As thousands gathered to Salt Lake City this weekend for the 182nd LDS General Conference, many toured the landmarks of Temple Square and admired the artwork displayed there.
The art seen there and in LDS magazines and books has been appreciated for years by members of the Church without much knowledge of the artists behind the work.
BYU visual arts professor Robert T. Barrett, who has painted every modern prophet’s portrait, is one of these artists.
With 10 children and work as a full-time professor leading BYU’s illustration program, Barrett also continues to add to his considerable list of projects that includes paintings for the church and companies like Houghton Mifflin, Penguin and Random House.
“I don’t think it’s exhausting to be creating; I think it’s energizing,” Barrett said in a news release. “They way I look at it, I want whatever I’m doing next to be the best project I’ve ever done.”
His success as a painter can be seen in his artwork and impressive list of clientele. His success as a professor can be found in his students, who have gone on to work for companies like DreamWorks and Disney Features.
“It’s neat to see how many former students are producing great work,” he said.
Even students who took classes from him but did not major in illustration look back on his instruction fondly, like former student Joel Miller.
“I took History of Illustration from him,” said Miller, who graduated with a B.A. in design in 1998. “I remember his instruction was full of insight and information not included in the text. Brother Barrett really brought the subject to life for me.”
Whether he is painting the president of the Church or the president of the United States (which he has also done), Barrett approaches his work with a spiritual attitude.
“Do I approach religious painting different than normal painting? Actually I don’t,” Barrett said. “I pray about everything that I do.”