The artist behind the graphic design of the images for the Novena for Peace and Justice is Angelo Alcasabas, a parishioner of the Chruch of St. Francis of Assisi. His genenrosity to share his talents made a huge impact on capturing visual attention of the participants of the Novena. He now describes his creative process while he engaged with social justice issues in the context of prayer and reflection throughout the Novena project.
Q: What is your work and profession? How long have you been a graphic artist and any background you can share to help readers appreciate your artistic talent?
AA: I am a Senior Art Director and designer at a creative marketing agency that’s unique for creating content and strategies that target and empower the LGBT community. I’ve been creative ever since I was child, always inclined to take my thoughts and make them real somehow. My interests range from fine arts to digital media, and even music. So when I have an idea, I think in those forms.
Q: How did you come up with the concept for your graphic designs for this project and how did you decide on the elements and color schemes?
AA: The concepts for each illustration were inspired by what I read in each essay or statement. I read them a few times to see what phrases and thoughts arose to the surface and provided me a direction to take the illustration. I also took into account my reaction to the subject. In doing so, I created a visual that not only supports the article, but articulates my personal view on my the issue. The colors derive from “American” colors but adapted to be more eye catching. The style is very graphic in order to be simple and clear, but retains the natural shapes to be tangible and recognizable.
Q: What thoughts, feelings and ideas came to you while you were crafting each graphic representation for each novena day of prayer? How were they helpful or not helpful in the process?
AA: One question I had for myself is what will I do to forward these issues beyond just crafting these illustrations. For my creative process, I had to read the essays too, and in doing so, I am participating and therefore called to do something. I am still asking myself that, and I am sure many people reading these will encounter the same challenge. I am glad that I can use my gifts of design and art to help causes, but I personally feel that I need do more beyond the computer or the pencil.
Q: Of all the pieces you created which one is your favorite? You can include the ones that weren’t published.
AA: I like them all for various reasons, but the one that got me thinking a lot is the racial justice one. I feel it is a good marriage between symbols (blind justice and the cross) and illustrates the essence of God’s love which is blind to our differences. In addition, the cross seems to personify Jesus with his arms holding us equally. This concept came quickly into my head, but I didn’t realize it’s full depth until I finished.
Q: What do you think is the role of art in pursuing social justice and how do you think artists ought to respond to this new era of legitimized and normalized exclusion?
AA: The artist, through his or her lens, translates what he or she sees in the world. Some artists choose to keep their thoughts to themselves, but in today’s climate, there is greater need for the artist to be thought leaders and to help others to see things they may not otherwise notice or care about. Art is a visual articulation of a reaction, a feeling, and an idea, or even 50 ideas. In terms of social justice, it’s role is to carry and communicate those thoughts to create solidarity and bring awareness to issues. The artist therefore is messenger and a champion of ideas. If we recall the image that illustrator Jean Jullien made after the Paris shootings (a combo of the peace symbol and the Eiffel Tower), it was shared like wild fire and we saw quickly how many people were unified in support of Paris during that time. In addition, the reason why quote images do so well on Facebook through shares and likes is because people feel it echoes what they have in their head or what they already said to others. Art therefore can validate and support people. In the end, art and the artist have the power to make the world a better place.
Q: How does your faith impact your art and how does art impact your faith?
AA: My faith impacts my art through the process of creating the art. Sometimes, I start something and I have no idea what or where the answer is. Faith comes in when I trust that in the end, I will find the answer. In one way or another, I do find a solution, sometimes when I least expect it. The power of art, like music, is something magical. It reminds me that God is present and works through the things we create. Our work is an extension of us, so if we are “channels” of God’s love and peace, therefore our work functions the same way.
Q: What are your take-aways from this project?
AA: Use your gifts or what you are good at to speak up and take action. We are all powerful, and if we trust in God, anything is possible.
Meanwhile, apart from his job, Angelo continues to seek and welcome opportunities throughwhich he will be able to reach out those who have not realized their empowered state.