Monthly Archives: October 2015

Chris Burkard: Ansel Adams of Instagram


Chris Burkard is the Ansel Adams of Instagram with more than a million loyal followers. He is a jaw-dropping photographer, artist, and now director. His website explains, “Searching for wild, remote destinations and offbeat landscapes, Burkard portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.” Burkard’s popular TED talk explores ‘The joy of surfing in ice-cold water‘. He lives with his wife and kids in California.


You balance a heavy travel schedule and demanding work load. What do you and your wife do to balance your family life? It’s not always easy and when I’m traveling I usually try to spend as much time as possible with my wife and children. I’ll leave the camera gear in the camera bags and try not to touch it during the time with my family. It’s really important to me to keep my business and personal life in balance and I’m lucky to have an amazing and understanding wife that supports my choice of life and stands behind me with every decision I take.

You recently opened a gallery/studio. How has becoming a business owner changed you? Being a business owner has been a great step forward for me. Having other parts of the business being taken care of by a very competent team of people that support me has been a huge help to me. It’s allowed me to focus on what I really want to do: take and share photographs. With the recent opening of my own gallery in Avila I’ve opened a space for the public to see my work away from digital screens. It’s also a great platform to host events and workshops and I love meeting/inspiring people at the gallery.

You brand yourself LDS on your Instagram profile. Has this come up in your travels or interactions? All the time. People reach out and mention they are LDS too. It’s so great to hear from like minded people and share my passion for nature and the world around us with them and inspire them.

Visit Chris Burkard’s website.

Follow Chris Burkard on Instagram.


Images courtesy AmazingGrass, Whudat, and Chris Burkard.

Namon Bills: A Unified Whole


Namon Bills is an innovative collage artist who also works in digital art. Bills received a BFA in Painting from Brigham Young University and an MFA in Painting from Utah State University. “I have always wanted to be an artist,” says Bills. He lives in Utah.

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Tell us about your evolution as an artist. I started out with collage, and although I’ve branched out to other media since then, I still consider myself, fundamentally, a collage artist in that I’m constantly combining a variety of physical elements, images and media to create my art. Although I still do collage, I discovered that it also has its limitations — mainly in size. So I started creating larger work by combining images in digital compositions (essentially doing digital collage) and then using the digital composition as a guide for making physical work through layers of collage, painting, drawing and/or printmaking. As a grad student I decided to do an installation for my thesis exhibit, which led me to another realm of visual expression. Although I’ve continued to dabble in installation, including my most recent solo show, Elements, at Finch Lane Gallery this summer, I still feel most comfortable working in two dimensions, combining collage, acrylic and oil.

At the tail end of my grad-school career, I suggested an idea to some artist friends for a group show, the State Street Project, based on a road trip down Highway 89 from the Idaho border to the Arizona border. I hadn’t anticipated becoming a curator, but that show, which traveled to six different venues in 2008, led directly to another show the following year, The 9 Muses, an interdisciplinary effort involving 9 artists and 9 poets. I’ve curated at least one show each year since then. I consider curating an important extension of my own work as an artist. It’s been a richly fulfilling experience to work with several artists on these shows, with topics ranging from politics and immigration to honoring those who have influenced our work.

You have said that your art ‘focuses on the Hegelian concept of synthesis, both on formal and conceptual levels’. Explain. The German philosopher Hegel suggested that over the course of history an idea, the thesis, will arise, which will then be challenged by a contrasting concept, the antithesis. Eventually the two will be resolved by an overarching, unifying concept, the synthesis. When, as a grad student, I came across this concept of synthesis, it really resonated with me. It was as if someone had put into words what my artwork had been about all along.

My art — starting with collage and expanding to mixed media, installation and even my curatorial efforts — seeks to combine various, often disparate elements, into a unified whole. This is most obvious on a formal level. A collage, for example, may combine several images from unrelated sources; the challenge is to bring them together in such a way that they feel like they belong with each other — and hopefully so that they feel like they depend on each other for the success of the piece as a whole. Synthesis is also important to me on a conceptual level. In using collage and mixed media, I’m bringing together a variety of ideas that, by their juxtaposition, imply an interrelatedness. My hope is that this leads the view to consider potential meaning in a way they perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t always have the same concept, or even a set concept, for each piece, but I hope to create conceptually open-ended work that will invite viewers to participate in the process of establishing meaning — hence another layer of synthesis as the viewer joins the artist in creating previously nonexistent meaning with the artwork as catalyst.

You’ve worked as an editor, programmer, and teacher. How do these pursuits affect your art? I think your environment always affects you as an artist. My work as a graphic designer, both in print and web, has definitely influenced my aesthetic, which already had a graphic bent even before I worked in those fields. These jobs have also provided the opportunity to learn new skills, from photography to HTML, which have provided additional practical avenues for artistic expression. I also love teaching. I’ve been inspired by my students’ creative approaches to problem solving and their inventive use of materials. Beyond that, I find that the creative energy of being in the classroom gives me additional drive to produce work when I get back into the studio.

What’s next for you? I’ve been exploring some new directions with my work — leaning toward a more minimal aesthetic. At the same time, I’m continuing to delve into new ideas with my text-based work. I’m also hoping to explore some new media, particularly encaustic. In addition to my own work, I’m continuing to curate shows. I’ll have a follow-up exhibit to Don’t Read This, which showed at the Salt Lake Library in January of 2015, called Don’t Read This Too, at the Springville Museum of Art July-September 2016.

Visit Namon Bills’ website.


Eric Roberts: Temple Sketches


Eric Roberts is an architect from Las Vegas, Nevada with a penchant for sketching daily in one of his many sketchbooks. These sketches in this post all come from those same sketchbooks on his many travels. He is a proud member of Urban Sketchers and his favorite architect is another sketch artist, Renzo Piano. Roberts was featured previously at The Krakens for An Architect’s Sketchbook.

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With the expansion of temples in the past 15 years, how do you feel about the design of these new buildings? Until I started drawing the temples I didn’t pick up on the nuances that each of them have in the design. I suppose this is something that the church design department may be taking for granted – the fact that people will notice the nuance – but I believe that many people miss the small architectural gestures that separate these buildings. Until I started sketching them I would often bemoan the mundane nature of the repetitive designs of these buildings. We certainly have some superstar architectural temples too; and, I often wonder if I would still be so infatuated with these buildings if I didn’t know what happened inside? There are really some great temples located in incredible places.

Which are your favorite temples? Right now I would have to say that I really love the Brigham City temple and the Draper, Utah Temple. I really enjoyed sketching these buildings and had wonderful experiences with them. I have a real love/hate relationship with the Salt Lake temple. It is not only my favorite temple, but also one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the world. Still, sketching that building has caused me to curse under my breath more often than a guy sketching the temple should curse.

Follow Eric Roberts on Instagram.


Trevor Southey: The Human Figure


Trevor Southey was a celebrated Mormon artist and former instructor at BYU who passed away earlier this week in Utah. His specialty was the human figure through drawings, paintings, and sculpture. Southey was one of the first major Mormon artists to come out. He lived most recently in the Bay Area, California and then spent his final years in Utah before passing away.

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The Salt Lake Tribune explains, “Southey was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1940, descended from European colonists who settled in Cape Town, South Africa, in the 17th century. He converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after hearing four missionaries singing in harmony and upon learning of the Mormon belief in the divinity of man. After a stint in art school in Sussex, England, Southey emigrated to America, studying at Brigham Young University in Provo. He received two degrees at BYU and taught there through 1977.”

They call me a misfit: Southey explained on his website, “They call me a misfit. I freely acknowledge that my particular art does not easily have a place in the current art world. It is certainly not cutting edge as defined by the establishment but nor is it always easily accessible to the novice. A curator once said to me that I appear to have missed the 20th century. That is not true because I love much of the art of this period and indeed my work does carry some of the language and is somewhat liberated by it, not wedded to any period but tending to visit many. But my work really evolved rather blithely; free of much influence because I lived in what was truly a backwater. Added to that was my somewhat isolated childhood (ill health) elaborated an already retiring and romantic nature. So I come to this time and place honestly and with enthusiasm. Of course, there is part of me that wishes I were more adventurous, but that would be a direction taken for the wrong reason. I express myself as I do because that is who I am as a poetically inclined individual. Allowing my natural subconscious free rein and trying to hold back intellectual interference to a large extent is the way that I work. I hope your perusal of this portfolio will be enriching for you.”

Visit Trevor Southey’s website.

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Images courtesy Salt Lake Tribune, University of Utah, Trevor Southey.

Nnamdi Okonkwo: Introspection and Contemplation


Nnamdi Okonkwo is a talented Nigerian sculptor who lives in Georgia by way of Hawaii. Okonkwo says of his style, “The forms in my sculpture are simplified and stylized to better express my thoughts and ideas which are embodied in fluid lines and simple shapes. It is a mode of expression that comes naturally to me, and it is straight to the point and devoid of pretension. Stylization also offers a greater avenue for the expression of universal themes and emotions. This allows me to broaden the scope of expression by transcending mere literal representation of the figure, provoking different thoughts and ideas, and giving the viewer an opportunity for introspection and contemplation. “Nnamdi11Nnamdi5Nnamdi4

Describe the evolution of your commercial success. In 2004, my wife and I decided that she should quit her job and I would try to be the sole breadwinner of our home. We had just gotten back from Europe with our first child who was then two years of age, and had literally spent every penny we had on that trip. She was working as a CPA, and I was a stay at home dad. I had a home studio and I would try to work on my art as much as I could in between taking care of the baby, while she was at work. But we could see that this arrangement was working against our natural I instincts, and to the detriment of our family. She would rather stay home with the baby but was at work, and I would rather be at work but was home with the baby! Although we were fully aware that what we felt was right for us was also in alignment with the teachings of the gospel, it was quite scary for us to give up the security of her job.

However, I knew we had to take that leap of faith, believing that if we do our best that God will do the rest for us. It was time to put the things we thought we believed to the test! I’ve always felt a calling to be an artist. Even though there had been quite a few people who tried to talk some ‘good sense’ into me, I never wavered because of the strength of my conviction. I knew where my talent came from and believed that it was meant to be used and not hidden away. Only a sadistic and irresponsible being, and I reasoned that God was not any of those things, would give me a useless gift. How and why would He not want to help me to use that talent to make a living?

The decision was made. My wife resigned from her job. Because she was a great worker, her employers did everything in their power to tempt her to stay, and to her credit, she never wavered. We have never looked back since. I now not just believe but know that all those things, which I believed, are indeed true. I have also come to learn that money is the easy part with God. What is difficult for Him is getting us to see that, and then getting us to not worry about money, but rather to preoccupy ourselves with finding out what He needs us to do for Him, and then to do it. I’ve also learned that hard work, coupled with passion, confidence, goodness, honesty and integrity, are magnetic to success.

My definition of hard work has also evolved over the years. I have found out that pushing so hard does not necessarily get you where you want to be any sooner than the right time, for although hard work is necessary,  it is not by hard work alone that we succeed. One of the greatest lessons I feel I have learned is that one is at his best when God is working in and through him or her. So I remind myself that the goal is not only to work hard, but it is also to make sure that I live my life in alignment with Him.

Visit Nnamdi Okonkwo’s website.