How did you get started with painting?
I began my art career with an introduction to drawing in high school and was asked by a number of teachers and faculty to draw their children and grandchildren for pay—this is when I realized I could have a job as an artist. I studied art through both the studio arts and illustration majors at BYU and graduated with a BFA in illustration, which opened up a number of unique opportunities for me—an apprenticeship with William Whitaker and also an internship with Burton Silverman in NYC.
Tell us about painting My Cup Runneth Over.
I contacted Richard Oman of the Temple Art Committee to discuss painting for the temple at some point in my career, and on our phone call he asked me to submit a painting for the Ogden Temple in a couple of months. So I went to Ogden, drove around and photographed the area, and felt like I needed to focus on the river up the canyon. For a month I worked on the large 40×56″ panel, trying to express the mood and feeling of Ogden to best represent the area. As I was painting, I felt the Spirit very strongly and knew it was about the constantly flowing water rushing forward and overflowing. For me, this painting represents the outpouring of blessings, guidance, and strength that the Lord continually pours out upon us. It is so easy to get bogged down or feel forgotten, but regardless of our current state of mind, the Lord is still pouring out blessings of comfort, peace, strength, prosperity, wisdom, and others.
The committee rejected the painting and I felt extremely frustrated and hopeless for about two full days until I realized that the Lord was still sending down blessings and guidance. I emerged from my frustration knowing I no longer wanted to be an artist that sells work; I wanted to be the best artist I could be. I changed my entire view of my career and began working harder to be better. I began painting from life regularly, plein air painting every week and strengthening every weak point in my work, and I have been amazed by the difference I have seen.
How has motherhood influenced your landscape paintings?
I believe that I have two callings in life—being a mom and being a landscape painter—so inevitably the two intersect. I initially tried keeping them separate but found I was blocked inspirationally and also struggled with my identity as a mother. Once I followed wise advice I received from a number of artists, including Sherrie McGraw, Jeff Hein, and Mindy Gledhill, to be authentic in my work and embrace my limitations as strengths, my work began to flow together more seamlessly and I now see motherhood more clearly in everything I do. Mother Nature is the greatest mother of all and exemplifies how we can better fill our role as mothers ourselves. She protects, feeds, nourishes, listens to, and teaches. She never sleeps and is aware of all needs. As a landscape painter, I am excited about the similarities between Mother Nature and myself and I am continually commenting on those similarities with my art.
My kids are still young and it is challenging to make time for my career as an artist, but it has been worth the challenge. I feel more fulfilled and more qualified to be a mom because I am an artist, and more fulfilled and more qualified to be an artist because I am a mom. I am teaching my children to follow their dreams and to go after what they want and to work hard. I’m also teaching them about sacrifice and patience.
What is Creative Collaborative, how did it get started, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
Creative Collaborative is a community of artists who get together once a month to discuss living a successful creative lifestyle. We are in Provo and we meet at Coleman Studios on the second Tuesday of every month. It’s free to attend and always inspiring. We hear from every creative discipline and in the past we have heard from Mindy Gledhill, C. Jane Kendrick, Brian Kershisnik, J. Kirk and Amy Richards, Branden Campbell from the Neon Trees, Shep Wolsey, Justin Hackworth, Caitlin and Robbie Connolly, and a number of others.
It was begun by Melanie Burk in May 2010 and founded on the idea that collaboration improves communities and enhances work. When she moved to Las Vegas in 2011, she asked me to take over organizing the group, and I’ve been promoting and organizing it ever since. I hope to be able to motivate other artists to go after their dreams because I have found so much personal fulfillment in living a creative lifestyle myself.
Who are your artistic influences?
I am influenced in different ways by a number of artists, including Burt Silverman, Sherrie McGraw, Jeff Hein, Bill Whitaker, Henry Yan, Carl Bloch, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Odd Nerdrum, Robert Marshall, Brian Kershisnik, and Santiago Michalek, to name a few. Their influence has changed the way I look at art, the way I create art, and the commentary I’m making on the world I see, but doesn’t necessarily mean I paint like them. These are all artists I respect and admire and who have influenced me at one point in my career.
Can you talk about how painting helps you feel renewed and refreshed?
Painting is a spiritual thing for me. I listen to general conference the entire time I am painting and I find my best paintings come to life when I am spiritually inspired and uplifted. I have a hard time painting without the influence of the Spirit, so painting is extremely renewing for me as I spend three to five hours daily immersed in the words of the prophets and apostles, thinking about how I can be a better person and artist. Painting is something I never get tired of and always have to pull myself away from when I need to take care of my kids and family. It doesn’t exhaust me or drain me; it is so nourishing and fulfilling to spend time creating. I think that’s because Heavenly Father is the greatest creator of all and as we spend time creating, we become more like him.
Tell us about your apprenticeship with William Whitaker.
I studied illustration at BYU to gain a better foundation of drawing skills, but knew I wanted to be a fine artist, so I approached Bill with a portfolio one day, asking him if I could spend time working in his studio, learning from him directly. Daily I drew copy drawings from photographs or Charles Bargue copies and truly learned how to see and how to draw more accurately. He taught me sight-sized methods of drawing and also instilled in me an appreciation for natural light and creating a sacred space in your studio. He helped me to discover that being an artist was a lifetime pursuit and was not something you simply spent time doing like a full-time job. Throughout the year of working with him, I drew, painted, learned to see color and also to draw from a live model. Working in Bill’s studio had a significant impact on my art and built the essential foundation that all of my subsequent work has been founded upon. I consider my time working with him as invaluable to my career.
How does the gospel influence your art?
The gospel is at the center of my life, so it influences everything in my life, including my art. It influences my parenting, my abilities and choices as a wife, my efforts in every relationship: daughter, sister, and friend. I strive to place my devotion to the Savior Jesus Christ and to his gospel at the heart of everything I do, so I would hope it influences every decision I make.
I have found it crucial that I feel the Spirit in my home and in my life to be able to paint. That doesn’t mean I always feel inspired about what to paint or how to paint it. Some days I have to force myself to paint and to just get started, but I always find that if I have the Spirit guiding me in my life, he will also guide my art, and I have been directed towards people to work with, skills I need to work on, and ways to develop those skills. I am humbled by how perfectly the Lord knows my needs and is propelling me forward as an artist. He has guided my career from the beginning and I know he will continue to encourage me in the direction I am to go.
For you, what role does making art play in being a disciple of Christ?
I feel very strongly that Heavenly Father wants me to be an artist. I initially fought the prompting, knowing it would be extremely difficult and also because it didn’t seem like something the Lord really cared about. I have since come to terms with this and will openly declare that I am an artist because the Lord has a plan for me as an artist. He wants me to succeed. I further believe wholeheartedly that because of this, he will guide, encourage, bless, and strengthen me on this path. I testify that he has.
I believe that God is pleased when we work hard to become experts in our chosen paths, and that as we strive to improve, we will have an increased capacity to bless the lives of those around us, and to declare his gospel. So as I become the best artist I can be, I gain the Lord’s trust and direction in knowing how I can use that talent to bless the lives of others.
I believe that the Lord needs disciples in every field of study, artists included. He needs people who will stand up and be heard, whether that is through art or politics or medicine. As an artist and a disciple, I can use my work to bear testimony of his creations and of his guiding influence in my life. ❧