Saturday, September 25, 2021

Peaceful Easy Feeling: Jake Arnold

By Derrick White

“Find what you love and do it. Do it part-time. Do it semi-annually. Do it professionally if you can. Never stop doing the thing that makes you whole and gives you peace,” states artist Jake Arnold.

Jake is a regional sculptor and art professor working in a variety of materials. He majored in art at Stephen F. Austin University for only one semester after high school. He then made a pivot and decided to join the Navy. After his enlistment ended, Jake returned to college and pursued dual degrees in both History and Fine Art at the University of Texas at Tyler focusing on Medieval Europe and Sculpture, respectively. After earning his BA/BFA degrees, he was accepted into the University of Texas at Tyler’s MA/MFA programs. Jake recalls, “I was successful in defending my thesis bodies of work for both the MA and MFA degrees and graduated with both in May of 2018. In the three years since I have had work in local galleries and shows and have done several commissions. I am also an adjunct professor of ceramics at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.”

“Every child is an artist until he’s told he’s not an artist,” a quote from John Lennon. Like many artists, Jake’s passion for visual art developed in childhood. He states, “I grew up in an artistic household. Both my mother and father are artists and all through my formative years, I focused on drawing and painting. My folks always let me march to the beat of my own drum and growing up with them and around their equally talented friends and coconspirators really sealed the deal for me early. Drawing was my thing when I was young, but once I got into the art program at UT Tyler, sculpture has owned me.” He adds, “The first sculpture I encountered affecting me visually and emotionally was a Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian sculptor and architect) in Italy when I was stationed there with the Navy. The way the marble was worked and refined was exquisite. When one sees something like that and it zaps one’s paradigm, you may find something that makes sense.”


Jake Arnold’s artwork speaks to the geometry found in the organic shapes of nature as well as the tradition of craftsmanship in wood and metalworking. The artist explains, “I would say my style of work meanders around in the realms of abstract and/or nonobjective objects focused into the forms of medium to large free-standing sculptures. Whatever opinions people might have about the work is not my concern, just so long as they have an opinion. I just want people to stop and stay long enough with the sculptures so they can have an imagined conversation with them. I find my more abstract pieces may have some sort of message attached. Or if I do a body of work, I try to have an overarching theme to tie it all together. Whereas my non-objective work is generally more attached to how I am working and is based in a more fluid, loose decision-making process, like chaos theory. I am not here to change the world or tell an epic story. Viewers will conceive content themselves regardless of my intention. I just want people to stay a minute and really check it out.” 

Jake’s materials are conversant and inviting for those choosing to spend some time with his work, and I strongly suggest you do. Jake composes while working with the natural beauty inherent in the materials.Wood, ceramics, and metal are my top three media in order of fondness of production. Wood is my favorite and particularly cedar. Cedar is soft, easy to manipulate, and has a warm color palette ranging from light yellow to dark red. Most of my work with cedar tends to be non-objective and very organic in its form. On the contrary, my sculptural work in ceramics generally tends to be abstractions of organic things like animal skulls or whatever things catch my fancy at the time. With metal, I bounce back and forth between the abstract and non-objective. Larger welded pieces are generally non-objective whereas the smaller cast sculptures and jewelry tend to be abstractions. There are, of course, exceptions in all cases,” states Jake. 

There are both advantages and challenges to being a professional, contemporary artist in our connected age of the 21st century. Access to an audience has never been more readily available but this applies to everyone and it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Jake expands on this idea by saying, “In the digital world everyone and their grandmother, both figuratively and literally, is now an artist with an Instagram or TikTok, Etsy, Facebook, etc. To stand out from the rest you must double down on the work and get friendly with the internet as a tool. That is sometimes hard to do while balancing all the rest of life you must do. At some point you know you will find a balance, or you will have to cut bait, one way or the other.” 

Almost all the artists I have ever met and talked to about creating will inevitably mention the zone (or whatever word they may use to describe it). The forget your worries, lose track of time, peaceful easy feeling one gets while rapt in a creative process. Jake explains it this way, “When I am making art it is really the only time in my life I am at peace. It is just me and work, it is a kind of Zen meditation, I guess. It is important to me there is an ebb and flow when I am creating. I am in this zone the most when I am working with wood. It is more than a conversation with the materials, that is not a fair comparison because it is not only mental like a debate but also extremely physical. I do not mean violent, although when working with power tools, there can be violence. I mean the sense of touch is so integral to the process. Everything must be manipulated manually. And I feel like the only time my hands and my mind are really in sync is when I am working, making a piece. And in the process, I find peace.” 

You can find Jake Arnold on both Facebook and Instagram. Ask your grandmother to give him a like or a follow.

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