Visual Artist Spotlight: Valerie Sjodin
Q1. When did you decide to become an artist?
A1. Honestly, I think I always wanted to make art. I remember when I was about 4 or 5, I would love it when my mom bought pantyhose that had the plain white cardstock with the curved corners. I would draw on them and keep them in a show box with my Betsy McCall paper dolls I cut out of the magazines. Later in 5th grade we were supposed to write what we wanted to be when we grew up and I wrote “an artist and a mom.” It seems like I’ve always been making something whether it was with paint, in the yard, the kitchen or at work.
When I was 18 or 19 I was deciding between two things I wanted to pursue, so I took two college classes to find out more. One was a drawing class and the other a speech therapy class. I was a stutterer and was getting help for it and wanted to help others. On the other hand, I loved to draw and experienced the joyful process of making art, and that could help others. The next term I needed to move back home. I got a job that led to a graphics job. It made the art field seem like a more viable option.
When my children were small, I stayed at home and did some free-lance graphics for the two companies I had worked for. Then I took a tole painting class and painted wooden items to sell at craft bazaars. It helped pay for Christmas gifts etc. After a number of years, I grew tired of making the same thing over and over, and the other things that go along with fair sales. That is when I decided I wanted to improve my art skills and began taking classes.
A2.I’m not sure “called” describes my experience. I’d say I came to the point with God that I knew and accepted He made me to be an artist. As a young adult, I wrestled with it from time to time, feeling like being an artist wasn’t a real, viable thing to be or guilty because it seemed selfish take time to make art. Now I don’t struggle with that as much. I look at flowers, the beauty of a sunset, the falling leaves, and see that God makes beauty even if He is the only one that sees it. The enemy doesn’t make anything, only destroys and distorts. So participating in creating is what we were made to do by being made in God’s image. For me personally, Art was the one thing I was good at, so I didn’t feel I had a lot of choices before me.
Then the question was, “Lord, if you made me to be an artist, what do you want me to do?” “How can it be used for Your Kingdom?” We’re still having an ongoing conversation about that.
Q3. Where did you receive your training?
A3. I didn’t receive much training until I was an adult. My husband has been my biggest supporter. I would ask for art classes for birthday and Christmas gifts, and he would give them and watch our children while I took classes. At the time, none of my peers were in my classes. I took classes at the local community college and local art colleges. Then I began to look for artists I would like to learn from, or art I was interested in. I took four workshops from Susan Sarback who leads the School of Light and Color. I took workshops from other artists as well, including attending ArtFest where I fell in love with mixed media and art journaling. The workshops and drawing classes were where I experienced making art and growing in skill.
I also volunteered in the Art Literacy program at our local school where my girls attended. That put me in touch with other parents that were interested in art, and I learned the importance of art history. During that time a teacher encouraged me to pursue teaching art.
I went back to college when I was 40 years old, and five years later received a bachelor of fine arts in painting from Marylhurst University. They are known for being accommodating to “the adult learner.” At that time I was also teaching Art to Jr. high and high school students in a private school and taught there for about ten years. We developed an art integration program and had a great time and success integrating art into the rest of the curriculum.
I still believe the best teachers are learners. I still take workshops, read books, learn online, and hope to keep growing and improving.
Q4. How did your training influence what you’re doing now?
A4. Now I make art and teach art workshops in my studio, and sometimes for retreats and in schools, or churches. I love it! The time I spent teaching and integrating art with other subjects helped me become better at teaching, speaking in front of others, and integrating art into daily life. I can’t really separate my art from my life. That is why art journaling has become such a big part of my life. It is very therapeutic as well, and I sense God speaking to and through me as I do it.
As far as teaching goes, there is nothing like the “aha moment” when someone takes delight in something they have made that they thought they couldn’t do. And this year I think I’ve learned something more about teaching. People don’t just want to learn something, it’s what they experience that matters, and inspires.
Q5. Please describe your art style and medium and why you chose that particular one (or how God influenced this choice).
A5. For lack of a better word, I’d use “eclectic” to describe my style. Over the years my style has changed and evolved dramatically. I began with cartoon, then realism, then a shoulder injury and surgery forced a major change. That is when I began to paint Cosmic Expressionist paintings, and mixed media art journaling. My art and style have reflected my life journey. My favorite medium is fluid acrylics and also mixed media, especially for art journaling. In the beginning, I began with pencil, then pen, watercolor, oils, pastels, and then acrylics. In past four years I’ve been painting more and more of the inner, spiritual journey; a conversation between God and I. At this point it feels like I am only scratching the surface.
A6. Here is a list of things I do to keep inspired:
Take walks especially in the woods or at the beach
Conversations with God and reading the Bible
Taking the time to relax and reflect in my back yard or by the fire in the winter.
For years the local library was my solace and place of inspiration. Bookstores also feel like a treasure chest, waiting to be opened. I love reading.
My newest inspirational source is Pinterest.
Being with other artists that are like-minded for fun and/or in a critique group
Attending galleries and art events
Conversations with friends
Music – I have about 10 hours of soundtrack music (called “creativity” playlist and worship music, (especially from Bethel)
Movies often inspire me in general and when I am moved by one, I am always motivated to excellence.
Q7. In what ways do you incorporate God into your work?
A7. Earlier I said I can’t separate my life and art and I would add my relationship with God to that as well. I often feel close to God and worship when I make art. For me making art is also a kind of visual prayer, praise, or blessing. It is also a place for me to work and struggle through difficult times and issues.
When I started my blog, I decided I would be open about my faith. I don’t want to be pushy and respect the autonomy of others, but my relationship with God is everything to me, and because of who I am it comes out in the art I make. I ask Him for inspiration and to lead me in my artwork.
I used to have a “to-do” list, but now before I get out of bed I ask God, “What are you giving me grace for today?” I’m often surprised. Of course there are the things we need to do each day, but I have choices, and life is short. I want to grow to be more like God and live more with Him. I don’t want to be in the studio without His Presence. Worship music is often on when I don’t have a workshop going.
One book that has hugely influenced me in how to be with God is Practicing God’s Presence for today’s reader, by Brother Lawrence, written in modern language by Robert Elmer.
I believe the key in Life and in making Art is worshiping God. I like what Bill Johnson says, God is not insecure or an egotist who needs our worship. But God knows that we become more like what we worship, and what could be better for us than to become more like God?
I feel very blessed I get to make art. My hope is that out of gratefulness and praise, beauty will come out. Sometimes it doesn’t and it gets frustrating, but those times are usually expressing life too. The important thing is not to give up or fall into comparison. We each have a voice worth hearing.
Q8. Is there a class or offer that you would like to share with my readers?
A8. I teach art journaling and painting classes in my studio. I’ve also facilitated visual prayer and blessing workshops for retreats and church gatherings. Current offerings are found on my website at: www.valeriesjodin.com
One of my hopes/dreams is to teach a retreat and online course integrating a Believers Spiritual Journey with the Creative Journey.
Q9. Any final thoughts about sharing your art work with my blog readers?
A9. My last thoughts would be a quote from Amy Carmichael:
“Holy Spirit, think through me till your ideas are my ideas.”
And my motto/life mission statement:
“Love God, Serve Others, and Make it Beautiful.”
ARTIST BIO—Valerie Sjodin
For Valerie, art and life are part of the same package. She’s been drawing, trying to make things beautiful ever since she can remember. Valerie is a graduate of Marylhurst University with a BFA in painting. She taught art for about ten years at Heritage Christian School and developed an art integration program. She has attended numerous workshops, taught others, and volunteered in the art literacy program at a local grade school.
Currently, Valerie is painting and teaching in her studio located in Hillsboro, Oregon. Sometimes she participates in retreats and classes related to life, faith, and art. She loves to paint, experience the wonder of creation and of the Great Creator and to learn new things.
Valerie has been happily married to the same man for over 33 years and has been blessed with three grown children, their spouses and three grandchildren. Her newest season in life is the empty nest.
To see more of Valerie’s work or to contact her directly check out these links below.
(c) 2012 Cheryl Cope
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