Jason Wright: Meet one of the world’s 12 Master Penmen
Artist Jake Weidmann of Denver, Colorado, is more than a guy with nifty handwriting. According to the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting, he’s one of just 12 living Master Penmen in the world.
What makes Weidmann interesting, however, isn’t just his prowess with the pen – it’s his belief in the creator and creativity. Though all of us can’t spark inspiration by ink, Weidmann believes we’re all eternally wired to create. Because even if it’s not in the blood, it’s in our spiritual DNA.Weidmann’s journey to the pinnacle of penmanship began in flames. Returning home from elementary school one day, the first-grader and his mother discovered their home ablaze. The family was safe, but their house was badly damaged and many of their possessions destroyed.
Weidmann and his parents settled into an apartment and a kind neighbor soon delivered a box of toys. Inside he found a new friend – a plush parrot.
The budding artist drew his pal one morning before school. “I gave it life, a nest, trees – I drew an entire world around it. I remember my teacher, Mrs. K., she came over to my desk and fawned over it. She told me to put my name on it and then she took it from me.”
A few days later he spotted the drawing on the wall and he wondered why it had a blue ribbon attached to it. He’d soon discover he’d won a school-wide art contest he’d unwittingly entered.
Like the lovely notes of a lifelong song, his creative chords were suddenly strumming.
“Just like that,” Weidmann recalls, “I went from the kid who loves to draw to an artist. That’s what Mrs. K. did for me.”
Over the next decade, Weidmann honed his craft by drawing on the sheer joy of creation. “I just loved to create, and I learned how I could manifest my imagination on paper.”
He took that joy to college and applied to the art program with an impressive portfolio. But after a quick glance through his work, the dean closed the folder, looked across his desk and fired a dagger. “You’re not right for us.”
Disappointed but undeterred, Weidmann went on to major in psychology. He paid his way through school by designing T-shirts and tackling whatever project he could find. “My curriculum was trial and error. Not being in the program actually gave me freedom to try out other art forms. I really had no boundaries. I could learn what I wanted to learn.”
When Weidmann considers the professional pivot points that led him to be named a Master Penmen – the youngest by three decades – he points not to any single memory, but to a series of moments that built upon each other. “The failures. The commissioned projects, being hired for things like wedding envelopes, not being able to find a traditional job during the tough market of 2008. It slowly came together.”
Through this refiner’s fire, Weidmann learned to blend faith and art and to appreciate the connection between artist and viewer. “I discovered I could relate to anyone. The things I was creating had universal themes. There is power and magic in that. And I realized that which is most universal is most personal.”
Weidmann also learned how faith ran at the core of everything he created. “Even if it’s not explicit in every piece, it’s there for me.” The non-denominational Christian talks freely of his faith that an artist’s pallet is similar to God’s. Weidmann believes God uses beauty to put forth truth, and he has faith we’re all capable of the same.
“God is creator. We are made in his image – to be creative. In so doing, it’s an act of imitation of God, an act of worship.” To follow that pattern, Weidmann says all we create must adhere to three attributes: truth, beauty and goodness. “That’s how we become creative partners with God.”
One of Weidmann’s most stunning pieces, “Single Stroke,” beautifully demonstrates that partnership. It’s a portraiture of Christ that begins on the nose and spirals around itself 175 times. According to his website, “the contours of the face and varying line thickness are profoundly established at the tip of one of Jake’s handmade pens, which uses a pressure system to create line densities.”
Weidmann’s advice to aspiring artists of any medium is to play and always practice and never have fear. He also advises against becoming hung up on formal education. “The highest level of success will come from experimentation.”
This artistic genius — a label made indisputable by his work – wants to be remembered by much more than his art, but by his belief that God has the power to point all us, no matter our specific talents, to our creative destiny.
And, sometimes, he uses a stuffed parrot.