Inspire Your Heart with Art: Jess Rudolph and Sameera Nalin Venkat

Case Western Reserve University has robust programs in dance, art, theater and music. Students and faculty in these departments routinely showcase their talents through exhibitions, productions, concerts and more. In honor of Inspire Your Heart with Art Day (Jan. 31), The Daily is putting a spotlight on individuals across the university who have a passion for creating—whether that be through painting, theater or even baking. We were so blown away by the volume of submissions—and the talent in our community—we’ve decided to dedicate a whole week to showcasing artists at CWRU.

Today, we’re sharing the work of two artists—Jess Rudolph, an alum, staff member and theater performer, and Semeera Nalin Venkat, a graduate student and artist who specializes in drawing. Some of their answers have been lightly edited. 

Jess Rudolph

Photo of Jess Rudolph striking a pose in costume with other members of The Confused Greenies of Players' Patchwork Theatre Company
Jess Rudolph (second from right) with other members of The Confused Greenies of Players’ Patchwork Theatre Company

Not only is Jess Rudolph a communications and operations coordinator in Case Western Reserve’s School of Graduate Studies—he’s a CWRU alum. During his last year in his bachelor’s program, he completed an independent study in “commedia dell’arte,” the semi-improvisational comedic theater of the Italian Renaissance. 

Inspired by that project—as well as two demonstrative performances at annual Italian Carnevale events on campus—Rudolph went on to found a commedia troupe (The Confused Greenies) a year after he graduated, with the help of CWRU students, alumni and Cleveland community members. 

1. Can you talk about your art?

My art is called commedia dell’arte with roots in the 16th Century Italian Renaissance. It is a style of comedic theater that uses masked stock characters and a brief plot outline scenario for the actors to improvise much of the dialogue and action.

2. What intrigued you about this art form?

I am intrigued by its semi-improvisational style. Commedia creates full-length, fully realized plays with full characterization by having the complete story of the plot, but most of the content comes from improvisation which is incredibly freeing and invigorating. I’m also drawn to being able to play the same comedic character in many performances for many years so I can refine and improve my art. It’s amazing to see a production come alive sometimes in mere hours and bring laughter to the world.

3. Where do you take inspiration from?

My primary inspiration comes from the structure and style of plays written in the 16th and 17th centuries as well as other troupes replicating that style today. However we can be inspired by any idea, especially when creating a parody play of a modern fandom.

4. How have you shared your work (if you have)?

To share my art, I founded The Confused Greenies of Players’ Patchwork Theatre Company so we can perform our plays live on stage or (lately) online over Zoom.

5. What do you love most about creating?

What I love most is a toss-up between writing the outline scenarios (as my original artistic passion was writing) and making people laugh. Bringing such joy is deeply satisfying and fulfilling.

Sameera Nalin Venkat

Photo of Semeera Nalin Venkat's colorful Robot Humanoid artwork
Sameera Nalin Venkat’s “Robot Humanoid with Silicon Cells”

Sameera Nalin Venkat is a third-year PhD student in the materials science and engineering department. She’s been drawing since before she could speak—properly, at least. The earliest artwork she recollects is drawing and coloring a city scene with people and cars for a class. Since then, she’s experimented with colored pencils, glitter and gel pens, black pens, acrylic paints and more. 

1. Can you talk about your art?

Broadly speaking, my art style is freehand drawing/painting. I prefer to not use any defined outlines but I draw as I please with mindfulness. What started as a hobby has helped me during difficult situations in life. When I feel negative, annoyed, sad or even uncertain, I draw on a piece of paper for a while. Then, I realize that things will eventually get better and that I should keep trying. 

I have experimented with multiple art styles over the years in specific phases. As a child, I was into drawing and coloring. In my teen years, I used glitter and gel pens to do personalized name art. In my undergraduate days, I was into painting, abstract art and black pen zentangles. At some point, I did extensive artwork using paint markers. Now, I am getting back to black pen art (partly because of limited time as a graduate student). I really enjoyed painting a pumpkin as well as designing water bottles and jars back in 2019.

2. What intrigued you about this art form?

What intrigues me about freehand artwork is the number of possibilities from start to end. I start off with a blank sheet/canvas and I could start it in any way possible. Sometimes, I don’t think of a particular concept before starting and I begin with a smaller random pattern. I don’t have any expectation of how the artwork would look at the very end. That’s where the excitement lies. I let go and free myself from high expectations.

3. Where do you take inspiration from?

I am inspired by emotions, patterns and ideas. When I go to a new city, I like to explore the architecture and inspect the intricate designs that have been incorporated by skilled craftsmen. I look at trees and imagine how they would be in a utopian world. I tap into my own emotions and explore abstract concepts that have been in my mind for sometime. Sometimes, I come up with random patterns, and sometimes I take inspiration from art posts by talented artists.

4. What do you love most about creating?

In each art session, the unfettered part of my being comes alive to create something new. As I am part of a structured society where there are well-defined expectations and goals, creating art helps me be myself without judgment. While I am in my artistic zone, I can go in whatever direction I want, with no end in mind. I feel happy creating art and I enjoy the journey.