Where did inspiration for the video come from?
In this video, I tried to combine the idea of having a seat at the table with the messages of the prodigal son parable. The man in the video finds his seat, then leaves for a journey, and as others see him do so they’re moved to do the same. The main point from the prodigal son story that inspired me was that our journeys can be difficult and are very personal, but if we open ourselves to following God’s path for us, they’ll lead us back to him and his Kingdom.
What does Prodigal mean to you?
I know that, by definition, prodigal means extravagant and reckless, which is a part of the parable. But as far as what the prodigal son parable means to me, I see it as the story of a necessary journey, where, in the end, an individual is met with unconditional love and celebration over his return. To me, it means that, even if we have moments where we drift from it, God’s kingdom is always there for us and ready to embrace us. It may be intimidating, we may not know where to begin our transformations and our actions, we may be full of doubt at times, but none of this can stop God’s endless unconditional love for us.
What do each of the scenes in the video mean to you?
The overall idea of the trailer was witnessing a spiritual journey. My basic interpretation, though I left it somewhat open, is that this guy sees an open seat at the table and takes it. As he begins to read his bible, he becomes more engaged and more frantic until he sees a verse that truly strikes him. This inspires him to deepen and further his journey, so he grabs his backpack and heads out the door. The nature shots are supposed to be more symbolic, representing the spiritual aspects of this experience. So, when he reads and prepares for his journey, he runs out to the sea and sees its vastness. There is much to take in, but he knows that it’s a part of his journey to embrace it. This felt to me like the experience of witnessing the Kingdom of God and stepping into it, making it personal, and becoming a disciple. Back at the table, the man left his bible open, and as he exits through the door, a girl enters, sees the book laying there, and begins to read as well, marking the start of her own experience in the kingdom and in discipleship. Though her journey is her own, and it is individual, she was guided to the table by another member of the kingdom in some way. The people in the video have different experiences with coming to know God, just as the eldest and younger sons do in the Prodigal Son parable, but they are both significant.
Another more symbolic meaning I tried to communicate in the video an emphasis on contrast, as we’re going to be looking at while at spring retreat, like the ideas of being lost and found, looking at how our journey’s differ. But I also tried to incorporate the overlap of the kingdom, our individuality as well as our connectedness, shown through visuals like countless footprints overlapping, and waves covering each other and receding. In the story of the prodigal son, one son moves away and must experience a new low before being renewed and returning to his father, whereas the eldest son has stayed faithful to him. Although both journeys have led these men to different places, they both had important experiences. Though they are individuals, they are connected by their connection to their father, just as our journeys as disciples may lead us to what may feel like completely different ends of the Earth, but through God and the kingdom, we are connected.
What do you hope the video communicates to the students?
I hope that students realize that their journey is valid, however it may play out. Whatever obstacles they face, whatever doubts they may have, however long it takes. If their hearts are in the right place and they want to walk with Jesus, they will be loved and transformed. Their work, and more importantly, who they are, has a significant place in the Kingdom. Even though the idea of living as a part of God’s kingdom may seem overwhelming at times, and even though living like Jesus as a disciple may feel like a lot to handle, it is freeing and meaningful and God will love and embrace you through it all.