Category: Design

Maddison Colvin: Let Us Rejoice

Maddison Colvin‘s Let Us Rejoice (video, 2015) contrasts two Mormon Tabernacle Choir performances occurring three years apart. Simultaneously.  Colvin is currently an artist residing in Oregon. She holds degrees from Whitworth University and BYU.

Let Us Rejoice

From your view ‘on the inside’, what is the state of art in Mormon culture? Well, as far as I’ve experienced, there are different factions working indirectly alongside each other. One camp is the more traditional and/or narrative Mormon artists, who wear their faith on their sleeve and in the subject matter of their paintings. I’m thinking specifically of J. Kirk Richards, Brian Kershisnik, and Caitlin Connolly. They have huge followings in Mormondom and for good reason–they’re making narrative, religious/spiritual/personal work that isn’t just Liz Lemon Swindle smiling-Jesus stuff. That kind of Deseret-Book-Postcard-Art (Swindle et al) bores and even disgusts a lot of people, me included; they can’t identify it with their feelings about Christ or the gospel. When those people look for “religious art” (which is to say, art used specifically to reinforce or strengthen religious or spiritual ideas, often depicting religious or spiritual narratives), they turn to people like Minerva Teichert or the aforementioned people. It’s much more complex, satisfying, and visually interesting, while still directly related to LDS narratives, ideas, and culture. I think of this group as “Mormon Artists”, and they have large appeal within Mormondom, and often with closely culturally-aligned people outside of the church.

Then you have another camp, of “Artists who are Mormon”. They tend to be more critical, more academic, and/or more interested in the contemporary art world than in engaging with religious topics. A lot of BYU professors, students, and former students, are in this camp. Their work is often super interesting to other artists, and is a kind of opaque manifestation of faith in practice. Their Mormonism, often very important to them personally, is rarely visible in their work.

Then there’s “Art about Mormonism”. Most of these artists are ex-LDS, operating relatively successfully in the art world, and drawing from their personal or cultural heritage for their work. They are often interested in the more esoteric and weird aspects of Mormonism; the ones that are more conceptually glamorous. These artists make fully realized, critical/conceptual work, but their choice of subject matter is almost Oedipal. They’ve left the church but it’s still one of the most engaging personal experiences they can draw on and they will continue to return to it.

In other words, the art satellites orbiting around Mormonism’s gravity serve radically different purposes. “Mormon artists” service the community most directly with art that speaks directly to common narratives and faith principles. Its traditional, illustrative form, however, will likely not be taken terribly seriously by art-world viewers. [My grandparents would love this art.] “Artists who are Mormon” operate on the ‘by their works ye shall know them’ sort of principle of making sincere, rigorous, intelligent work primarily intended to exist in the art world. [My grandparents would be confused about this art.] “Art about Mormonism” is interested in narratives, symbolism, and principles of faith, is generally rigorous and intelligent, but comes from artists who no longer believe in those narratives, symbols, and principles. Their audience is primarily outside the church, as the work can expose or makes light of things we consider sacred. [My grandparents would be insulted or outraged by this art.] What I would like to see more of, and what are largely missing, are Artists who are Mormon making Art about Mormonism. The audience for their work (which would be faithful, directly related to LDS ideas/issues, and rigorous/critical) is so tiny as to be negligible, partly explaining the lack of visibility for this kind of work.  [I don’t know how grandparents would react to this art, therefore.]

Visit Maddison Colvin’s website.

Follow Maddison Colvin on Instagram.



Eric Roberts: An Architect’s Sketchbook


Eric Roberts is an architect from Las Vegas, Nevada with a penchant for sketching daily. The sketches in this post all come from his sketchbooks on his many travels. He is a proud member of Urban Sketchers and his favorite architect is another sketch artist, Renzo Piano.

Paris,-France---Sacre-Coeur---Color---from-image Roberts-2 Washington-DC---Tidal-Basin Roberts London,-England---All-Saints-Margeret-Street Salt-Lake-City---Beehive-House-and-Eagle-Gate-Color

What do you like about getting outside and sketching? Sketching is something akin to meditation for me. In all the chaos of the world that we live in as parents, spouses and employees I look to sketching as a refuge from the uncontrollable. There is solace to be found in the delicate control of a line, or a tone and the way that a composition comes together. I started a Las Vegas chapter of the UrbanSketchers because I found that I was only taking the time to sketch when I was out of town. This left me with a great sketchbook full of places around the globe, but no real knowledge of my own city. I love getting out and sketching a new place, each time that I do I learn something that I didn’t know about that locations. Sometimes when I am sketching my hands and my brain are separated and doing different things; for instance, my mind may be working on a troublesome problem from home or work while my hands interpret what my eyes are seeing. Sketching on location is also a way to triage our environments. A sketch is a single selection of many personalities that any specific building or place may choose to portray. As a sketcher I like to go back and look at the work that I did and remember very clearly why that view was selected or why a certain color palette expressed the feelings that I had about the place.

What do you take with you on-location and what do you add when you get back to your desk? My on-location kit has evolved over time. I have attached a picture of the sketch materials that I carry with me every day… it is probably more than I need. My kit includes: 2 sketchbooks, portable water color kit and water containers, two “art kits,” one kit for pencil and the other kit for ink and water color. I prefer to sketch and watercolor in one setting, so it is nice to have those materials with me on site. Oftentimes, however, I will complete a sketch on site and then apply the color at another time. Regardless of where the color is added, I can never leave a sketch and say it is complete without getting all the shadows and light properly located on the sketch. I suppose that is a little bit of OCD. Some of my sketch materials are for methods that I have learned from viewing other sketchers and trying to replicate a technique that I really enjoy from their work. The red markers and white gel pens are for a technique I learned from a sketcher in the Philippines.

sketch-kit Roberts

Explain Urban Sketchers. Urban Sketchers is a global community of sketchers that endeavors to experience the world one sketch at a time. I was introduced to Urban Sketching by one of my professors at the University of Idaho. He was on the original group that started the organization and he teaches at the annual conference every year. His philosophy was to draw something every day – to draw the best composition, no matter where that composition could be found. It wasn’t until I was a college student that I really caught the bug for sketching the world that I was experiencing. Now I have sketchbooks full of material and it has really become something I look forward to every week.

Follow Eric Roberts on Instagram.



ChadMichael Morrisette: Mannequin Man and Window Guru


ChadMichael Morrisette is a fabulous SoCal artist and designer made famous for designing some of the world’s most visual and controversial display windows. Morrisette grew up in a Mormon household in Alaska and left both the faith and the 49th state when he was 15 to start his design career in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, Madison, Robert Ellis, and Roseark. He owns a collection of some 450 mannequins he started collecting six years ago. “My first one was a Rootstein. It’s like a Ferrari or a Bentley; they set all the trends. Now I have a collection of all the current makers, and makers that are long-gone; things from the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s and ’80s that no longer exist.”

ChadMichael-Morrisette4 ChadMichael-Morrisette2 ChadMichael-Morrisette5 ChadMichael-Morrisette3 ChadMichael-Morrisette6 ChadMichael-Morrisette7

Our careers are a series of steps–many forward and some back. Did you have a ‘big break’ along the way? I did, many. And I think they will continue to happen for me. My first big break was at 16 years old when I was hired by Nordstrom. It was a very young age to be hired to the visual team. It was where I received a lot of my training in visual display. On the job training. About a year later I was recruited by Saks 5th Ave. also a big break for me. In 2005 meeting Michael Zadowicks was another huge step forward. He introduced me to the amazing world of mannequins and their incredible history. My first freelance client in West Hollywood was where I met Michael. That client opened many many doors for me. And I am very lucky that they were the beginning of where I am now. I firmly believe we create our own worlds and all my “breaks” come to me because I strive to be a good person and always do what’s right. So hopefully….they keep coming.

Walk us through an engagement. How much time do you have to brainstorm? Shop? Design? Install? Tweak? Ha! That really depends on each project. Two weeks is a good amount of time to produce an installation. But an installation can take anywhere from 1-3 days. While having 2-3 people working on them. They take a lot of time and focus. The brainstorming is the easy part. Inspiration comes from all over the place. But sourcing and making is where all the time is spent. Some concepts I have a solid idea of how it will go while others are sometimes very by the seat of my pants. Very creative and go with the flow. Each project and each client/brand is different. Thankfully. It keeps me on my toes.

SoCal is paradise and all, but what do you miss from your childhood in Alaska? Nothing really. I went home for the first time in 19 years last month. I’m very grateful I was raised in Alaska. But my life in West Hollywood is wonderful and gets better with each day. Alaska is a very extremely and harsh climate. I much prefer the Los Angeles sunshine and culture. It was incredible to see my childhood friends while I was there though…I do miss them.

Visit ChadMichael Morrisette’s company website.

Follow ChadMichael Morrisette on Instagram.


Colt Bowden: Sign Painter


Colt Bowden is a sign painter and illustrator in McMinnville, Oregon.In the past he has lived in Maryland, Utah, California, and Hawaii. Bowden worked on the celebrated children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba! and went to school at BYU. Bowden’s commercial work includes bearded snowboards (below) and he was even hired to do sign painting (and sand-lettering) for a Brian Wilson / She & Him music video by Capitol Records. Bowden says of his art: “It has a Great Depression—1920s to early 1940s look, back when doing things by hand was at its peak. I read a lot of old sign painter books from the early 1900s. My great grandfather was a printer, linotype operator and type professor. I suppose it runs in the family.”

Bowden9 Bowden2Bowden5 Bowden6 Bowden4 Bowden7


Describe yourself as an artist. I am 75% Sign Painter and 25% Illustrator/Designer. I do mostly commercial work, and spice it up with an art show here and there. I’ve gotten over most of my personal life problems that would drive me to try and express myself as a fine artist and have moved on to a service based industry that utilizes the creativity and artistry that I love. It’s quite fulfilling to be doing artwork for people other than just myself these days. Though things do shift over time, and I may find a creative process or project that may spark something in the future.

Society is so ephemeral now we have become dependent on six-second doses of digital art. What is lost when we lose the hand-made art of yesterday? We lose the connection to the rest of the human race before our generation came. I feel doing things the traditional way points me towards humanity, and that computers and automated design and production point us away from a human connection and into peoples wallets. It’s sad.

Walk us through a sign engagement. Usually when I am coming up with an idea for a sign, I will look at old sign painting books, which had lettering styles hand painted and designed by the author. Traditionally, printers would use Typefaces, and then when computers came along, typographers were able to design fonts to be used by consumers and graphic designers. The font’s were the most dumbed down version of lettering, available to all and meaningful to none.

So, in short, I look at how traditional lettering is formed by the brushstrokes of a master sign painter, and go from there. I will start my design with basic shapes and lines to get a layout, then, depending on the style, I will either create an original looking lettering style or assimilate something else. It all depends on what the client needs, not necessarily what they want sometimes. I try to avoid just painting pre designed logos and graphics, and shoot for something creative and original. Often there is a hint of the past in my design work, but with a spin of my own creative juice in it, which can create something unique. Mostly, I try to have fun with it and not get too crazy with innate detail, but stick to what I have learned up to that point.  I use 1-shot lettering enamels and Ronan Superfine Japan Colors, as well as Benjamin Moore Water based paints. Depending on the project, there are assortments of sign painting brushes that can be used. Surfaces range from paper to glass and everything in between. There aren’t many surfaces you can’t paint on besides sand.

How long until you paint the Feminist Bookstore? If they come asking, I’m sure I could make it happen. But I’d prefer to see one of my female counterparts take that job.

Visit Colt Bowden’s website.

Follow Colt Bowden on Instagram.

Colt Bowden

Ben Howell: Book of Mormon, Transcription #1

Ben Howell 5

Ben Howell‘s Transcription #1 is a hanging scroll with Howell’s handwritten transcription of the Book of Mormon. It was also a performance piece at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibit Church vs State: Contemporary Collecting PraxisTranscription #1 covers the first half of the Book of Mormon. Howell is working on Transcription #2.

Ben Howell 6 Ben Howell 2 Ben Howell 3 Ben Howell 4

Howell is a graduate of the Pratt Institute’s MFA and MLIS programs. His eclectic background includes work as an interactive fine artist, church organ fabricator, and library scientist. Howell wrote a ‘bit about my background’ for The Krakens:

“Born out of season, premature, during an April snowstorm at the tail end of the 70’s. My praxis longs for intensive focus, interactivity and endurance through the rediscovery, use and redirection of discarded practices. I seek the experience of the contemporary via the context and renewal of the derelict. My goal is to continue to explore the experience and relationship between artistic production in the home and the wild.

“I loved but neglected visual art until my first year in high school. I had an amazing teacher, Bill Larsen, who animated and elevated my appreciation of art history and creative production. I was hooked. From unnamed neolithic stone artist to de Kooning I felt among kin. I continued to take art history courses in conjunction with studio courses at the University of Utah. I began working at the Fine Arts Library in the J. Willard Marriott Library where I had the opportunity to interview many older artists about their work and their amazing collections. Through these relationships, I felt one step away from early twentieth century art/design luminaries such as Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller. I also began rethinking the incredible diversity of land art and other contemporary/commercial, governmental and artistic practices that I had always taken for granted, ‘just a part of Utah’. I made my first trip to Spiral Jetty and where I had never felt farther from home. It felt like I was in a chapter of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles’.

“I had a huge array of studio courses in my Sculpture Degree at the U. I loved all of them, but especially woodworking and anything electronic and interactive. I was more interested in human scale and interactive pieces than anything static. I worked in fabric, knit, wood, and other natural materials. I loved the library, loved the form and history of all written technology, scroll, codex, etc. I took bookbinding courses, tried unsuccessfully to enter the world of conservation. I’d try again. I worked at a pipe organ building company in American Fork. I loved woodworking and building.

“During my graduate degree in sculpture I focused on art and spirituality, performance and interaction. For my thesis I created an open and looped system where I built an expanding set of costume elements, travelled to site oriented locations via bicycle and performed/documented ritual and return. I want to take artistic practice where it doesn’t belong. I did performance work at small family owned farms in rural Italy where my only audience was farmers who told me my practice was impractical. I worked for them 6 days a week in exchange for room and board and once carved an egg out of a fallen tree to help their chicken begin laying eggs.

“Currently I am applying for Reference and Instruction positions at universities around the country. I write for an hour to two hours per day, transcribing the Book of Mormon and I am working on an embroidery project to visualize the interaction between dead cattle, pioneer settlers and Ute peoples in San Pitch (Sanpete), Utah – Winter 1849.”

Ben Howell