When art becomes a witness - Jon Oldaker
Welcome to the Creative Life, Happier Life Blog, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Tell us about yourself...
Hi, my name is Jon. I have been married to my beautiful wife Rebecca for 11 years and I have two gorgeous, highly energetic, boys named Nathaniel and Simeon.
We live in Surrey and attend The Beacon Church Camberley. Although I was brought up by active Christian parents I didn’t actually became a Christian myself till the age of 16. It’s fair to say I went off the rails a bit and firmly turned my back on God but after a fairly dramatic encounter with Him, in which he broke my addiction to drugs, I chose to give my life to Jesus. It was then that He changed my life and set me off in a totally new direction. While I have always enjoyed the creative subjects, specifically art, I have not always used them for the glory of God. In fact, I have not always used them. However, after a number of years growing in relationship with Jesus I now seek to use my God given gifts and honour him through the work that I produce.
Here at CLHL we believe that creativity comes in all forms, from accounting to crochet! How does your creativity manifest itself?
I believe that we are all creative beings because we are created in the image of a creator God. While I have many creative hobbies the most prominent is my desire to draw. Often my artworks are inspired by scripture or a prayer or thought that God drops in my heart as I pray or ponder circumstances I experience. As my drawing hobby grew I decided that I would start to sell my artwork. I therefore formed a business called ‘We Are The Created’ inspired by the scripture in Colossians 1:16, found in the Bible. This says ‘For by him (talking about Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.’ Such a scripture is not only the foundation of my business but the reason for it; ‘all things were created through him and for him’! I was created by God and when I create my artwork I want to create it for God.
How do you think using your creativity enhances your well-being?
Honestly; I have a love / hate relationship with creativity. There are days when ideas flow, process is seamless and outcomes come together. But quite frankly, there are days when I want to go and hide in my bed and wave a magic wand that completes my ideas and work for me. It is on these days that I learn to persevere. Generally speaking what frustrates me is also what I love; the slow methodical journey of producing detailed artwork. Learning to craft a piece, experimenting with ideas and slowing down in the busyness of the fast paced world in which we live is, at least to me, a precious thing.
As someone who can often put pressure on myself to complete a task I must say that it is this creative process that has taught me a great deal; to actively tell myself to slow down and enjoy the process. This has become one of my life’s mantras ‘It’s about the journey NOT the destination’.
What has been incredible is how the application of this learning, when following the creative process, has impacted my life in a much broader sense. Where ever I am, at work, playing with the kids or even out for a run, I find myself now consciously thinking about the enjoyment of process and seeking to be more present in the moment. Subsequently this has led to more enjoyment when playing with my boys chasing them around a park, pushing them on a swing, helping them get ready for bed, going for a run or taking the older one out on his bike; I have found myself being more appreciative and thankful for the little moments!
It also happens when I draw too, of course I get times when I just want to complete the piece but on the whole I have found the enjoyment of process has rocketed as I have actively told myself not to be concerned with the destination.
How do you think using your craft helps you to connect with God?
In response to this question I want to talk about a specific piece of work that I produced, it’s called ‘The Hornet’. This piece of art is a deeply personal and healing drawing; its story is one of heartache and revelation...
In September 2018 my mother-in-law passed away after a number of years with cancer. In one of my many moments of heartache, I cried out in prayer to God and recall becoming so profoundly aware that death was never in God's original plan. I realised that God never intended for me to feel this pain because he never intended for humanity to die or be without Him. Yet the truth of the matter is we do, and we are.
This is why Jesus came to earth; to defeat the sting of sin and death! He came to restore humanity to himself meaning that, through faith in Jesus, we can inherit eternal life that is free from pain and sickness.
A little while later, in February 2020, a good friend and work colleague also passed away from cancer. Life can be hard and unexpected but I take so much comfort in the fact that both believed in Jesus. Why? Because this means that both are now free from pain and are in the presence of their saviour Jesus.
Death is not the end because Jesus Christ has defeated sin, sickness and death. He is victorious. He rules and reigns over all things and is seeking to call humanity back to himself one individual at a time.
This piece is inspired by my journey and what I have felt God whisper to me in my prayers. More specifically the scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:55 which says
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The piece took a while, and at times was difficult to draw, but ultimately it helped me on my healing journey. It helped me to connect with God and the truth of His word. It helped me to experience something of his love and truth with each pencil mark and it enabled me to progress on my grief journey. The Hornet is in loving memory and esteemed honour of my mother-in-law, Mary Harvey, and friend, Jemily Brown. I love you both - Our loss is heavens gain!
This is one example of how my creativity enables me to connect with God but I often find that this is my experience when I draw. Much of my artwork is inspired by Gods word or a whisper from God that I experience when praying. The more I am able to slow down and enjoy the process of drawing the closer I find myself to God.
Do you think God works through your skill? How?
Yes I do think God works through my skill of drawing. I have come to realise that he not only uses my artwork to encourage those who already have a faith in Jesus but also as a way of speaking to those who do not yet know Jesus.
I have had numerous messages from those who have bought my prints and follow Jesus saying how they have been encouraged by my work. Some have said that the work is a continual visual reminder of Gods work in their life. A print that has been very popular is titled ‘The Bulb’ and is inspired by the scripture in John 1:5 which says ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’. One individual who purchased one of these prints said that they were enjoying a Limited Edition print ‘of the highest quality yet with a depth of meaning that will be an ongoing source of enjoyment and inspiration’.
As outlined in the answer to the previous question God also works through the creative process by speaking to me personally and revealing more of his character to me. This means that I become more secure in who God has made me to be and what he says about me personally.
Finally I believe that my artwork is a witness of God’s character to those who don’t yet know him. I have had the opportunity to talk about why I am producing
specific drawings with neighbours, friends and those with whom I do business. I believe this is because art is so universal, intriguing and a great talking point. One kind lady who purchased a Limited Edition piece and hung it in her dining room said ‘we love the print as a focal point to our meals’. When they have friends and family over my artwork becomes a discussion point for them to talk about their faith too which I absolutely love!
Do you have any tips or golden nuggets of wisdom for any of our readers who may like to try accessing your creative skill?
The best thing to do if you are interested in learning to draw is to practice! Do lots and lots of observational drawings. Generally it is easier to draw from a picture so you may want to start by copying pictures of simple objects. As your confidence grows you may want to do some real life observational drawings of basic household objects like knifes & forks, fruit, shoes, bags etc. Spending time doing such drawings will enable you to learn the basic principles of shape, form and shadow. When you first start I would also recommend only using graphite pencils for the first few drawings (not colouring pencils) as colour always adds another layer of complexity. There are also plenty of great books out there that provided stage by stage examples of how to draw specific people, animals or landscapes so it is well worth going to your local library and having a browse.
Finally, It is also important to find something you like to draw and to enjoy the time that you spend being creative. There will be times when something isn’t looking right and you get frustrated but remember you’re not alone in that; it happens to all of us! Be persistent, be bold and be confident.
Where can we find you using your creativity?
If you are interested in finding out more and viewing or purchasing any of my work the best places to look for information about We Are The Created is either the website wearethecreated.com or instagram we_are_the_created
I hope you like what you see.
QUICK FIRE ROUND! The stuff we all really want to know!
Pen or computer?
Home or abroad? Home.
Who would play you in a movie?
The bearded dude from 300!
On your bucket list? To go and see the Northern Lights!
Skill you’d like to learn?
Favourite bible verse? Colossians 1:16
Chocolate or cheese? Cheese
Thank you Jon! So there you go, perhaps grabbing a graphite pencil and trying to sketch something may be a new way to explore creativity?
If you try out any of our contributors skills, pop it on Instagram (@creativelifehappierlifeblog) and give it the hashtag #CLHLblog