A timber frame table

Occasionally, I'll do something fun for the house!  This table brings together legs milled from an Ash trunk (thanks to the Krohn family), old barn timbers (thanks to the Flitter family), oak pegs (thanks to my friend Jesse Ellerbroek), a 4x6 Fir beam originally intended to for sculpture (thanks to my brother Dan), and fence posts and a marble slab that predate our time at the house (thanks Victor and Olga Voecks).  3 days in the making, its the kind of thing I can only afford to do in the summer.  I love the flow of a project like this.  Brains, brawn, care, and joy all go into the planning, cutting, fitting, and finishing.  My right arm felt like it was going to fall off from swinging mallets and hatchets.  Big joinery and I are BFF.  
In the end it looks like either classic National park furniture, an Ancient Roman workbench, or a California hippy dining room table.  I look forward to morning coffees and evening s'mores... 

Note:  My dad helped with the milling of the legs years ago and with supervision days ago.  He's always been a helper.

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Bulletin illustrations

I've been doing freelance illustration work for Anchor Wallace Publishers for the past 7-8 years.   Every year it begins with a list of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.  Various artists take their turns choosing readings, festivals, Sundays to illustrate.  Then comes a series of proposals, sketches, revisions, and finals.  In the end, Anchor Wallace can offer a weekly bulletin subscription to congregations with a diverse set of styles and interpretations to stimulate thought, support sermons, and encourage faith.  Learn more about the series at the Anchor Wallace website.

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Making a Speechless Film Festival trophy

It's been an honor (and a blast) to create this trophy for the Speechless Film Festival.  This is the trophy for the winner of the "Made in Minnesota" category.  The base is a beautiful cast iron anchor donated to the festival by Dotson Iron Castings in Mankato, MN.  Maybe I don't get out enough, but I've never seen a sculptural anchor.  
I got back to some of my sculptural roots with this piece.  Musing on how to evoke "Minnesota", I thought timberframing may do the trick.  So I worked with this block of ash I had in the studio.  After planing, cutting, chiseling, burning, and drilling I made some additions to hint at stories or relationships.  The bits of hardware bring the whole thing out of a piece of woodworking and turn it into a mystery.  It's been said that, "an illustration answers questions, but a work of art asks questions."  I love the way films can evoke moods and put one in an imagined situation.  This piece presents itself for interpretation offering only clues, tensions, and evidence.    

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Finished St. Mark's triptych with interpretive document

The format of this artwork is known as a triptych /trip-tik/.  Common in medieval and renaissance churches, especially in Northern Europe, the hinged wings of the triptych allow for the artwork to change with liturgical needs.  Closing or opening the doors refreshed the worship space and the double sides allowed the artist to pack in more biblical symbolism.

This triptych uses 5 images as reminders about the life of Jesus.  When the doors are open 3 chronological images are showing.  Beginning on the left Jesus’ entry into the world is shown as the aged Simeon encounters the infant God-Man.   Simeon’s faith in God’s ancient promise to send a savior led to his Spirit-inspired, spontaneous song, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,  and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32  The image of Simeon with Jesus is a visual link between the old and new testaments.  Simeon was blessed to be present as God’s promise to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all Israel was fulfilled.  The eternal God was dwelling with man and Simeon had him as a baby in his arms!
The central panel shows the familiar scene of Jesus’ crucifixion.  In this act, humanity’s problem was solved.  Jesus, who was without sin, took responsibility for the rebellion of all mankind.  In exchange he offers the forgiveness of sins and opens the gates of heaven to those who believe this surprising message.  Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection are absolutely central to the Christian faith.  So this panel has the privileged central location.  The moment depicted is one of anguish as Jesus experienced God’s wrath.  He is surrounded by two criminals who have been judged guilty of crimes worthy of death.  The criminal provide a humiliating context.  Jesus did not come to dwell with just “good people”, but rather sought out those souls who were thought low and unworthy.  The criminals in this painting can serve as symbols of the sinful nature of mankind.  Recall too that one criminal mocked Jesus and another humbly expressed  his faith saying, “‘We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”  The landscape surrounding Jesus shares in it’s creator’s torment.  The ground is parched, the hills barren, and the sky stirs menacingly.  These elements of the image are meant to express the weight of the event depicted.  Importantly, as Jesus hangs between heaven and earth interceding between God and humanity, there is a sliver of open sky in the distance.  The moment is dire, but hope is on the horizon.  Jesus did die, but he also stood up and left his grave.
The image on the right shows the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth as he ascends into heaven.  The young church had what was necessary to grow to the ends of the earth.  From this small group of seemingly insignificant men, God moved his message of salvation across the globe.  The disciples get a glimpse of Jesus’ exit just as Simeon met him at his entrance.  The arrangement of the disciples on the hillside is meant to lead the viewer’s eye in a rising zigzag pattern as they all point our attention to Jesus.  We look over the shoulders of a few nearby disciples as if we are witnesses ourselves.  We share in the privilege to spread the wonderful news of a loving God who is already satisfied.  We look to the skies in anticipation of Jesus’ return.
When the doors of the triptych are closed two panels form one image.  By the Sea of Galilee, Jesus takes time for children.  Body language tells this story.  The mothers and children show their excitement and affection for Jesus who is kind and gentle.  In the background two of Jesus’ disciples express their frustration.  They still didn’t understand.  God does not see humans in terms of social rank he just loves his lambs.  The relationship shown between Jesus and these children illustrates how God would have us approach him in prayer.  He had time for them and he still has time for us.
The still life above shows the Sacraments.  The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are powerful ways in which God approaches us.  We come to worship because God comes to us through these means and the hearing of his Word.  Wheat and grapes represent the bread and wine of communion in basic, timeless forms.  A carafe of water emphasizes the plain yet pure nature of baptism.  And the open Bible reminds us that it is the Word that gives such plain elements such power.  Indeed the Word gives plain people like us endurance and encouragement, comfort and hope.  The gold leaf lends an otherworldly richness to the simple elements of the sacraments.  God often works his miracles with humble ingredients.

The framing is built with Cherry wood and finished with stain, linseed oil, and paste wax.  The pointed arch above refers to the rich heritage of gothic building style.  The frame’s red line is a reminder of the blood of Christ that runs through all aspects of scripture, and our lives as redeemed children of God.  “By His wounds we are healed.”  

About the Artist
Jason Jaspersen is a fine artist and educator working to blend traditional techniques with a contemporary sensibility.  Jason’s portfolio includes a variety of commissioned illustrations, sculptures, and paintings.  His  contemplative figures reflect his interest in  generations, universal experiences, and Biblical themes.
Besides teaching art full time at Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School in New Ulm, MN,  Jason produces large collaborative artworks,  co-directs drama productions, and assists with the international student program.  At home he enjoys wood joinery, growing bonsai trees, and cultivating a steady stream of personal and commissioned artwork.  Jason’s creative endeavors are endured, supported, and inspired by his lovely wife and 2 children.

The conception and creation of this artwork spans from July 2012 to December 2013.  Sketches, progress photos and video on the making of this project are archived online at

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Video: Making the St. Mark Triptych

This video condenses work done from Feb. 2012 to Dec. 2013 on the triptych for St. Mark Lutheran in Lincoln, Nebraska.  See the project move from idea to reality through sketches, reference photos, painting, gold leaf, and wood working.

Images by Jason Jaspersen.  Music by Koine.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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Unending Love Concert program

Program cover design for the 2013 MVL Spring Sacred Concert.  

The Hokusai wave motif coincided with an MVL Art Factory project (student work) on the same theme.

  Here is my explanation of the symbolism as printed in the program:
God’s love is on the move.  It is majestic and persistent and it is for you.

The artwork that was developed for this Spring Sacred Concert was inspired by themes in the song Unending Love.  The lyrics, printed elsewhere in this program, picture God’s love with poetic references to water.  Water is used as a symbol to help us further understand the Gospel.

“Here is love, vast as the ocean, Loving kindness as the flood...Through the floodgates of God’s mercy, Flowed a vast and gracious tide...Grace and love like mighty rivers, Poured unending from above.”

In the artwork, a continuous wave embodies these water references.  The long horizontal shape of the canvas hints at an expansive, panoramic view. In the context of the song, this long continuous wave reinforces the symbolic connections between the ocean and God’s infinite, unstoppable love.  
Notice the wave continues through different colors and media.  This is unified variety. This relationship between the sections of the canvas can remind us that despite changes in this life, God’s love endures forever.  While we are thankful, jealous, aimless, excited, vain, exhausted, gracious, deceitful...God’s love is vast as the ocean.  Despite our shifty nature, God is constant.
The water imagery used here originated with the Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai.  He was an exciting artist producing works with considerable quality and quantity.  His most famous image is the 1833 woodblock print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” from his series “Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji”.  In the late 1800’s European artists such as Degas and Van Gogh were deeply influenced by the simple graphic style, unusual compositions, and contemporary subjects of Japanese prints.  Though Hokusai was not a Christian artist, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  -2 Corinthians 10:5

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