Jessica Oden Interview by Christina Wegman
This month, we have the joy of hearing from Jessica Oden, a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Christian woman, and emerging artist. To learn more about Jessica’s work, please visit her blog at http://ilikebooks.dreamwidth.org or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What do you find most enjoyable about making art and what are your favorite mediums?
The most enjoyable aspect of creating art is the process an idea undergoes while I’m working. My ideas often derive from interesting photographs or even sometimes literary and lyrical imagery, and as I begin working on a project other emotions and associations begin to form. When I actually see aspects of what I was thinking become apparent in my paintings or drawings, it’s a wonderful feeling. On the other hand, sometimes the process moves in a different direction and the work doesn’t look at all how I imagined! That can be just as enjoyable. My favorite mediums to work with are oil and also colored pencil. Oil painting allows me to slowly build up subtle layers of color, while my colored pencil drawings give me more control and ability to achieve better detail.
2. When did you begin to make art? Why?
I remember wanting to be an artist at some point while growing up, but as a kid I often compared myself to other creative people my age and even some that were older and more experienced. I became discouraged and thought I wasn’t good at drawing, so I didn’t pursue it. When I took an art class in high school, my teacher helped me to learn how to study the objects and images that we were drawing, “using my art eye,” as she used to say. She gave me confidence in my abilities and unlocked a possibility that I separated from myself. I didn’t seriously start pursuing art until college when I chose to minor in Art Studio, which allowed me to explore different mediums and receive encouragement and inspiration from other artists. Now the process of creating brings a satisfaction that I would never wish to separate from my life.
3. How would you describe the role that spirituality plays in your artistic work?
For many years, art was mainly learning to replicate objects by training my eye and hand to work together, but now I have shifted my focus to developing ideas and taking them wherever I wish them to go. Since my faith is such a vital part of who I am, I frequently think about how to convey the relationship I have to God, to aspects of Christianity, and especially right now to the women I read about in the Bible. I would like to bring across an emotional response from the viewer that might relate to what I was feeling and not necessarily to translate every thought onto the canvas. These women in my paintings are mysterious to me, and they make me want to know their story.
4. Has art had an influence on your understanding of God and Christianity? If so, how?
God is the ultimate creator. I don’t think I can remind myself enough of this quality about Him, because it can be so easy to brush aside. However cliché it may sound, the process of creating ultimately brings a feeling of closeness to God – not in the sense of being like God – but experiencing a quality of who He is. When we love the unlovable, we are imitating Jesus, bringing us closer to His character. I think it’s plausible to say the same thing for creating art. At this point, I’m very interested in women of the Bible, exploring who they are as people (not just as a person in history). I often find myself relating to them and finding an emotional connection with them, even if I didn’t experience the same events they did. Their experiences of grace help remind me of my own.
5. What are your main goals for your art at present?
Right now, my goal is just to create more art and continue to explore ideas and mediums.
6. Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or verse that guides your life and work?
I can’t say there has been any one statement that has specifically been on my mind over the past few years; however, I’m reminded of a John Milton quote that I really like from the epic poem Paradise Lost. When Adam and Eve leave Eden, the angel with them tells them this:
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith,
Add vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love,
By name to come call'd Charitie, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier farr” (Book 12: 581-587)
Though we live in a fallen world, it is possible to have a “paradise’ within ourselves through our relationship to Christ and the attitudes we gain and share with others.
7. Are there any other thoughts that you would like to share with the Ascribing Artists Blog regarding faith and art?
Simply continue to pursue creating art. I have been told before that what I am doing and interested in is essentially useless. I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. If you are an artist, creating is vital to who you are and often (at least for me) enriches your faith. And that is not a trivial joy.
[If you have an inspirational project or story that you would like to talk about in an interview for the Ascribing Artists Blog, please contact Christina by E-mailing ChristinaBWegman@aol.com.]