An Interview with Howard Lyon

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), I am a Child of God Oil on Linen.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), I am a Child of God Oil on Linen.

>I was born and raised in Arizona, I had always loved to draw when I was a child, but at the age of 12 I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an artist. My parents were remarkably supportive and took my ambitions seriously. My mother knew of an artist working locally and worked it out for me to visit his studio. From that point on, it was my goal. My parents were my first and most active supporters. Now, in addition to my parents, my wife is always right there by my side. As a young artist, I had great support from two other artists, Greg Olsen and J.D. Parrish. Both treated me like I was an equal and encouraged me to move forward. As a teenager, that meant the world to hear these two working professionals talk to me as if I were contemporary of theirs. Honestly, I have come across so many giving and encouraging artists along the way that my list is very long.

>I studied at Brigham Young University in the Illustration Department with teachers like Robert Barrett, Don Seegmiller and Ralph Barksdale. I also studied at the Grand Central Academy (now Grand Central Atelier) in New York with Scott Waddell, Colleen Barry and Will St. John. I have made several trips to Europe to do personal study in France and Italy. 

>My artwork has changed significantly over the years. Most notably as I have made the shift from working as an illustrator into working as a fine artist. While the illustration world had much to offer, I didn't feel I was able to give credit to my own voice often enough. As I have evolved my career, my work has lead the way. I anticipate my work continuing to evolve through new levels of understanding and experience.

>One of the artists I have always loved, and continue to come back to the work of William Adolphe Bouguereau. I admire Bouguereau's work, not as much for the subjects that he painted, but for the mastery with which he painted. I am driven to improve in the craft of painting while I develop my artistic skills and his work has always resonated with me on that level.

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French,1825 - 1905), Before the Bath, Oil on Canvas, 53 x 29 ½ in.

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French,1825 - 1905), Before the Bath, Oil on Canvas, 53 x 29 ½ in.

>I prefer to work in oils and for my larger works, linen. For smaller works, I have been painting on aluminum panels. They offer a wonderful surface to work on, and also great permanency and stability. The easiest part is usually the initial idea. I don't find that I usually have a problem thinking of what I want to paint. Things start to get difficult when you take the idea and try to make it a great composition. I usually start a painting by asking myself a series of questions. Creating the composition is the most challenging part. It is also the most rewarding. Working through the arrangements of shapes and figures to create something that is both pleasing and contributes to the message of the painting is what can take the most time. There are many great craftsmen out there, but it is in the composition that the artistry really comes through. I try to build a story around the painting and helps me to inform the viewer through symbolism, composition, color and line. Once I feel I have a good grasp of the narrative, I start doing thumbnails, or small drawings that don't take more than a minute or so. These are quick ideas that are thrown out and sorted through as I look for the best ideas. Once that is done, I do a more detailed drawing, still from imagination. Now I am ready to hire models, or find the right reference for the painting. I will sometimes paint from life or do a photoshoot to capture my images. From there, I do a full-sized drawing, or cartoon, that I use to transfer to the final painting surface. Before I pick up the brush though, I will do a small color study of the piece to work out the finals palette as well as the values in the painting. After all these steps, then I start on the final piece. I know I am finished with a piece when it can speaks for me on it's own.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Ascendent Truth, Oil on Aluminum Panel, 20 x 16 in.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Ascendent Truth, Oil on Aluminum Panel, 20 x 16 in.

>A typical day for me means I am usually in the studio by 8 and answering emails or taking care of the business side of things. By 9 I try to be drawing or painting or doing research. I will break for lunch around 1 and dinner at 5. I will usually work until 10 at night. A good day sees me painting for about 12 hours. I love what I do, and each day I work I see as a real gift. I look forward to getting back into the studio as soon as I leave it.

>The best advice I can give is to draw as much as you possibly can, and from life. Draw every day. Draw with a purpose to improve. Find the things that you struggle with and attack them until you have other things that are more challenging. Draw, draw, draw.

>My ideal viewer is someone who is seeking after that which is beautiful and uplifting. My art is inspired by and aims towards beauty and truth. Someone who finds beauty in nature, admires the skill and figure of a ballet dancer, finds joy in a great piece of music or is drawn in by a wonderful book, will find common ground in what drives me to create. There is enough cynicism and despair in this world that I do not need to add to it. When I paint, I seek after that which will builds me up, inspires my thoughts and leads me closer to the divine. I find truth in beauty and I believe my ideal viewer does too.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Feed my Sheep, Oil on Panel, 11 x 14 in.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Feed my Sheep, Oil on Panel, 11 x 14 in.

When you place a piece of artwork on a wall in your home, the space is immediately transformed. Paintings change throughout the day as the light in the room changes, as if they are alive and responding to the light. They also change for the viewer as their emotions change. When you are full of joy or sorrow a piece might speak to you in different ways. Once my work is in their home, it becomes personal, part of their most sacred and intimate spaces, where they raise children or express their love, where they relax and laugh and live. Experiences are like lenses through which we view life and art. The more time we have to spend with a painting, the richer that experience becomes because we never see it through the same two eyes.

>I wish more people would tell me about what they feel when looking at my work, and if it resonates with them, why. So, if that were in question form from the viewer, "Do you mind if I tell you what I see in your painting?" 

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Come Follow Me, Oil on Linen, 38 x 38 in.

Howard Lyon (American, b. 1973), Come Follow Me, Oil on Linen, 38 x 38 in.

>Currently, I am working on two larger paintings, one of the resurrected Christ and Mary in the garden tomb and one of Christ wiping the tears away from a woman's face. While working on those, I have a series of ongoing smaller portraits studies that I am doing from life. I have a composition worked out for painting of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. It is a large scale painting that incorporates more figures than just the 10 virgins, including Christ holding back the veil for the wise virgins to enter into the wedding feast. Also included are architectural elements that represent the three degrees of glory, and figures in the foreground that represent the things that distract the 5 foolish virgins from their focus on the Savior. It is a very complex painting and large enough that it would take a good investment of time to accomplish it. At some point, I will make it happen.

>I feel a constant pressure to create, knowing there is only so much time we are given here. Sometimes it drives me, but it can also be overwhelming. I try to balance the desire to improve each day with the desire paint as much as I can, and also be a good and involved father and husband. It is hard not to look at the sand in the hourglass and wonder if there will be enough time to be as good as I want to be, or paint all the images that want to get out of my mind.

Howard Lyon, b. 1973

Web: www.howardlyon.com

Instagram: @howardlyonart

email: fineart@howardlyon.com