thoughts

Wally Wood's 22 panels that always work

I did a little composition exercise recently.  There is a legendary reference sheet for graphic novel and comic artists called "Wally Wood's 22 panels that always work".  Evidently it was developed to help artists new to the demands of sequential art cope with conversation-heavy scripts.  Another title for this might be, "how to keep things visually interesting when nothing's happening".  You can see a printout of the original sticking out on the right.
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

"A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Psalm of Life

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real!  Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Classic Kiln Delivers the Goods!

   My dad and I recently finished the walls in a corner of my studio using cement board and slate.  I've been saving discarded chalkboards for years...This provides me with a nice area for high temp work such as firing a kiln or, someday, welding.  
    So I finally got to fire this awesome vintage kiln (1950's?).  1st test firing released the lovely odor of mouse droppings.  When this kiln was in storage at the Black Lantern studios, it became a mouse apartment complex...After a thorough cleaning now its all been incinerated.  I wish it was warm enough to leave my windows open...

This is kiln predates automatic digital readouts and even gravity-based kiln-sitters.  It does have the awesome dial readout connected to a "thermocouple" temperature probe.  That all means that I need to turn up the heat according to "best practices" and get a feel for the pace of firing.  I was never a super ceramic nerd so this will take some experience.  I've been looking up "ramping" schedules to get an idea of the speed recommended between temperatures.

I heard a frightening POP at around 1300 degrees.  I was sure a piece blew up, but when everything was fine.  It was surprising how little heat emanated from the kiln.  At temperatures approaching 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, the kiln seemed to be insulating well.  Looking in the peephole, I noticed one of the coils doesn't seem to be working.  I do have an extra set, so I should be able to fix that.

I think I love this kiln.  It's got the sturdy charm of a classic pickup, refreshingly low-tech, and just the right internal space to fire 1/4 scale terra cotta figures or life-sized busts.

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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 jjjaspersen.blogspot.com.

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Augmented Reality!

I've recently discovered Augmented Reality (AR) and the possibilities are making my head spin.   I first saw an article on the AR app called Aurasma in a yearbook advisor magazine.  This yearbook advisor had used the app to load a video into the printed yearbook!  I was blown away when I aimed my phone's camera at the photo in the article and their school-wide lipsync video started playing as if it were in the photo frame.  The device becomes a lens through which new content can be revealed in real objects.

So I started to play.  After downloading Aurasma (free app) I started unlocking content by aiming it at their website.  I love the cereal box printed as if its the cockpit of an X-wing fighter.  A star wars space battle jolts to life and the controls start to whirr and calculate.  Then I discovered I can participate in the battle and fire my blasters...ON A CEREAL BOX.

I soon realized I could make my own content.  The app enables you to set a trigger image and associate an overlay with it.  Sooo...my kids' old minion costumes come to life and start chattering to each other, Elvis dances on the classroom pencil sharpener, my school photo transforms into Gru, photos in the school newspaper come to life, and a graphing calculator reveals that Gangham style guy dancing in the screen.

Turning to more relevant applications I love the idea of a school yearbook with photos that "come to life".  Trust me, the MVL Desktop Publishing students are all about this.  We're shifting some of our talents toward video production and integrating augmented reality into our student print publications.

Then I realized the potential as an art teacher.  I built my Master's level semester presentation around augmented reality.  Imagine a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in which the museum map reveals particular works to find and draw.  When you get to the Rembrandt's "Lucretia" and view it through your tablet or phone you see the darks and lights broken down into simplified blocks.  I set up 5 different paintings with different drawing aids to help interpret the artwork and provide an entry point for beginning artists.  Click this link to view the prezi.  You'll have to subscribe to "JJJaspersen Studio Education" for the Aurasma aspect to work.

I'm strongly considering using augmented reality in my February gallery exhibit at Bethany Lutheran College...

And I just finished activating the cover art for Koine's Emmanuel Lux album.  Scan the cover, the interior, or the disc for connections to contemplate from the corresponding sand animation.

Here's how to make it work:

  1.  Download the Aurasma app.
  2. Create an account (or skip this step)
  3. Tap the A symbol at the bottom of the viewfinder...
  4. Tap the magnifying glass to search Aurasma
  5. Enter "JJJaspersen Studio" in the search bar, tap on my channel and tap "follow"
  6. Tap the open square icon next to the magnifying glass and aim at your Emmanuel Lux album art!

The following video will help to explain what this all means and how it works...

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Buried Bonsai

Today a friend pointed out that I posted photos of "chilly bonsai" last week claiming that it was the last snowstorm of the season.  He knows a lot about weather and so naturally blames me for jinxing us into another snow dump the following week (even further into April!).    

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Elijah's showdown


I recently learned that someone had reused one of my chapel devotions from MVL. It got me thinking about my stored material from over the years. Just like I have posted photos from old sketchbooks, I'll try posting full texts from some of my devotions. I pray that God works through these words to give you what you need.



Elijah's showdown
 



Have you read this?  This bit of history, this duel.  Can you imagine being there.  Everyone was there.  The king and queen, all the people in the land turned out for this showdown. They brought their families, young and old, they packed some food and water for the trip.  There must have been some talk about the duel. No doubt there were some bets placed.  It was one outlaw versus 850 of the king's men.  One man confidently challenged the odds.  It was at his suggestion that this was all happening.  He was going to settle a misunderstanding.  He was going to be convincing.  Something had to be done.
 
So everyone showed up.  The One man proposed some rules to this challenge.  This was to be a fair match.  Both sides would have a chance.  Both would hail their god to start a fire to burn an animal sacrifice.  Both sides would prepare an animal sacrifice and get their god to light the fire.  All agreed to his suggestion.  It just seemed natural for everyone to agree to his rules, after all, what chance did he stand against 850 of them.  There were so many of them.  400 priests of Asherah sat this one out. They went off to the side. Now it was 450 priests of Baal against the 1.  These were the official priests of Israel.  They ate at the kings table.  They were officially endorsed by royalty.  It was all the same to the One man because he knew the truth.  Imagine these bleachers packed for a game.  Imagine these bleachers shoulder to shoulder with high-intensity fans, unified and focused in their support.  The bleachers on the stage are filled with the 400 reserves sitting out.  Imagine this mass of excited people against just one man.
 
There were spectators too.  Witnesses to this great showdown.  The historical documents don't tell us how many.  The king called all of Israel to this event.  Let's speculate a bit here and imagine a mass of people like you may have seen at a major concert or sporting event.  Stadium-size crowd.  They were on the mountain too.  Not everyone had a good seat, but word traveled fast. 
 
It began as the sun rose. Early in the morning members of the 450 slit their bull's throat and cut it to pieces.  This task is neither easy nor clean.  Blood flowed and smeared, mingled with gravel and dust.  It was not an unfamiliar site.  They put the chopped pieces of animal on a stack of wood and began their chants.  Like a mob of fans at a game they feverishly raised their voices together to support their cause.  One of their sayings is recorded for us, "O Baal, hear us, O Baal, hear us, O Baal, hear us."  They did this from morning until noon.  There was no response from Baal.  Some of them started jumping on the altar.  You know how things can escalate with a crowd of passionate people. 
 
The One man starts to talk smack at noon.  He started mocking this large crowd that was unified against him.  He came over to the crowd of impassioned prophets and tauntingly told them to get louder because maybe Baal was preoccupied with something else.  So they did.  They got louder.  They show their sincerity.  They cut themselves with knives and spears to get Baal's attention.  Blood mingled with the gravel again that day.  They nearly sacrificed themselves to get a reaction from their god. 
 
As the afternoon wore on, the One man, Elijah, prophet of the Living God, looked at the pitiful, exausted, bloody prophets of Baal and decided it was time for his turn.  There had been no voice from Baal.  He told all the people of Israel to gather around him.  He repaired the old altar of the Lord using 12 stones to represent the 12 sons of Jacob.  Elijah was reminding the people of their history with the Lord.  By building the altar of 12 stones he brought the Lord's promises back to the minds of the Israelites.  The Lord had changed Jacob's name to Israel and thus gave this mass of people on the mountainside their very identity.  The Lord had made promises to their forefathers.  The Lord was their God whether they knew it or not.
 
He dug a trench around the mound of stones.  He stacked the wood in order.  Elijah, the one man was doing a lot of heavy, messy, manual labor.  He slaughtered and cut up the bull.  He lifted the heavy, bloody parts onto the altar.  I saw some bulls at the state fair this year.  That would be a lot of animal to carve up and move around.  That's alot of work when you think about it.  Elijah would have been a muddy, bloody, scraped up mess of a man after that afternoon's work.  After hauling stones, and wood, digging a trench, and carving up a huge animal, Elijah took a break.  He had others drench the altar three times until the trench had standing water in it.  Soaking a burnt offering with water was not the usual procedure, in fact it seems counter productive.  There was surely some chatter among the people as Elijah progressed.  What were they saying when he dumped water on the burnt offering?  Its hard enough to find dry wood, this would never light.
 
This was all timed to coincide with the evening sacrifice. As the sun approached the horizon, he approached the crowd and prayed out loud.  He said, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.  Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again."
 
Then it happened.    Elijah's carefully prepared altar was blasted by fire from the sky.  Everyone, I mean everyone, had to look.  At that moment there was nothing to think about except, "Elijah's God is alive and real."  It was like Elijah had called in an airstrike.    Everyone watched the smoke clear, the gathered people of Israel, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, even wicked king Ahab and his poisonous queen Jezebel and all their advisors waited to see the results. When the smoke cleared, Elijah's altar had been annihilated.  God's answer was powerful and clear.  The stones, the bones, the wood, the water, we're told even the dust, were all vaporized in this demonstration of God's might.  Israel was convinced.  They fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, He is God.  The Lord, He is God."  The hearts of God's people were turned back to Him again.  The opposition got nervous.
 
Elijah told the people of Israel to grab all the prophets of Baal, take them down in the valley and kill them all.  These prophets of false gods had lured God's people away from Him.  The people of Israel killed every last false prophet.  These false prophets had hardened their hearts and acted in public displays of idolatry.  Blood mingled with the gravel yet again that day.  The fact that God allowed them to live up until that day had been gracious on God's part. 
 
Elijah then told the king, Ahab, to go home before he gets caught in the rain.  Rain?  It hadn't rained for years!  Israel had been in a drought.  Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and sat quietly for a while.  Ahab got his chariot ready because even though he didn't like Elijah, he couldn't deny what had just happened.  As Ahab rode home in his chariot with its pounding team of the fastest horses in the land, the weather shifted.  Soon Ahab was pelted by driving wind and rain, imagine the look on his face when Elijah sprinted past. God had ended the drought and brought the life giving rain on the land in the same day that he had brought in his lost sheep of Israel.  The people of Israel were given powerful reminders that day.  They knew with certainty that the Lord is God and they knew that it was he that provided for their every need.
 
Back at the beginning of the day, before any chanting, or slaughtering, or jumping on altars, Elijah addressed the crowd.  He laid down the stakes for this duel of the deities.  He said to the people of Israel, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”  This was all about retrieving the straying sheep of Israel.  This was about winning souls for the Lord, not about the Elijah stunt show. 
 
What about you?  Do you falter between two opinions?  As amazing as it must have been to be there when Elijah's altar was blown to bits, you don't need that.  You have what could never be, but is.  Instead of a Bull, God put his boy on the altar, laid every sin of every person from the past present and future and annihilated him.  Jesus died.  From the ashes Jesus proved that though he had known death and separation from God, he remained God.  He is the way and the truth and the life.  Know with certainty that the God of Elijah is alive and real.  Know that he provides for your every need.  He provides rain for you.  He provides manna for you.  He provides governments for you even when they may be run by bad people.  God brings the right people into and out of your life at the right times.  He provides guidance and comfort for this life in his word.  He assures you of your place at his table in heaven thanks to Jesus' innocent life, death and resurrection.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
 
prayer
O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You are the living God.  We thank you for the record of your guiding hand in history.  Surely there are countless stories of your faithful people throughout history that would fill rooms of books. You have wisely chosen selections from the lives of your prophets for our learning.  Lord keep us steadfast in your word.  Let your word be our anchor as the storms of life rage around us.  Remind us in your word of your fierce power and tender grace. We are your aimless lambs. Please show us the way.  Amen. 
 
 
 


 
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Awkward Beginnings

Peter's denial
   These are some very early thumbnail sketches for Lenten motion graphics.  The assignment is to make elements that can be animated in After Effects.  At the time of this posting, I have almost no more material on this project.  By the end of the month, I will have made God-only-knows-what.  
   I've said it once before, but it bears repeating... that this part of the process, the first blush, is uncomfortable and clumsy.  Slightly frightening and embarrassing.  At the beginning of any project I don't know what the outcome will be.  What follows is research, experimentation with composition, media, style, and final execution.  I've found prayer essential to every step.
  Of course there is an excitement that goes with setting out on a journey into the unknown.  Vacations, watching sports, and reality TV can be fascinating for similar reasons.  Making art is like playing a game.  There's a chance you will lose, but if you've ever experience the thrill of the game it keeps you coming back.  I love the feeling of making something that wasn't there before.  So much so that I don't mind the awkward beginnings.  
I started posting here in 2010 with a similar "who knows" message.  According to the stats...this blog now gets thousands of views each month. Sometimes I'm surprised by what gets attention (Mulberry Bonsai is a popular topic). Posting to the "The Process" has become part of my studio practice.  Besides the US, there seems to be considerable viewership from Europe, Russia, Australia, and Malaysia. Wherever you are, thanks for tuning in.  It's my pleasure to share the work I love.  
Gethsemane

Casting Lots

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Shipping paintings

 So this took me all day.  In retrospect it doesn't seem like it should.  It's my first time shipping artwork.  Between research, gathering supplies, relatively careful execution, and the occasional Lego Wii game this was a long process.  I just finished up with UPS online and I think I shipped it twice.  Hopefully that can be corrected.  Because of the New Year's holiday, these will sit somewhere on the day(s) off and take longer than usual.

One of my teachers used to tell us to relish the clumsiness of being a beginner.  Beginners experience relatively frequent and exciting surges of progress.  After we've mastered a process it take much more to excite us.  I think I like packing artwork.  Parts of it remind me of origami.

One telescoping external box, bubble-wrap to restrict
 movement, tight-fitting cardboard sheath, and
double craft- paper wrap.
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

A Chuck Close Christmas

We at the MVL Art Factory made this Chuck Close-style interpretation of Samantha Kowalke's original painting.  It offers an interesting tension between the individual shapes and the broader image.  This was a tricky project because our ample art studio still did not offer enough distance to really see the effect we were hoping for. Here is the explanation as printed in the Christmas concert program:

The artwork behind the choir references the original painting on the cover of this program.  The members of the MVL Art Factory reinterpreted Samantha Kowalke’s piece in the style of contemporary artist Chuck Close.  Close is an eminent figurative artist in New York City who paints large-scale portraits using optical color mixing and a grid.  Optical color mixing is a method of painting similar to the CMYK method of printing used in magazines and newspapers.  Our eyes and brains will blend bits of color together if they are small enough-or far away.  In fact when an artist blends two colors together on palette, there are separate microscopic bits of color that appear to become a new color.  Besides a great challenge and interesting experiment for the Art Factory, we can find an analogy in this work.  The overall image of the Christ Child is composed of a wide variety of colors and marks.  Like the Body of Christ, like the invisible church on earth, this artwork is composed of bits and pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole.  Likewise we see things differently from a distance, just as God sees patterns and plans that we cannot detect in the details of life.

See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.