Although truth and beauty are often lacking in the creative arts today, graduates of John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif., are working to buck that trend and positively impact the culture.
JPCatholic, which is recommended in The Newman Guide, provides students with a solid formation in the liberal arts and faithful Catholic theology, while also preparing them for careers in the creative arts, business, film-making and other new media.
Graduate Nate Sjogren says that the College’s curriculum “forms Catholic artists to be well-rounded Christian storytellers,” and he sees the creative process as a “cooperation with God and his creation.” Today, Sjogren is a motion graphics designer at Drive Studio in San Diego, Calif. The Cardinal Newman Society is grateful for his time in sharing about the impact of his faithful Catholic education, as a part of our “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.
Newman Society: How did your education at John Paul the Great Catholic University help form you as a Catholic artist?
Nate Sjogren: From the outset, JPCatholic begins with the intention to impact the culture for Christ. This mission influences everything we were taught and encourages us to create art with a greater purpose beyond ourselves. Throughout the curriculum there is one central theme: story. Our entire formation is motivated by telling meaningful, powerful stories. Even now as a motion graphic designer, everything I create has a narrative, even if it is metaphorical. The curriculum forms Catholic artists to be well-rounded Christian storytellers, regardless of their expertise in the industry.
Newman Society: JPCatholic combines practical classes like film-making and new media with courses in the liberal arts and theology. How do you think this well-rounded education has influenced your professional success?
Nate Sjogren: I think the well-rounded education is the key. Like myself, many students are struggling to discover their expertise as they journey through film school. It is crucial that young adults are well-formed in many areas so that they are able to sample a variety of creative specialties. In fact, it wasn’t until I began my internship at Drive Studio that I discovered my passion for motion graphics. Being well-rounded increases the opportunities to get a foot in the door. Beyond that, expertise — let alone success — is earned through practical experience in real-world scenarios.
Newman Society: What does Pope St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists” mean to you?
Nate Sjogren: The idea that artists are called by vocation to be co-creators with God is revolutionary. When I first sat down to design, I was immediately stumped by the blank canvas in front of me. How am I supposed to magically come up with a completely original idea out of thin air and also put it on paper? The task is daunting… until I realized that nothing is original. God created everything already.
This very fact diffuses the pressure that new artists feel to be completely original. Instead, the creative process becomes a cooperation with God and his creation. It is liberating knowing that any creative brilliance doesn’t solely rely on me, and that my designs are a fusion of life experiences, inspiration and concepts already in existence. I’m not the Creator, but I’m brought into the creative process with God. That truth is humbling yet exhilarating.
Newman Society: Do you have any stories or experiences from your time at the college that stand out to you?
Nate Sjogren: When I was in my third year, I was hired for my very first gig as an editor. After the studio had filmed the interview I was supposed to cut together, I received a call from one of the producers. He mentioned that they would like to add in some motion graphics to complement the interview, and he asked if I could pull it off. Although I had never done motion graphics before, I knew some basic After Effects [motion graphics software], so I told him, “Let’s do it!”
That weekend I spent every last bit of free time learning After Effects. YouTube and other free tutorial sites like Video Copilot and Creative Cow were invaluable during this formation process. And as a result, we pulled off our first motion graphic commercial without a hitch.
This was a breakthrough moment for my education and my career. Through the formation and network at JPCatholic, I got my first gig and discovered my passion for motion graphics. Not long after, I was offered an internship at Drive Studio because of my interest in graphic design and animation, and the rest is history.
Newman Society: As a motion graphics designer, you’ve produced logos, motion graphics and branding for the FIFA World Cup, the NFL, NBC Sports, National Geographic and others. What have been some of the most exciting projects to be a part of?
Nate Sjogren: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with soccer — watching every professional match I could, training with my team all year round, and even playing the FIFA video games for hours. So it was a dream come true to help design and animate the entire graphics package for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on FOX Sports with the Drive Studio team.
It was also very exciting to see the months of hard work pay off on the Super Bowl LIV scoring system and information graphics that debuted on FOX earlier this year. You may recognize the larger-than-life touchdown graphic that my team and I came up with as an innovative solution to make the scoring moments more dramatic.