Larry Christensen


PEOPLE OF LA SAL

Larry Christensen

 

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Larry and his wife have resided in La Sal for a few weeks every summer for the last seven years.  They were just waiting to retire from their jobs before moving here permanently.  They have been here full-time for five months, with many years to follow.
Larry is an artist.  A talented sketch artist and an accomplished painter.  It’s always been in him, since as long as he can remember.  He recalls sitting in church with his father at the age of three or four and watching him practice his penmanship.  He was fascinated with the way the pencil moved and the picturesque curves of the words.  It inspired him to pick up a pencil and start drawing.  It was also his parents’ way to keep him quiet and occupied during church services.

 

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Sketching came natural to him.  He was good at it.  In fact, most of his elementary teachers recognized this talent in him quite early and they readily encouraged it.  His 3rd grade teacher took him out on excursions to sketch with pastels.  His 4th grade teacher bought him books about art.  And his 6th grade teacher applauded him continuously.
Although he would draw and sketch every chance he got, he always wanted to paint.  So, at the age of 13, he picked up a brush and made his first attempt at oil painting.  He continued to paint here and there but it wasn’t until he reached the 10th grade that he became serious about painting, portraits in particular.  Up until this point his art teachers were coaching him in landscapes, because that was their forté.  But they were unable to coach him in the techniques of facial features, where Larry struggled, so he taught himself.  It was hard for him to get human mouths to look right.  He fought it and fought it painting after painting until finally after relentless hours spent in trial and error he was able to eventually master the art of portraiture.

 

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He went on, with a scholarship, to study art at Brigham Young University (BYU) and acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in Painting.  He continued to paint on the side for nine years while he worked at a non-art related job for the Utah Highways.  He then moved to Texas and ran a cotton farm.  He loved life on the farm.  He loved sitting on the haystack, especially at sunset, and listening to the sounds that surrounded him; cows bellering, a

mother down the road yelling “dinner time”, crickets chirping, and even sometimes no sound at all.  He soaked it all in.  Unfortunately, after four years of farming a terrible drought swept his land of all its cotton so he decided to return to Utah.

Larry went back to BYU and received a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts.  His Thesis was about painting types and how to incorporate design and composition with color and shapes.  For example, if you know someone really well and you see that person from some distance away, you can perceive who that person is by his/her mannerisms and the way they carry themselves long before you can actually see any detail of their face to know that it is in fact that person.  Many of the paintings he did during this time portray this idea.  It was during this time that he started painting farmers.  It became a passion.  There are dozens of his farm portraits hanging throughout his home and studio that showcase his love for that way of life.

 

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After graduating a second time Larry started to teach painting, drawing, water-color, and art history at BYU and Utah Valley University (UVU) as an adjunct professor.  He taught for ten years.  He had a fervor for teaching, and he received the Excellence in Teaching Award from BYU.  Larry is the only adjunct professor at BYU to have been honored with that award…it is usually given to a tenure.  He also collaborated with Barbara Wardle, a crafts teacher, to create a 10 ft. x 35 ft. bronze sculpture of Willy the Wolverine, UVU’s mascot.

 

Fifteen years ago Larry started to paint pictures that had more of a religious theme.  He has painted many aspects of the stories and people found in the scriptures, Bible and Book of Mormon alike.  He says he usually starts off with various sketches before even pulling out his paints in order to ensure that it portrays exactly what he wants.  The stories that are told in each scene flows from the canvas into the viewer’s eyes with vibrant color and venerable subject matter.  Larry knows the scriptures well and has a love for the messages they contain.  While showing me his work he would reference from memory the exact scripture for which the paintings portrayed.  His Christian paintings led him to Vern Swanson, Curator of the Springville Art Museum, whom liked Larry’s work so much he decided to put it on display at the museum.  Currently, seventeen of Larry’s painting hang in the Springville Art museum, five of which have been purchased by the museum, and the other twelve are on loan.

 

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I asked Larry how long it takes him to complete a painting and he said that if he has a clear vision then he can do a painting from start to finish in as little as one day, including the larger sized ones.  If his vision isn’t quite clear then it may take up to a few weeks.  For him, listening to music while painting is almost essential.  It gets him in the zone, and he forgets about time.  He just paints.  He says that although other work can tire him out within an hour he can paint all day long without tiring or realizing how much time has passed.  He was born to paint.

To date, Larry has painted about 9,000 paintings and won over twenty-five Best in Show awards, as well as the Carl Sandersen Award in Kansas, for his paintings.

 

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4 comments on “Larry Christensen

  1. Found the photos of Larry Christensen and his biography fascinating! Wonderful work!

  2. Another really good article. I like the farm and country paintings. I can identify with the one of the girl driving the tractor and the men pitching hay on the wagon. I drove the tractor a few times.

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