Tahlequah Daily Press

November 5, 2013

Instinct guides Wells’ sculpting ability

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Beauty, like art, is in the eye of the beholder – just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Both sayings apply to artist Jobe Van Wells.

The first time he looked around at odds and ends of metal and decided to make something, he welded a samurai sculpture when he was 16. It took fewer than 40 hours to create the sculpture from scraps he found lying around his grandfather’s garage.

Wells, a recent graduate of Tahlequah High School, said he’s always enjoyed making things, but at 16, he really just wanted to see what he was capable of.

The samurai sculpture was displayed at the Arts on the Avenue summer fine arts festival with other high school art, and it would catch the eyes of people shopping and looking at art. But it wasn’t for sale, since it was his first piece.

“The idea for it literally just came to me one day. It’s unexplainable, sort of like an epiphany; I wanted to make a metal guy,” Wells said. “I don’t know where exactly the motivation came from for actually going through with making the sculpture, but I had never been more focused or excited about anything in my life.”

Over the course of two months, he looked forward to working on it and did so every chance he got, spending a total of 38 hours on it.

“I was very impressed with myself. I utilized welding to make it, and started it from a bucket of scrap metal my grandpa had,” he said. “My grandpa taught me how to weld when I was 13. I’ve never taken a metal or shop class or anything like that.”

Planning ahead with sketches or drawings before he makes an item isn’t Wells’ style.

“I just make things,” he said. “I went to Tahlequah High School, and one teacher who influenced me was Anthony Amason, my art teacher for three years. He got me into the senior art show, which I won, and before the art show told me it would be cool if I had more than one large sculpture, besides the samurai.”

So, just days before the art show, he made another sculpture, a dragon, and it won Best Sculpture, while his samurai won Best in Show.

Metal is his preferred medium of artistic expression, but he also enjoys knife-making.

“I use either stag or wood for the knife handles,” he said. “And I have made two lamps. One is metal, and the other I incorporated an antler.”

Along with creating art forms, Wells found other uses for his talent with a welding torch.

“Overall, though, welding is my thing,” said Wells. “It actually even landed me a job with Cochran Real Estate. I weld their signs, which is satisfying, because I see my signs all over town.”

Wells, a full-time freshman student at Oklahoma State University, is currently an architecture major, although that may change to some form of engineering.

“I don’t consider myself artsy; I just enjoy making things, and with welding I can make whatever I want,” he said.

He admits to having future plans to make many more sculptures and sell them.

“Honestly, it would be ideal to do that for a living, but getting known is the hardest thing for an artist to achieve,” he said. “I will do it on the side and see how that turns out after establishing a steady and reliable career.”