Jim Sheely, aka Ojimbo.
While I am not actually a hermit living in a cave far from humanity, I do work, relatively unknown, in my basement here in Columbus, Ohio.
Imagining creatures and events, scratching and splattering them onto bits of paper hacking them out of chunks of wood, has been such a happy part of my life.
As a kid I gladly hunched over my desk stacked and stuffed full of monster and horror comics. I drew and drooled daily. I feel that I am a natural drawing creature and it remains my first and truest love. I continued on to the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), where I was exposed to “fine art” and other concepts. Upon graduating I got married to my sweetheart and got an artistic job as a bartender/cook and mop slopper, at a local tavern. This was the first of many labor intensive, uncreative jobs many of which I really enjoyed. I unloaded trucks, stocked shelves, washed dishes and was also a projectionist at the local Cineplex. Tons of great movies full of fantastic images (Blue Velvet, Aliens, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Reform School Girls) and shelves stacked with colorful canned goods (Popeye Spinach, King Cobra Malt Liquor, Quisp), to feed my imagination. I also framed other people’s art and prints for years wondering why people spent so much money on framing and so little on the art itself.
I had long been fascinated by societies where woodcarving was an integral part of the culture, (Maori, Balinese, Tlinglit and Haida, among many others). I really admired their devotion to craft and to story telling. At the same time I was also trying to rid my brain of all the, well intentioned guidance and structure, I had received in art school. I needed a way to reconnect to my imagination without all the design theory clogging my way. Folk and outsider art was a rabbit hole I dove into.
However, it wasn’t until I chanced upon a showing of the works of Elijah Pierce at the Columbus Museum of Art that I really felt compelled to grab a knife and use my imagination. His folk artworks were full of stories, charm, honesty, and quirky characters galore. He really opened my eyes to the possibilities of woodcarving. I slowly learned to hack, stab, and slice myself, and the wood to bring some of my own visions to life. For years the only people to see my work were my immediate family. Eventually through the internet tubes and ebay, I met a lot of really cool and supportive friends and collectors. I was also fortunate enough to be shown at, Roq la Rue Gallery in Seattle which has allowed me to meet even more, interesting and supportive artists and collectors. I really hope that my works will in some way inspire other artists to discover woodcarving and their own imaginations and keep these traditions alive.
“Keep your tools sharp and your flesh out of the way.”