Category: Design

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.

Cameron Moll: Letterpress Typography


Cameron Moll is a consummate designer and entrepreneur. I first came across his work on a typography blog highlighting his first letterpress project of the Salt Lake Temple. His newest piece is a representation of the new Provo City Center Temple in Provo, Utah. He graduated from BYU with a business degree and worked for a few years in the Church design department. Moll lives with his wife and sons in Florida.

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You spent three years working in design for the LDS Church. How would you describe the Church’s evolution with regards to art and design? Tough question to answer as I don’t consider myself an expert in Church art history nor am I an authorized spokesperson, but I think we’ve definitely seen a significant increase in the quality of Church-produced and member-produced material in comparison to their non-Church counterparts. Digital design, print material, film, music… in all of these areas members and even the Church itself are capable of competing with the best of the best, and some of these efforts have gained worldwide recognition. Perhaps the most significant evolution by the Church has been the embrace of technology and social media, and a major push to provide high-quality material for these mediums. I was working for the Church when this was really taking off, and it was fascinating to see the Church shift from its very conservative stance on technology to fully embracing it.
You once said, “You can create with any medium and on any canvas.” Where did the idea for your letterpress projects come from? What has been the response? Coincidentally the idea began during my time working for the Church as an interaction designer. We were planning our inaugural annual design review, and I thought it’d be fun to have a poster competition to help advertise the event internally and to stretch our design muscles beyond digital. My entry was the Salt Lake Temple rendered entirely with numbers and letters, inspired by a series of postcards of the same style designed by Justin LaFontaine. After the event I posted the artwork on my website, and there was considerable interest from my readers in purchasing a copy of it. I contacted Bryce Knudson of Bjorn Press in Provo, Utah to letterpress print the artwork, and the first batch sold out within a few days. Surprisingly, most of the initial buyers were not members of the Church. Since then I’ve sold more than a 1,000 copies of Salt Lake Temple poster to buyers in 30+ countries, and I’ve also completed renderings of the Roman Coliseum, Brooklyn Bridge, and my latest piece, the Provo City Center Temple.


Purchase Cameron Moll’s Letterpress prints.

Follow Cameron Moll on Instagram.


Kirsten Sparenborg Brinton: Streetscapes and Map-Drawings


Kirsten Sparenborg Brinton is an artist, an architect and an architectural historian. She received an architecture degree from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree  from the University of Virginia. Brinton has an expansive collection of map -drawings, streetscapes, cityscapes, temples, and other assorted wonders. She lives in Washington state.

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Tell us about your background and your art. I’m an architect by training and learned to draw while traveling Europe as an architectural student. Among the old stone hillside towns, I concocted a way of drawing that combined plan, section and elevation which suited my desire to express the feeling, the experience, of the place, not just to replicate what I saw in a single glance, like a photograph. I call this “experiential drawing.” I’d often walk through a place while sketching as my drawing sprawled over the pages. So, in all of my work since then, I’ve wanted to convey the experience of a place.

Following architecture school, I made a book about small towns comprised of my photographs and interviews of residents who’d seen boom and bust in their towns over the decades. I traveled all over Virginia and made photos with an SLR and medium format cameras, rolling and developing the film myself, just before everything turned to digital. This work was done in and through the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, and the book was published by UVA Press in 2010. After the book work was complete, I worked as an architect and urban designer on some very interesting projects in and around Savannah GA, for seven years. I moved to Savannah before landing a job on the basis that I could really love drawing this historic city. And I did. I started my studio/shop, Turn-of-the-Centuries, there, beginning with greeting cards and postcards and expanding to handmade books and larger prints featuring my Architectural Map-drawings. Steeping in Savannah’s history, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Architectural History at the University of Virginia and wrote a thesis on Maps of Savannah inspired by the research I did while working at Sottile & Sottile Urban Analysis & Design. My day job was rigorous and wonderful and exposed me to places, people and politics I would not have easily accessed alone. The experience was fuel for my own work in that I craved my own imprint and wanted to explore modes of representation that veered more toward art than was practical in the firm. My drawings of Savannah’s architecture helped me hone my experiential approach into something a little more comprehensible than exploding architectural sketches. I wanted to create works that embodied the spirit of treasured places and could be welcomed as souvenirs of such places.

How did your streetscapes series develop? I began drawing architectural streetscapes (continuous front elevations of city blocks) in Savannah and created books of the drawings that fold out, accordion style. I also created prints of single block streetscape drawings, including some in other cities like New Orleans and Philadelphia. I drew from photographs, free hand. These were my signature pieces for several years until I became pregnant and started to think about simplifying my work to be more efficient and more relaxing. It’s a challenge to draw the streetscapes! So, this year, with the birth of my son, I began drawing and painting city street and block maps. They’re a much more abstract representation of a place, a city. But, in the abstraction I think there is more room for conjuring one’s favorite thing about that place, the essence of it. The representation is fairly straightforward. I select the boundaries of the city that include its most beloved spots – this always includes the historic core. I draw the streets in black lines of various weights and darken/lighten some lines for emphasis. This is the City Streets Map. I use this underlay to create a map that shows only the city blocks, enlivened by watercolor. This is the Watercolor City Blocks Map. I select a color that seems fit for the way the city makes me feel — Or, as I paint all of these now as commissioned works, the buyer chooses the color! The result is stunning (I think) as it reveals the city’s geometry, different developments over time, converging grids that belie a historic shift in city planning or land ownership or folds in the landscape. This really excites the urban designer in me. You can talk about the city for a long time, even a lifetime, while looking at these maps.

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What has been the evolution with your temple images? I’ve long wanted to use my talents to express my beliefs, to praise, uplift, “build the Kingdom”. I love how Gladys Knight can do that – She’s amazing and I envy her ability and position. But I am no diva. A few years ago, spurred by a request from an acquaintance to draw the DC temple to frame on her wall, I embarked upon a quest to represent the most sacred buildings on earth in a manner befitting the eternal relationships for which they stand. My streetscapes line drawing style was too playful. I didn’t want to be cute; the temple is a sacred, and serious, place. I’d drawn the temple in pencil by commission earlier but didn’t feel gradations of graphite was my “voice.” Others do this so well! In the temple there is an absence of the clutter of the world, as if a pure white void we slip into with our change of clothing. Here, we connect with God and see His eternal plan in expansive ways. My drawings make the temple a pure white void on the paper as the parallel lines fill the space around. In the void we are filled. Our own personal feelings and memories about the temple that is beloved to us fill our minds as we gaze upon its abstracted representation.

What are you working on next? I plan to draw architecture again – including many more temples! In the next few months, I’ll be completing commissions for city map drawings. I feel like I’ve defined what I do – Architectural Map-drawings and Temple drawings – to a comfortable degree, and I am grateful to be able to make drawings that resonate with others’ sense of place. Not chasing fleeting inspirations at all hours of the day and night (done that) allows me to try to be a respectable wife and mother. So the current challenge is making time to work that works for my family. Creative work fuels me and makes me a better, happier person. Making things for others who desire to capture the essence of a favorite place is so satisfying to me. I do a fair amount of custom work as I am able, especially for weddings. So, as long as my eyes and hands work I am in it for the long haul. Perhaps my son will someday be by my side as a helper! What am I working on next? More city maps, more architecture, more temples – new drawings and new canvas prints. Also some fabric design, perhaps canvas tote bags, temple bags, anyone?

Visit Kirsten Sparenborg Brinton’s website.

Follow Kirsten Sparenborg Brinton on Instagram.


Brian Olson: Rendering Angel Moroni


Brian Olson has spent more than 10,000 hours modeling, digitizing, and photographing Mormon temples with an extensive YouTube channel to show for his efforts. His photographs, models, and videos are an ever-expanding virtual library of temple design. From the San Diego California (above) to the Provo City Utah, Meridian Idaho, and Philadelphia Pennsylvania (below) his models show an excruciating amount of detail and dedication.

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Olson’s work on the history of the Angel Moroni statues has been documented in part here at The Krakens including a rendering (below) of the difference in scale (yes, these are to scale) and the design of the Los Angeles Moroni (left) and the Salt Lake City Moroni (right).

Rendering Moroni

Where did you grow up and how did you get started working on the temples? I grew up in a little town in Utah on the south side of Utah Lake named Santaquin and then moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah for a few years prior to serving an LDS Mission in Macon, Georgia. My fascination with the temple goes back a long way. There was a point in my life where I was struggling. I was in a bad relationship I was afraid to leave, and a bad job that I also could see no way out of. I was not, at that point, able to enter the temple. The temple became a representation of what my life should be, but was not. So I used temples as my North Star, my fixed point to work towards. At the same time, one of my duties at work was working in a photo lab, which got me into photography. As a reminder of where I wanted to be, I decided to make the temples one of my photography subjects, with a plan to take photos of as many temples as possible. This was back when there were only 50 temples. It would be my luck that a few months later President Hinckley would announce the new small temples, making that plan farther out of reach than I had previously guessed. I have kept up with the temple photography, having now visited 79 temples (some under construction.) In December 2005 I downloaded the open source software Blender. Someone had suggested I check it out, so I picked it up and decided to see what I could do with it. I did this:


I was so impressed with what I was able to accomplish, I decided to see how detailed I could make it:


I moved on from one temple to another, redoing temples over and over with newly learned techniques.


(It’s hard to believe, even for me, that those are the same model, ten years apart.) I realized early on that I would never be able to photograph every temple, but I can model it. In the end, this is one way for me to visit them all. Here are three images of the Rome Temple, a work in progress. The first is a wire-frame, showing the basic structure that makes the model up. Second is the basic material layout. Third is a sample render.

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What software do you use to do the work? Most of my work is done in Blender. It is an open source modeler, but can also be used for video editing and game creation. It has a very difficult interface to learn (though it is better than it used to be,) but is very capable with features similar to pay programs that have wider industry acceptance. I have also used most of the Adobe Products, especially Photoshop and Premiere, and trained on Maya (industry standard 3D software) in college. Most of the software I use is open source, like X-normal (texture generator) or GIMP (Photoshop alternative.) This is not always because the software is good; so much as it is free!

What is your day job? What success have you experienced with this project? I am a stay at home dad for a living. I am both enjoying it and working the hardest I have ever worked. I do get enough time to work on this project most days, which is nice. The project has led me some places I never expected. I have had the chance to talk to people involved in Temple Design and Construction, have had portions of one of my Provo City Center Temple videos broadcast on TV, and have learned more about Temple Architecture than I thought there was to learn. That’s what led to me writing the Moroni Book. I’m also working on 3D printing, cake toppers, statuettes, and so on.

This month we are featuring a four-part series on the Angel Moroni sculptures atop most of the Mormon temples around the world. Olson’s free PDF entitled Know Your Moroni can be found at  Part One profiled Creating an Icon, Part Two profiled Sculpting Angel Moroni, and Part Three profiled the Legacy of Sculpture.

Visit Brian Olson’s website.

Visit Brian Olson’s YouTube Channel.


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.