Jodi Hersh’s passion for art dictates her attitude toward life — her devotion to her work, her thriving and award-winning studio Orange Star Design. As an artist, Jodi experiments with abstract and pinhole photography and mixed-media, often combining words and images. She frequently explores different and sometimes unusual techniques, combining old processes with new technology.
Jodi earned her BFA from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design and she is the founder of Orange Star Design, Inc. and Live Love Dogs™. When not in her studio, Jodi can usually be found being walked by her dogs.
Can you tell us more about how you create your art?
I’ve always had a strong urge to make things and I like to experiment. As a result, I have several seemingly disparate bodies of work that I jump between. I think I am best known for my long-running and ongoing series of abstract photographs which I call Sorealism. These are photographs of my environment and are often mistaken for abstract expressionist paintings. There is extraordinary in the mundane — if you look closely enough, everyday sights that wouldn’t ordinarily be considered attractive or engaging can suddenly be transformed into art. These images are not staged or manipulated. They are photographs of what we see and ignore daily… resurrected as art.
As an artist, I’m always observing and making notes of areas I’d like to shoot. Usually, I shoot close-ups of things found in the urban environment, composing my images in the camera. I’m drawn to weathered typography and graphics — things like old posters and flyers, remnants of signs and billboards — perhaps it is the graphic designer in me. I do very little to these images in Photoshop — most often just contrast and color adjustments. I like to print them quite large (24×36 and bigger) and flush mount them to frames I custom build. I hand paint a matte gel medium over the surface for protection and effect. I like the concept of enlarging a very small piece of something to a grander scale — it’s amazingly transformative.
Pinhole photography is another of my fascinations. I make my own pinhole cameras out of all sorts of containers but I really like using Altoids tins. They make really wide angle images and it’s easy to carry a lot of them around. I use BW photo paper as negatives, and load about 50-100 of them in the darkroom and carry them with me when I go shooting. There is only one shot per tin. I don’t like using changing bags in the field, so I carry a sack of them with me and keep shooting until I’ve used them all. The paper negatives are processed in my darkroom, and then scanned and inverted to positive on computer. It’s a pretty hit or miss process, and some of my favorite images have been “happy accidents.”
Solargraphy is another form of pinhole photography that I’ve been exploring. Exposures may be from days to months to years and will capture the arc of the sun throughout the course of the exposure. The craziest part about it is that it requires no chemical processing. Over time a latent negative image simply appears on the paper.
On the mixed-media front, I’m all over the place. I like to combine photography and painting. I also like to write, so sometimes I combine all three. Inspired by the “Newspaper Blackout” poems of Steal Like an Artist author Austin Kleon, I started my own series of “Stolen” blackout poems as an exercise to get me writing. It’s been highly addictive and the resulting text is starting to creep into my mixed media works.
All that being said, it would not be too surprising to find me making a mess trying to create something out of concrete, paint, a propane torch, power tools and wood in my studio.
At what point in your life did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?
I was very young, maybe 8 or 9. I’ve always been driven to create. From a young age, I could draw very well. As soon as my parents recognized it, they enrolled me in after school art classes. I learned to work with charcoal, pastels, pencil, pen & ink, colored inks and oil painting. At home I occupied myself with anything I could find in my Dad’s garage — hammer, nails, handsaw — anything I could use to “make things.”
How would you describe your spirituality?
I’m all about learning, inspiring, improving, and creating. I think everything is connected and we are the sum of our thoughts and actions and everything we consume. I try to be authentic, positive and kind. I find positive energy creates more positivity and negativity has negative impact. Quality in, quality out.
How does your spirituality find expression in your art?
I think there is an underlying authenticity in all that I do and create, but it’s not something I think about.
How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating? Is it an intentional process that you can duplicate?
I simply refer to it as “flow.” Writers write, artists create. It is a discipline. I don’t believe in the muse — I keep my tank full of inspiration by surrounding myself with positive people, quality art, writing, music, etc. and I work at my craft in some way every day. The hardest part is to start — but once you start, it begins to flow. It can be like a time vortex and before you know it, many hours have passed. It’s like that old children’s stop-motion animated Christmas special — just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor…
How do you connect differently to your creative source when you work solo versus when you are collaborating with others?
I like to talk ideas and show and tell with others, but I create solo. Collaborating with others to develop ideas is fun and exciting and can result in something I may not have come to on my own. It doesn’t work with just anyone, though, there has to be a connection. I have enjoyed co-writing collaboratively through a process of passing the work back and forth with someone. Perhaps I will try this with something visual sometime.
How do ideas come to you?
Usually while driving or taking a walk… during times when my mind is free to wander. I’m always consuming and absorbing good music, writing, art, design, and ideas… so there is almost always something simmering in my subconscious creative mind. Things seem to bubble up in the empty moments when I’m not trying to actually do something else. It’s important to unplug and decompress and let ideas float up to the top.
How do you decide which ideas to pursue?
I really don’t. I just start and see where it goes. I usually start with whatever my most persistent recurring thought or idea has been…I enjoy the process of making things, so even if something doesn’t work or turn out the way I’d hoped, I usually end up learning something, or with a happy accident, or a funny story… and often a big mess to clean up.
If you were going to teach your creative process to someone else, what would be one or two of the key things you would share?
Honestly, to keep at it. Work on whatever your craft is consistently. Stay primed by surrounding yourself with inspiring people, art, music, books, etc. If you find an artist whose work you like, learn what you can from them. Emulate them. Master their technique. Adapt it to suit you. Inevitably, it will become uniquely your own because you can’t help but bring to it your own sensibilities and all that you have experienced up until now.
How has your art affected your spiritual evolution or spiritual evolution affected your art?
I feel most “in the zone” when I’m creating — like I am my most authentic self in that moment. That’s really all I can articulate.
How can our readers find our more about you and your work?
Thanks Jodi! FYI, Jodi and I are co-authors in the collaborative book The Adventure of an Ingenious Life.
With the Art as Worship radio show on hiatus, we’ll continue to feature artists using their written words to describe the connection between their art and their spirituality. Access the Art as Worship radio interviews on Empower Radio. Listen to an encore presentation of an artist’s interviews each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio. Like us on Facebook at Art as Worship, then share your art and comments. Contact Vanessa Lowry at vlowry (@) gmail.com if you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship. Namaste!