Monthly Archives: February 2016

Maddison Colvin: Typologies


Maddison Colvin is an innovative artist with degrees from Whitworth University and BYU. Her series Typologies looks at religious architecture. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series Swarms. Colvin lives in Oregon.


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You said art is ‘an ideal medium in which to explore the relationship between personal (phenomenological) and scientific (empirical/ontological) learning’. How do you approach teaching your students at BYU? One of the challenges of BYU is the balancing act of fostering both an environment of active critical thinking and a space for the strengthening of faith. At least, it can often look like a balancing act. “Strengthening of faith” does not have to mean “never having your faith questioned”. If it did, we’d either have to avoid faith or avoid criticism in our classes. If you want to be both a faithful Mormon and a smart, critical artist, you have to work out the relationship between the two somewhere along the way. Nowhere’s going to be safer for that than BYU. Therefore, I take a fairly critical approach while still trying to stay sensitive to the personal faith of the students. I buy into their motivations (why are you making this? what drives the work?) and push them to form those motivations into the most honest, well-realized work they can make. The hope is that I never ask them to change who they are as artists, and my teaching only changes how effectively their work realizes that core identity. This, I think, is the key- faith is not dumb or safe. It can be expressed in challenging, critical forms, and I hope that more Mormon artists are and will continue to do that.

What are you working on next? Well, I’ve designed and 3D printed 24 utopian temples to kind of imitate or elaborate on the Plat of Zion, I’ve painted three stake centers designed on the same model and located in the same township on top of each other, and I’ve started those jungle paintings. I think both of those directions- utopianism and the wild overgrown spaces- will continue in my work for a while. I’m also moving to Oregon soon, which I think will definitely inform future projects.

Visit Maddison Colvin’s website.

Follow Maddison Colvin on Instagram.


Howard Lyon: Child of God

Howard Lyon is an artist who explains, “I draw. I paint. I bake bread.” Howard studied illustration at BYU and worked for years as an art director, concept artist, and freelance illustrator in the video game industry. His work can be found in Dungeons and Dragon’s books, World of Warcraft cards, and Star Wars collateral. He has studied art in Italy, France and most recently at the Grand Central Academy in New York City. Lyon, his wife, and his children live in Utah.


Tell us about your experience with I am a Child of God (top). Growing up, a painting that always held my fascination was Norman Rockwell’s painting The Golden Rule. I loved seeing all of the people from different lands and cultures in costume. I thought if I ever had the chance to do something similar I would. That is really where the seeds of my painting came from. My wife put out a call on Facebook and through friends that we were looking for kids from all different backgrounds to come model for a painting. The only requirement was that they have a costume that was authentic and represented their culture. I did get some kids that I included that were in contemporary dress, but most of those in the painting were in costume. When the kids would come into the studio, they were typically shy or full of energy. I would talk to them and tell them that they would be in a painting with Christ, standing next to Him and bearing their testimony, along with Christ, that they are children of God. Each time, their demeanor would change. The wilder kids would calm down, the shy kids stood taller and each of the expressions you see are reflecting that. Some kids would smile, others looked proud, some were somber. That might be my favorite memory from this painting. I also included my own there kids. They are the two boys just behind Christ and the girl to the right of Christ on the very back row with the scarf.

You once said, “I hope that when viewers see my work, they take a moment to pause and pay attention to how they feel.” That is the key to viewing most artwork meaningfully, I believe. Sometimes I am in a museum and I will see people move through at a quick pace barely pausing in front of each painting. Most art is not fast food. Most art takes a little time to ingest and process. My art, particularly my religious art, is meant to read not just superficially but on a personal level. When I look at a Carl Bloch painting, I see the mastery of the artist, but then when I put myself into the work, imagine myself there witnessing the angel comforting Christ in Gethsemane, or watching Peter divert his gaze from Christ after denying him, I feel much more from the work than just admiration for the skill. I don’t paint nearly as well as Bloch, so I hope that the intent of the painting, the emotion and sentiment of the piece will be realized by the viewer. I think the best way for this to happen is for the viewer to focus on their feelings as they view the work.

One complaint I hear from artists is bridging the gap from school to a full-time career as an artist. Tell us more about the Lyon Art School. The response from the school has been excellent. We take a pretty small group of students (10 max) and work with them on their picture making skills, but also work through the business side. Teaching them how to better use social media, how to photograph models and artwork, get prints made, and how to reach their intended audience. I don’t really want the school to get very large, at least not in the near future. I am enjoying being able to spend time one on one with each student. We go at a slow, but steady pace, learning the value of each step in the composition and painting process. I think coming out of school, I made the whole process of making a living as an artist a lot of more complicated than it is. A major goal of the class is to help each of the students see their path to success with a little more clarity.

What’s next? I am currently wrapping up a painting that will, if approved, go behind the reception desk at the Provo City Center Temple. My next longer-term project is creating 50 paintings that illustrate the Gospels in the New Testament. I want to have enough pieces to cover the anticipated scenes from the Gospels, but also have enough that I can depict some scenes that aren’t typical, and even search for some implied scenes or those that we might expect to find Christ in but aren’t recorded. Each of the paintings will be smaller than what I typically work in, the largest being 16”x20” and most in the 11”x14” range. I am going to get the first 10 done and then run a Kickstarter campaign to try and fund the rest through pre-sale of the paintings, prints and the eventual art book.

Visit Howard Lyon’s website.

Follow Howard Lyon on Instagram.

Heather Theurer: Disney Fine Art


Heather Theurer is an incredible artist with paintings of ‘religious symbolism, fantasy realism, equine, and wildlife’. Her unique style includes up to 20 multitude layers of paint and glazes. Theurer is, remarkably,  a self-taught artist. She lives with her family–including five kids–in Las Vegas. She has a contract with Disney Fine Art to create images of popular Disney characters.

She explained how it all got started in a recent interview, “A few years ago, I was at San Diego Comic-Con when I was approached by a marketing rep from Disney who pitched the idea that I create Disney characters in “my style”. Yeah, that was a cool idea, I thought. Why not? So I submitted a handful of sketches—and then heard the chirping of crickets for almost eighteen months. Nothing happened until I decided, what the heck, I’ll just paint them anyway—approval or not—and take them to my next show to see what happens. At SDCC two years after the original contact, I put them up and the images went viral. So I decided on a whim to show up to Disney Expo a month later. I couldn’t sell anything there since I didn’t have a license, but enough people went over to the Disney Fine Art booth to insist that they pick me up as one of their artists so they could buy something from me that, sure enough, the entire lot of Disney folks came by my booth to ask if I’d sign a contract with them. The rest is history.”

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You were working as an artist for a textbook company until it folded and motivated you to go out on your own. What do you wish you would have known then about establishing yourself as an artist? I wish I would have known that art collectors buy the artist, not just the art. I suppose that when I first started out on my own, that might not have been too necessary. I was working particularly as a graphic designer and the projects were rather self-defined. But once I began creating my own independent artwork, I kept the same mentality–that the art should sell itself and it shouldn’t matter if I had any presentation skills (which were really terrible then). But I had gotten it all wrong and so it was a slow first few years striking out into the art world in my effort to find success. Since then, I’ve learned how to talk to people–yes, I know that sounds silly, but I truly was petrified of people–how to share the stories behind my art and how to approach my clients in a way that encourages them to fall in love with the art–and potentially buy it.

You once said, “The best advice I received on my artwork was that it sucked.” For much of my childhood and early adulthood I was more often than not complemented on my art. One might think this is a good thing. Had you asked me at that time, I would have thought so too. But at one point, a very straightforward family member of mine decided to tell me like it was. According to them, my lighting was horrible. It was painful to hear, but I knew they were right. At the same time, I came to the self-realization that there were lots of other things that were horrible in addition to the lighting. So I decided to change. If I was going to be as good as the Masters I admired, I was going to have to work on getting it right. Without a formal art educational setting to provide direction it was tricky, but with a little determination and a lot of experimentation, I slowly caught on. Along the way there were others who also offered their critical opinions, but after that first incident, it was far less painful to accept and in fact turned into adventurous challenges that I became excited to confront.

Which Disney characters are on your short list for future paintings? Oh, I have loads of ideas. My “short list” is, in fact, not very short. I’d love to do a Pocahontas, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, etc., etc. (all of which I’ve already got firm ideas in my head for). It just kind of depends on which design makes it into the paint first.

Visit Heather Theurer’s website.

Visit Heather Theurer on Facebook.

Heather Portrait 2015

David Oscarson: Craftsmanship


David Oscarson is a craftsman of the highest order and his writing instruments are works of glorious art. One review remarked, “David Oscarson makes most Montblancs look like Bics.” Oscarson has been creating luxury fountain pens since 2000 when he launched his eponymous brand. His work has been featured in the Robb Report, Esquire, Inc. Magazine, and on CNBC.

Oscarson writes, “The biggest challenge today is helping people remember what a signature means: that it is an extension of one’s self. Much is electronic today, including communication, but I always prefer talking on the phone to texting, and visiting in person to the telephone – old-fashioned, maybe, but much richer, and in my mind, much more rewarding.”

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Describe yourself as an artist. I enjoy designing beautiful creations that will last for generations. Most of my collection designs pay tribute to an individual or theme, and I love to learn what draws our collectors to one design or another.

You have been creating luxury fountain pens since 2000. How has your experience been as a business owner? September 11 occurred shortly after I introduced my first collection, the Henrik Wigstrom, which is a tribute to one of Faberge’s finest craftsmen. It was a difficult time to introduce a new collection, and much more difficult to be starting out as a new brand, but people recognized the artistry of enamel and we have been acquiring new followers ever since. How did you get involved in the business. I worked for a pen company for a time, and before that was headed for the diamond business. It became my goal to create something beautiful that would last for generations, and the brand was born. What has surprised you about the experience? I guess the most surprising thing was the reaction to the Valhalla collection; I didn’t think many people would understand it, much less appreciate the design, but not only did people appreciate and understand the design; it was hugely popular and so fun to talk about!

Your pieces are exquisite. What is your approach to a new design? Thank you. I first want the piece to be beautiful; beyond that, there is always some kind of story to tell, or tribute to pay, which my collectors love to repeat in conversation.

You once said, “My favorite part of the pen business is seeing an idea or concept become a real, ‘living’ thing.” It is one thing to have an idea, and sometimes a completely different thing to actually create something from that initial idea. When I contemplate the theme for a new design, I try to incorporate aspects into the design that most people may not be familiar with, giving me, and the owner an opportunity to discuss a person or piece of history!

Visit David Oscarson’s website.

David & Leo

Images courtesy David Oscarson.

Jeff Decker: Hunting and Gathering


Jeff Decker is a renowned sculptor widely known for his subject material of motorcycles but he has a new series of work based on reclaimed objects. Decker will be exhibiting many of these pieces at Inspiration Los Angeles beginning today, February 12. Decker lives with his family in Utah.

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Talk about making the jump from artist to full-time career artist. I suppose the moment I became a career artist, was when I stopped working at the tiny restaurant my wife and I created, to work at a foundry. The foundry paid a few dollars an hour less than we paid our kitchen employees. Art classes at university didn’t motivate me, yet I kept finding excuses to stay in the arts. I suppose a selfish drive pushed me to stick with something that was counterintuitive to my own common sense. I was driven even more by hunting and gathering old stuff, than even creating, and the foundry offered a skill I could use in restoring motorcycles as well as casting sculpture. My bronzes have never garnered interest in the art world, but I did address a subject that most serious artist had ignored. It is easy to be relevant, when you are only fool doing what you do. Of course, any clever explanation I my provide for my art or myself, is just in hindsight. I never have much or had any method to my progress.

What’s next for your career? I don’t know what is next in my career. I’ve had grand decisions that carry me away, and crippling doubts that bring me back. In this very moment I find my attraction to hard/soft, mechanical/organic strong as ever. I’ve found a new way to justify my compulsive hunting and gathering. My incessant urge to collect has supplied me with an abundance of objects that are strange to a current visual vernacular. I am having a lot of fun marrying these objects to sculpture in a way contrary to the objects purpose.

Visit Jeff Decker’s website.

Follow Jeff Decker on Instagram.


Images courtesy Mark Owens and Jeff Decker.