After painting for the Church for 20 years, I reached a point where a part of me just didn’t want to do it any more. That kind of painting is very demanding. The work always goes through committees, which is usually very difficult. All the planning, sketches, revisions, and all of the different opinions and feedback on each painting really begins to wear you down. It becomes exhausting and difficult to be very creative. It got to be too much for a while and I just couldn’t paint, and that feeling really discouraged me. It was frustrating because I always wanted to paint for the church. It goes all the way back to my patriarchal blessing, which went into great depth about the importance of art in my life. I guess I’ve kind of felt obligated to use my talent to do paintings for the church.
I struggled with this for awhile, and deep down I just wanted to feel a desire to paint again. I thought about what Elder Boyd K. Packer once told me. He said that lots of artists want to paint for the Church, but what they often lack is a willingness to be humble and to be able to take criticism. He told me that criticism helps you to grow, and I could see through my experience that it was true. I am a better artist today, in part, because of the demands of painting for the Church.
Finally, I knelt down in my studio and prayed about it, and just minutes after saying “amen,” the phone rang. The graphics department of the Church called and asked me to paint the scene from 3 Nephi where Jesus blesses the Nephite children. Now I won’t say that this painting was easy — I was still very difficult, and I faced the same challenges that I had before, but I really enjoyed working on this painting. It was an interesting assignment. That portion of scripture had always been one of my favorites, and the Church wanted it to be very accurate. They found models for me — students and children from Meso America. As I pondered the account in the Book of Mormon, where the Resurrected Lord ministered to the ancient Americans, and thought about these models and the link their ancestors may have to that event, the painting really took on a lot of meaning to me.
Somehow, working on this painting got me excited about painting for the Church again, and really loving the work I do for them. I’ve painted for a lot of people in my lifetime, and the Church is the most demanding, by far. But also, the rewards I receive through these paintings are the greatest.