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A Chat With Del Parson

Best known for his iconic portrait of Christ, LDS artist Del Parson has created countless works of art found in church materials and homes throughout the world. Here Scroll writer Samantha Smiley speaks with the prolific contributer to LDS art.

Being a painter, you work with a lot of colors. Which one is your favorite?
Red. I just really like the way it looks. I use red a lot to modify other colors from light to dark, but mainly, I just like the way it looks.

How well does the image you are trying to portray translate from your head to the canvas?
I would say that most of the time it doesn’t come out exactly how I see it in my head. It’s always better in your mind, but I’m usually pleasantly surprised.
 
What do you do in your spare time?
Spend time with my family. I really like to hunt and fish, to be out in nature. I also spend a lot of time at church.

What was your inspiration for your famous Christ portrait?
It was commissioned by the Church, so I did it as they asked me to. They were very specific in what they wanted. I would do a sketch and they would comment on it. It evolved. People don’t always know what they want until they see the possibilities.

Some say that the scriptural scenes you portray are inaccurate according to the biblical accounts. If that were true, would you consider changing them?
A lot of times an artist will only have a limited amount of time to complete a painting, sometimes only two weeks. To do enough research to represent the picture historically would take much more time and resources than are allowed. The purpose of any painting is to evoke the emotion of the story, not necessarily to give a National Geographic picture of it.

What prompted the painting of Christ smiling?
I was speaking with David B. Haight in his office one day, and he asked me about doing a painting with Christ smiling. So that’s where that came from.

What area of the country do you enjoy painting the most?
Yellowstone Park and the Tetons. It’s God’s country.

What do you enjoy painting the most?
People. Anywhere they are, I love to paint people. Whether it’s in a commissioned piece for the Church or just a portrait, that’s what I enjoy the most.

Some artists prefer to sell their paintings to people they don’t know so they don’t see their work later and wish they could change it. How do you deal with seeing your work so frequently?
I learned a long time ago that I’m never going to be perfect, and I have also learned to deal with that. But I’ll never have the luxury of taking my work back. When it’s out there, it’s out there. You can’t undo it. It’s like life; there are a lot of things that we do that aren’t perfect, but you have to live with your decisions. You can’t undo them.

Is there anything else you want the students of BYU–Idaho to know?
I think as an artist, you never go out and say, “I’m going to do a bad job today.” You do the best you can. Some will like your work, and some won’t. You work as hard as you can, and it’s wonderful and rewarding when someone can relate to your art. If I can make someone feel happy or hopeful, I’ve done a good job.

 

Samantha Smiley
scroll staff

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