Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Free Fundraising Thermometers

fundraising ideasIf you've read other blog posts of mine, here or at the Artistic Christians' Network, you know that the Christian Arts Initiative is the name of a project of mine, designed to empower artistic Christians to make the most of their talents in a variety of ways, some of which will require substantial fundraising efforts in order to be transformed from great ideas into realities.

Online fundraisers often require high quality "thermometer style" graphics in order to help give their supporters some idea of how things are progressing vis-a-vis fundraising. So I did a Google search just now, and found a site which offered an online generator for code which could be adjusted in order to show one's current donations in comparison with one's monetary goals. Here it is. The numbers shown here are somewhat arbitrary, but in the future, I plan to plug in some more carefully conceived numbers, along with explanations (or summaries) of what the money would be used for and why it would be needed.

Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising Thermometer Generator

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Type of Art

Ever since I was in high school, I've always admired a type of hyperrealistic art which was often seen on album cover designs in the late seventies, and which often involved the use of an airbrush (although that wasn't always the case).

One illustrator who is particularly good at that style of art is Jerry LoFaro. Another similarly talented artist is Frank Ordaz. The two artists aren't identical in style. Jerry's images are sometimes less realistic in terms of subject matter. Frank's images are influenced by his Christianity, and by his previous employment with Industrial Light and Magic (where he worked on films such as ET).

Both artists are extremely talented. To be candid, I admire their artistic styles and skills a lot more than some self-proclaimed "fine artists". If I had to choose a style of art I'd love to be able to create myself, I suppose that this style would come closest to my own aspirations.

Interestingly, LoFaro now creates his art mostly with Photoshop (and possibly other digital software programs). The same could also be said for the vast majority of illustrators currently specializing in fantasy and science fiction imagery. It shows how far digital art has come in the past few years.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mimic HDR with Topaz Adjust

HDR is an awesome technique which produces photos which capture a much wider dynamic range than standard photos, and which can in many cases look more like very expertly done paintings than photos. It does this by combining multiple photos which are taken sequentially with different exposure settings. (This is known as autobracketing.) So one photo might be exposed for the highlights and another for the shadows, and the HDR software would then combine the best of the two photos (or more than two) to create an image which looks better than either of them alone.

The main problem is that HDR really only works well when there aren't subjects which are moving substantially in-between the different shots. Some HDR software can help to "erase" such subjects to some extent, but HDR is still more of a technique for still life and landscape images than for action photos.

Fortunately, I've found a software program which seems to do a superb job of mimicking the look of HDR photos, without the need for multiple exposures. It's called Topaz Adjust. Needless to say, it's a real boon for action photographers, but also useful for older photos for which there are no bracketed exposures. Or for modern photographers who possess cameras which lack autobracketing capabilities. Here are some very impressive links regarding the program:

Topaz also makes some other cool programs, such as Simplify. Furthermore, their website has an aweseome online gallery showing just what the software can do in the hands of photographers and artists who know what they're doing. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So Much for Choice

Whenever one talks about the subject of abortion with someone who opposes the legal prohibition of that practice, one is likely to hear the "choice" buzzword. After all, it sounds so much better to say that one is in favor of "choice" than to say that one is in favor of allowing women to chop up their unborn children in utero, or to destroy them by scalding them in a saline solution, or to destroy their unborn progeny in other ways. The word "choice" is sometimes repeated obsessively, almost as if it's a magic mantra which is capable of answering any and all moral objections to the practice.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hope Versus Optimism

On his Facebook page, the highly talented and perceptive Christian author Jim Belcher wrote the following on 12/5/2009:
"Optimism is a matter optics, of seeing what you want to see and not seeing what you don't want to see. Hope, on the other hand, is a Christian virtue. It is the unblinking acknowledgment of all that militates against hope, and the unrelenting refusal to despair." Richard John Neuhaus (via Scotty Smith).
Here's the comment I left in response to that post from Jim:
Too many modern churches are what I like to describe as "happy face churches," in which folks think the best solution to serious problems is to pretend they don't exist, and to hope that doing so causes them to go away. ("Positive confession" churches are especially prone to this kind of thing.) To me, that sounds more like Neuhaus' definition of optimism than his definition of hope.

The Bible commands Christians to bear one another's burdens. But I can attest from painful personal experiences that it's next to impossible to find anyone in a "happy face church" who will even allow one to tell him or her what one's burdens are in the first place. Pastors are sometimes the worst offenders, because they want to project an image of success, and the honesty of some believers can threaten that image.

How people are supposed to bear burdens when they're unaware of the nature of those burdens is anyone's guess. Meaningful problem resolution and healing is almost possible in such a superficial, uncaring environment.

Far fewer Christians would yield to despair if we had far more hopeful Christians (who therefore offered genuine help to hurting believers) and far fewer optimistic, heads-in-the-sand Christians.

A related and time-relevant note: I've heard that more people commit or attempt suicide during the Christmas season than during any other time of the year. Maybe what exacerbates their despair is their increased awareness of the huge discrepancy between what the church is and what it should be.
NOTE: Jim Belcher is also pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church ( in Newport Beach, California.