Category Archives: Videos

Edificial Epistemologies: Thesis Talk

This performative lecture was given as part of my MFA thesis. The primary goal was to contextualize my process and interests. It is about 30 minutes long followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.

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Alumni Invitational at Belhaven University

Here’s a short video from the Belhaven Alumni Invitational I have the honor of being a part of.

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“Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself” Illustrated by Allen Crawford

Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself. Illustrated by Allen Crawford

Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself. Illustrated by Allen Crawford

In the tradition of Matt Kish, another great illuminated classic has been created by Allen Crawford. Whitman’s collection Leaves of Grass, with Song of Myself as a centerpiece, is a keystone of American poetry, and Crawford uses drawings and hand-lettering to deepen the reader’s experience of the poem.

First page

Looking at the first page gives you a sense of the whimsical humor that pervades the book.

Each page is a hand-drawn spread created mostly through a process of improvisation rather than of careful planning, a method of which Whitman no doubt would have approved. Some pages are nothing but elaborate compositions of text, while others are images floating in empty space with a few lines of verse. Most are a pleasing combination of both.


Trying to read a page like this slows you down enough for the individual lines to really sink in.

Several reviews I’ve read say that this copy is not the best introduction to Whitman since some of the pages are difficult to read. I have only skimmed the original, but I would have to disagree. Whitman wanted to break free of the traditional bonds of form in poetry. He wrote sprawling verses that are hard to follow even in traditionally printed books, since artificial line breaks must be added to make Whitman’s free verse fit into the standard paperback format. Crawford makes Whitman’s dream of breaking free from poetry’s form a reality. While it is almost impossible to read the page above in the exact order Whitman wrote it, it is just as impossible to miss the experience of the verse when seen in this way. The drawing, the floating text that forces you to turn the book around in your hands as you read, surely get at the heart of Whitman’s cosmic scale and intimate verse. I believe Whitman was seeking after the experience created by the reading of his poetry rather than the dogmatic adherence to his choices in form, line length, and word order.

Some pages are harder to decipher than others, though I wonder how much that has to do with some obscurity in Whitman’s poetic language and how much it is a failing on Crawford’s part to create a flow through the text. No doubt repeated readings would make such pages more clear (and re-reading is a necessary reality of reading any kind of poetry). Crawford does have a lyrical sense of how to arrange words so that at first glance the page seems illegible, but once the reader dives in he is carried through with a sense of excitement and engagement rather than confusion or frustration.


“I am the poet of the body, and I am the poet of the soul.”

This illuminated manuscript does what all beautifully bound and illustrated books should, it forces the reader to understand that he is not superior to the book. This is a book to be experienced, not marked up and analyzed. To read this copy of Song of Myself is to more fully enter Whitman’s world, to more holistically experience the scope and intimacy of his poem.

You can find Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself illustrated by Allen Crawford on Amazon or at your local bookstore.


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Filed under Art, Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Graphic Novels & Comics, Illumination, Illustration, Literature, Poetry, Videos

“The Plains of Shinar” and the “Tower”


The Plains of Shinar: Construction, Theophany, and Desolation (Shinar was where Babel was built)

I have been involved in an ongoing collaboration with the composer Dr. Andrew Sauerwein for over a year to illuminate the Tower of Babel narrative along with T.S. Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock. On February 28th Dr. Sauerwein gave a Composition Recital featuring highlights from his last 25 years of composing. One of those compositions was Tower, a piano piece written alongside the above drawings, which was performed by my lovely wife, Megan Rowan. Below is a video of that performance. We were not trying to literally recreate the events already described in story, but rather create art that captures the mood and sense of the story: art that illuminates rather than illustrates.

<p><a href=”″>Tower</a&gt; from <a href=”″>Jacob Rowan</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Under the Sun by Landon Brands

From the Artist: This piece, a response to Ecclesiastes 1­-2, was inspired partly by observing my own tendencies to work extremely hard for long periods of time–to excess, some would say. I remember reading this passage on a quiet fishing trip several years ago, and it immediately jumped out at me. Out there, away from cell phone coverage and reminders of work or school, it made sense. Nowhere else in scripture is it so blunt: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the teacher. “Everything is meaningless.” That can be hard to hear when we’ve been told all our lives that work = achievements = position = happiness. (It was tough for me.) While our accomplishments may bear short term rewards, will anyone remember (or care) after our short time on earth is up? With this piece I aim to question the toil-­fueled, achievement-oriented definition of success that is en vogue in Western societies today. I’m not suggesting that accomplishments and work ethic are without value, but we need to stop and think (and consider higher things ­­lasting things) before we pour every drop of our lifeblood into the temporary pursuits of this world.

Courtesy  of the excellent people over at Spark and Echo, a multidiscipline Bible illumination project:

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Illuminating “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Notice how Harry Clarke "illustrates" the increasing sound of the heart beats.

Notice how Clarke “illustrates” the sound effect of a heartbeat growing louder and louder. 

Harry Clarke illustrated many of Poe’s stories and the above image from “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of my favorites. Clarke’s use of design and attention to detail allow him to contain almost the entire narrative in this one memorable and eery image.

The video below is an animated short film from 1953 which communicates the visceral experience of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It tells the story through narration and a series of images rather than merely animating the sequence of events. Instead of being a traditional cartoon, the camera pans through a number of cubist-like paintings, focusing on essential details, symbols, and events in the story. The comparative stillness in most of the film makes the few sequences of action that much more striking. Visual elements like the old man’s eye are repeated and paralleled which heightens the sense of the protagonist’s mania.  The dead white shape of the eye is mirrored in the moon, then a vase, and then again in the buttons of the police officer’s jacket. Overall this film finds a perfect balance between being innovative in a way the serves the source material while still being traditional enough to not distract the viewers with unusual form. 


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Mark Rothko

This documentary is absolutely fascinating. It’s an intriguing look at the life of Mark Rothko as well as an excellent example of a documentary that teaches one how to look at modern art. I highly recommend it for both the skeptics and the fans of modern art.



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