Some people discover where they’re headed in life by seeing the handwriting on the wall, but for artist Glen Hopkinson, his aim was guided by the painting on the easel.
In fact it was his father’s easel and dad happened to be not only the superintendent of the former Byron High School, but its art teacher as well. Thus, Glen Hopkinson’s lifetime excursion into painting began when he was a toddler and now at 66 and a resident of Byron he’s been slaving over a hot easel full time for 41 years. His talent has been and still is a blessing that supported him, his wife, Pam, and their five children; and continues to be the way he makes a living.
His primary medium consists of oils, which he describes as “like playing with colored mud.” But he has demonstrated that he well knows how to manipulate his “mud” into lovely paintings of many sizes that leave viewers in awe.
He enjoys depicting a wide range of Western subjects including plains Indians of the 19th century, canyons and cowboys, rivers, mesas and related topics. Additionally he enjoys renditions highlighting early day residents, as he and his wife’s families were among Mormon pioneers. As well he has used his expertise to paint scenes involving the LDS Church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith, and associated aspects.
His gallery in downtown Byron is filled with an amazing array of oils ranging in size from tiny to huge. The gallery, in the former Cozzens Cash Grocery and then a thrift shop until August 2011, is next door to the town’s post office. Besides walls full of his work he enjoys some of his props including an authentic capote (a cloak made from a Hudson Bay blanket), a “family heirloom” saddle, Indian baskets, a buffalo skull, a powder horn and a handmade buckskin-and-bead rifle scabbard. Hopkinson said that the site can be visited by anyone although he observes “irregular hours.” However, arrangements can be made by phoning 272-9041.
Recalling his childhood interest in painting, Hopkinson said, “My dad’s studio was a haven of visual pleasure for me. When I was little and wanted to paint he would get out some of his older brushes and watercolors for me to use. I would literally be ‘underfoot’ painting my paintings while he did his. I would say that my art training began at the feet of my father when I was 2 or 3 years old.”
After his early years of informal art training, Hopkinson began his more serious art education during high school tutored by his father. He also studied with Robert Meyers, a famous Saturday Evening Post illustrator, as well as Donald “Putt” Putman.
In 1966 at age 19 the budding artist then served a 30-month assignment in South Korea at the Seoul Mission for the LDS Church. Besides his missionary work there he painted an 11-foot mural depicting Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles, which was hung in a hallway of the church. He believes that the mural is his largest work. Also during his elder efforts he served as an editor and illustrator for the monthly mission magazine.
Upon returning to the U.S.A., he married his high school sweetheart, Pam Cozzens. After graduating from BYU with a bachelor of fine arts degree, Hopkinson, Pam and their young son, Travis, moved to Salt Lake City, where he worked as an illustrator. When the company for which he worked ran out of work, he took another job in the art field, then that company folded, too.
At that point he recalled, “I told Pam that I could be without a job on my own,” and so he struck off on his own with the support of his wife. “I took some of my work to an art show and we made enough to keep us going for a month.” From there his career flourished and, as he says now, “It’s been a fast piddle ever since.” He and his family even operated Thunderhouse Gallery in Cody from 1972 to ’82.
Life with brushes and oils included and still includes painting commissions and sales at art shows and galleries. In the early days it kept him and his wife in good shape as they raised their five children: Travis, Heather, Todd, Summer and Holly. That good shape scenario continues in a way today except that the children are grown. Hopkinson’s artwork with a mix of realism and impressionism is in permanent collections of the Wyoming and Montana Historical Society museums, the Whitney Museum of Western Art and many corporate and private collections worldwide. His paintings and writing are featured in two books, “Old Nauvoo Through the Eyes of An Artist by Glen S. Hopkinson” and a Deseret book, “A Faithful Life; the Story of Joseph Smith in Pictures.”
His art talents, including the ability to visually present a story, is one of the most striking features of his work. That skill proved useful in providing the storyboards and pre-production design for the pioneer movie, “Legacy.”
Hopkinson often finds himself in the hills, valleys and canyons looking for subject matter. He mostly uses a digital camera to snare ideas, but still at times likes 35mm slides although he notes that it’s become more difficult to find slide film. And he can be found painting on-site, sometimes doing a small piece and then enlarging the same scene, painting in his gallery.
He sees the biggest challenge for him as an artist as being able to capture a scene in such a way so that on canvas it retains the image he imagined. Light and shadow, composition and the other aspects of fine art are his forte and he feels blessed.
Stated Hopkinson, “I continue to be excited about the work and am grateful to God for allowing me the great privilege of sharing an artist’s view of our world and our ancestors’ world through my paintings.”
BY BOB RODRIGUEZ