Back in December I had the honor of working with Bethel Music to create the cover for their upcoming live album, Have It All, which will be released early March. This is an account of my experience and the process we went through to create it.
Bethel Church and the School of Ministry have both played a big part in my life. My two older brothers and my wife have all attended the ministry school. Since the age of fourteen I have been making trips to Redding to visit Bethel. What an incredible place! I have never seen so many people in one room overflowing with love and passion for Jesus. Spending time in that environment always has a profound impact on my family and myself.
Bethel Music has played an equally big part in my life. I really connect with their heart for worship: authentic, raw and passionate. I have had countless moments connecting with God through their music, whether it is during a church service, or on my iPod dancing through fields. Their music leads me out of whatever funk I am in and into the presence of Jesus to have fun with Him. I am always listening to music as I draw, paint or sculpt, and I find worship most inspiring to listen to while creating. As God is the ultimate artist I feel the most creative when I am connected to Him.
With all that to say, you can imagine when I was asked to sculpt Bethel Music’s next album cover, how overjoyed I was! I was beyond excited to collaborate with Bethel Music in this way, and felt overwhelmed with God’s love for me. It felt like He was telling me ‘”I choose you, Chapman.”
I am in awe of Gods love for us, the way in which he provides for us and takes care of us. The call for this project came at a time when Hannah and I were looking for answers to a couple big questions we had in our lives. Firstly I was considering going back to school. One of the reasons for this was the connections the school had to galleries in New York, it seemed like a logical step to take to further my career. However, neither my wife nor me felt complete peace about it. When Bethel Music asked me to work with them, I felt God speak so clearly that it was Him who had all the right connections for me. At this time we were also about to have to pay a couple of really big bills, one for my wife’s green card (she is English) and another for our midwife (we’re planning a homebirth in April!). We had no idea how we would afford to pay for both these things, and Bethel Music paid me the perfect amount we needed to cover both! When we trust in God, He always provides for us!
Bethel Music wanted me to sculpt the heart in Redding so they could capture the whole process on film to use for promotion videos for the album. So about a week after finding out about the project, my wife Hannah and I made our journey up to Northern California.
During our first day in Redding, we had the privilege of touring the Bethel Music studio and offices. It was honestly so inspiring to go behind the scenes and see where it all happens; the whole place was bursting with creativity. Brian and Jenn Johnson were working on mixing and mastering the album as we were walking around the studio. Before we set off to the location where I would be sculpting, we met with the creative team who shared their vision for the album with me and prayed for me. It was a beautiful experience, I felt very appreciated and honored by them.
My studio for the week was a beautiful space, simple, and flooded with natural light. We spent the remainder of that first day setting up the room and all the filming equipment. By the next morning I was feeling nervous, but after getting into the studio again with the whole team and praying over our day, I was so excited to begin! So when the very talented director of photography, Sarah Oliveira (who happens to be a friend of mine!) was ready to film, I began creating!
I had already constructed the majority of the armature at home, but had left a few parts unfinished for the sake of capturing the full process on film, so that was where I began. The armature is the metal structure onto which the clay is applied. It adds strength and helps the clay keep its form, as the sculpture gets pretty heavy!
When the armature is ready, the next step is to block in the big shapes with clay. I started by adding mass to the interior of the armature and then quickly began defining some of the bigger shapes of the heart. After checking the proportions and shapes from all angles, I could then begin to get more specific, refining the shapes and adding more information. Before long the light was fading and we had to call it a day.
If I were to leave the sculpture in its clay form, it would just dry out, crack and break into pieces. Some methods would bake the clay in a fire oven to prevent that, but whilst the sculpture is still on the metal armature, you can’t. To make it permanent, you must cast the sculpture. This is a long and messy process. Thankfully I had my lovely wife Hannah to help me with the whole casting process.
During an incredible sunrise, we made our way to another full day in the studio. To begin casting, I first created a silicone mold. This is the element that captures all the detail of the clay sculpture, so the first layer is crucial. I applied the silicone over the surface of the clay heart just a small piece at a time. After allowing this layer to dry, the process quickened as I applied two more layers and the walls, a thicker strip of silicone, which I later cut into to create two parts to the mold.
Once the plaster mold had dried, I separated the different pieces. I then cut into the walls of the silicone, slicing it into two separate pieces and peeled these off from the clay.
After cleaning the clay residue from the inside of the silicone, we put the whole mold together again, silicone inside plaster. I wound tape around the mold to make sure it was tightly together. Now the mold was ready to be cast! I mixed bowls of plaster and poured them into an opening in the bottom of the mold, moving the sculpture from side to side and around in as many directions I could to force the plaster into all the cracks and crevices. Just like the silicone, this first layer of plaster is really important, as it becomes the visible layer on the sculpture, where all the detail is captured. I continued to pour bowls of wet plaster into the mold until it was filled. After the last pour I placed a metal rod into the opening, which would be the stand for the sculpture to attach to the base.
Once the cast had dried completely, I applied bronze paint to the whole sculpture, transforming it from pure white plaster to a bronze cast!
Over the weekend we went to the Sunday morning service at Bethel Church. During worship we sang Have It All! My body was consumed with passion as I sung out the lyrics ‘”You can have it all Lord, every part of my world, take this life and breathe on this heart that is now yours.” I had been listening to the song all week while sculpting the heart, but for some reason during the live worship I got a whole new revelation of the meaning of the song as I visualized the process of creating the heart. The process showed me what God does to our heart when we give it to Him; He transforms it into a new creation, He purifies it, like the pure white cast, and then He refines it into a heart of gold. It may be a messy process, but He makes us stronger and more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.
What an incredible experience this all has been! By the end of the week, I felt so connected with the creative team. I gained friends, built my confidence as an artist, and learned more about God’s love for me. It was a dream come true. I am excited for the world to see the sculpture and to listen to the music from this album. I hope that the art and music inspires and blesses all who see and hear it, and I pray that all would have a revelation of the fathers love for them. I know it will change the world!
Photography: Justin Posey & Stephen Hart
Director of Photography: Sara Oliveira
Creative Director: Kiley Goodpasture
Produced by: Lindsey Strand