The Purpose This work of art was created for a Q Ideas city conference held in my home town, Denver, Colorado. At this conference many experts, including myself, shared from their own field of expertise with an audience of Denver residents to establish true bearings in our home town.
The Process After much research into the history of the compass rose and incorporating other elements, which carry symbolic significance, I created this one-of-a-kind compass rose. I executed the original on stretched calfskin vellum using Japanese stick ink and one of my hand-made dip pens. The image was then transferred to 24 tree cross-sections and placed in the center of each table at the conference. The entire process was captured through time-lapse and motion cameras in a short documentary produced by Christianity Today. The Story Sailors of long ago looked to the heavens to find their way on this earth. Though the seas would churn and the winds would blow, the heavens remained their constant guide. Burning stars above would chart their course across tumultuous seas, which threatened to claim their lives. Beyond the stars sailors spoke of a greater force, which they believed kept them safe and guided them home- this was the divine. Within this piece, “The Sojourner’s Rose,” I have captured these age-old beliefs in an icon of our day. A ‘sojourner’ is a traveler who does not stay long in any one place. Whether we are literally traveling across an open sea or simply making our way through life, we are all sojourners. So, within the center of the compass rose is a ship sailing across high seas- a reminder that life brings waves to crash against our hull and test the strength of our vessel.
We find ourselves centered in the cross of the compass. This is indicative of the cross of Christ that sailors relied on for their salvation should they be claimed by the sea. Through penitence and servitude they clung to this, thus to the South the anchor is tied to the foot of the cross. Surrounding the sojourner as he travels is a heavenly host of angels that symbolize the protection and guidance from God above. The bodies of the angels subdivide the points of the cross; they hold the banner which bears the names of the eight major winds as they were called in the first compass rose ever created by Italian navy men over eight hundred years ago. The leaves of the laurel wreath indicate the remaining twenty-four points of the compass rose. In ancient Greece the Olympic game winners were crowned with a laurel wreath- the crown of victory. Scripture speaks of the laurel wreath given not to those who ran a literal race but to those who completed the course of life and kept their faith in God. In the outer-most circle are the eight phases of the moon aligned with the eight winds of the compass. This is to show that we are bound not only in space, but in time as well. There is a season for everything, be it good or bad. The ever-changing phases of the moon bear the promise that this, too, shall pass.
Finally, marking true North is the crown of the King. In ancient times the furthest northern point was believed to be outside of this realm and reside in the heavenly as the kingdom of God. By this point of reference, all courses are made true and all faithful are guided. Adorning the compass rose is a verse of poetry that describes the overall message therein:
“True the course of sojourners be whose bearings are followed faithfully.”So, wherever this finds you, my fellow sojourner, I hope that it brings you guidance on a new course for a new year. May your winds be fair, your waters be calm and may your compass always point true North. You can buy the Compass Rose piece by clicking here.