In the summer, Jim Wodarek often stays up until 4 a.m. doing what he loves: Creating art.
Wodarek, who spends the school year teaching his passion for graphic design, digital illustration and photography to students at Baldwin High School, also is an artist himself, showing at least once a year in New York City’s Gallery District.
Through Nov. 3, Wodarek will have a solo exhibit featuring mixed media works on canvas at Ketchup City Creative in Sharpsburg. The 14 pieces on display — many of which he completed this past summer — are a compilation of who he is as an artist, he says.
“The artworks that are on display are just the perfect balance of my background,” Wodarek said.
He’s always been an artist. As a kid, Wodarek was inspired by Charles Schultz and took classes at Carnegie Museum every Saturday to learn the skill.
He majored in graphic design at La Roche University and spent a year studying drawing and painting in Florence, Italy, as a traditional artist.
“When I was in Italy, all I cared about was learning to paint like Raphael,” he said.
After college, he started working as a graphic designer, then became an art director. It was in that career that he became interested in teaching, as he already spent his days instructing people.
Along with his career changes, his art has followed.
Wodarek started as a teacher at Baldwin High School in 1994. Today, some of his former students are art directors in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
He kept his connection with La Roche, so his students at Baldwin can earn credits through the university when taking his courses in high school.
His art is influenced by his journey and includes illustrations and elements of street art, pop culture and consumerism.
“It forces me to have moment of control and chaos,” he said.
His latest exhibit features classic — or nostalgic — figures from pop culture, including Rosie the Riveter, Uncle Sam and Popeye, with splashes of consumerism, like the Louis Vuitton print in the background.
He hopes the images make people feel happy and connected to their youth. That’s how he feels when he’s creating them. “I hope people, when they look at my art, that they remember sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal, watching their favorite cartoons,” he said. “That’s where I am with the art. It should be fun.”
While he’s enjoying what he does, he still has high aspirations.
“I would love to be the next Warhol, but in the meantime, I just create what is meaningful to me and those nostalgic images just give me an adrenaline rush,” he said.
For more on his artwork, visit www.jameswodarek.com.
For details on Wodarek’s solo exhibit at Ketchup City Creative, visit www.ketchupcity.com.