Biblical Brushstrokes

Kansas University graduate finds artistic calling by painting religious imagery

By Terry Rombeck (Contact)
Saturday, August 12, 2006

At age 28, five years out of college, Jason Jenicke thinks he’s found his dream job.

He’s spent the last year doing oil paintings that line the halls of St. James Catholic Academy in Lenexa, which is entering its second year as a high school.

He depicts biblical scenes, so he says he’s basically paid to help develop his faith.

“When everything is going right, I feel very connected to God,” the Lawrence resident says. “I feel this is exactly what God wants me to do.”

So far, he’s completed 11 paintings, a bust of Jesus and sketches for stained-glass windows through a program called School of Faith, which is administered through the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence.

Jenicke grew up in Kansas City, Kan., and graduated from Kansas University with a degree in fine arts in 2001. He balanced his work — usually divine images — with a job as assistant manager at Hobby Lobby until he was approached with the offer for a full-time art job, which includes a salary.

“I would consider this a dream job,” he says. “I would have never imagined having been approached about something like this and been paid a salary. I was really surprised.”

Many of his works involve the “luminous mysteries” and “joyous mysteries” of the rosary, scenes deemed particularly important to Catholics. Those involve the presentation of Jesus as a baby at the temple, his resurrection and Mary’s assumption, or her crowning as queen of Heaven.

Catholic Art

The academy’s architects built nooks in the walls of the hallways for displaying art. Jenicke often uses students as his models.

“They feel immortalized,” he says. “They get a kick out of it.”

Jenicke, who attends St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky., says he started painting more biblical scenes in 2000, around the same time he began further developing his faith.

He traveled to Israel in spring 2005, and he says that made him want to paint holy images even more.

Jason Jenicke, a Lawrence painter, has been commissioned by the St. James Catholic Academy in Lenexa to create paintings throughout the church.

Today, when he paints a scene set in Israel, he keeps a laptop nearby with some of the 3,400 photographs he took on the trip, to get the vegetation, topography and structures just right.

Most of his images include grass or large figures in the foreground.

“I try to create a feeling so you’re drawn into the space,” Jenicke says. “The figures on the fringes are life-sized, so it feels like you’re there.”

One example is his depiction of the Last Supper. Unlike Da Vinci’s famous work, Jenicke makes it look like you’re sitting at the table with the disciples.

“This is more like it would be if you were there,” he says.

Jenicke has a few more paintings lined up at St. James Academy. Through publicity on this project, he’s already been contacted about doing large-scale paintings at a church in Iowa.

He’s just glad to have found a job that also furthers his faith.

“I’d say it’s just as much a prayer process as anything,” he says of painting. “I feel close to God.”