CULTRAL-CO, Argentina When Oscar Campos, a young man who joined the Church at 17, completed his mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his prospects were bleak indeed.
"After my mission, my wife and I were married but we had nothing; only a bicycle, our clothing and a bed. I worked at whatever I could find to sustain ourselves: I worked in a supermarket, and later as bricklayer in construction of a meetinghouse."
While painting posters for a construction company, he drew on techniques he learned before his mission while studying at the Center for Introduction to Art. He soon discovered that he could earn more money doing lettering. He abruptly changed the direction of his career. He began painting natural life and this, coupled with his quest to perfect his technique, led to his becoming internationally renowned as a Patagonian artist. His works hang in Buckingham Palace in the collection of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. He now shows his works in Miami, Fla.; Dallas, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and London, England.
As a native of Patagonia, he knows the flora and fauna well. He searches the woods and photographs the mammals and birds in their natural habitat. Later, in his studio, he begins paintings to permanently record the incredible landscape. His paintings require, in some cases, months to complete. While he is not well-to-do, he has achieved self-sufficiency and provides for his family and is growing spiritually as a creator of art.
His first opportunity to earn money from his paintings came when an uncle obtained work as a supervisor on an oil well. He asked his uncle for a job but was told no. Instead, his uncle sponsored him at an art show in the city of Junin in the Andes.
"This show was the start of selling my paintings, because up to this time it had been just a hobby, a luxury supported by my work."
As he progressed as an artist, he admired the work of the well-known Argentine naturalist painter Axed Amuchastegui. After Brother Campos' experience in the Andes, he began to feel that he wanted to learn from this master of nature. Finally, he obtained the artist's telephone number in Buenos Aires and called him to express appreciation for his work. The genteel artist responded with an invitation to visit him at his studios. Brother Campos borrowed money and rode "the thumb" or hitch-hiked, to Buenos Aires. On the way, he slept in the rain one night. In Buenos Aires, he took a train to the artist's address. As he stood outside the famous artist's home, he lost his nerve and turned around and went quietly back to his home in Patagonia.
Later, he returned to Buenos Aires and this time stayed for a month and became well-acquainted with the artist as he was recovering from an illness.
"He generously invited me to participate three or four times a week in painting lessons where I learned much of his techniques. I was especially taken when he asked me, 'Oscar, will you become a serious painter?' Up to then, I had earned my way through occasional expositions, but I doubted that this was serious. I knew that I ought to increase my talents, not just through moonlighting but with all my energy. He said, 'Then do it! All that you do with excellence will bring results.'
"After I left him, I began to work seriously, as if each painting were for the most important person. I was able to devote myself entirely. I always felt that I could and should do better. Today, I still feel the same way."
After his lessons with Axed Amuchastegui, he also learned from another well-known painter, Juan Lazcano. He also studied art books and he continues to take college courses.
"I first discovered my talents at age 10," said Brother Campos. "The talents were always there, but they had to be discovered and developed.
"My work as a naturalist painter is unusual," he said. "To be successful in this area a person cannot lose focus. I feel I ought to remain here in this country to develop; it is an eternal principle that the understanding we gain will rise with us in the resurrection. I know that it is never too late to start, not even in the last years of old age. My feelings for the youth is for them to decide that they all have talents of some kind or another, so they ought to develop them and search for excellence in whatever field they choose."