I mentioned at the beginning that I had drawn and painted inferences from the scriptures regarding what happened in Gethsemane. Let me illustrate how that worked in this one instance. After myriad sketches I came up with an idea to try to depict Jesus’ suffering in the Garden. Standing or sitting before a canvas for hours, days, weeks, and months is a process of asking oneself questions and trying to come up with feasible answers. To begin, a color for the under painting has to be decided upon. That color will affect the rest of the entire painting, determining in large degree the mood and temper. It often shows through, and always affects any color painted into or over it. I wanted to show the agony of the night, for it was night, and the Passover is always held on a night with a full moon, so most of the painting would be done in silvery gray tones. I wanted a contrasting color so I chose a golden ocher as the background. I almost never have the luxury of a model (it shows) so every aspect of the subject has to be worked out in detailed sketches, and often redone several times to capture the gesture and effect I am striving for. Photos are seldom much help because when a model strikes a pose there is always a settling into the pose that steals the immediacy and freshness of any action. The shoulders drop to sustain the weight of the arms, the hips shift ever so imperceptibly to “lock in the pose” so in large part the action must be “felt” and drawn accordingly. I guess I tell myself that; for this reason my paintings don’t have the photographic detail, and impeccable form that I admire in the works of others.
After the “Last Supper” observing the Passover in the upper room, Jesus felt heavy and led his Apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane across the Kidron Valley to the east where He could be alone and pray. The Passover is always celebrated at the full moon at the end of March and beginning of April, and the night was cold (see John 18:18). Ancient manuscripts and stone foundations discovered at the bottom of several exploratory shafts dug in the mid nineteenth century offer evidence of a high narrow stone bridge crossing the Kidron Valley at the time of Christ. At that time to even walk near a grave site was to be defiled and required ritual cleansing by the Priest. Graves, both marked and unmarked, littered the bottom of the Valley. The history of Jerusalem is a violent succession of conquerors for thousands of years. Even when it stood as an independent state there was constant fighting and bloodshed. The bottom of the Valley seemed to accumulate layers of the dead almost in proportion to the layers of broken stones and debris used by attacking armies to lay siege to the walls of Jerusalem. It would have been unthinkable to subject the olive oil and wine to be used in the Temple to such pollution! So, according to the texts, a high, narrow stone bridge was built by the priests to provide a way to preserve the purity of the essential oils and wines as they were transported to the Temple. This is the last of many of my own paintings featuring that bridge, and even this painting has been “updated” seven or eight times to more accurately depict discoveries my friends and I have made in the last few months. Special thanks to Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum of Art for his many contributions. I expect that there remain errors to be corrected in a subsequent work as more and more is learned about the time of the Atonement.