Utah Stories

Utah’s Artistic Talent

Utah Stories explores what it takes to be a professional painter in Utah.


Slow-Cautious-24x36-oil Glen Edwards-jpg
“Slow-Cautious” 24 x 36 oil by local artist, Glen Edwards

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has surpassed worldwide box office sales records. The numbers indicate that storytelling continues to appeal to a global audience. In this 21st technological century, Disney’s Star Wars pairs storytellers (writers and directors) with artists who render concept drawings into 3D models and sets.  It’s a modern marriage of art and science.

During the Italian Renaissance, storytelling and art also played a major role. The best artists were like the directors of their day, organizing, for example, large-scale mural paintings and canvases to produce the era’s blockbuster hits. Peter Paul Rubens was the J.J. Abrams of his day. He  produced incredibly thrilling paintings that audiences paid dearly to view. He, and other Renaissance painters developed a degree of realism and vivid storytelling prowess that was never before achieved nor (in some art historians’ opinions) ever surpassed. Today’s oil painters use the same techniques developed 600-700 years ago.

Oil painting discloses the creator’s DNA. An artist’s brush stroke is as particular and unique as a fingerprint. The use of color, light, texture and the choice of color palette offer a tangible three-dimensional experience to discerning viewers. The viewing experience requires no electricity, projectors or technology, and canvases can be preserved for centuries.

Currently, the high-end art market, including paintings, command record prices. Christie’s New York auction house recently sold an Amedeo Modigliani oil painting, Nu Couché (Reclining Nude),  for $170 million. Pablo Picasso’s painting Women of Algiers (Version O) still holds the record for the largest sum ever paid for a painting at auction. In May 2015, it sold for $179 million.

Despite these incredible sums, oil painting is one of the most difficult vocations to successfully enter and then achieve a measure of consistent success. Thousands try, only a few succeed. Surprisingly, those who attend the most expensive art schools such as Yale, Rhode Island School of Design or the Art Institute of Chicago, can’t predict more certain professional success than those who attend Utah universities. In the past 40 years, Utah universities (BYU, Utah and Utah State) have produced some of the country’s best oil painters. In this issue we attempt to find out how and why.

Becoming a successful painter requires a lot more than just skill. Painters must be able to approach gallery owners, develop ongoing relationships providing the types of paintings that art buyers want. Successful gallery owners are able to put the artists work in front of top art buyers, which is a feat in itself. Thanks to the growth and development of Sundance Film Festival the art market in Park City is hot in the wintertime. There are around twenty art galleries in Park City featuring nature photographers, sculptors, illustrators and oil painters.

In simple terms the mega-rich are finding well-rendered oil paintings a sound investment, and many investors love Utah artists.




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