Watercolor pencil (dry) on 18X18 inch watercolor paper, mounted on 20X20 inch canvas frame with silver acrylic paint
“This is the happy face of a pastor who finally gets to share Christ in the Eucharist with his parishioners! During the early days of the initial lockdown, Easter 2020 seemed like it would be a strange and uncertain time for faithful Catholics who were suddenly unable to gather for worship during what should be the most hopeful and joyful season of them all.
The small but faithful parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish hungered for the Real Presence, so on Divine Mercy Sunday 2020, Fr. Edmund Akordor organized an impromptu Eucharistic procession throughout the streets of Norco and Montz where parishioners, mindful of keeping social distance, would kneel on their front porches to adore the Eucharist and receive a ‘drive-by’ blessing. It was a joyful procession more celebratory than a Mardi Gras parade!
This is a water-color pencil adaptation of a photograph I took of Fr. Ed during the procession–he was so happy to see the hope and joy on people’s faces as they received graces! Christ desires for us to trust Him even during times of darkness, and the gift of the Real Presence reminds us that we need not fear because He is literally here to shine His graces upon us. ‘Good Morning, Jesus!’ is a favorite Easter hymn of the Sacred Heart parishioners. It’s a song of praise that reminds us that just as sure as the sun rises in the morning, Christ is risen and is here to be the Light–even during a pandemic!”
How old are you?
Have you had any formal training in the arts? Where? When? How long?
I guess I started creating art as soon as I began developing my fine motor skills. My parents tell me that they were especially cautious whenever shopping for furniture because I had a habit of scribbling my Magic Markers all over the walls and sofa cushions. (I promise I don’t do that anymore!)
What inspires your art? Who/what influences you?
I would say I’m most inspired by what makes me laugh. In fact, you can see a lot of laughter in my piece “Good Morning, Jesus!” What Beauty and laughter have in common is that they’re both disarming. So the core of my creativity is humor. Sometimes light humor, sometimes absurd humor, sometimes dark humor–but nonetheless, humor.
For instance, if I’m painting the infant Jesus, I’ve got to paint Him as chunky and cuddly as possible all snuggled up against His mama. You can’t look at that Baby Jesus without smiling. If I’m drawing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, of course I’ve got to draw him smirking while sipping a beer on his 94th birthday. Cheers to that! And if I’m drawing The Misfit character from Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” I’ve got to shade him in such a grotesquely terrifying way that the viewer will chuckle, albeit nervously. Uncomfortable laughter is still laughter, after all.
How would you describe the style of your art?
My art is illustration. I majored in English Language and Literature at The Catholic University of America, so I read a lot. The result is that my rhythm of creativity follows a pattern of narrative and lyric, and my visual art continues to articulate this rhythm. There are always elements of the moral imagination and storytelling in my work, and you can see this in the fact that I mostly draw and paint people, not so much places or things. Where there are people, there are stories. And if you’re like me, you really enjoy picking up a storybook and checking out the pictures illustrations before you read!
Who are your favorite artists? Favorite works of art?
Once again I’m going to geek out over the roles of narrative and lyric in art: so, I really admire accidental artists–like authors and musicians who just happen to be visual artists too (as if they weren’t already talented enough!) Flannery O’Connor, for instance, created some hilarious cartoons with linoleum cut block-printing, and I’m also a fan of the quirky inkpen doodles Kurt Vonnegut inserted into his prose. Bob Dylan’s paintings have the dreamy novelistic imagery you hear in his songwriting, and guitarist Jack White’s artwork is so colorful and bold that it’s as if you can hear it–but with your eyes! (And did you know that Bishop Robert Barron is super talented at drawing? What can’t he do?!)
What direction is your art taking now and where do you see yourself going? Do you have any new projects you are working on that you are excited about? Any new areas (types/styles of art, subject matters) you’d like to explore or try?
Oh, dear. I’m a millennial, so any question about my direction or the future frazzles me!
But here’s my attempt at a response: when I forget how to talk, I draw. So, I really don’t know what I’m thinking until I create. I love learning and risk-taking (well, sometimes to a fault), so this means that I get pretty antsy whenever I find myself in my comfort zone as an artist. That’s why, despite how shy I can be, I’ve been pushing myself to introduce myself as an artist whenever I meet new people, and I’ve been trying to be more courageous about sharing my work on my social media platforms–even the art pieces that I think are kind of “ehhhhh” and maybe won’t get so many likes.
My latest art preoccupation has involved carving linoleum cut block prints. I have to say: I’m pretty proud of the new calluses on my hands from carving out so many stamps. Another new medium I’ve been exploring has been watercolor painting, which challenges me bigtime because I have to accept that I have less control over it than I do with my pencil drawing and acrylic painting. It definitely kicks me out of my comfort zone, but like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, “[we’re not] made for comfort, [we’re] made for greatness,” and greatness calls for growth.
What do you do for a living? Do you create art professionally?
I’m a student at Notre Dame Seminary, and I work in the rectory at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Norco, but when I’m not reading Ratzinger or typing the parish bulletin, I’m working on art commissions from friends and anyone interested in my work.
Besides art, what are your other interests – professional or otherwise?
I’m always, always, always reading. I also love jogging, listening to “dad rock,” songwriting, binging the podcast “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World,” brewing beer, playing board games with my friends and family, and trying my best to wrangle my Chocolate Labrador (who occasionally will chew up my paint brushes).
Are you Catholic yourself? Are you a convert to the faith or a “cradle Catholic”?
I’m Catholic, and let me tell you, I am constantly converting! I praise God for the opportunities He generously gives me to turn closer and closer to Him, despite how stubborn and avoidant I can be. The good news is that He’s outrageously patient, as all good artists are.
Would you say that you have experienced a conversion or renewal of your faith at some point in your life? Did art play any particular role in your faith story? Would you like to tell us more about that?
I would like to give a huge shout-out to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for straight-up baiting me with beauty. When I attended The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, I would “prayer-crastinate” on my homework by exploring the many chapels at the Shrine, which is home to dozens of depictions of the Blessed Mother in a variety of styles.
I remember just walking around with my neck craned at the domed ceiling, noticing a new treasure every time I popped inside on my way back from class. That got me disposed to wonder, which is one of the first steps a Christian takes on the journey back to God. It’s what I love so much about the role of art in faith–where words fall short, art points to something higher than anything we can articulate in our limited human language. You just wonder at the Mystery.
And the great thing about being Catholics is that we’re part of a Church that triumphs as a guardian of beauty. The great masterpieces–from the Pieta to a lovely watercolor of the Blessed Mother you can find on Etsy–are all beautiful in that they point back up to Beauty Himself.
Rachel has requested the donation portion of the winning Art Auction bid to go to the Catholic Counseling Services of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.