Chris Lewis believes in preserving tradition, up to a point.
It was the ages-old, rock-solid history of the Catholic Church that first grabbed his attention and made him take his adopted faith seriously. The Georgia-based graphic artist and illustrator at Baritus Catholic Illustration had joined the Church as an adult. He was raised a Bible Christian and drifted into functional atheism; but when he met his wife and her Catholic family, he had to take another look.
“If you love somebody, you’re going to be interested in what they’re interested in,” Lewis said.
So he began asking questions and was astonished to find out that Catholics had answers.
The first thing he wanted to know was who the first pope was. When his mother-in-law told him it was Peter in the Bible, he said it was a “wake-up slap in the face.”
“Within one question, I had a connection to history in Jesus’ time, and that led to all kinds of subsequent questions. So I picked up the Bible and started reading again,” he said.
He also spent time just staring at the massive, soaring, overwhelming architecture and stained-glass windows of the church he and his new wife attended, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
He internalized the lesson: You can teach with images.
At the time, Lewis was making his living as a graphic designer. Like so many Americans, he had begun his artistic life as a kid producing copious comic book superheroes and then shifted to crafting pixel art, square by square. These were both decent training for his eventual career in corporate branding, producing polished images and logos to sell products for his clients.
But as his new faith started taking root, it became more insistent, and he began to think, “If this is what I’m staking my belief on, I’m going to take it and put it in my art.”
“I kind of took the very formal polished approach of graphic design, but the more storytelling approach of comic books, and the simplicity and limited color palettes of pixel work and made the style that fused all my beginnings,” Lewis said.
The result is a look that’s dynamic and accessible like comic books, but with more heft and dignity; it’s polished like graphic design, but infused with authentic emotion; and yes, it’s designed to fit into a square with only a few colors, so it prints well.
So along with doing design and illustration work for various authors, publishers, archdioceses and more, Lewis also has a thriving retail business for stickers, T-shirts, cards, posters and phone cases. Some of them are iridescent; some of them glow in the dark.
How does this popular, accessible work jibe with the history and tradition he found so compelling in his own faith journey? Read the rest of my latest Catholic artist interview at Our Sunday Visitor.
If you know of (or are) a Catholic or Catholic-friendly artist you think should be featured, please drop me a line! simchafisher at gmail dot com. I’m not excellent about responding, but I always check out every suggestion.