Monday, October 12, 2020

The Man from Snowy River

 I was again given the opportunity to illustrate paintings for the BYU Devotional. This was to be on February 11, 2020, and given by Elder Terrence Vinson, who is from Australia.

He told the story of the Man from Snowy River, who would stay in his saddle despite the steep cliff and rocks. He trusted his horse. We were also encouraged to stay in the saddle, and to trust and be led by God through the trials of this life.

Here is a link to Elder Vinson's talk:

I was delighted that he asked for copies of the paintings! I was able to have them printed and delivered to him on his birthday.

Can You Sleep When the Wind Blows?

I had a special opportunity to illustrate a story told by Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy, at a BYU Devotional on November 13, 2018. 

He told a story about a farmer who was looking for help. I painted my husband, who doesn't normally have white hair or a beard, and my son.

The boy told the farmer he could work for him, and when the farmer asked for his qualifications, the boy said confidently, "I can sleep when the wind blows."

The farmer did not understand this response, but was curious and took the boy on as a stable hand. 

One night, a giant storm came sweeping towards the farm house. The farmer, in panic, tried to wake his farm hand, but he was fast asleep. So he ran out to secure the barn and the animals himself.

What he found was that all the chinks were filled in the walls, all the doors were locked and barred, and all the animals were safe in their barn. Now he understood the statement, "I can sleep when the wind blows."

"And now, returning to our unassuming farm boy, I pray that whatever storms come into your life—and I promise they will come—that you can be a person of character, honor, and integrity. And most of all, I pray that you can sleep when the wind blows." --Elder Bowen

Christmas Devotional 2019

I feel so blessed that I was given the opportunity to create these illustrations. It was amazing to be asked to illustrate a story that would be told by an apostle of the Lord, President Dallin H. Oaks! My first thought for a model was my dear friend Tricia French, with her sweet daughter and her awesome husband. Tricia came through with costumes and an amazing hairstyle, and her mother-in-law provided beautiful period furniture!

The story is about a girl who was sad that she didn't receive the doll she wanted for Christmas. After her mom tried consoling her, her father called her in to sit on his lap and read from the scriptures about the greatest gift we have ever been given--Christ's atonement and resurrection. The child slept contentedly that night, grateful that she had been given that gift.

Six months after these illustrations aired on the LDS First Presidency Christmas Devotional, my dear friend Tricia died in a tragic bike crash. We have all felt our world turn upside down. I am so grateful that I took the opportunity to draw and paint her and her husband and daughter when I had the chance. We miss her so much. These pictures are so much more meaningful now, and the story means so much more to us now. 

"Even though our Father in Heaven knew {terrible things} were in store for His beloved Son, He, in His infinite love and wisdom, gave Him to the world. And the second part of this wondrous gift is that Christ, the Son, knowing, too, all this, gave Himself willingly that we might have eternal life."--Janice Jensen Barton, "The Christmas I Remember Best," Deseret News, December 24, 1988.


George Among the Trees

According to popular legend, an officer in the Revolutionary War once directed his men to fell some trees and construct a much-needed bridge. As the soldiers struggled mightily with the task, an imposing-looking man rode up and, observing their work, said to the officer, “You don’t have enough men for the job, do you?”

“No,” the officer replied. “We need some help.”

The man, looking down from his saddle, asked, “Why don’t you help your men?”

“Me?” the officer responded in a huff. “Why, I am a corporal!”

The man got down from his horse and worked with the soldiers until the bridge was completed. Then, mounting his horse, he said to the officer, “Corporal, the next time you have a job to put through and too few men to do it you had better send for the Commander-in-Chief, and I will come again.”

The man, so the legend goes, was General George Washington." --Heidi Swinton


Set Free


A bird flew into a house one day, and as much as the family tried coaxing it out, it just kept retreating into the house further and further. Finally, their son had an idea. He turned off all the lights in the house, opened the front door, and turned on the porch light. The bird found its way out! 

"Have you ever felt like that bird? Have you ever felt trapped in your circumstances—as though you had exhausted all your options and there was no way out? Then the message of Easter is for you. Easter is a celebration of the Light of the World, who shines in the darkness to show the way to freedom. He sets the captives free. He gives hope to the disheartened and peace to the weary. He provides a way for us to live more abundantly now and everlastingly hereafter. 

The message of Easter is a message of freedom: victory over death, freedom from doubt and despair, and the bright light of hope—hope that good will ultimately conquer evil, that all wrongs will be righted, and that we will be set free to live again."--Lloyd Newell


I was very grateful to my friends the Minson for posing for this photo shoot, and that I was able to use my own son in the picture! They had plenty of children to use, but I needed a boy to fit the story, and the Minson family was made up of seven daughters!

Grow Together


This is a story of a logger and his nephew, chopping wood for lumber. The nephew noticed a tall tree standing by itself and said they should chop it down for good lumber. His uncle explained that, when a tree grows all by itself, it has too many branches that cause too many knots, and it is not useful for lumber. Similarly, we need to "grow together" to become our best selves.

I asked a father and his son to pose for me for this painting. Since then, I have come to know and love them--I have taught the son in cub scouts, and the father has become part of our bishopric. I am grateful to them for letting me use them as models.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Willie Handcart Storm

I have been able to paint most of the pioneer messages for the choir broadcast over the last nine years.  This year, the story was about the Willie handcart company.  They endured terrible hardships as they traveled across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.

According to the story from Betsey Smith Goodwin's journal, “I will not dwell upon the hardships we endured, nor the hunger and cold, but I like to tell of the goodness of God unto us.” She recounts one day that especially stood out in her memory. The wind blew fiercely. The dark clouds were ominous and threatening. The approaching storm was so violent, the thunder and lightning so frightening, that even the ox teams refused to take another step. The group’s captain stood in the middle of the road, took off his hat, and bowed his head. Soon other members of the company joined him in bowing their heads and removing their hats, until 100 carts had gathered around the captain, who said, “Let us pray.” Betsey remembers that as he poured his heart out in prayer, heaven felt close. The clouds then parted, and the company pressed forward with faith until they reached camp and pitched their tents—just before the storm clouds finally burst open with torrents of rain.

I had to finish this painting early in order to go on a family vacation, and the scope of the painting was pretty daunting--100 handcarts and all their families!?  With my husband's help, I decided on this rocky landscape, and to zoom in to about 30 people.  I happened to learn that a friend of ours had a handcart, which we borrowed and set up in several different positions, and had my sister's family and a neighbor family who were heading off to trek soon as models.  Thank you, Ericksons and Gillmans!  The finishing of this painting was a blessing and result of a lot of prayer.

Somebody's Mother

I got to do another Mother's Day painting in 2016.  Even though it was early May, and quite warm, my models were kind enough to dress in heavy coats, gloves and scarves, and make it look like winter, while posing on the street corner.  Thanks David and RaeMi!  David also had to show up to model right after being in a car accident!  I have the sweetest models ever!

The woman was old and ragged and gray
And bent with the chill of the Winter’s day. . . .
She stood at the crossing and waited long,
Alone, uncared for, amid the throng
Of human beings who passed her by
Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.
Down the street, with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of “school let out,”
Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep. . . .
[One] paused beside her and whispered low,
“I’ll help you cross, if you wish to go. . . .
“She’s somebody’s mother, boys, you know,
For all she’s aged and poor and slow.
“And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
To help my mother, you understand,
“If ever she’s poor and old and gray,
When her own dear boy is far away.”
And “somebody’s mother” bowed low her head
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was, “God be kind to the noble boy,

Who is somebody’s son, and pride and joy!”

Handel's Messiah

George Frideric Handel had a hard life.  He was down on himself and wanting to give up when his friend, Charles Jennens, gave him a text he had prepared from Isaiah verses in the Bible about the Messiah.  Handel set it to music and made one of the best, well-known musical pieces ever.

My brother-in-law Ryan and his son Cole were so kind to get all dressed up fancy and model for me on this job, and it was fun to learn that Cole's sister Natalie had just written a research paper on Handel, so she taught me a lot about this story as well.

Viktor Frankl's Search for Meaning

Before Viktor Frankl became a renowned psychologist; before he survived a Nazi concentration camp; and before he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, a bestselling book about his experiences; he was a high school student who thought deeply about life—more deeply than perhaps most teenagers do. One day his science teacher declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” Young Viktor leaped from his chair and countered, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?”

At the last minute, one of my models couldn't make it, and our location also fell through, so I was able to use my husband as the professor instead, and shot this in our kitchen.  He's a great model, but I've used him a lot--you can look through the old paintings and see if you recognize him.  Thanks to him, and to Brock for spending a few hours following me around while I tried working out new plans.

John Akhwari: Finish the Race

I was asked with just 24 turnaround time to sketch John Akhwari in the 1968 olympics.  He was pushed and fell while running the marathon, injuring his shoulder and dislocating his knee, and had to use part of his shirt to bandage up his knee.  He finished the race slowly, limping, and well over an hour after the winner.  Most of the spectators had left.  However, those who remained stood and applauded his finish in the dark.

When asked why he didn't just quit, he said, "My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race.  They sent me to finish the race."

I love the research these paintings require me to do.  For this one, I had to watch old recordings of Akhwari and the news report. His story is so amazing and inspiring.  It helps me to try harder to go on in tough situations.

The Grasshopper and the Ant

I'm sure you've heard the fable about the grasshopper and the ant.  The ant is industrious all summer, storing up food for the winter, while the grasshopper spends his time playing, relaxing, and playing music.  However, when the winter comes, the grasshopper is cold and starving, and asks for the mercy of the ant colony to feed and shelter him.

I absolutely loved painting this.  It was great fun to use bright colors and forced perspective, as well as having the opportunity to use my cartoon-style pen and watercolor.  I even broke out the Dr. Martin dyes to boost the colors.  I have this hanging on my bedroom wall right now.

Colemans in the 1970s

I painted this based on a story about the announcer, Lloyd Newell, from the 1970s.  I took the opportunity to paint my own family.  I was born in 1977, so this would have been about 1978.  I am the baby sitting in my mom's lap.  All the furnishings, wall coverings, and decorations are based on my home at that time, and I found pictures of each of my siblings and parents from then as well, then fit them together into this picture.  My dad painted the two-paneled picture and made the pot.  Apparently the father from the story had a bunch of scriptures and quotes written on a big piece of cardboard, and they would read them together for family nights.  While that is not what we did, we had regular family home evening, and I'm sure there was a time when my dad would bring out a poster or a drawing, since he was an art teacher.

Unfortunately, this painting never aired--we never learned why.

Dancing Pioneers

For the 2015 Pioneer Day message, I had the privilege of painting this illustration.  Margaret Judd, who was 17 when she trekked across the plains as a pioneer in the 1800s, said, "Our journey was like all such journeys--it had its pleasant side, and its unpleasant side. When the sun was shining and the roads were good, we trotted along feeling that we would soon be at our destination, but when the rain poured down and the roads were so bad that we could not travel--then that was the other side."  However, they found ways to lift their spirits.  Catherine Adams, who turned 12 during her pioneer trek, described it this way: "It was terribly tiring and tedious in the hot and rainy weather. . . We had many good times, though.  In the evenings after the horses were tethered the men would light a big bonfire, clear off a level piece of ground, dampen it down to pack it a bit, and have a dance.  There were some fine musicians along who played the fiddle, [harmonica], and accordion, and we used to e enjoy sitting around the fire listening to them or having a sing-song."

I used several pictures of modern-day teenagers on trek for this one.  It was a trick to get the lighting right, with several pictures with different lighting to start, but I think it turned out OK in the end.  I really wanted a dramatic bonfire, and some nice glowing contrast to the pioneers.  I enjoyed painting the flickering lights along the water-soaked ground.

World War I Nurse

This happened to be a Mother's Day painting I did for the tabernacle choir broadcast.  Right after World War I ended, a soldier who made it through the entire war without injury, but died of pneumonia.  The American Red Cross nurse at the hospital sent a letter to the soldier's mother, wanting to share more about her son than just a cold record of his death.

"He was brave and cheerful, and made a good fight with the disease," until he was too weak to go on. Now he "sleeps under a simple white wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country.  I enclose a few leaves from the grass that grows near in a pretty meadow."

My high school friend Heather was so willing and excited to pose for me and be the nurse, even putting on the costume including the Krispy Kreme hat after teaching zumba one day.  I was glad the two paintings came together.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


When Ben Franklin worked for the Boston Post Office, he had to invent an odometer to measure the mileage of the roads.  I was happy to be able to use our awesome neighbor and friend Tim, who made a great Ben Franklin.  This painting doesn't do his great modeling justice--I will have to paint a close-up sometime.  Also, my son was willing to pose as Franklin's assistant.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sarah Ferguson McDonald

This is Sarah Ferguson McDonald, a pioneer in the 1850s crossing the plains at the Platte River.  Her husband James McDonald had contracted cholera the day before, helping another sick pioneer the cross the river.  It was a fast-acting disease, and he was dead that morning.  Sarah was left to bury him alongside the river after putting her children to bed.  As she stood in the rushing water to wash the off the dirt and mud from the grave, she pondered for a moment how easy it would be to let the water take her away to her husband.  She was brought back to her surroundings by her small child calling to her from the wagon.  The next morning she packed up and continued to travel to Zion with her children.

I chose April as my model, because she has always struck me as a woman of beauty and strength.  She travels on in her life, despite hardships and downfalls, including losing her baby daughter.  She and her sweet spitfire daughter Oakley, also pictured, would have made great pioneers.

I have enjoyed speaking with several of Sarah's ancestors after painting this.  I know that her decision to endure to the end despite the death of her husband and the hardships of pioneer life was invaluable to her young family and all those who followed.

John Trebonius and Martin Luther

The story here is that John Trebonius was an instructor in the 1500s, where men usually kept their hats on indoors.  However, he always removed his hat when he came into the classroom, as a sign of respect towards the boys he was teaching.  He said that he never knew if he was in the presence of future greatness.  As it turned out, a young Martin Luther was in his classroom, (depicted here in a green and tan tunic on the front row.)

I was given a very short deadline on this painting, and had to round up several boys and a man quickly.  There was no time to find outfits.  Thanks to my sister, four boys and an actor practicing "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Valentine Theater in American Fork, I was able to take pictures immediately.  I then doubled the boys in different positions, changed everyone's features, and added period clothing.  (Thank you Anya Allred for again coming through with fantastic costume references!)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

George and Martha Washington--A Love Story

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Martin Luther King Singing Hymns

Keep On Trying

Soup Kitchen Thanksgiving

Care Packages

Manna From Heaven

Homeless Avenue

A Teacher's Funeral

A Man Without a Country

Oh, What We Gain From Those We Have Lost

This is my tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us, our families, our freedoms and our way of life. It is a glimpse of a soldier's funeral near Memorial Day.

Chinese Adoption

I have seen so many people's lives blessed through adoption. Adoption is such a blessing, for the child and for the parents.