Artist loves sharing what she's learned, work reflects interest in nature and people

Lynne Millman-Weidinger has always loved nature, and she's also always loved people. So it's only natural that the two should be the main subjects of her paintings.

Born in Massachusetts and raised primarily in Carson City, Nev., the artist grew up loving animals. Her parents and older brother, Dean - who was a nationally recognized artist before being struck down with leukemia in his late 20s - nurtured her artistic talent and helped her appreciate her surroundings.Believing "it's important that we see these things," the artist as a young woman visited art museums throughout Southern California and Europe with her father, to see the work of the masters firsthand. Those experiences, combined with her love for people, set the direction for her art career.

But it was an auto accident that really turned her life around, she said, and made the complacent 19-year-old realize she had a purpose in life. It happened in Colorado, two states away from her home, when she was attending the University of Nevada at Reno. As she lay in a Denver hospital for two months, she was inundated - and impressed - by the love and caring of missionaries and local members who visited daily. The fact that she had survived the accident made her realize God had a work for her to do. "I also discovered there were really good people in the Church," she recalled.

After she recovered from the accident, she later served a mission. "Imagine how thrilled I was to be called to the Colorado Denver Mission, back with all those people who'd cared for me," she reflected. As a missionary from 1975-77, she combined her love of people with her love of art, often sketching scenes and adding a scripture from the Book of Mormon, then offering them to investigators as a gift.

She received a gift also: "I had a strong testimony before my mission, but it increased as I taught people. And I realized I really enjoyed being around people."

That attitude has carried over into her art as well as other aspects of her life.

Before and after her mission, Sister Millman-Weidinger studied art at BYU with artists James Christensen and William Whitaker. In the process, she discovered the 19th-century painters and was influenced along a traditional style.

Her early professional works - in acrylic - focused on western themes: Indians, frontiersmen, horses. So well done were they that her paintings were often mistaken for photographs. Although she's not doing the western themes anymore, horses are still a favorite subject for her works.

As far as media go, she's tried them all. "I went from perfecting pencil drawing to perfecting acrylics. I felt I'd gone as far as I could in those mediums," she said. She also tried watercolor and even sculpture, but she's been working exclusively in oils since 1988.

In addition to painting, she gives lecture/demonstrations, and teaching is something she enjoys almost as much as painting.

"I love sharing what I've learned," she said. And for her, learning is an ongoing process. Part of that process has been learning how to balance family and work.

"I married late and had children late," she explained. She used to travel around the country, displaying her work at western shows, before she had children. Now with three daughters ranging in age from 2 to 7, she does more traveling with them in the car - to museums, parks, canyons, or farms to enjoy nature and animals, as she learned to do as a child. "I want them to appreciate all kinds of animals, even snakes and worms, and not be afraid of them," she said.

Lynne and her husband, Don Weidinger, a Provo City employee and former graphic artist, are members of the Lakeside 7th Ward, Provo Utah West Stake, where she teaches Primary. Thanks to her husband's support, she is able to spend a couple of hours a day painting - either while the girls are napping or while Don is taking care of them. Her studio is in the basement of their home in northwest Provo.

"I paint only a couple of hours a day on weekdays because I feel it's important to be with my children," the artist said. "Fortunately I work fast and can get a lot done in a couple of hours."

One of her portraits takes at least 100 hours from start to finish. She's now working on a painting of President Howard W. Hunter, which she felt compelled to do when he became president of the Church last year and has felt even more strongly about it since his death. She's using the verdaccio technique on the portrait - underpainting in gray-green and building up layers for a three-dimensional look - to make the portrait more lifelike.

"I've always liked people," she said. "The challenge is to make them look alive, make them look real, and capture their spirit and personality."

Her work appears in several public buildings as well as in private collections. A personal favorite of hers is one of a mother (actually her sister) reading to her young children. Titled "Taking Time for Your Children," it was selected for exhibition in the Church's first international artists competition.

Her " '90s Renaissance Woman," posed by a neighbor girl, was selected for display at the Springville (Utah) Museum of Art as part of its Spring Salon.

"Now's the time for me to do portraits," she said. And she is now beginning to combine her love of nature and people by putting people in the landscapes she paints.

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