By Amy Choate
At a young age, children often dream of what they will become when they grow up. Some want to be in the police force, some want to be astronauts or scientists and some want to be doctors or lawyers. Then there are those who want to be artists.
Jeff Hein is shrugging off the “starving artist” stereotype, and showing that not all beginning artists are without hope. Hein, 28, an art major at the University of Utah, is making his childhood dreams a reality.
“In the second grade, I remember sitting in class drawing, and all the kids were standing around me watching,” Hein said. “One of the kids asked me that question: are you an artist? And I remember thinking ever since then, I”m going to be an artist.”
Hein began by drawing, doodling in classes and studying art at different universities. In 2000 he began to experiment with painting.
“Before that I was kind of intimidated by color,” Hein said.
Three years later his paintings hang in galleries in Salt Lake City and California. He teaches private painting classes. In addition to receiving awards and scholarships, his work has been displayed in various church outlets such as the Ensign and the church museum.
Though Hein is now on the road to where he wants to be, his journey has not been easy. Years ago, in 1996, he lay on a hospital bed, saying what he thought were his last goodbyes to his family.
“I thought I might die,” he said. “Several times before surgery the doctors told me to say my goodbyes.”
Hein was diagnosed with cancer, and faced a healing process that would take a year and a half in and out of hospitals, with effects that would never right themselves. There were complications, which led to a total of nine major operations.
“After I got cancer, I got to sit and think for a year and a half,” Hein said. “That”s it. I had to just stare at the window the whole time. The world went on without me; it was the strangest thing. I learned a lot from that.”
Hein”s experience with cancer has impacted his motivation and his art.
“Most of my religious paintings are about people being healed by Christ,” he said. “I identify with them. They impact me the most, because I can relate to them; I feel like I was healed. Art is about painting what you believe.”
Because it can be difficult to establish yourself in the art world, a passion for painting is essential, said John Ericson, an assistant professor at the University of Utah.
“It”s a difference between a calling and a career,” Ericson said. “First you have to have the calling, then the career is a by-product of the calling.”
Even artists that love paint have to work hard to make it into the world that loves art. But there still is a way for those who dream.
“Paint a lot,” Hein said. “As soon as you have what you think is good, approach galleries and show them what you have. If people like it, then you see what happens.”
Hein”s art can be seen on his website, www.heinart.com. A note of caution to some readers: The site includes figure studies.