by Keith Neely
Illustrating Biblical Demons Prepared
Illustrating children's religious publications is an unusual specialty—but one that prepared Keith Neely to illustrate the revised edition of Parenting Press's classic about domestic abuse.
For Something Is Wrong at My House, Neely created realistic drawings of a boy struggling with his parents' fighting, just as he has created believable pictures of Biblical figures struggling with demons, plagues and dictators. His mission was to portray a boy that children can identify with, whether they are suffering with domestic abuse or have friends who are.
Neely began his passion for drawing far from the Bible, however. Because his mother made her living painting portraits of celebrities, they lived in Beverly Hills, California, and his first job after graduation from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles was at Disney Studios. (In between he'd done training aids and flow charts while serving in the Air Force.) The long commutes between his Long Beach home and the Disney operation gave Neely plenty of time to think about his career direction, and his dissatisfaction with then available Sunday school publications inspired him to pursue free-lance work with Christian publishers.
Obviously, he's had challenges with such a specialty.
"Oh, there are the usual problems," he points out, "like the length of Jesus's hair and painting enough leaves on Eve."
More serious, of course, is the challenge faced by every free-lancer: keeping a steady stream of paying customers. After thirty-some years as a free-lancer, Neely has an impressive list of clients. Besides working in a couple of advertising agencies and teaching at Biola University, an evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California, he's illustrated for such publications as Child Life, Campus Life, Humpty Dumpty and Modern Maturity, and for such book publishers as Augsburg, Barrons, Bob Jones University Press, Christian Schools International, and Concordia. Other major publishers among his clients include MacMillan, McGraw-Hill, and National Geographic.
Disappointed that Bibles for children are not illustrated, he created Acts: The Adventures of the Early Church, which was first published in 2003. Now transplanted from southern California to Indiana, near where his children settled in adulthood, Neely is preparing for a re-launch of that book and a 7,500-image entire Bible for children.
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