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Jake Wei­dmann, master penman, is pic­tured in his art studio in Denver. Courtesy | Jake Wei­dmann

At age 26, Jake Wei­dmann became the youngest person to earn  the title “master penman,” and today, he is one of 11 people in the world who cur­rently hold this pres­ti­gious title. He was also one of the first artists during his time to carve his own pens, make his own ink, and carve his own frames. 

Weidmann’s artwork has been on display in the Hillsdale College Fine Arts Building’s Daughtrey Gallery since Jan. 22 and will con­tinue to hang in the gallery until Wednesday, Feb. 19. He has brought 26 pieces to the gallery –– 24 orig­inals and two prints. 

Wei­dmann prac­tices several art­forms, such as carving, and he works his cal­lig­raphy into his drawings, paintings, and sculp­tures to create pieces that tell viewers a story. 

“That’s one of the greatest abil­ities that the artist has that I think is too often abdi­cated or just flat out neglected,” Wei­dmann said. “I think that the ability to tell a story, the ability to point to some­thing higher is the real power that art has. And I love to do that and incor­porate sym­bolism and story into a piece that really wraps the viewer up in the piece and gives them a good starting point.” 

Wei­dmann said there is a stigma around modern art that iso­lates the viewer from under­standing the piece or the artist’s intention, but he said this doesn’t help the art, the artist, nor the viewer to better under­stand one another on a human level. 

“I think bringing people back in to be able to engage with art means humbly holding their hand and giving them a starting off point because art was always used, his­tor­i­cally, as a uni­versal lan­guage,” Wei­dimann said. “That’s why art was com­mis­sioned by so many of the churches during the Medieval and Renais­sance period was to tell the stories within the Bible to the illit­erate, and not only can you convey some of the facts of this story that you can wrap it up in this beau­tiful romance and the way that it is con­veyed through the hand of the artist.” 

Wed­imann said he is trying to use his own art to get back to using clas­sical methods and having a clas­sical ethos of using sym­bolism and trying to convey some­thing much higher to his readers. 

Teren Sechrist said she and her son, junior Tyler Sechrist, have been fol­lowing Wei­dmann since Tyler Sechrist was in ele­mentary school. She said she appre­ciates Wei­dmann and his art because he does walk the viewer through a piece. 

“I’m not trained in art, so I don’t know all that art sym­bolism, but he helps you cross that bridge into the visual world and makes you feel like you’re not a stranger there and that you actually belong,” Teren Sechrist said. “He trans­lates for you, which I think is a gift because a lot of times, artists don’t like to do that. They think you should under­stand their lan­guage, and you should be able to look at the pic­tures and read the symbols, but Jake, with humility, under­stands that we don’t all get it.” 

Teren Sechrist said her per­sonal favorite piece of art is “Crown of Script,” which dic­tates Isaiah 53:4 – 5 in one con­tinuous tra­jectory that creates a crown of thorns from the words.

Although this is her favorite piece, Teren Sechrist said her heart is “all wrapped up” around Weidmann’s piece “The Little Sparrow,” which he created after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Ele­mentary in 2012 to convey a message of hope. This piece shows that every life is pre­cious in the eyes of God, and the cal­li­graphic flour­ishing off the wingtips shows the impact of just one, small life. 

“I just absolutely love that one –– not a little sparrow falls to the ground without the Lord knowing it,” Teren Sechrist said. “I do a lot of work in one of the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative schools here in Michigan, and I think about that all the time. I want one of those in our teacher’s lounge because every child matters.”

While viewers will respond dif­fer­ently to each piece, Wei­dmann said he antic­i­pates that “Sojourner’s Rose Bronze” and “C.S. Lewis and the Untamed Lion” will res­onate with members of the Hillsdale Com­munity. 

“The ‘Bronze Sojourner’s Rose’ has a lot of pro­found sym­bolism behind it and required such a great deal of tech­nical exe­cution –– it’s the result of years of process and work to get it to that point,” Wei­dmann said. “‘Sojourners Rose’ is a very special piece to me, and I’m excited to see that and how it’s received on this campus, espe­cially with the obvious love of this clas­sical school for bronze sculpture.” 

Tyler Sechrist, who is an art and theatre major, said this is the first time Weidmann’s original artwork has crossed the Mis­sis­sippi River –– as Weidmann’s home studio sits in the foothills of the Col­orado Rockies. He added that “Sojourner’s Rose Bronze” is 200 pounds, requring its own custom hanger and three people to lift the piece onto the wall. 

Wei­dmann said some viewers may miss the por­trait of C.S. Lewis because many people are not familiar with the author’s face. “C.S. Lewis and the Untamed Lion” is the moment when Lewis con­ceived of Aslan and meets him face to face, according to Wei­dmann. 

This piece, along with “Mightier,” are two of Tyler Sechrist’s favorite works. Tyler Sechrist met Wei­dmann for the first time in the spring of 2018 when Wei­dmann came to visit Liv­ingston Clas­sical Academy near Brighton, Michigan. 

Tyler Sechrist stepped in to run the audio visual com­po­nents of Weidmann’s pre­sen­tation. After Wei­dmann found out it was Tyler Sechrist’s birthday, they went to dinner and Wei­dmann said he would send him a signed print of any piece Tyler Sechrist chose. After Wei­dmann forgot to send the single print, Tyler Sechrist said he ended up sending him two signed prints. 

“I got those around Christmas last year and when they came in the mail, it kind of dawned on me: ‘I’m the manager of the art gallery, I should probably at least invite him to come to the College,’” Tyler Sechrist said. “I sent him a text and asked him if he was inter­ested in coming to the college to do an art show, and he was thrilled.” 

During Weidmann’s time on campus, he taught several mas­ter­classes, gave a public lecture, and talked with guests at his reception. Tyler Sechrist said Wei­dmann has taught him to be more patient while cre­ating his own art. Outside of art, however, Tyler Sechrist said he enjoyed spending time with Wei­dmann.  

“One of the biggest things about Jake is his humility and being down to earth,” Tyler Sechrist said. “I took him around campus, and he was blown away by the Chapel and the Her­itage Room. He was willing to spend the afternoon just hanging out. Some­times I feel like you get an idea of some artists that are pre­ten­tious and better than everybody else, and he is not that in any way.” 

Wei­dmann was a psy­chology major and bib­lical studies minor at Biola Uni­versity in Cal­i­fornia. Although he does not actively practice a career in psy­chology, Wei­dmann said his back­ground in the study has helped him create art that builds a con­nection between himself and the viewer. 

“Psy­chology has helped in my approach to fine art, to really see and under­stand art as a bid for con­nection between the artist and the viewer,” Wei­dmann said. “And it’s helped effec­tiveness of my art with the under­standing that I’m essen­tially trying to have some kind of rela­tionship with the viewer, I’m trying to relate with them on some level, and essen­tially, spark an emotion, invoke a reaction within them.”