Ken Corbett: 19th Century Portraiture


Ken Corbett is an accomplished oil painter who loves portraiture. His paintings of Frederick Douglass (above), Oliver Cowdery (below), and Joseph Smith, Jr. (below) capture some of the most intriguing people of the 19th century. Corbett worked for 11 years as a firefighter before moving to art full-time. Corbett is the father of seven and he lives in Utah.

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Describe your creative process. I see inspiring things everyday wherever I go. When something I see resonates inside me, I’ll remember that and think about it for a long time–hours, days or longer. It could be a beautiful scene of a landscape or people or animals or anything that my eye sees the beauty of color and values mixing and contrasting together to create a something interesting. I’m an artist that paints what I see. I can change elements around or delete others but usually have to depend on what is in front of me or what I have seen previously. The creative process for me usually is making what I want to show in a painting worth looking at. Making the composition and the elements of what I’m painting work together.

You’ve had your work included in temples. Explain a little about that process. The process to submit artwork for temples is interesting and long at times. The committee to evaluate art to be used by the church for temples or anything else, meets quarterly. There are three committees that review the art and a final thumbs up needs to come from the First Presidency if accepted by all others. It can take many months to work through all that and even longer to get paid but it is a huge honor to have a painting hanging in a temple. In 2001 I ran into artist Grant Romney Clawson by chance. He later called me and asked me to help him paint some paintings for the Nauvoo temple that he had been asked to do but was too busy. That was a great experience and came at a time when we needed the work for my family. That experience told me that God was watching over my family.

What are you working on next? I’m working on a couple of Church history paintings right now. I’m also looking to do a few more landscapes, figurative paintings showing people in everyday experiences, and also a few more biblical stories. I feel lucky to be able to paint any day I get the opportunity to do so. I’m not as happy doing anything else.

Visit Ken Corbett’s website.


Images courtesy Ken Corbett and ABC 4 Utah.