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Fairfax artist hopes to show God's love with 'I Am God's Storyteller'

First slide

Each time Eric Carlson turned in his homework at St. Leo the Great School in Fairfax, his love for drawing was clear. Between answers to his homework questions, doodles filled the pages. 

Nancy Waldron, his fourth-grade teacher, made a lasting impression. 

“Mrs. Waldron handed me a book about animation,” said Carlson. “She said it was a book her son had and he’s now an illustrator.”

Carlson, now a senior at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., is a newly published illustrator for Lisa M. Hendey’s book, I Am God’s Storyteller, which will be released Feb. 12.

The book talks about how God is telling his story using each of us. 

“It encourages kids to participate, using their gifts and talents to tell God’s story,” said Carlson. 

The beginning of the book highlights some of the original storytellers in the Bible, including Moses, Sarah and David. The other half shows children using their skills of art, music and games.

Any child can open the book and find themselves in it, which is something important to Hendey. “It was very important the characters be diverse in age and ethnicity,” she said. “It’s a universal message. Every storyteller looks different.”

Carlson received the opportunity to illustrate the book through an introduction to the publisher, Paraclete Press. After receiving the manuscript, he read it several times to get a feel for what it was about. He spent a few days thinking and brainstorming ways he could illustrate the work. Once he decided, character drawing and decisions followed for each page of the manuscript. 

He spent last summer working on the illustrations while working in youth ministry at St. Mark Church in Vienna during the day and working on the book at night. 

“It was an intense summer, but it was good and very rewarding,” he said. 

His favorite illustration ended up being the cover of the book, which features Jesus sitting on Mary’s lap, with Joseph and all the characters of the book gathered together. Carlson said the hammer and nails are a connection to carpentry and point to the cross. “The bread and grapes are the food they could eat and are a reference to the Eucharist,” he said. “Jesus holds a candle as the light of the world. I felt it would be appropriate even though it is not explicitly written into the text.” 

With the book being about storytelling, Carlson said he could relate to the children in the book. “The book talks a lot about how kids can be storytellers and how kids can use their gifts and talents to help tell God’s story. I thought about it and that’s really what I got to do when I was illustrating the book because I was using the things I could do to help tell God’s story. It was kind of a strange connection for me to draw the book.”

Carlson, a candidate in the Youth Apostles, is studying visual communication design and working toward a minor in theology. He recognizes the importance of using his gifts. 

“It’s about using your gifts for the glory of God,” he said. “I have been blessed by so many people who have ministered to me. The fact that I’ve gotten to connect my creative gifts with my faith has been a real thrill.”

Along with this being Carlson’s first published book, it was a new experience for Hendey, who lives in Los Angeles and is the founder of CatholicMom.com, a blog offering articles and activities for families to grow in their faith. 

“He approached what I wrote with a fresh perspective,” said Hendey. “I saw what I wrote in a new way through his art.”

Hendey said Carlson’s age was significant to her. “As the church grapples with ways to involve more youths, for me to learn from him is one solution,” she said.

Hendey noted that the world is filled with discouraging news, but “we have the greatest story to tell of God’s love for us.” 

“By being God’s storytellers, we make the world around us a better place,” she said. 

Carlson and Hendey, a Notre Dame alumna, finally met last summer at a university event. “He’s so young and has so much talent,” she said. “It will be amazing to watch his career blossom.”

Find out more 

Contact Lisa M. Hendey, author of I Am God’s Storyteller at lisahendey.com

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019