Mormon Artist

Howard Lyon

Howard Lyon was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. He is the youngest of five children. Howard had very supportive parents who, even when he was very young, made sure he had the materials and education to hone his talents. While attending high school, Howard met his wife, Shari Lunt. After they graduated, Howard served a mission and then they married and went to BYU and started their family. He began his career studying illustration at Brigham Young University working with artists such as Robert Barrett, Don Seegmiller, James Christensen, and Greg Olsen. Over the past twenty years he has worked in the video game industry as an art director, concept artist, and freelance illustrator. For much of his career he has painted dragons and trolls or scenes from science fiction. His work can be found in products from Dungeons and Dragons books, World of Warcraft cards, Magic: the Gathering and Star Wars. He has studied art in Italy, France, and most recently at the Grand Central Academy in New York. He has recently combined these experiences to switch gears and expand his subject matter to create inspirational pieces in the style of some of his favorite old masters: William Bouguereau, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and John William Waterhouse. Website
Photo courtesy Howard Lyon

You have stated that your parents always provided you with the education and materials to become an artist. When did you start showing interest in this field?

When I was twelve. I told my parents that I wanted to be an artist and they always kept me supplied with paper and pencil and enrolled me in some classes.

What made you consider painting and illustrating as a possible career?

I was drawn in by the great illustrations in the books I read and the games I played. Reading old copies of stories with illustrations by Arthur Rackham and N. C. Wyeth really fed me. They still do!

Which artists have influenced your work throughout the years?

  • William Bouguereau
  • John William Waterhouse
  • Carl Bloch
  • Caravaggio
  • Raphael
  • Arnold Friberg
  • N. C. Wyeth
  • Arthur Rackham
Light of the World. Image courtesy Howard Lyon
Angel of Flight Alabaster. Image courtesy Howard Lyon

You have worked for several years as an artist producing fantasy worlds and characters. What did you enjoy most about this experience?

The opportunity to really dive into my imagination. Some of the commissions had total creative freedom, designing characters or creatures that have never been visualized before. Very rewarding and challenging.

More recently, though, you have been painting gospel-related scenes. What caused this shift in focus?

It was something that I always wanted to do. Many of the artists that I have admired from my youth did great religious work. My faith is a large part of my life, so it makes sense to express some of that through my artwork.

From Fear to Faith. Image courtesy Howard Lyon
Photo courtesy Howard Lyon

Will you share your thoughts about your painting From Fear to Faith?

It was an important piece, very personal in some ways.

The disciple on the left-hand side of the boat is bailing out water. He is focused on the storm in the distance. He sits in darkness and can’t see Christ. He is so busy working to save himself that he doesn’t notice the Savior or turn to him. His actions are dictated by fear.

The next two disciples are gathering in the rigging and trying to right the mast. One pulls ropes in from the water and the other leans back, both still trusting in their own strength, not wanting to let go and approach Christ.

The disciple behind the mast has just let go of the cross bar. He has done everything he can, and is now turning towards Christ. Faith is guiding his actions now.

The next three disciples sit in the boat, turned towards Christ. They have the faith to do this but haven’t approached him yet. A little hesitant, but for the most part, their faith has pushed their fears away. The two that sit together, one with his arm around the other, represent the idea that sometimes we need put our arm around our brother, or know that it is okay to lean on another for a time.

The last disciple, Peter, is at the front of the boat. He had the faith, in the middle of the trial, to kneel at Christ’s feet and ask to be saved. At that point, he heard and felt the great words, “Peace, be still.” In the middle of the trial, his faith was whole and knew that he could turn to Christ for salvation.

How does the gospel influence your work?

The most direct way is in that I portray scenes from the scriptures. I hope that who I am, which is very much shaped by the gospel, comes out in my work, whatever it might be. I try to create art that uplifts, either through beauty or the message being shared.

A Thread of Faith. Image courtesy Howard Lyon
The Herald Angels. Image courtesy Howard Lyon

How do you prepare spiritually to work on these pieces?

I spend a lot of time before I start a painting pondering over the message of the piece. Sometimes that involves research and study. Hopefully it invites inspiration into my process.

When or how do you usually receive inspiration for your next painting?

We (my wife and I) keep a running list of all the ideas we have. We add to it as they come up. When it is time to start a new piece, I go to my list and ponder over the subjects. Some ideas that I thought were great when I put them on the list, get culled out. Over time, I feel that I end up with a strong, though short, list of ideas. Sometimes the ideas come during study, but often they come while doing everyday things or observing people, or hearing about their experiences.

What are you currently working on?

I am wrapping up another painting of Christ as the Good Shepherd, as well as a painting of the Magi visiting Christ when he was about eighteen months old. The latter is a private commission. I am also working on ideas to submit for various temples.

Time Reversal. Image courtesy Howard Lyon
A Son Is Given. Image courtesy Howard Lyon

What challenges did you face while painting murals at the new Gilbert Arizona Temple and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was the stress of doing something large, new, and for a temple! The cure for it was to get working. Each hour that passed where I just thought about what I was going to do was torture, but once I started actually working, putting brush to canvas, that stress went away and I focused on painting and improving.

How do you see your work helping build the kingdom?

I hope that when viewers see my work, they take a moment to pause and pay attention to how they feel. Hopefully the imagery is of enough quality that they feel something—peace or a sense of well-being. Something that tells them there is something greater out there. Something to hope for and strive for in this life.

Any advice for future artists out there?

Work hard. It is worth it. Art, like any discipline, takes a lot of work to do well at. Even if you aren’t working professionally, paint or draw like you are working for your most important client. Be humble and always take criticism. Anyone who is willing to give you a thoughtful critique is trying to help you improve. Try not to feel defensive, and see the input, even negative input, as crucial for your development. Draw every day, especially from life. Again, work hard—you will make it! ❧

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