Brooke Robertson

When describing the word “creativity,” lateral thinking and topics concerning the right and left brain might not instantly come to mind. But they do to renowned fantasy artist James C. Christensen.

“All I’m trying to do is get people’s creative juices going and convince people that everyone has an imagination and everyone can be more creative than they are,” Christensen said of his presentations.

Liberal studies department chair Susan Duffy is excited the school has once again secured Christensen as a speaker.

“He was here last year, and he did such a phenomenal job,” she said. “He is interested in art education. Though he is initially known as a fantasy artist, he also just has a real respect for education and what needs to be done.”

The session will also include advice about recording information in sketchbooks and journals so that it is readily available to help encourage the creative process.

“My process involves observing the world around us, and then turning it into a little something personal, tweaking it to make it interesting so that I can communicate with other people about my ideas,” Christensen said.

Christensen was born and raised in Culver City, Calif. For as long as he can remember, he has wanted to be an artist.

“I tried to get out of it and do something else a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t in it. I’m an artist,” he said.

His studies included painting at Brigham Young University, where he finished his formal education, and UCLA. Since his days in school, Christensen has held one-man shows throughout the country, and his work is prized in collections throughout the United States and Europe.

Though labeled a “fantasy artist,” Christensen does not think of himself in such a way.

“I just consider myself a picture-maker, a visual communicator,” he said. “But I do it with fun and with an attitude.”

His work has been described as opulent, colorful and Shakespearean. Christensen has created a Shakespearean island, an undersea world and a village of Mother Goose characters as well as a unique place of his own that he likes to paint, where recognizable human emotions are often seen as fish or fowl.

Christensen has won numerous honors and awards and is the author of several books. He has also been commissioned by both Time/Life Books and Omni to create illustrations for their publications, and his work has appeared in the “Annual of American Illustrations” and Japan’s “Outstanding American Illustrators.”

Duffy is a big fan of his work because of its whimsical yet metaphorical nature.

“He uses a number of symbols in his paintings. Some may have religious significance, and some may have significance of social commentary,” she said. “But if you look at some of the books he’s done, he explains what he’s doing in his paintings.”

Recently Christensen was designated a Utah Art Treasure by the Springville Museum of Art. He also received the Governor’s Award for Art awarded by the Utah Arts Council, recognizing the significance of his work to Utah’s cultural communities. He was inducted into the Art Magazine’s Hall of Fame as well.

The free presentation takes place at 7 p.m. Friday in Philips Hall in the Performing Arts Center.

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