Alumnus Jake Weidmann (’08) is one of 11 master penmen in the world. After apprenticing under the White House calligrapher for one year and undertaking the grueling, but rewarding, task of executing the creation of his master penman certificate, Weidmann was inducted into the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting in 2011. His perfect penmanship is not the limit of his artistry, however.
Weidmann aspires for his work, which extends into woodworking, drawing and printmaking, to be relational, conversation-spurring and above all point to a higher purpose. Recently, Christianity Today released a video following Weidmann’s process in creating centerpieces for the Denver Q Cities conference, a one-day gathering that aims to educate and mobilize Christian leaders to create and work together towards advancing good in their community. The finished piece, showcased at the end of the video, encompasses his many talents as well as his vision for uniting art and theology.
Since becoming a master penman, Weidmann has explored the theology of iconography and art, melding his work and faith into one. He recently answered some questions and shared how he has continued to hone his craft and fuse his passion for art with his faith.
1. It's been about one year since you were inducted as a master penman. How has your career and view of the art evolved within the last year?
This has been a year of phenomenal growth for me as an artist and as a person. Having attained the level of master penman and doing all of the work required for it, including executing my own certificate, has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. Through the clarity that hindsight brings, I have seen God connect the various parts of my past to set a solid direction for my future. God has expanded my territory and influence beyond anything I could imagine, and he has only just begun.
I realize more and more the importance of art in our modern age and the reason he has called me into it. I have seen God work through the power of my art in ways I could never have predicted. Art once set the stage for the worship of God in the tabernacle in the days of Moses. So the power of art that I am pursuing is not some emotional rise from the public that postmodernist is after, but spiritual reawakening to the beauty of God in the heart of the viewers. I once thought that the greatest act I was doing as an artist was imitating God, but I know now that greater still, it is the collaboration with him. My art can only go so far, and then the Holy Spirit takes over as the interpreter to the soul. This is the ancient power of art!
2. Recently you were invited to be a speaker and art director for the Q Cities conference in Denver, Colo. Can you tell us a little bit about your vision and the body of artwork you created for the conference?
My art does not fit best in the context of a gallery — it was meant to be at the center of conversation. I had the opportunity for my art to play that role at the Q Cities conference in Denver. I set up roughly a dozen major works in the lobby area of the event center so that as people came in and congregated in between sessions, they would be surrounded by beautiful works of art. I stood back and observed throughout the day as my art played as the perfect silent facilitator to numerous conversations. It was my vision and my hope that having such a diverse collection of pieces would speak to the variety of topics being presented at the conference — it did so.
3. You created a piece for the conference that was recently featured in a video on Christianity Today. How did the piece flow with the conference vision and what story did you hope to tell through the piece?
At Q we heard from different speakers in brief segments of time on an array of jattendees with information. I found that this process serves to not only give a quick and accurate depiction of the current topics from a Christian worldview perspective, but it also showed that each person has their own individual calling.
Because of the journey that Q shows us and its ability to help us find our bearings, I chose to use the compass rose as the icon of the day. But not just any compass rose; I recreated this icon and filled it with symbols of spiritual significance. I set apart and emphasized the cross within the rose to point to the cross of Christ as central to our faith. In the center of the cross is a ship traveling across tumultuous seas as a depiction of us, the sojourners, to indicate that the cross was for us. The heavenly hosts are surrounding the ship to indicate both the direction and protection that we receive from above. A laurel wreath frames the inner parts of the design and reminds us of the crown of glory that is promised to us for running the race that has been laid out for us. The eight phases of the moon are aligned with the eight major winds of the compass to remind us that we are bound in both time and space. To the south is the anchor, that we might be anchored at the foot of the cross. To the north is the crown of the kind to depict the farthest north as the kingdom of God as it is described in Scripture. Finally, the phrase on the outside reads, “True the course of Sojourners be whose bearings are followed faithfully.” This verse of poetry reminds us that as we depend of God he will make our paths straight. This is truly a compass rose like the world has never known!
I was always able to create art and teach myself any medium that I wanted to learn, so I did not need to go to school for it. What I needed training in was how to use my art to connect with people on a powerful level. Psychology taught me the mental and emotional processing of people and how to intentionally and tactfully relate to my fellow man. So much of art today is very subjective and it loses its power due to the lack of relatable content. Psychology taught me that I could reach through the canvas and touch someone at the heart-level. It provided a level of relational discernment and emotional expression within my work to reach people where they are.
My minor in biblical studies gave me a solid perspective on not only what I create within my work, but also my role as an artist. It shaped my worldview, which is vital when the role of the artist is to describe the world in which they live. My biblical studies minor gave me a very clear lens to describe the world through and it is with fear and trembling that I speak the heart of God for the world through my work.
5. I've heard you say that art teaches us how to behold and be still. Can you expand on that?
We live in a culture that is inundated with information and stimuli. Psychological research has shown that we are becoming addicted to the heightened levels of adrenaline within our own bodies because of the constant stream of chaos from all our digital devices and over-packed schedules. We are a culture that looks at everything and beholds nothing. But art does not move or change to keep our attention. Art beckons us to be still and behold what is in front of us. A painting on a wall might seem like an irrelevant luxury item, but a good painting can rescue the soul from the rushing current of modern life. Not all art is this way, but art that is timeless and represents a timeless truth is invaluable for the impact it can have on us.
6. It sounds like you have a strong view and intention to connect theology, spiritual movements and art. What is your hope in each art piece you create?
My hope is that people will encounter God through my art. While very little of my art has an explicit theological message, some part of God’s truth is represented in each piece. Through the individual truths that describe something about God’s character, I am showing or re-showing an attribute of God to someone who may not experience him otherwise. Through the power of aesthetics, I am showing my connection with God and I invite all to join me. To put it in psychology terms, all of my art is a “bid for connection.” Art was once regarded as the universal language that united all through a common passion — I want to revive this notion and usher forth an experience of God through passion, truth and beauty. I want to create miracles!
Watch Weidmann at work in Christianity Today’s recent video.
Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or email@example.com.