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  , 2004

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Young LDS Artist Finding Success

"Suffer the Children" by J. Kirk Richards, recently unveiled at the BYU Bookstore


 By David Winters

Artist J. Kirk Richards is wrapping up what has been a busy but successful summer.  He recently moved back to Provo from Tennessee where he had been living the last few years.  His “Son of Man” painting won a purchase award (one of six out of 700 entries) in the Church’s International Art Competition.  The inside back cover of the August issue of the Ensign depicts his painting, “The Five Prepared.”  His artwork was also displayed in the June issue of the Ensign.  And most recently, he unveiled a new painting during Education Week at the BYU Bookstore.

J. Kirk and Amy Richards at their home and studio in Provo, Utah

Such is the life of an artist with overwhelming talent.  At the young age of 27, Kirk is perhaps best described as a Renaissance man.  There is no question that he is an extremely talented artist. He is also an accomplished musician, vocalist, composer and illustrator.  Although he is making a living primarily through his paintings, he also recently released a CD, "Granted" and is promoting a children's book he illustrated, The Carpenter of Galilee & The Welcoming Door

“I love to do many things," Kirk said in a recent interview at his home in Provo. "Yes, I paint 30 to 40 hours a week, but I also don’t want to give up other things that add such meaning to my life.  Music is one of those things.” One wonders if Kirk's classical training in music brings much of the depth and richness to his artwork.

"Son of Man" by J. Kirk Richards

This painting is different than the one by the same title, which won the Purchase Award in the Church's International Art Competition

Through his paintings, one catches a glimpse into Kirk's soul.  In the interview, Kirk commented that he wants his testimony to come through in his artwork in a meaningful and powerful way.  His subject matter is primarily religious, but the way he approaches and paints his subjects is widely varied.  Kirk describes his style as ranging from abstract modernist to more strict classical realism.

A tour of his gallery and studio reveals the variety of his work.  Some of his paintings look like a modern Carl Bloch:  realistic, with a hint of modernism in the way he incorporates a liberal use of earth tones and textures.  Other works are more geometric and much more symbolic.  Some resemble imagery from a Tolkien novel and are somewhat reminiscent of paintings by James Christensen.  Regardless of the style, his paintings are thought-provoking and deeply beautiful. (Full disclosure: I own three of Kirk's paintings -- each is distinct in style and beauty.)

Artwork in progress at his studio in Provo

These multiple styles have led some to criticize Kirk as one who is still in need of maturing.  It has been said that he does not yet have a single and distinct style.  However, after spending an hour with him and his wife, Amy, one walks away with the impression that Kirk is mature beyond his years.  He has a passion for life and has seized the opportunity to explore and develop his talents in multiple areas -- like any true Renaissance man.

Additional Information: Kirk Richards on the Web; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' International Art Competition; Contact Kirk at (801) 375-3455 or by e-mail at