Monthly Archives: August 2015

Elizabeth Thayer: Painting in Europe


Elizabeth Thayer is a portrait painter and illustrator who recently returned to the United States after an extended time in England and Germany. I knew Liz as a classmate of my wife when they were in the BYU Illustration program under Bethanne Andersen and Robert Barrett. Thayer, her husband, and her six children live in Utah.

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Tell us about where you are living and what you’ve been doing with your career. I have just moved back to Utah after nine years in Europe – five in England and four in Germany. Living abroad has been a great opportunity to get to know different cultures, do some traveling, learn another language, and see some great art. Most of my time since we left school has been devoted to making and raising six little people. I have managed to squeeze some drawing and painting into kitchen corners, extra bedrooms, and late night hours. Hopefully all that will add maturity and depth to my artwork. That’s the plan anyway. Since graduating from BYU, I have done some book and magazine illustration as well as portrait work. Since having children and moving abroad, I have focused more on portrait commissions and studio painting. I have also been able to participate in some exhibitions in London, including the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, and annual exhibitions of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and The Royal Institute of Oil Painters. (The fun thing about being in London is that Royal gets added onto a lot of things and it sounds important.)

You studied at BYU, Syracuse University, and UNC Greensboro. I studied illustration at both BYU and SU, and painting at UNCG. Both illustration programs were very good and have dedicated faculty who are dialed into the industry and committed to helping students achieve. It was a privilege to work with teachers at both schools. The main difference between my two experiences was that at Syracuse, being a graduate student, I was given more autonomy and was able to teach undergraduates (figure drawing), which I really enjoyed. And I saw a lot more orange. I also attended an MFA program in Painting at UNC Greensboro for a while. That was a completely different take on art, its purpose and meaning and I felt out of place for a while there. However, looking back I truly feel that I grew and was stretched in different ways at each school I attended. In each place I had mentors that were willing to spend time and effort to help my work progress.

Walk us through your approach to a new painting. I think a lot about a painting before I start. I think about composition and color and size. I think about whether I want to capture a moment or somebody’s essence, or something else. I usually do sketches and a color study. I have been working either on home-stretched linen canvas or gessoed board. I don’t usually mind preparing my own surface because it kind of clears my mind. I have been using water-soluble oil paints (clean up is easier), and have used a number of different brushes. I prefer sable brushes. I like Royal Langnickel, and have recently been using their new range of Sabletek brushes, which I understand is a blend of natural and synthetic hairs. Winsor & Newton also makes a good brush to go along with their Artisan brushes. For drawings I use charcoal, conte or nupastel. I feel like my process is still evolving, but currently I tend to do a light drawing in pencil or charcoal and fix it before adding paint. I like to use washes of thin paint, and slowly build up opacity. I work in snippets of time. A couple of hours here and there, a glance as I walk past on my way to the laundry room, a few minutes before dinner, and maybe a half hour before bed.( A few months ago I painted for almost seven hours straight for the first time in a very long time and it was both exhausting and exhilarating.) And then sometimes I scrap all that prep and just paint to have some fun making marks on a canvas.

You have said, “the human soul is infinitely more awe-inspiring than the most famous city in the world.” What do you like about painting portraits? Every so often I try to get into painting landscapes or still lifes, because I have seen so many beautiful ones, but I always gravitate back to the figure. Creating a portrait of somebody is a challenge and I like challenge. I find people fascinating. I never get bored of them. Each one is complex and unique. They can change by the minute in expression, mood, and gesture. Their stories are all different and it is interesting to see how much is manifest or hidden in their appearance. I like to discover those stories. I find the human body beautiful in its many forms, and I find the human story (both individual and collective) compelling. I want to help tell it.

Visit Elizabeth Thayer’s website.


Susan Krueger-Barber: Postpartum Provocation


Susan Krueger-Barber‘s series Postpartum Provocation is an interesting analysis of a little understood phase of life. She recently returned to Utah after studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She explains Postpartum Provocation: “While pregnant, a new person grows inside of us, and we ourselves metamorphose into new people; creatures full of fresh, intense feelings previously unimagined–mother bears with acute alertness, full of fierce protectiveness for our child, facing the enormity of every decision. Nature pulses through us, buzzing as the transfiguration takes place. We run with awkwardness while our body reshapes itself as though trudging through a shallow pool.  Our lives become dreamlike, full of penetrating hyper-realism.  We literally transform while we navigate our brain-shrinking, breast-leaking protectiveness. Motherhood is a delicate shift in our existence as we learn to embrace our new baby and our new body while reconstructing ourselves to be stronger, more complex women.”Susan1 Susan2 Susan6 Susan5 Susan4 Susan3

Tell us a little about yourself. I am a community organizer, mother, and artist, and I also love collaborating with my husband and best friend. I enjoy creating different takes of an accepted narrative. To reveal the truth through the cracks

Describe your creative process. An image phrase or thought comes into my head in the form of a flash, a phrase, or a laugh. I often try to solve something. I am on a constant journey of following an idea to as many possibilities and solutions that I can think of and then when I get bored, I move on to another project and/or journey.

What has been the reaction to Postpartum Provocation? I think that there isn’t very much art about motherhood that exposes the nitty gritty and complicated aspects of the experience. Most art places it on a nostalgic pedestal. When I gave birth, I felt so lost. There were all kinds of books preparing me for the birth process, but not much information around to describe the postnatal experience. I think Postpartum Provocation helps fill the gap. Many women and men have thanked me, nodded, laughed, and sometimes cried when seeing that work. I think it helps normalize the actual experience that so many of us are having.

Visit Susan Krueger-Barber’s website.


Emily King: Cut Paper Images


Emily King is a fantastic painter, illustrator, and cut paper artist. She, “has a unique way of scaling things down to their most simple beautiful form and at the same time conveying an emotion in an incredibly descriptive way.” She received a BFA from the University of Utah and currently lives in Utah with her husband and three children.

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When you have an image in mind, what governs whether you work in oils, illustration, or paper cutouts? Usually when I am working conceptually with an image in mind I do the piece almost always in cut paper, sketched out first. I am always drawing either in my sketchbook, just for practice or at the beginning of anything I do in paper. It’s hard for me right now to get a lot of painting time in. So many of my projects lately have been with paper that I really have to schedule time to paint even though I love painting as well. I do hope to paint more as my kids get older but I don’t think I’ll ever leave paper.

You like ‘scaling things down to their most simple beautiful form’. Yes, I think when working in paper I realized that I actually really love how limiting it can be. In the beginning it forces me to only work in flat shapes and color. I can abstract and manipulate the world I am creating within each piece and still convey a strong figurative concept I intend the viewer to pick up on. It’s not so literal which I think can sometimes make the message linger more.

You and I both love Minerva Teichert. She famously was not appreciated in her own time. How can we appreciate and support the arts more as a Church. Minerva was so amazing, she kept creating even when she couldn’t sell anything and left this incredible visual legacy of our faith. Her story and work is really inspiring. Now I think it’s easy, just buy everything artists make! Ha, ha, all kidding aside it’s tricky, on the one hand I feel like we have had almost a renaissance within the church of talented artists finding their voice. Not only in visual art but in music and literature as well. So there is a lot of competition with so many great artists but also it seems that everyone is really connected within the community and supporting each other. I think Provo has done a really great job supporting the arts and expanding opportunity. As a result, I think the artists have really reached out to the community together and increased the interest in the arts. This seems to have created a really healthy support system that understands the value in keeping all these artists working and creating. I wish this kind of environment was stronger in other communities. It is important to remember the emerging artists within the church who are just getting their footing and to provide them the support and context to be successful, this benefits everybody. People probably don’t realize how difficult it is to be an artist, there is a lot of ground work and rejection that usually happens and it’s a very vulnerable and trying profession. Creative potential and art is lost without sustainability. Financial support and relational networks enable artists to more fully realize their creative potential.

Your mother was an artist. You are an artist. How are you cultivating art with your own children? This is a big one for me because more than anything I want my children to be able to think and act creatively. In whatever career they choose or path they take I think this is essential for their success, fulfillment and well-being. I worry that our current education system has gotten too focused on tests and scores and that it has actually become counter-intuitive to instilling or even developing the creativity each child has. I started a small voluntary based art program at my children’s elementary school and it is in its 5th year. It isn’t much, but it’s something. I have also become more involved by serving with some other creative professionals on a committee of the State of Utah to try and put the arts back into the education system. This opportunity has helped me realize that there are a lot of amazing people working really hard for our kids and they need support and help. We still have a long road ahead of us to get art back in each school. I also try to give my kids as much free play as possible with no lessons or structure, just literally send them outside and let them create their own worlds, ask questions, solve their own fights and make things. I think this is the single biggest thing we can do to keep our kids creatively thinking, let them decide how they want to create and play.

What are you working on next? I just finished illustrating my first book, which was exciting, and exhausting, the book comes out this fall. I have just started a few private commissions and one commission for BYU. I’m also creating a couple of things to submit for future shows. I am hoping this year to find more experimental studio time to try new things and see if I can build upon what I already do in paper.

Visit Emily King’s website.

Follow Emily King on Instagram.


Annie Henrie Nader: Modern Spirituality

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Annie Henrie Nader is painter and illustrator who explains, “Most of my figures tend to radiate an inner calm and satisfaction, and my hope is that this may in turn have the viewer find that mirrored in themselves”. Nader was born in New York City, graduated from BYU, and she and her husband now call Utah home.

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How would you describe yourself as an artist? I would describe myself as an artist who is attempting to make art that is timeless and also contemporary. I have loved how Greek sculpture and Renaissance art have continued to set the standard of excellence, and this art is always beautiful whatever decade we happen to be in. I hope to make art that recalls the past, that expresses the process of age and the beauty of ‘being weathered’, while also tapping into modern spirituality. It has become important to me to address what makes someone or something beautiful- that the things that make us imperfect, a little chaotic, and experienced can shape us into more holy, complete, and beautiful human beings.

You have said, “Most of my figures tend to radiate an inner calm and satisfaction.” Explain. A lot of the women in my paintings are meant to be iconic women, women that others can relate to in one way or another. These women in a way represent what I hope and wish for – how it feels to experience the deep abiding peace that the Gospel of Christ promises, despite what goes on in life. Many of the women I paint reflect happiness and peace alongside a sense of sorrow- the two conflict within this being as being the necessary opposites in life. Ultimately, these women show that their peace and spiritual contentment have overcome the cares and sorrows of the world, and that they are ‘one in Christ’.

Your father is an accomplished artist. It was an amazing thing to have my dad as my own personal art coach. In many ways I wanted to emulate everything he did- from his work ethic to his love of texture and exploring new materials, to how he always made his paintings radiate light. As I started painting more and more I did see our styles diverge- his style being a more intense, masculine approach to landscape painting, while mine branched into more feminine themes and colors. It’s still really fun to compare notes and brainstorm about new ideas with my dad, and to this day my mom and dad are my most favorite art critics. I know that if they both approve of a painting I’ve done, it’s a good one. I owe everything to the support and encouragement of my parents.

You served a mission in England and studied in Europe. How did those experiences shape your voice as an artist? My studies abroad through BYU were incredibly influential, and were some of the best things I did as a student there. In England and Italy I saw A LOT of art- I saw the difference between overly sexualized and explicit art and art that meant to lift and inspire others to be better and greater human beings. I found my style there, and in many ways, found who I was. My mind was opened to the many different types of people and cultures there are in the world, and loved learning about the history of art.

Serving in England was pivotal in so many ways. There I met real life saints and angels- people who had gone through hard things but had risen above them and embraced the light of Christ. I met people who had been tried and tested in every way but were serving and ministering- by every definition they were angels. I also saw how silly it would be to just make art for decoration’s sake- there was so much need for help, compassion, and the Gospel in the world. However, I knew that art was my one natural talent, and the mission inspired me to work to find how to apply it, how to help the world on an everyday basis. It has been a powerful motivation to create and promote this type of art, and in a way, has continued the mission of spreading the Gospel.

Visit Annie Henrie Nader’s website.

Follow Annie Henrie Nader on Instagram.



Joshua Baird: Animal Facetime


Joshua Baird is an oil painter whose primary subjects are the animals and landscape of the Southwestern United States. His stunning series Facetime was created for the Best Friends Animal Society. Baird is a former high school teacher and he  holds two degrees from Southern Oregon University. He lives with his family in Southern Utah.

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Talk about your series FacetimeFacetime was a solo exhibition I did as a fundraiser for Best Friends Animal Society. BFAS is the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States.  It’s located in a beautiful canyon North of Kanab, Utah. They mostly focus on adoptions of cats and dogs, but they also have departments for rabbits, wildlife, birds, pigs and horses. My wife, Tara, works with the large domestic animals at BFAS. I decided to take a break from painting landscapes, my predominant subject, to do portraits of these 4-legged characters. I was interested in the forms and textures of their faces; but more than that, I was interested in getting to know them personally.

We’ve been conditioned to view domesticated animals as a source of food, clothing, transportation and other products. Facetime is about looking into the eyes of these animals and connecting with them at a deeper level.  There is a side to these animals that is often overlooked,  a depth to their gaze that is deep and mysterious.  Their world is simple, but not vacant. I used this John Muir quote in my artist statement to illustrate this idea: “Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”

Describe your creative process. Best Friends staff generously drove me around the property and introduced me to the different animals. I brought along my sketchbook, but soon learned it was mostly worthless. Capturing these animals’ faces in pencil or paint is almost impossible. They don’t hold still, and they’re not interested in people who aren’t feeding them. I ended up using video to help me find the best lighting and poses. Apart from the difficulty of the task of collecting reference imagery, I loved spending time with the animals and later capturing what I experienced in paint.

Visit Joshua Baird’s website.

Follow Joshua Baird on Instagram.

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