Artist Interviews

An Interview with Niki Covington

I was raised near Tokyo, Japan, but spent my youth in Northern California. After having returned to Japan to serve a two-year mission, I have lived in Ohio, Utah, Ecuador, New York, and Italy. As a classicist, my studies have taken me to study forms of art and architecture in Italy, Greece, Israel, Croatia, France, Switzerland, Turkey and even back to Japan. The chance to have been exposed to so many parts of the Lord's vineyard has been critical to my understanding of art that transcend both time and space.

 Christ Calling Peter and Andrew (2015) by Niki Covington. Patinated Hydrocal or Bronze. 32 x 32 x 5 in.

Christ Calling Peter and Andrew (2015) by Niki Covington. Patinated Hydrocal or Bronze. 32 x 32 x 5 in.

Among some wonderful people who inspired me from my youth, including my father and mother, is my great grandfather, Isaac Loren Covington. He was a pioneer and one of the first painters in the Mormon church whose paintings still adorn many old buildings and temples in Southern Utah. A great artist with no formal training, I have thought of him often during my many years of training and felt his encouragement.

I have had many conversations with remarkable artists dedicated to the the cause of grafting the fine-art tradition back to its sacred roots. Many of these have taken place silently, and in my own mind, with those of the past--Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Borromini, Phidias, Lissipus, Juvarra, Guarini, Piazzetta, and Bloch--as I stood in front of their workmanship. These men have labored long for the common cause of "restoring the sacred to the somatic, spirit to the flesh, that art may give place for piety, inspire reverence for that which is holy, and give voice to the divine nature common to us all." As an artists carrying forth the same standard I believe we have an obligation to "speak to the past, and it shall teach thee".

 The Presentation at the Temple (2016) by Niki Covington. Watercolor on Paper. 11 ½ x 8 ½ in.

The Presentation at the Temple (2016) by Niki Covington. Watercolor on Paper. 11 ½ x 8 ½ in.

My studies have evolved as my vision have expanded. After my undergraduate degree, I studied painting and drawing at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. After two years, I was led to resume my studies in New York at the Grand Central Academy, and began taking architectural theory and history classes at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Thanks to kind mentors, it was in New York that I was introduced to the vision of Un bel Composto, the synthesis of the fine arts, and began a serious three-fold study of paining, sculpture and classical architecture. My goal was to not only play different instruments, but learn to be a composer. As the Classical Architecture program at Beaux-Arts Atelier moved from New York to Salt Lake City, I was among the first on board and spent 10 week of immersion in Rome with a great scholar, Michael Djordjevitch. Later I was awarded the Prix de Rome Prize, which allowed me to return to Italy and study in depth the language of classicism. As part of My Prix de Rome Grand Tour, I traveled to study in Italy, Croatia, Jerusalem, Japan, and Istanbul, chasing different ideas and forms from East and West which engrained in me the richness of ideas and forms of the classical tradition.

Over time the vision of Un Bel Composto has lead me from painting, sculpting and then to work with architecture with the goal of creating an visual symphony. I believe that the fine arts must ultimately come one under a single purpose: Transcendence to the realm of the sacred.

 The Breath of Life (2014) by Niki Covington. Patinated Plaster. 12 x 12 x 30 in.

The Breath of Life (2014) by Niki Covington. Patinated Plaster. 12 x 12 x 30 in.

For me the realization that Painting, Sculpture, Architecture are really the same thing despite the difference in materials, was a breakthrough freeing me from fearing the difference in materiaIs. I imagine that is how music composers thinks: instruments matter little - strings, brass, wood or hid-it is how they are brought together in symphony that matters. I love to watch the mastery of material by a great master. I once saw a Japanese calligrapher with a brush and ink on white rice paper. Quietly, meditatively, with bridled burst of movements he made his strokes, he never blinked nor changed the rhythm of his breathing. To watch his movement, discipline, having practiced hundreds of thousands of strokes in his lifetime in order to make that one energetic yet so bridled stroke, moved me deeply. I believe that is what training does; it is not about the particular painting but the thousands of paintings and studies that came before that allows the masterpiece to be created. It is the tens of thousands of thoughts and lessons that have traversed his mind past and present.

In any work, I begin with making study of meaning, then study of precedent, and then study of form, in that order. My goal is not to create something 'new', but something that hearkens back to, and brings 'remembrance' of something we have seen or felt before; the jogging of our spiritual memory to something they have felt or experienced. The paining, sculpture or architecture, through the language of beauty, is merely a threshold into that realm of the sacred, where all things are brought to our rememberance. This is a guiding principle in the conception of any work of art. The rest is labor, sweat and even tears to create proper form and dress it with appropriate symbols.

 Portrait of Christ (2016) after Carl Bloch by Niki Covington. Oil on Linen. 12 x 18 in.

Portrait of Christ (2016) after Carl Bloch by Niki Covington. Oil on Linen. 12 x 18 in.

The single most important thing for me has been to to know my tradition. For me this means gaining an understanding of the the long lineage of art, it's role in society and history, what and how it has served mankind. There is a devastating lack of understanding of the artistic tradition among young people, which has lead to such confusion among rising artists regarding the role and function of art. Clearly Michelangelo was trying to serve a greater cause, and not trying to 'express his inner child'. A student has to do some heavy truth-seeking to discover the nobility of our lineage and the calling of an artist. The Classic Point of View by Kenyon Cox is a great beginning for all aspiring artists I think.

I would love to design art for temples, as part of an unfolding story using architecture, painting and sculpture. This was the goal of Bernini, who coined the term Un bel Composto, or one beautiful whole, where the three sister-disciplines comes together to serve the greater story. I am currently working on a funerary monument/sculpture for my grandfather who recently passed away. I love funerary monuments. Wherever I travel in the world, I make it a point to visit their cemetery, where some of the best art and architecture can be seen. The monument to my grandfather uses ancient symbols, motifs and geometry such as laurels, fillets, and libation bowls to hearken to sacred ideas about resurrection, eternal life, and the sealing power of eternal marriage. I hope to add figurative relief-sculpture to tell more of a story. Other works in progress include painting of Joseph and Christ-child, inspired by a Piazzetta painting I studied in Venice.  I have always wished to design a family mausoleum, a type of a temple, where family members can be buried together to await the resurrection. Using the best in classical motifs of architecture, ornament and figurative sculpture, possessing power symbolism that hearkens to the awaited resurrection. I imagine an interior designed with stained glass and even painting, a place of beauty, rest and holiness. 

 Help Thou Mine Unbelief (2012) by Niki Covington. Oil on Linen. 40 x 25 in.

Help Thou Mine Unbelief (2012) by Niki Covington. Oil on Linen. 40 x 25 in.

I hope my art will bring rememberance of a memory long before we entered this mortal present. Such art, I think, exists outside of time and is timeless.

Learn more about Niki J. Covington

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An Interview with Elizabeth Thayer

I was born and raised in Orem, Utah. I recently moved back to Orem after 15 years of living on the East Coast and in Europe. Just after graduating from High School, I took a tour at BYU. I had previously considered teaching and engineering as possibilities, but then I walked into the Illustration Studio, and knew that is where I wanted to be. That first year studying art, I started seeing the world a different way, and found a passion for creating through drawing and painting. I graduated from BYU with a degree in Illustration. I also attended Masters programs at Syracuse University and UNC Greensboro.

> As time goes by, I look at more and more artists and hopefully am influenced by many of them. I would have to say that the ones who have been most influential early on in my career are John Singer Sargent, Burton Silverman, Richard Schmid, and Greg Manchess. 

  Head Study I  (2016) by Elizabeth Thayer. 11 x 14 in. Oil.

Head Study I (2016) by Elizabeth Thayer. 11 x 14 in. Oil.

> Over time, I like to think I have become more skillful with paint and brush and, I hope, better at creating a compelling and meaningful picture, but my subject matter has stayed fairly constant. I work mainly in oil paint on linen. I draw with charcoal or nupastel. My paintings usually begin with something I see. It could be a certain expression or pose in someone that says something about their personality. It could be a situation, a glimpse of a scene as I pass by, or part of a person's story I want to tell. It is this conceptual aspect that makes the idea compelling. I think about the idea for a long time. I work really hard on designing the painting, usually in sketch form. I think composition is really important. From there, I sometimes do a small color study (the painting generally turns out better if I do) and start on the final painting. I usually begin with an underdrawing on the canvas, to place the subject correctly. Then I paint. And then sometimes my process is completely different. The fun thing about painting is that the more new ways of doing things you try, the more you learn. Finishing is always the hardest part. I prefer to paint alla prima, and I find if it is taking me too long, I lose momentum. 

  Marcia  (2013) by Elizabeth Thayer. 24 x 31 in. Oil on Linen.

Marcia (2013) by Elizabeth Thayer. 24 x 31 in. Oil on Linen.

My normal routine is that I wake up early, exercise, change a diaper, make breakfast, clean it up, do a load or two of laundry, dress the baby, think about what is on my easel as I get kids to school and/or lessons. Do housework. Have a make-believe tea party with a four-year-old. Run upstairs to the studio to look at what is on my easel. Make lunch and clean it up. Pay bills and send emails. Sketch some ideas. Wipe noses. Make phone calls, bandage knees, buy birthday presents, check to see the cucumber plants are getting enough water. Race to the park and enjoy the weather. Think about dinner. Remember that there is something upstairs on my easel. Revise dinner plans, write a grocery list, cook and clean up. Read stories, say prayers, kiss foreheads. Sweep the floor. Squeeze in as much painting as possible before dropping into bed.

> My ideal location for my art is on walls, galleries, museums, books, anywhere. The richest things in life are our relationships with other people. I hope that my work, whether commissioned portraits or figurative work or published paintings, will help connect people and strengthen relationships.

  Native Dance  (2006) by Elizabeth Thayer. 18 x 24 in. Nupastel on Paper.

Native Dance (2006) by Elizabeth Thayer. 18 x 24 in. Nupastel on Paper.

> I have a few portrait commissions I am working on, an illustrated book, and a few personal paintings. The thing that is taking most of my time right now is a project called Their Story is Our Story; Giving Voice to Refugees. I have teamed up with a photographer, a videographer and an author to visit some of the European refugee camps, learn the stories of some of the people there, and tell them through paintings, drawings, photographs and video. We have a great team of volunteers set up to help us through the logistics of getting there and back. Our initial hope was to raise awareness, but we as a people are already aware of the Refugee Crisis. What I want to do is create a connection - a place for a conversation to begin. To give society a moment to stop and put themselves in another’s shoes, and treat the other as they would like to be treated. I think art has power to create connections between people and to teach empathy. And I think connections that turn into relationships and empathy are very important in the world today. This is a kind of art I have always wanted to get involved in, so I am really excited to be part of the project.

  Head Study  (2016) by Elizabeth Thayer. 11 x 14 in. Oi

Head Study (2016) by Elizabeth Thayer. 11 x 14 in. Oi

My hope is to put together an exhibition of the drawings, paintings, photographs and videos from TSOS that people could see and experience in person. For this to work, we would need funds for putting the show together and transferring the artwork as well as help finding venues, publicizing, etc. I think it would generate interest, and have an impact on people's lives. 

> I want my art to have an impact on people here and now. I guess I would like it to be remembered by the fact that those who have been influenced by it live their lives in a better way.

  Wash Day  (2013) by Elizabeth Thayer. 15 ¾ x 15 ¾ in. Oil  on Board.

Wash Day (2013) by Elizabeth Thayer. 15 ¾ x 15 ¾ in. Oil  on Board.

Learn more about Elizabeth Thayer


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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


Instagram: @howardlyonart



An Interview with David Malan

>I was always the class artist. I guess my earliest memories are drawing in the church pews. My family had no particular affinity toward art. There were a few books around of the famous artists but none appealed to me. It still interests me that I had the drive but not much to base it on. I do remember later on finding Bernini sculptures and Norman Rockwell work that stood out to me.

 David Malan (American, b. 1980), Christ & the Sparrow, Oil on Canvas, 42 x 24 in.

David Malan (American, b. 1980), Christ & the Sparrow, Oil on Canvas, 42 x 24 in.

>One of my biggest influences is Alphonse Mucha, known mainly for his beautiful french Art Nouveau advertisements, he actually created some of the most wonderful oil paintings later in his life. He had a great grasp of realistic rendering of people and emotions and also interesting color and design sense that he brought together seamlessly. But he really took them to a whole different level with some of the mural work he did late in life. Some artists I admire are JC Leyendecker, Doug Fryer, Jeremey Lipking, William Whitaker, Nikolai Fechin, Inges, John Singer Sargent, Dean Cornwell.

 Alphonse Mucha , F. Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur, lithograph, 1897

Alphonse Mucha , F. Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur, lithograph, 1897

>My training came mostly from countless hours drawing any, and everything I found interesting as a teenager. I studied Illustration at BYU which helped me create fuller images. Most of the credit can go to time and practice to develop and discover. My path has remained consistent but the images have become richer with more depth and control as I learn and grow. It's been like building a house, I think drawing people in a sketchbook has always been the foundation and I have just continued to build and add to what I have.

>I work in pencil and paper and oil paint. But, I also have a career as an illustrator that is done primarily digitally.

 David Malan (American, b. 1980), Kate, Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in.

David Malan (American, b. 1980), Kate, Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in.

>When I create something new, I search and think about a concept, I've got massive files of great artwork and photography of others that inspires me. When I've got an idea I will think about it and develop it on paper. Lately I've really been studying visual symbolism and concepts and how an audience will consciously or unconsciously respond to particular compositions or details and been thinking about how I can make my pieces work on a deeper level. I next will work up sketches with any photographic reference I need to solidify any subjects. A full drawing usually get turned into a value study on the canvas. Next a small color study and optimally I want to do a study or 2. Then I can get into the final piece with confidence. The way I've been working lately is to break the elements down and deal with just one at a time. This way by the time I'm to the actual painting I'm not worried about juggling color and value and shadows, and drawing and proportions, etc., etc. etc. It's a lot to manage, so by the time I am to the actual painting it is pretty automatic and soothing. I'm just thinking about making it look nice.+

 David Malan (American, b. 1980), Lily, Graphite on Paper, 12 x 9 in

David Malan (American, b. 1980), Lily, Graphite on Paper, 12 x 9 in

>The hardest part about the process is coming up with a compelling idea. I want it interesting but subtle and beautiful. There's a reason those special peaceful moments come rarely in life and they are not easy to create. I know it's done when I am satisfied that I've caught the feeling I set out to find.

> I try to take the same deliberate approach each day to all my art and consciously think about how I can push myself and my art. Illustration work is done on the computer but all the art principles are the same so I'm happy to let my illustration grow my fine art work and visa versa. Unless I'm too busy, I switch in the afternoon to my painting easel. I'm happily working at my home so 5:30ish I can walk upstairs and enjoy my family and four young kids. But around 9 their off to bed and am back at my sketchbook drawing for the rest of the evening.

 David Malan (American, b. 1980), Dinner, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36 in.

David Malan (American, b. 1980), Dinner, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36 in.

>I am working on more and more artwork, particularly oil paintings. I would love to get into the large mural scenes like Alphonse Mucha's Slav Epic works. I've got an idea I'm really excited about and well into the process. It is a pioneer woman and her child setting off toward the unknown.

David Malan, b. 1980



An Interview with Ryan Brown

  As a painter, teacher, and spokesman, Ryan Brown is a passionate advocate for a return to traditional skills of art that demand excellence from artists and connoisseurship from audiences.

As a painter, teacher, and spokesman, Ryan Brown is a passionate advocate for a return to traditional skills of art that demand excellence from artists and connoisseurship from audiences.

I always loved to draw but it wasn't until high school that I thought seriously about art as a profession. My parents were always encouraging. I also had a teacher in 5th grade, Mrs. Grandinetti, who signed me up for an after school art class and advised my mother to get me the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was pivotal in growing my interest. After receiving a BFA in Illustration, I studied drawing and painting at the Florence Academy of Art. It is there that I received the training that adopted me into the rich heritage of naturalist painting. The information and development of artists through this program has a teaching lineage that reaches back to the mid-18th century. I believe this is quite important as it is a distinct tie to knowledge and practices of the past that are still relevant today.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977)  Alone . Oil on canvas. 40 x 70 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Alone. Oil on canvas. 40 x 70 in.

There have been so many artists who have been an inspiration to me, both living and dead, but I suppose the artist whose work influenced me the most at the most pivotal moment was Burton Silverman. I saw a major exhibition of his when I was a junior in college and it confirmed more fully my desire to be a fine artist at the highest level.

I believe there is a natural maturation process that occurs for every artist. The developmental stages where one learns the craft can be long and arduous. The development of personal vision can be just as long. I have experimented quite a bit through these phases and have matured into what I believe is now a very personal and sincerely defined aesthetic. My paintings have real purpose and relevance to me. I won't spend time on anything now without first deeply understanding why it is necessary that it be made. I have come to understand just how important my time is and have developed the discipline to only spend that time on impactful and meaningful work.

I have spent years studying and gaining an understanding of my materials. I use only natural pigments and natural oils. Synthetics have a much different refractive quality that interacts much differently with light than natural pigments do. I prepare my own supports and linen, working on a lead ground, which is historically the most stable and strong platform for oil paint. My color palette is essentially the same as that used since the 17th century. I use only the simplest oil mediums in my paint to mimic the practices of the old masters. I paint on rigid supports in every case possible to increase the longevity of the work and avoid future cracking. I varnish my work with the same conservators varnish used by the National Gallery. With as much time as I spend on each work, it is imperative that the materials I am painting on and with are of the highest quality and used in the most archival methods.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977)  Spring Blossoms , Oil on panel. 24 x 18 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Spring Blossoms, Oil on panel. 24 x 18 in.

> Every work is different and requires a very specific process of problem solving. But there are similarities in the steps. I tend to think very narratively, so usually my concepts come in narrative form. I consider the entire narrative of a concept and try and whittle it down to its most poignant moment. That is the visual image I want to make, so the viewer can experience a more full sense of the narrative, rather than just the still moment presented. I almost always start with drawings from my imagination. These drawings help me visualize and refine the concept. They are like rough drafts of a novel. In these rough drafts I am considering lighting, staging, costume, point of view, action, interaction, rhythm, color, harmony and composition, both mass and linear. It is not until I feel I have a solid idea of what I want that I hire a model, create a costume (sometimes I make custom clothing for the models) and scout a location. Then I take the model to the location to photograph several different options where we try different variations of poses, different times of day (for different lighting effects), different variations on costume and different variations on background. This step in the process is where the idea really defines itself. All of the preliminary work from my imagination, although imperative, is limited and can only take me so far. Spending time with the model is where the idea really comes to fruition. Nature always presents more information in unexpected ways than is readily available to my imagination. After this initial photo shoot, where I may take thousands of images, I take a couple of weeks to pore over those images and let the idea mature. Sometimes, an idea that seemed amazing in my imagination, fizzles in reality and with time can become quite dull. It can be much like a child watching television near Christmas time. They want every toy on every commercial. But when they receive those toys, many of them aren't as fun as they thought they would be and they never play with them more than once or twice. Ideas for paintings can be like this, and it is important to allow an idea to mature in order to know whether or not it will grow into something greater than the original inception or begin to pale in relevance. Spending time with these images from my initial photo shoot gives me that contemplative time to consider more deeply the concept and why or why not it should be painted.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977)  Charlotte's Chickens,  Oil on canvas. 30 x 20 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Charlotte's Chickens, Oil on canvas. 30 x 20 in.

If the idea takes hold and grows, that is when I pursue the final painting. I make decisions on the size of the final piece, which is important as the size has much to do with the presence it will have when viewed. I also make final compositional decisions on the vantage point of the viewer, the placement of the model, the background, lighting, how the drapery is designed, and perhaps most importantly, the overall color harmonies and color composition for the piece that will impact the emotional response to the piece. I complete color studies, sometimes multiple studies, in order to achieve a balanced sense of color harmony. I do preliminary drawings of anything I feel I need to understand more completely before approaching the final canvas, such as portrait studies, hand studies, background sketches and drapery studies. I try to take as many solutions to the final canvas as possible. It is counterproductive and creates a far less appealing painted surface when an artist is constantly questioning through the process of painting rather than painting only well understood solutions. After all these preliminary efforts, I begin the final work. I usually draw the composition out on the canvas and begin painting. I try to cover the entire canvas the first or second day with an 'ebauche', which is a thin layer of washy paint meant to establish the general color and value tones that define an overall impression of the full piece. Establishing this overall impression across the entire surface before becoming too finicky about any particular area allows me to consider the overall balance of the piece from the beginning. This helps with the overall choreography of the individual parts that is so important in defining a focus and harmony in the finished painting. After the initial lay-in I usually begin to refine the area I want to be the greatest focus so as to set that as a standard by which all the other parts will balance themselves. It allows me to consider how refined or simple to leave peripheral elements in the painting, thereby further establishing and strengthening the area of focus. Throughout the process of creating the final pantingly greatest resource for information comes from the preliminary studies, drawings, paintings, photographic reference and also a myriad of master paintings I have surrounding me while I paint. All of these serve as the inspiration and knowledge base that informs the larger work. In the end, there is no one source that informs the final work more than the well defined purpose I have in my mind. Every decision that is made in the process is made for the benefit and realization of the mature concept. And the painting is finished only when that concept reaches complete realization and the handling of the paint is also sophisticated enough to make the original work an object to be viewed and not just merely a pleasing image.

> The easiest part of the process for me is the idea. I have so many ideas and so many things I want to paint. I find so much beauty around me that inspires. The most difficult part of the process is connected to the easiest, and that is narrowing the mass of ideas down to those that are the most pertinent and meaningful. Although so many things are interesting and beautiful to me, not all of it demands to be a work of art. There is a big difference, in my view, between making pretty pictures and creating works of fine art. The difficulty for me is choosing to work on only that which I believe I can transform from concept to a lasting work of art. Often times it is necessary when making those decisions to deny some very aggressive and valid outside influences, such as potential sales and market demands. It is very tempting to follow those paths that may lead to more popularity or monetary success. The discipline is in making that final choice based on what my priorities are in terms of what I want to achieve artistically. This has lead to a higher level of anonymity than I would prefer, but nonetheless is a deliberate choice.

> I run an art academy, so my daily routine changes somewhat but typically in the mornings I try to get most of my non-painting business done. I send emails, run errands, make panels, phone calls, etc. After lunch, if all the morning business is complete, I paint. I take breaks to teach in the afternoon and then continue painting until around 7:15. Three nights a week I do crossfit. Two nights a week I play basketball. One night a week I attend Micah Christensen's art lecture and Saturday and Sunday nights I'm home with my family.

> Get your education from an institution that teaches fundamental principles of drawing and painting with teachers who are qualified to teach those principles. This may seem simple, but it is actually quite complex as there are so few institutions or teachers that fit this advice. The biggest problem facing young students is the reality that there is little visual training in any educational program K-12 or in any university. Learning to see for someone who aspires to being an artist is like learning to read for someone who aspires to be an author. Imagine the literary world if there were no language education. What would our authors write if they never learned their ABC's or basic sentence structure? This is the reality in the visual arts. There are very few places and very few artists who teach and have been taught how to see.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977)  Daydreams , Oil on canvas. 44 x 60 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Daydreams, Oil on canvas. 44 x 60 in.

> Each painting is different. For some, I hope they end up in private collections to be viewed in someone's home. That intimate and private setting is fitting for some of my themes. Others, I would love to be viewed in museums. Of course, the reality is that most people who view my work will view it online, and unfortunately, great works of art demand to be seen in person.

> I usually have 10-20 pieces in progress at any given time. At the moment I am finishing a portrait commission for a couple in Spain. I am completing a painting of my daughter on a bike, staged behind my studio and entitled "Tomboy". I'm working on a painting of two of my daughters posed as orphans at a gravesite that visually discusses the pathos of loss but also the bond of family. I am working on a painting of my daughter posed in an open field in a snow storm. I am finishing a painting of a model reading in the woods. I am working on a painting of my father in the landscape, sitting alone at a chess table, entitled "The Master and His Rival" which is a narrative about maturing into the understanding that life is a journey of self awareness, self improvement, and how our greatest rival is always ourselves. I am also working on a painting of my youngest daughter posed by a creek that narrates the theme of discovery and youthful curiosity. There are others, but these few are my priorities at the moment. 

For years I have wanted to paint a series of 4-8 large scale paintings of the conflicts in the middle east. The idea came from the sacrifice of my cousin who served 4 tours of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan. In speaking with him, I became more aware of the sacrifices so many were making so that I could maintain my way of living. At the same time, all I saw in the media was negative towards these wars. I realized that although the political reasoning behind these wars were not always pure, the sacrifices of the soldiers were still very real. I want to capture their heroic efforts, their time spent in service. My idea is to interview soldiers from all over the country and collect narratives about their experiences, everything from the bonds they made with fellow soldiers to combat scenes and how the spent their down time. The series of paintings I want to make would capture their existence and how they spent their time away from family serving their country. I would compose scenes from these collective experiences, do studies of the uniforms, weaponry, landscape and towns they served in. In each final painting I would use real soldiers who served as my models. Each person in each painting would be a real distinguishable person. And the experiences depicted would come from their real life experience. It would show, in real terms, to viewers exactly what these soldiers went through and how they spent their time. It would help us relate their experience and better appreciate their sacrifice. More importantly, it would immortalize their efforts for generations to see and feel. The reason I have not pursued this project is because it would take nearly a year to collect the information I needed before even beginning a painting. I would need to travel to visit soldiers and their families. I would need to visit camp Pendleton in California to do studies of machinery, weapons, equipment, soldiers and to stage the scenes for some of the works. And somehow I would need to pay for my living expenses, travel and the collecting of all of this information in the meantime. These works would also take between 1.5 and 2 years to complete and I would need money to live on while they were being made. I would love to presell them to collectors, with the idea that they would be shown in at least 4-6 major museums in a traveling exhibition and finally be donated to a war memorial museum where they would be on permanent display.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Sunset over the Pacific, Oil on panel. 20 x 30 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) Sunset over the Pacific, Oil on panel. 20 x 30 in.

> The best part of being an artist is living a life of passion and inspiration. The decisions I make are governed by this passion and inspiration. It is my job to see, appreciate and depict beauty. The worst part of being an artist is trying to compromise the two opposing forces of monetary needs and the artistic priorities that must govern great art. I think it is a struggle as old art. Painting for money rarely yields great art and painting without it is impossible.

> Artists who inspire me are Ivan Shishkin, Ilya Repin, Isaac Levitan, Emile Friant, Jean-Leon Gerome, Ernest Meissonier, Jules Bastien-Lepage, William Bouguereau, Edward Compton, Peder Monsted, John Waterhouse, Frank Bramley, Peder Kroyer, Albert Edelfelt, Arthur Streeton, Frederic Church, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, John Sargent, Edwin Abbey, Giacomo Favretto, Francesco Lojacono, Antonio Mancini, Dean Cornwell, Harvey Dunn, Norman Rockwell and many others.

> I think successive generations are bound to view art through their own lenses, and it's impossible to guess what those lenses will eventually be. But my hope is that over the next 100 years, the frivolous and pedantic shallowness of our culture will somehow subside and there will be a renewal of appreciation in real human achievement. My hope is that people will learn to spend their ever increasing free time on more mindful pursuits, and thereby come to a greater awareness of truth and beauty. And if this were to happen, I would hope that art like mine would be seen as part of the movement that helped reawaken these depths of thought and contemplation towards beauty.

 Ryan Brown (b. 1977) The Lord's Prayer, Oil on canvas. 32 x 24 in.

Ryan Brown (b. 1977) The Lord's Prayer, Oil on canvas. 32 x 24 in.

Ryan S. Brown, b. 1977


An Interview with Justin Wheatley

  Justin Wheatley's characteristic style has allowed him to beautifully bridge the gap between the simplicities of everyday life and the complexity of gospel truth. His paintings inspire while provoking deep reflection on one's role in the world around them. After studying painting at Utah State, Justin has traveled the world looking for inspiration and now finds it teaching high school art and living among a tightly knit community of LDS artists in Salt Lake City. 

Justin Wheatley's characteristic style has allowed him to beautifully bridge the gap between the simplicities of everyday life and the complexity of gospel truth. His paintings inspire while provoking deep reflection on one's role in the world around them. After studying painting at Utah State, Justin has traveled the world looking for inspiration and now finds it teaching high school art and living among a tightly knit community of LDS artists in Salt Lake City. 

I've wanted to be an artist since second grade. My mom has always encouraged me to explore and create. I had an incredible teacher, Mrs. Green, who would let me and a friend go to the back of the room and draw when we finished our work. 

 Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) A Beacon in the Waves, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) A Beacon in the Waves, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>One of my biggest artistic influences happened when I was studying abroad in Germany and I came across a painting by Lyonel Feininger that stopped me in my tracks. Ever since he has been a favorite. He had an ability to divide natural space with geometric lines and shapes that really affected the way I look at things. I admire the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Bradford, Lyonel Fieninger, Paul Klee, and Robert Smithson. After that I studied painting at Utah State University under Chris Terry and Jane Catlin.

>I mostly use acrylic paint. It works well with building up layers of color. I also love to do mixed media pieces, using photography, collage and acrylic. The oil paints, which I also love, come out when I paint people. Recently, I've been doing a series of paintings about my relationship with the Great Salt Lake. I grew up by it and it has always been a special place in a fun and spiritual way.

 Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) Firm Foundation, 2015, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) Firm Foundation, 2015, Acrylic on Panel

>I'm very interested in the idea of testimony. How does a testimony develop, how is it maintained, how is it sometimes lost, etc. I'm also interested in the importance of home. "Firm Foundation" is a combination of the two. I started doing sketches of homes that were relating to each other as if they were people. In one of the sketches, I drew a few homes stacked on top of each other, tipping to and fro while the house on the bottom stood firm. The sketch stuck with me and I decided to take it a step further and paint it. I built a bunch of paper houses, about an inch and a half tall each and little supports so I could glue them on top of each other. Once I had a stack, I took photographs of the houses from different angles and under different light. From the photographs, I did a large scale drawing on a panel and painted it. I love the meaning(s) that this painting carries. For me, it was representative of relying on someone with a firm testimony while learning to balance your life in order to gain one of your own. I heard other people mention that you can only rely on someone else for so long before you tumble off the foundation. One person said that it is important to provide the strength for your family until they are ready.

 Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Prodigal, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Prodigal, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>I teach high school art, so a good part of the day is spent with students. When school is over, I spend a few hours painting. Being with students all day is a great way to get me in the zone for painting and I never have problems using that time wisely. During the summer I rent a studio. I try to get some exercise and time in with my girls before heading out to paint. It's a day full of sports radio, NPR, and painting until 4:00 or 5:00. 

>Some of the best advice I could give is to find other artists that you can get together with on a regular basis. I do a monthly critique with friends from college and it has produced an incredible amount of valuable input and opportunities. We are going on ten years and there's no sign it will stop. It's too valuable to all of us. 

>My ideal viewer is someone who will take the time to consider the purpose of the story being told without being concerned about what it means to me. I'm happy to explain what I was thinking, but if someone can draw their own personal meaning, then it's a success. Ideally, they would tell me what they think rather than ask me a question. Having said that, I'm happy to answer any questions someone might have.

 Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Man and the Horizon, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Man and the Horizon, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>I've come up with this theory about the "curse of an artist." Creating things and exploring new ideas is not something that an artist can escape. There are few moments without thinking about the next project. I guess the worst part could be the best part too. But. if there is a single person that finds some sort of solace or understanding in one of my works after I am gone, I'll be perfectly content with what I did while I was here.


Instagram: @justinwheatleyart


An Interview Paige Crosland Anderson

  The descendant of pioneer artist George M. Ottinger, from a young age Paige Crosland Anderson knew she wanted to be involved in the arts. After getting her BFA from Brigham Young University, she started honing her unique style. Anderson's abstract paintings — many inspired by patterns in hand-made quilts — provide a different perspective on the seemingly mundane gospel of our everyday lives

The descendant of pioneer artist George M. Ottinger, from a young age Paige Crosland Anderson knew she wanted to be involved in the arts. After getting her BFA from Brigham Young University, she started honing her unique style. Anderson's abstract paintings — many inspired by patterns in hand-made quilts — provide a different perspective on the seemingly mundane gospel of our everyday lives

>I have always loved painting and drawing. When I was in the 6th grade my aunt bought me oil paints and "commissioned" my first-ever oil painting. My grandpa loaned me an easel that was used in the Brigham Young Academy before the art program was moved to BYU and I set to work in his carport that summer. It was my first taste of being an artist and I lived it. There were times when some seemingly more practical voices said, "An artist? You can't make money being an artist. What about architecture or industrial design?" But I've always loved to paint, and practicality couldn't pull me away from that.

>My grandfather was an actor and taught theater. It was him to showed me that pursuing a career in the arts was viable and fulfilling. He eventually gifted me the easel I first painted on in the 6th grade and it's the one I still use today in my studio. He always believed in me and loved looking at and critiquing my work. I have countless memories of hauling those flimsy paper portfolios up the stairs in his split-level home and spreading out a display in his living room. With a careful eye he'd comment on composition, or color or the feelings the work provoked. Those experiences formed in me an understanding that what artists contribute is something deep, valuable, and necessary.

 Paige Crosland Anderson. Not Cast Off (2014) Oil on panel. 36 x 36 in.

Paige Crosland Anderson. Not Cast Off (2014) Oil on panel. 36 x 36 in.

>I remember first learning about Agnes Martin in college. It was right around the time I was trying to nail down exactly what I wanted my thesis show to look like. I was struck by the power of repetition and simple forms. It was something that has obviously stayed with me. Another artist I love, Ann Hamilton, works in installation, but her themes and uses of pattern and repetition again spoke to me. I love Paul Klee, Henry Matisse, Rothko, Helene Frankenthaller, and Gustav Klimt.

>My paintings serve as a meditation on how the seemingly mundane and quotidian routines of life eventually stack up to create richness and meaning. Maybe it's being in the throes of early motherhood, but right now the lessons steeped in long-term perspective seem like ones that I can't get enough of these days.

 Paige Crosland Anderson. The Sum of Our Ceremonies (2015) Oil on panel. 48 x 56 in.

Paige Crosland Anderson. The Sum of Our Ceremonies (2015) Oil on panel. 48 x 56 in.

>My paintings are made up of many layers (in some places 5 or 6 layers of color). I used to work solely in oil paints, but after complaining about how slow my process is, a friend suggested doing some of the first layers in acrylics. Now I paint the first 3 or 4 layers in acrylic and the last few in oil. I still have a deep love of oil paint, but with limited time to paint each day, pragmatism is winning in the studio lately. I paint primarily on cradled birch panels. I use a power sander to created the texture and depth in my work and the canvas often doesn't hold up as well.

>My process begins by getting out my rulers and drawing out the pattern. Then I’ll paint the pattern in full, let that dry, and paint it again in different colors. I generally do this until it is about 3-4 layers deep in most places–depends on the painting–and use a power sander to break down through the layers and expose the various marks and colors beneath. After I’ll go back to the easel and paint in shapes that don’t aid in the composition or don’t have particularly interesting colors or textures. I alternate between painting and sanding until I’m happy with the composition and colors. I loved printmaking as a student because of the thrill of not knowing exactly what was going to come out the other side of the press (maybe this is just because I was an unpracticed printmaker), but I like to think that sanding gives me that same sense of anticipation as I wait to see what I uncover.

>The whole process start to finish is very meditative. It’s rhythmic and methodical. I enjoy this part of the process and also think it lends to the meaning behind my work—that we are building on what was given to us, that the mistakes can turn out to be beautiful, that by doing the same small acts day in and day out we create meaning and vibrancy, even though while we’re in the middle of the dredges it might not seem that way.

 Paige Crosland Anderson. Good Tension to Grow (2014) Oil on panel. 36 x 36 in.

Paige Crosland Anderson. Good Tension to Grow (2014) Oil on panel. 36 x 36 in.

>On my best days I try to get up and put in an hour or so in the studio before my kids (ages 5 and 2) wake up. We do breakfast, getting ready, playing, cleaning up, usually a morning outing or an errand and then I drop my 5 year old at pre-school at noon. This is when the clock starts for me. I race home, put my 2 year-old down for a nap and set to work in the studio. I can work for a solid 2.5 hours without interruption. Then it's back to school for pick-up and a few times a week the park or a museum after. I'll often try to put in some pieced together minutes after school and before dinner when my girls are in the studio with me. When it works and we're all creating together (and they're engaged enough to not need my close attention) in the studio I truly feel like I'm living the dream. Those times are magic. Dinner is between 6 and 7, bedtime around 8 and then my husband and I spend time together. If I have a big show or deadline coming up, I work after the kids are asleep as well. On a normal day, I try to get 3-4 hours of studio time in, but many days aren't normal. I try to approach the frustrations of not getting in the time I wish I could and feeling out-paced by many artists who don't try and stay home with their kids while pursing their career with humor and optimism (and a lot of that long-term perspective I mentioned earlier)

>The best advice I received was don't be afraid of work. Work makes you better. Work produces ideas. Work begets more and better and more consistent work. When I fall out of the groove of putting in my time every day, it's so much harder to get back in there and paint.

>One of my favorite responses to my work is how many older viewers can instantly pick-up and name the quilt patterns and see my paintings as their origins. Many of the younger viewers are much more interested in the colors or the patterns on their own and not in where the pattern originated. Either way, I'm often surprised and the variety of admirers I feel lucky to have. I think the quilt reference lends to a cozy feel, and makes them great pieces to come back to again and again. I also think works that you spend a lot of time with in your home are appreciated in their intricacies much more. You notice strokes and colors and nuances that aren't available to casual observers at a gallery or some other place where they are inundated with a thousand beautiful things asking to internalized.

 Paige Crosland Anderson. Looking Up She Blessed (2015) Oil on panel. 30 x 30 in.

Paige Crosland Anderson. Looking Up She Blessed (2015) Oil on panel. 30 x 30 in.

>I'm currently working on a group show opening at the Rio Gallery in Salt Lake in July. The show is an exploration of visual vocabulary. We will try and demonstrate visual vocabulary in an effort to communicate in a language that is felt long before a verbal assessment can be made. The viewer has the opportunity to listen to this visual voice and hopefully recognize in themselves the ability to understand without the aid words. I also have a show in December at Meyer Gallery in Park City that I am beginning to jot down ideas for.

>As far as painters go, I have always admired my 3rd-great grandfather George M. Ottinger. He was an early convert to the church and crossed the plains with the pioneers recording their journey in paint as he went. I love the colors in his skies and landscapes. Once in Utah, he founded the first art academy here, which eventually became the art program at the University of Utah. The Springville Museum of Art and the Church History Museum own most of his works. (He was also the first Fire Chief, which is just a cool side note!) I like to think that the small ways I'm contributing to the arts in Salt Lake City would make him proud.

>I want it to be an example of accessible abstraction. I hope people can still walk up and have an experience that is meaningful while looking at it.

Instagram: @paigecanderson




An Interview with Casey Childs

  Casey Childs (b. 1974)  Self Portrait  (2014) Oil. 

Casey Childs (b. 1974) Self Portrait (2014) Oil. 

...the idea at the top of my head right now is to paint the scene when Joseph Smith is leaving the field after being visited by Moroni...

>I was born and raised in Northern Wyoming. I grew up in a small town near the Montana border name Lovell, WY. I was always known as the "artist" to all my friends and classmates growing up, but it wasn't until college that I knew I wanted to be a painter. My family was a big part of my development as an artist. My parents were very supportive and my older brothers really like to draw. Looking back, it became sort of a competition to see if I could draw as well as them.

  Casey Childs (b.1974)  Greater Love Hath No Man  (2010-14) Oil. 60 x 96 in. Church History Museum, Salt Lake City

Casey Childs (b.1974) Greater Love Hath No Man (2010-14) Oil. 60 x 96 in. Church History Museum, Salt Lake City

>Probably my biggest influence was my art professor in college, John Giarrizzo, he inspired me to study figurative painting. Without his influence I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I studied at Northwest College in Wyoming, then finished my bachelors degree at BYU. I apprenticed with William Whitaker for two years. Since then, I've studied the works of old masters, as well as my peers, to develop my skills as an artist.

  Casey Childs (b. 1974)  Head of John Taylor, Study for Greater Love Hath No Man  (c. 2010)

Casey Childs (b. 1974) Head of John Taylor, Study for Greater Love Hath No Man (c. 2010)

>The list of artists that influence me seems to grow, but one of my earliest influences is Caravaggio. The way he designed a painting with light is magical. And John Singer Sargent is another. His bold, confident, yet controlled brushwork is inspiring.

>I've always been interested in painting people. So, that hasn't changed.

>My ability and craft has improved immensely. I was no prodigy.

>I mainly work in charcoal and oils. I've always maintained the idea that if I use the very best materials, not only will it make my job easier but the end result will be even better. I use the best brushes and handmade paints, as well as the highest quality linen and papers.


  Casey Childs (b. 1974)  Ivan  (2015) Charcoal on paper. 13 x 9 1/2 in.

Casey Childs (b. 1974) Ivan (2015) Charcoal on paper. 13 x 9 1/2 in.

>My work develops very organically. Sometimes a painting will start with a simple concept and develop into something completely different than that initial idea. And other times I'll follow that idea all the way to completion. It's all based on developing a strong composition. I start with sketches and studies to work out the idea and composition. Then bring in models to get photographic reference to develop the idea further. Sometimes I'll do a quick color study for color harmonies then on to painting the final canvas. Beginning is always the easiest because I'm so excited to get the idea on canvas. The finish is the hardest because that initial excitement has worn off and now is the struggle to solve all the problems I've come across as I've developed the work and staying motivated to see it through. (Go here to see a video on Casey Childs' process for painting Greater Love Hath No Man, above.)

>I work under natural northern daylight so I try to take advantage of when I have light. I'm in the studio by 9am, break briefly for lunch, then work until I run out of light. Sometimes I will work on drawings or clerical work at night, but usually that time after dark is spent with family. Scale is definitely something I've learned to consider which I never thought about early on in my career. The size of the work can be a factor whether is sells or not. Price is always associated with scale as well as the amount of wall space a collector has.

  Casey Childs (b. 1974)  Sanguine  (2015) Oil on linen. 18 x 14 in.

Casey Childs (b. 1974) Sanguine (2015) Oil on linen. 18 x 14 in.

>My advice to young artists is there's no secret. Just hard work. Just like anything you want to do well, it requires many, many hours of practice. A lot of amateurs will take workshops and classes to learn the quick secret to great painting only to realize that the instructor's secret is no secret at all but many years of developing their skill. Its tough to say who my typical viewer is. I guess its anyone who truly understands the craft of painting. Ideally, I'd be honored to see my work hanging among the work of artists I admire. Although making a living as an artist is always difficult, to be able to create something meaningful that has the ability to inspire others is the best part about being an artist.

>I have a few ideas for church history paintings I'd like to create... the idea at the top of my head right now is to paint the scene when Joseph Smith is leaving the field after being visited by Moroni the night before and falls to the ground out of exhaustion when climbing the fence and is visited by Moroni once again. I don't think that scene has been portrayed well or accurately.

>Who are the artists you most admire, dead or alive? Oh there's so many. Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Waterhouse, John Singer Sargent, Thayer, Sorolla, Zorn

>A hundred years from now, how do you want your art to be remembered? That it's painted well enough that people still want to look at it.


Instagram: @caseychildsart


An Interview with Mary Sauer

  After receiving her BFA and MFA, Mary Sauer trained at the prestigious Grand Central Academy of New York and, then, worked with the celebrated contemporary artist Jeff Koons. Her ambitious multi-figural paintings reflect a rare combination of traditional and contemporary arsenal of painterly skills.

After receiving her BFA and MFA, Mary Sauer trained at the prestigious Grand Central Academy of New York and, then, worked with the celebrated contemporary artist Jeff Koons. Her ambitious multi-figural paintings reflect a rare combination of traditional and contemporary arsenal of painterly skills.

>I grew up in Hanson, Kentucky, about 150 miles southwest of Louisville. I knew I wanted to be an artist from a young age. I grew up on the outskirts of a small, rural town and only had brothers who liked to play too rough for me, so I spent most of my free time drawing. When I was in kindergarten I got tattled on in class for drawing a picture of Minnie Mouse rather than working on the assignment. In 3rd grade I won a county wide art competition. After that, other kids at my school started paying me their lunch money to draw pictures of them. It made me feel good to see how happy my art made other people. My teachers would tell my that I had an unusually long attention span for my age, and to this day I can still go 16 hours or more on a painting if I’m in a good groove.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986)  Release  (2015) Oil on canvas. 90 x 60 in.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Release (2015) Oil on canvas. 90 x 60 in.

>When I started my art education I was in the Studio Painting program and quickly realized that there was not an emphasis on traditional skills or the figure. It was more about what you feel and how to express yourself. I was surprised to discover that the more commercial based art majors like animation and illustration considered it much more necessary to develop traditional figure drawing skills. So I transferred to illustration, which was not what I wanted to do as a career, but gave me the most exposure to narrative figure painting. In the university setting I never found the kind of training that fully gave me the skill set to allow me to do the kind of work that I’m doing now, but it did give me a solid, skill-based foundation. 

>BILL WHITAKER was such a big help and he pointed me towards the schools in New York that have helped me fine-tune a lot of things. I started studying privately with Bill at a time when I was really starting to fall in love with drawing and painting the figure. One of my professors at BYU recognized that I had potential with this kind of art, but that I needed more intensive study than was possible at the university. So one Saturday he took me to Bill’s studio and introduced us. Bill took me in like I was a member of his own family and gently nurtured my abilities. He was never harsh or overcritical, but always encouraged me even when I doubted myself. Knowing that an artist of his caliber believed in my potential was an enormous boost to my confidence. Bill was the one who first assigned me to do a Bargue copy drawing. It took me about three months to finish it. I had never worked on anything even close to this detailed. It was a paradigm shift for me. It showed me what it really meant to be sensitive in drawing. He also allowed me to just sit and watch him work. He would explain in detail what he was doing as he painted. The things he taught me about edge quality and expression through paint have been invaluable. The sacrifices made by him and others to keep the traditions of the old masters alive in the next generation of artists can not be emphasized enough.

>I had always been very inspired by the work of painters like John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Abbott Thayer, but at the Pennsylvania Museum of Fine Arts I saw the work of CECILIA BEAUX for the first time. There was a painting on display named, “A Little Girl” that really struck me. I really enjoyed her work and was concerned that I’d never heard of her before, though I had studied about her contemporaries; perhaps this was because she was a woman. The show included multiple portraits and even her painter’s palette, which made her come even more alive to me. I thought the dream of being a painter seemed to be somehow more real and attainable after seeing her work. Something inside me changed after that day.

 Cecilia Beaux (American, 1855-1942)  The Little Girl  (1887) Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 in. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Cecilia Beaux (American, 1855-1942) The Little Girl (1887) Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 in. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

>I have a BFA in Illustration from BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY where I studied with figurative artist ROBERT T. BARRETT. During my last few years in Utah I was fortunate enough to apprentice with master painter William Whitaker at his amazing studio at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. After college I moved to New York City and studied part time at THE ART STUDENTS LEAGUE OF NEW YORK and THE GRAND CENTRAL ACADEMY OF NEW YORK where I was able to more intensely study the figure from life. 

>During that time I also spent 3 years working in the Chelsea studio of contemporary artist JEFF KOONS. At Jeff’s studio I learned a lot more about color mixing and painting in the hyper-photorealistic style. Because of my job with Jeff Koons, I was able to be "in the know" about everything that was going on in the New York art scene a lot better than I would have had I not worked there and so I was constantly going to museums and gallery openings and I credit this with contributing almost as much to my education as actually attending classes. 

>I then moved back to Utah and earned a MASTERS OF FINE ARTS in Painting and Drawing from the UNIVERSITY OF UTAH. I continue to attend conferences and workshops as much as I can. I never want to stop learning and growing.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986)  About My Father's Business  (2016) Oil on canvas. 60 x 40 in.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) About My Father's Business (2016) Oil on canvas. 60 x 40 in.

>Deepening my understanding of the basic principles of value, color and light has helped to strengthen my confidence in mark-making, enabling me to make bolder decisions regarding brushstroke. It's also helped me to "play" with my decisions in breaking or sustaining rules in my work, sometimes using theories of how I understand things to push them further than what I actually observe. I am constantly using my art to question the world and find answers to situations I find myself or others in.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Color study for  About My Father's Business  (2015) Oil on canvas.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Color study for About My Father's Business (2015) Oil on canvas.

>I have a bit of a paint brush fetish. I love them all—bristle, filbert, round, synthetic, sable…currently I am obsessed with the Rosemary brushes, especially the size 2 ivory egbert synthetic brush. It’s long handle and super long bristles make the paint feel like its glides across the canvas, but keeps a spring that won’t feel mushy like you would expect from a softer bristle. They are made in England by Rosemary herself. If you ever get a chance to meet her she is a sweetheart with a terrific accent. I also love Windsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sables size 1 for small details and large filbert bristle brushes from Trekell for my block-ins. I am also a big fan of the William Whitaker series from Trekell. He did a great job designing the length of the handle. I like trying brushes from all over the world: Escoda sables from Spain, DaVinci synthetics from Germany, and the French Manet’s are all excellent. I love to find really beautiful vases and ceramic pots to put them in.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986)  Goals  (2011) Oil on canvas. 40 x 30 in.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Goals (2011) Oil on canvas. 40 x 30 in.

When I painted for JEFF KOONS I finally learned what real quality paint was all about. My favorite paints are from Vasari. I also use Windsor and Newton Titanium White, Holbein Alizarin Crimson, Old Holland, and Mussoni paints. Holbein Vernet Superior Artists’ Oil Colors really pack a punch in the pigment department. One drop of Cadmium orange will last me on my palette for an entire week! Rublev Natural Pigments makes a really excellent medium called Oleogel, which I use along with pure linseed oil and Gamsol. I also like their walnut oil based Lead White No. 2 because walnut oil dries more slowly than linseed oil and gives me more time to work. It has a beautiful ropey quality. My daily palate is Titanium white, Naples yellow light, yellow ocher, lemon yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, alizarin Crimson, sap green, cadmium green, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, dioxizine purple, cobalt violet light, burnt sienna, raw umber, ivory black. I've got a ton of other colors that I throw in depending on the situation, but that is my everyday pallet.

>For a major painting I usually begin with a stream of conscious exercise and contemplation and then translate that into a visual map to organize related ideas. Once a concept is narrowed down I'll research about the topic through journal articles, TED Talks, documentaries, podcasts, blogs, and anything else that I can find on the topic. I will then sketch compositional idea thumbnails and then finally do a photo shoot. I then go back to my studio and take all of the raw photo data and compile digital compositions. My final painting reference is never just one photo. In fact it might be a composite of a dozen or more. I then might do several sketches of the composition and then I like to do a small color study to help me work out the basic pallet and edge manipulations. If this is successful then I feel comfortable proceeding to a larger scale version. Sometimes I will take several days to do a detailed drawn version of the composition in graphite to develop a very specific value scale. Painting is a series of problems to be solved. I am constantly trying to decide the best way to interpret the visual information that I see in my reference or live model through my paint. The long process that takes place before I ever lay down the first brushstroke on my large canvas actually makes the painting process go much faster since I have already accurately pre-solved many issues by determining my value relationships and color pallet before I begin.

>My daily routine is very different than it was a year ago because I now have a 9 month old daughter which means that I don't have a set routine at the moment. I try to fit in as much painting as possible, while still enjoying my baby. Some days that might be 8 hours if the nanny is watching her, or sometimes not very much at all. I am also learning to be okay with this.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986)  Comparison Diptych  (2015) Oil on canvas. Two canvases. 30 x 40 in. each.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Comparison Diptych (2015) Oil on canvas. Two canvases. 30 x 40 in. each.

>My advice to young artists? Figure out what kind of art you want to make and learn everything you can about it preferably from those who are best at it. It takes a lot longer to develop skill than to think up a concept. While a great concept is important, it can lose its power when poorly executed. So focus most of your energy on increasing your technical ability in your chosen kind of art and then you will be able to communicate your message with greater force.

>Specifically for figurative artists: Even if you think that you are good at figure drawing, you can always be better, so do it as much, and as often as you can. The best artists I know are constantly honing their drawing skills to stay sharp. Drawing is where we learn to be accurate both in proportion and value. If you don’t have a good handle on these two things, then throwing color into the mix will only magnify deficiencies in those areas. I see too many artists wanting to jump right into painting with oils before they have ironed out major problems in their drawing. Take the time to learn to draw really well. You will be amazed at what it will do for all areas of your art. 

>I was fortunate enough to be asked to create a portrait of the first apostle called in the new dispensation, Lyman Johnson, to hang in the portrait hall in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. I love that I can go visit it any time and that it is in a place where it can be shared with the large number of people who visit the building every single day and hopefully it helps to inspire them.

 Mary Sauer (b. 1986)  Woman at the Well  (2014) Oil on canvas. 36 x 48 in.

Mary Sauer (b. 1986) Woman at the Well (2014) Oil on canvas. 36 x 48 in.

>I want to make larger pieces that include larger numbers of people. That is when making paintings gets really cost prohibitive. You need the space to make the work, the money to hire all of the models and furnish the sets, and at least the hope that somebody will purchase it so that the massive time investment wasn't in vain. An example would be a life-sized painting of Christ setting apart the Twelve Apostles. There would be at least 13 models and costumes, and a set. The size would be substantial, but it would be a very exciting piece.

>I want to be remembered as someone who made major steps in making 19th century academic painting techniques relevant again in a post modern art world.


Instagram: @marysauerart