A short while ago, I was walking around Downtown Laurel when I came upon a sculpture that nearly took my breath away. It was something unlike anything I had ever seen before and something I would expect to see featured in downtown Chicago, New York or another major city, but not something I’ve ever seen walking the streets of Laurel, Mississippi.
Naturally, I had to know who was behind this amazing work of art. I did some research and found it was Jason Kimes, an artist who lives in Laurel and attends our church (The Agape Church). I asked if I could feature his work on the blog, and Jason was gracious enough to oblige.
One of the things I appreciate most about creatives is that no two stories are the same. But those I have had the privilege of featuring on the blog all have one core similarity – encouragement. Jason credits his parents for their support as he explored his talent, and he feels that the combination of homeschooling and private art lessons as a child gave him an advantage and deeper knowledge of his craft as he continued his education at the college level. “I was always encouraged to develop my creativity, although my own need to do so would have likely kept me from noticing anyone who didn't,” he said of his passion.
Compelled to Create
Jason was born in Panama City, Panama but was raised in South Mississippi where he grew up as the oldest of three children. He remembers a childhood where he would dig in clay from a creek bed to sculpt small animals to create three-dimensional objects. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, Jason was exposed to a sculpture class that ultimately led him to choose sculpture as his medium of choice.
“The idea of Art for Art's Sake is an abstract concept and one I wouldn't understand for years to come so I can't explain why but I was compelled to create from my earliest memories which most frequently included filling the back of every church bulletin during services,” Jason said when explaining his relationship with art. While he enjoyed various forms, he most enjoyed the ability to engage both creatively and physically with the work that sculpting required.
I often like to ask creatives about a tipping point in their lives –a big project or moment when the stars aligned. I feel as though this exists in every life no matter what the craft or passion. I rank Jason’s response to this question one of the best I’ve heard. “The important tipping points for me are the many times I've had to move beyond what I considered the limits of my current abilities,” he said. Jason perfectly captured the mere definition of a tipping point, in my opinion. A moment where you can sense yourself exceeding your own limits. That’s when magic happens.
Jason’s work for the Deepwater Horizon Memorial, ELEVEN, was a project of a scale and complexity that may have left others defeated before the start. In fact, the years of work estimated to complete the project caused Jason to hesitate initially. But he had support. The private funding came, outside help and supplies were established and Jason was up for the task. He completed eleven brilliant life-sized sculptures in just nine months. “The confidence gained in seeing any seemingly unimaginable project completed follows you every time, allowing one to expand ideas for newly possible future projects,” Jason said of ELEVEN.
I think many creatives and entrepreneurs can relate to Jason’s thoughts on taking risks. All too often, we give up before we start. Avoiding risk, playing it safe and staying comfortable are easy to do yet leave us with no reward. “Risk avoidance is something I see daily in others, I'm convinced it's the number one factor preventing someone from following a passion,” he said.
Jason’s sculpture Twenty-seven Hands made out of horseshoes (a reference to its nine foot height measured in the traditional method of measuring horses) was one of his personal favorites. Although he attempted building by hand at first, he realized he wasn’t going to be able to follow a standard process of scaling a smaller clay model to make it larger. So, he used a process new to him of creating a 3D rendering of a clay model to enlarge it digitally. He then purchased a truckload of foam sheets which were then cut into almost two hundred odd shapes that, when stacked in the correct order over. Then, Jason spent 40+ tedious hours, recreated the model at four times life size. “The entire project couldn't have gone smoother than it did despite the half dozen or more totally unknown and untested processes involved,” Jason said. “The time and money I put into the project happily paid off but more importantly were the skills and experience I gained by committing to it in the beginning.”
Jason perfectly describes how the process is the learning experience. He realized this by working on similar pieces within a larger series of work. He would make something, then set it aside for another piece. Hindsight allowed him to understand the advances made with experience. “The first work that I still vividly remember being perfectly executed now seemed ridiculously bad compared to the second piece,” Jason said. We learn, grow and improve as we repeat things, and our skill is best development as we do.
“The advice I believe most strongly in and frequently give to any young artist and even my children is to simply keep doing something,” Jason commented when I asked about advice for other creatives. He believes that nothing will teach someone more than learning simply by doing it again and again. And seeking out ways to do things better proves that the continual learning of new methods are required to accomplish a task.
“Each small bit of knowledge builds on what came before,” he adds. As for tips for success, Jason evens the playing field. It’s not about the home advantage. It’s not about the lucky number or even where you were born. It’s about the effort and practice you invest in your passion.
Jason leaves us with something to inspire us all to keep doing, working and taking risks. “Success is rarely (statistically never) achieved instantaneously but is guaranteed over time through consistent practice and engagement in ones chosen craft or discipline,” he said.