An artist highlights the Scriptures in new ways through his art.
Many would say that our truest passions in life emerge in childhood. But as we move into adolescence and adulthood, these interests might be set aside or forgotten.
Not for artist Jason Jaspersen. He grew up in a household that was filled with creativity, and from a young age, he loved and appreciated art. As Jason grew up, his love for art didn’t wane. And today, he has a portfolio filled with impressive projects that range from public monuments, painted murals, sand animation—and everything in between.
Through his work, Jason not only does what he loves, but he’s also able to glorify God and discover more about the Scriptures through the process.
Developing his craft
Jason’s first vivid memory of art happened when he was just five years old. His maternal grandmother had given him a Japanese landscape painting that she had created. Painting was an important part of her life. It became an outlet when all her children were gone from the house. She wanted to pass on this love of painting to her grandson.
“That painting hung in my room,” Jason recalls. “That was a strong example for me that someone I knew could make such beautiful images.”
As Jason moved into high school, there were no art classes available at that time at Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School (MVL), New Ulm, Minn. He found other ways, though, to foster his art education. His grandmother gave him weekly lessons in her art studio, and he attended a summer art camp at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., throughout his high school years. There Jason learned about art history and painting; he also found mentors. “That lit a fire in me. Big time,” he says.
When it came time for Jason to decide on his plans for college, he was determined to become an artist. He ignored the suggestions of those around him who said that art was not a career choice or warned that he was going to be a “starving artist.” He believed strongly, at that time in his life, that he was going to will his plan and his dreams into existence. “I see God’s hand as I look back,” he says. “He had much better ideas for me than I had for myself.”
Having known Bethany Lutheran College from his art camps, he chose to begin his college career there. At this time, Bethany was a two-year college. Jason remembers his time at Bethany as truly life changing. The people he met and experiences he had were something that no marketing pamphlet could ever portray. “God used these times to mold me and steer my life,” he says.
Jason transferred to Minnesota State University, Mankato, to finish his degree in studio art. Shortly after graduating, he accepted a call to serve at MVL. It was an exciting moment to have this opportunity to bring art to his alma mater.
He admits to suffering from “imposter syndrome” for a while, wondering if he was qualified enough to teach or if he was meeting all of the right criteria. But one day, a switch flipped. Jason realized that he had been given an amazing opportunity as an art teacher. He was given the chance to inspire students and impact them on a daily basis. It was not about scores and metrics; it was about meeting students where they were at in any given moment.
“It would regularly happen where students were working and I was helping them. It would occur to me that they are working on their God-given skills,” he notes, “and it may be their only chance to work on these particular skills.”
Translating God’s Word into art
Jason taught at MVL for 17 years. Throughout that time, he continued to practice his craft. Japanese ink paintings, bronze sculptures, illustrations, motion graphics, sketches . . . you name it, and Jason has probably created something in that medium.
His commissions are primarily centered around Christian themes. As his website states, “He wrestles invisible qualities of the Christian faith into stimulating visuals for renewed contemplation.” Jason intentionally chose this as his focus for his work. He digs into the Word and finds a way to translate it into his art pieces in a way that “sticks” in the viewer’s mind.
The process for each piece changes depending on the project, but his core philosophy stays the same. Jason begins by sketching whatever comes to mind before he even has a fully formed idea. “When I have a problem to solve, very rarely do I know how it’s going to turn out,” he says. “Activity spawns ideas. Not the other way around.”
Another part of the process is what Jason calls “the ugly duckling stage.” He says he used to get frustrated by his first drafts, but he knows now that this is a part of the process and that it’s necessary to get to the desired finished work of art.
“I see an application here,” Jason says. “Outside of the creative process, life can be like that. You can be really frustrated that things are not the way you thought they’d be. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a design or idea. You can be on the right path and completely frustrated, but you need to keep going. God has a purpose to this process.”
Creating new opportunities
In 2018, it was time for something new for Jason. He transitioned from his role at MVL to become a full-time artist with the worship band Koiné as well as an adjunct faculty member at Bethany Lutheran College.
It was truly a full-circle moment. Jason had spent years impacting students at his former high school, and now he had the chance to teach at the place where he had spent many memorable summers at art camp.
Once again, Jason sees the hand of God through it all. “Getting [phone] calls from Bethany and from Koiné on the same day felt like a nudge from God,” he says. “I knew that this wasn’t a coincidence.”
Jason has helped to create numerous pieces to accompany Koiné’s music. He also has created artwork for t-shirts as well as live sand animations during Koine’s shows.
Throughout the pandemic, Jason has continued to stay busy, working in his studio and moving into a full-time position in the Studio Art Department at Bethany Lutheran College. He has big goals for the future, praying that his work will continue to inspire and resonate with a world that is increasingly drawn to images and video. He hopes to reach a new generation with the gospel’s message.
“I’m going to keep on trying to make the invisible things of our faith visible,” says Jason. “I truly believe this is the purpose of my life. So, I’m all in.”
See more of Jason Jaspersen’s art at jjjaspersen.com.
Author: Gabriella Blauert
Volume 108, Number 6
Issue: June 2021
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