Al Young Studios Newsroom
Inspiration and creativity Articles

Spellbound by tenebrouse lighting

By Al R. Young What is Truth? was painted by the artist in the studios at Ben Haven.

dimensions (unframed width x height)
24 in. x 27.625 in.


Research begins — 2013 November
Composition begins — 2014 January
Brushwork begins — 2014 January
Painting completed — 2014 May

The inspiration for a painting can span many years.  For as long as I can remember, tenebrouse lighting has held me spellbound whether in painting, film, or daily life... Read more »

Tags: What Is Truth, 2019, Inspiration and creativity, Project commentaries, Tips and techniques, Women of the Bible Art Collection

Al and Elspeth speak at 2016 Education Conference

By Al R. Young Participation in the annual Education Conference hosted by Southern Virginia University typically involves speaking in person; however, immunological issues associated with Al’s CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) precluded doing so.  The director for the 2016 Conference authorized Elspeth and Al to participate by means of a recorded presentation.  Links on this page take you to the full presentations produced by the Studios specifically for this year’s Conference.... Read more »

Tags: 2016, Inspiration and creativity, News, Tips and techniques

Searching for artistic answers at the museum

By Elspeth C. Young

Elspeth's new portrait of Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, will be the 44th oil painting in the Women of the Bible Collection.  It was completed to meet the production schedule for Women of the New Testament by Camille Fronk Olson.  The book, currently in press, is scheduled for release through Deseret Book later in 2014.

Dimensions (width x height)
14 in. x 20 in.


Research begins - January 2012
Composition begins - September 2010
Brushwork begins - January 2014

This section presents only one or two items that may be of interest to professional artists, amateurs, and others interested in the work of the Studios... Read more »

Tags: 2014, Inspiration and creativity, Project commentaries, Women of the Bible Art Collection

Blank Art Diaries: Edition of At Home now available as spiral-bound art diary

By Al R. Young This blank-book journal sells for $32 (plus shipping) direct from Al Young Studios.  Printed in full color on heavy paper, the book is bound with black plastic spiral to rest flat when open.

At Home: A Personal Journal  features 128 original artworks consisting of 51 original oil paintings from the Artists of Al Young Studios, 44 images from the Studios' Limited Editions Collection, nine pen and ink drawings and block prints by Ashton, seven of Al's exquisitely crafted pencil drawings, and one lithograph from his private portfolios... Read more »

Tags: North Shore, Nasturtium, Wald Kirche, Scabiosa, Foxglove, Narcissus on beige paper, July, Columbine, Maine, Final Draft, Unfurling, Back Shore, Summer's End, Gifts of Morn, Black-eyed Susan, Land's End, Solitude, The Limberlost, Perdita,

A panel-support accessory for $10 easel

By Al R. Young When we received a commission to paint two fairly large, horizontal landscape paintings for the renovation of the Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley conference center renovation, I decided to construct a framework that could be clamped, horizontally, to the $10 easel and provide backing for the panels while I worked on them.  I might have painted the two landscapes on the landscape easel, but glare is a perennial problem with that easel and I needed it as a drying rack so that I could work on both paintings simultaneously... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations

A wood-block brush holder

By Al R. Young Two 2x6 scraps were glued together and then holes were drilled on a drill press to make this brush and tool holder.

Earlier brush holders, such as the pedestal and spindle brush holders, worked well enough, but took up a good deal of space for the number of brushes they could hold, and required hitting a target of two separate holes for the brush handle.  Consequently, I have switched to using brush holders that provide greater brush density and a single shaft in which the brush handle rests... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations

The loft easel

By Al R. Young First, the story problem:

In the fall of 2012, the Studios was commissioned to paint a tetraptych consisting of individual images measuring 13.5 in. wide x 186.5 in. high.  The tetraptych was supposed to present a scenic image, not necessarily a continuous image, as though the entire image could be assembled by a contiguous arrangement of the panels, but coherent in the sense that windows onto a particular scene present portions of the same.

We decided to use Masonite as the support... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations

An old black piano leg and two wall plaques

By Al R. Young Sometimes the creative process seems to backfire, even though no signs of difficulty appear along the way.  One such occurrence involved my desire to create a brush holder out of an old black piano leg and two wall plaques.

When I stepped into the shop to embark on the project, I simply wanted to make a brush holder that would accommodate as many brushes as I might use during a long and demanding painting session, and I had nothing more than a hunch that the piano leg--that had been in one of the scrap buckets long enough for me to despair of finding a good use for it--would be a good place to start... Read more »

Tags: 2013, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations

Edition of Inspirations now available as spiral-bound art diary

By Al R. Young This blank-book journal sells for $32 (plus shipping) direct from Al Young Studios.  Printed in full color on heavy paper, the book is bound with black plastic spiral to rest flat when open.

Inspirations features 163 artworks along with 53 commentaries—written by the Artists of Al Young Studios especially for this journal—on such topics as their creative process, the creative environment of the Studios, technical approaches to their artwork, and inspiration from the works of other artists... Read more »

Tags: Untitled, In the Clearing, Anne Girl, Spring Rain, Journey's End, Enchanted Stillness, Bedtime Story, In The High Valley, Mountain Home, And I Will Not Deny The Christ, Sara Crewe, And My Soul Hungered, 3.00.0246.010, The Road To Melek, We...

The window is the view

By Al R. Young One piece of advice I received as a cub artist sounded quite savvy:  "Paint to standard frame sizes.  That way, you won't be out the expense of custom frames."

Savvy or not, the idea never worked for me.  When I compose an image, I do so in terms of the way the visual elements and the image boundaries interact, the objective being that of creating a particular mood, which correlates with the way the eye moves over the image.

I suppose it is possible to start with a fixed size and proportion, but I choose not to be constrained in that manner because the constraint creates a preoccupation... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

Clever like a crab

By Al R. Young By Al R. Young

General Nathanael Greene, the brilliant commander of colonial forces in the south during the closing years of America's War for Independence, used retreat as a road to victory.

His strategy actually made an ally of the earth itself, enlisting in his cause the topography, climate, vegetation, and other natural features of the countryside.  Of his strategy for defeating the forces of Cornwallis, Greene wrote:   "I run as fast backwards as forwards, to convince our enemy that we are like a crab... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

Fixed purpose

By Al R. Young By Al R. Young

Hiking in the mountains has been a favorite family pastime for many years.  When the children were much younger, Mill Creek Canyon was a favorite haunt because instead of having to work hard just to get to the wooded shoulders of the hills, trails were relatively easy, safe for the children, and started in the woods surrounding the trailhead.

Like most trails that snake their way up into the mountains, much of the time along the way was spent with exposed roots and hillside rubble on one side of the path and a view into the attic of the forest on the other... Read more »

Tags: Back Country, 2012, Inspiration and creativity

What am I looking at?

By Al R. Young
Several years ago, a good friend visited the studio and gallery. At one point during our visit, we stood a while in the loft above the studio. Four large tonal landscape paintings, after the style of the Hudson River School, filled three of the walls like picture windows.
My guest looked from painting to painting, and, whether moved by the sheer size of the artworks or influenced by something in the treatment of the subject matter, exclaimed with evident anxiety: "I wish I knew what I was looking at!"

Like so many artists, I thought, but did not say:  "I wish you did, too!"

For the first 40 years or so of my journey as an artist, I worked primarily in pencil and spent a few years on lithographs... Read more »

Tags: In the Clearing, In The High Valley, I Shall Be Whole, 2012, Costume and props, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

Time is . . .

By Al R. Young By Al R. Young

I don't remember when I first heard the axiom:  Time is money.  The succinctness of the dictum asserts its own truth as though it were left over from the sunrise of creation, when simple sentences framed the making of the world.

It comes, instead, from the pen of Benjamin Franklin, and is part of a 1748 letter entitled Advice to a Young Tradesman.  The letter is signed with no more assertion than that of "An Old Tradesman," and this is the short paragraph to which the statement belongs:

Remember, that time is money... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

Shake hands with the bear

By Al R. Young

Fifteen years ago, I sat at my drawing table in the studio preparing to draw the last element I had planned as part of an image for a lithograph. The drawing had gone well. Even I was pleased, which isn't always the case when looking at a finished product through tired eyes.
As often happened, a few flecks of wax from the crayon had found their way onto the pristine surface of the limestone, and were homesteading right where I intended to draw some surf lapping over a beach. Because the errant flecks of wax had attached to the fine grain of the stone's surface, they could not simply be blown or brushed away... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

Sometimes life is just hard!

By Elspeth C. Young
One of the best gems of creativity and problem-solving advice I have ever received was given to me as I stood at a battered, drip-encrusted easel in a grimy painting studio at Brigham Young University.
My professor at the time hesitated to give demonstrations, and left our canvases alone so that we could develop a style of our own. What little he had done to demonstrate and tutor our tastes I absorbed like a sponge.  He taught us to savor the color variations of Cezanne, to learn from the indirect painting techniques of old masters, and rejoice in the thickly daring impasto of Carl Bloch, while also encouraging us to seek inspiration in the strangest of postmodern pop art... Read more »

Tags: Many Sorrows, 2012, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

Who Dreams Shall Live

By Al R. Young Forty years ago, I stopped to browse at a cart of discarded library books on sale for a song.  And while thumbing through the volumes I came upon this song that has echoed in my thinking ever since:

Who dreams shall live!  And if we do not dreamThen we shall build no Temple into Time.Yon dust cloud, whirling slow against the sun,Was yesterday's cathedral, stirred to goldBy heedless footsteps of a passing world.The faiths of stone and steel are failed of proof.The King who made religion of a SwordPasses, and is forgotten in a day... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

How do you look when you hold a pencil?

By Al R. Young This installment of Studio Windows looks in to the studio windows instead of outward through them, but learning how to see with an artist's eye is still the focus.

In school, where words and numbers were infinitely more important than the making and viewing of artworks, I was taught to hold a pencil in a vise-like grip between the thumb and middle finger; the forefinger being placed on the pencil to steady it.  So strict were these requirements that in the hush draped over our first grade classroom the teacher paced up and down between the wooden tables where we strained and bowed our heads above our work, and struck our hands with a wooden ruler if she spied us holding the pencil incorrectly... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

"We'll start the war from right here!"

By Al R. Young As part of the first wave of Allied troops to go ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day, and upon being informed that--because the landing craft had drifted off course, the 8th Infantry Regiment and 70th Tank Battalion were more than a mile from where they were supposed to be--General Ted Roosevelt personally surveyed the unexpected circumstances into which misfortune had thrust him.  He did so while walking with the assistance of a cane and armed only with a pistol.

Having determined that the topography of the area was suitable for the landing of those waiting to follow the initial assault, he returned to the troops waiting where they had come ashore and declared:  "We'll start the war from right here!"

His stirring invitation to courage is truly inspiring, but it is his example that provides valuable insight in any attempt to do likewise when confronted with a problem... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

The Spirit that moves artistic endeavor

By Al R. Young Late one Saturday evening, after a long and intense week of painting, I came across these images while browsing through the Studios' archive. As first one and then another of these pictures filled the screen, I found myself instantly captivated and rejuvenated as I stepped into the miniature worlds inside each frame and found myself surrounded by nameless shapes and infinite hues.
The few minutes I spent looking at these pictures were as restorative as a stroll in the park. Even though I had spent a week rendering such things by means of paint blobs at the end of a brush, I wasn't even loathe to muse upon the techniques and phases by which I would approach the task of painting these images... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

The circle of creativity

By Al R. Young Some time ago, I received an inquiry from someone asking about the business end of being a full-time artist. The first question on the list asked how to go about selling one's artwork without "taking too much time away from the creative process."  The question is surely high on the list of any artist who  "turns professional," and if it isn't, it will be.

A lifetime of endeavor can be devoted to answering the question, but the following excerpt from my attempt to reply may be useful as a beginning:

Over the years, I have had to persevere in re-defining "creativity" so that my personal definition includes work involved in delivering originals and reproductions to the public... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity

31st anniversary of the studio

By Al R. Young January 6th is an anniversary at Al Young Studios; the anniversary of my first attempt to set aside and equip a place dedicated to creating artwork. We celebrate the beginning of that ongoing effort because the task of configuring, equipping, maintaining, using, and improving a fine art studio is an amazingly multifaceted and demanding endeavor; at least, it has proven so for us.  It's an endeavor that never ends.

My journal entry for January 6, 1981, says simply:  "This afternoon, I started building a drafting table – which I hope to complete tomorrow... Read more »

Tags: 2012, Inspiration and creativity, Studios anniversaries, Tools supplies and operations

Creativity and garbage in the Magic Kingdom

By Al R. Young By Al R. Young 

I have been to Disneyland only twice: Once, in 1957, as a boy too young to remember much more than fright at the sight of alligators swimming toward our boat for the sole purpose of eating me, followed by water buffalo approaching us in hopes of dessert. The second visit came in 1988 when Nancy and I took Ashton and Elspeth to visit the park while I attended an industry conference nearby.
I was working in an advanced product research group at the time, and having been primed by intensive inquiry into such topics as creativity, user interface design, error handling, etc... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Inspiration and creativity

Don't stand behind me while I paint

By Al R. Young
One of the unwritten laws of the studio is never to stand behind me when I paint.  I'm always backing up (on a sudden and without looking) to take the long view of what's happening to the image on the easel. For every painting session at the easel, I probably walk a mile in the relatively small space in which I work.
For me, the primary reason for using an easel has relatively little to do with applying paint.  Instead, it has a great deal to do with the need to easily and quickly view the work from different vantage points, in order to more fully see it and refine it accordingly... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Inspiration and creativity, Tips and techniques

"Still here!"

By Al R. Young In episode 14 of the 8th season of Monk (Tony Shalhoub's television series about a world-class detective battling severe psychological disorders exacerbated by the murder of his wife), detective Adrian Monk wins his 12-year struggle for reinstatement as a member of the San Francisco Police Department.  But after only a few days back on the force, Monk is inexplicably disillusioned with his own hard-won success.  He consults his psychiatrist, who points out that Monk is not only best suited to be an independent consulting detective with the SFPD, but that he has actually been happy in that role for 12 years -- years that Monk perceived as an ordeal... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Inspiration and creativity

Wire scrap-baskets in the shop

By Al R. Young
Most of the scrap storage in the shop is bin-based, and, as such storage goes, it's quite effective, but the scrap buckets under the shop tables and the wheelbarrows under the workbench never have worked well for the thin, long, and often flimsy stuff that gets left over from ripping, not to mention the small stick-like stuff that seems to accumulate when no one is watching.  The wire baskets not only accommodate these leftovers, but are surprisingly convenient for searches because it's easy to see what's there... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations

A pedestal brush holder

By Al R. Young
This is one of the oldest brush holders in the studio, and is among the longest-lived pieces of equipment that has not undergone a make-over.  As I mention in connection with the wood-block brush holder, I have moved to a somewhat different design in terms of brush holders.... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Inspiration and creativity, Tools supplies and operations