Artist's illustration strikes prophetic chord

Douglas Fritz • Mar 29, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Timothy Botts didn’t claim his work to be prophetic, but said he isn’t surprised to see the Lord use his efforts in a dramatic way.

“I always ask the Lord to inspire me in the work I do,” Botts said. “I ask him to use my art to bless others. It is a great encouragement to me that God can speak to someone through my artwork. It’s a blessing to myself and a blessing to other people.”

Botts, who enjoyed a 40-year career with Tyndale House Publishers, began work on illustrations for a Navigators’ calendar in March 2019. In the accompanying picture, it looks like a prediction of the spread of the novel coronavirus in March of 2020. While the original idea behind the artwork had nothing to do with a pandemic, the illustration looks different in light of current events.

And as it turns out, the 72-year-old Botts has a decades-old connection to Northeast Tennessee.


The Navigators is a worldwide missionary organization that was founded in 1933. Its 2020 calendar was distributed to over a million people across the world.

Calendars can sometimes become part of the background in a home, and that was the case for this one. But on March 23 — perhaps after weeks of being bombarded with reports of the pandemic — the picture associated with this month jumped off the page at me.

In the foreground of the illustration is Botts’ calligraphy of Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20, which is called “The Great Commission” and considered by many Christians to be among the most important verses in the Bible. In the background, Botts drew some of the major movements of missionaries with gold crosses for churches in the largest cities in the world.

With the entire world feeling the weight of this crisis, the words of Jesus overlapping the red lines seem to paint a picture of hope overcoming despair.


Botts, who currently lives near Chicago, grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Toward the end of an impromptu interview, I told him I would like to do a story. But I wasn’t sure how to approach it because I didn’t have a local angle.

Botts said, “I may actually have one.”

In 1984, Tyndale collaborated with the Christian Broadcasting Network to produce a version of the Living Bible called “The Book.”

“It was formatted like a regular book in a single column without verse numbers,” said Botts. “It was heavily promoted on TV and sold more than a million copies. As art director, I went to the Kingsport Press to check on the color printing of the cover. At the time, Kingsport Press was one of just two printing companies in the United States that could bind a book as big as a Bible.”

Botts said he was impressed with our area, “Kingsport was a beautiful place, and it reminded me of where I grew up.”

Botts also has a current connection with Tennessee. He is involved with Christian art camps called Masterpiece Ministries. Two of the three camps are held at Cumberland University in Lebanon. The camps are for rising high school freshmen through rising high seniors.


Botts takes Scripture and basically makes a picture of it.

“I learned about 30 years ago that I am a visual learner,” he said. “I make a picture of what the words are saying. I illustrate words to express what they mean. That’s a gift I believe God has given me.”

Tim has spent his life using art to explore the message and meaning of the Bible. His calligraphy reaches back to letterforms as old as the first century, and he combines them with contemporary design principles. He designed over 600 books and Bibles before retiring in 2012. He is recognized as a master calligrapher, teaching workshops in the United States and internationally.

The website for Botts’ work is www.timbottscalligraphy.com.

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