Behind the Canvas


Behind the Canvas 
By LaNae H. Poulter '71

A white stretched canvas, a palette of paint, both inanimate objects, and yet combined by the touch of inspired genius they bring forth a finished product that can evoke a smile, a tear, or a spiritual confirmation to the soul. A look behind the canvas reveals a talented Ricks College alumnus, Derek J. Hegsted '87.
Drawing since he was six years old, Derek's early expressions of art seemed unbelievably accurate. He entered a state elementary art contest, but the judges accused him of tracing the art. "I kind of lost interest in drawing after that because it was heartbreaking," Derek laments. "So I just moved on."
Born in Provo, Utah, Derek is the youngest of five children born to Victor and Gloria Hegsted. The family moved several times and finally settled in the small farming community of Grant, Idaho. But there was more heartbreak as Derek grew up. His father, who was a private pilot, and his uncle disappeared in the mountains during a snow storm. It was three months of uncertainty before the site of the fatal crash was discovered.
When Derek was a junior in high school, he won the state championship in art; the head judge was Oliver Parson, who was on the Ricks College art faculty. Upon graduating from Rigby High School, Derek received a scholarship into the Ricks art program. Previously working in only black-and-white, he was encouraged to explore other mediums. He stayed at Ricks College for three-and-a-half years, his only formal art education. He gratefully acknowledges encouragement from administrators and faculty. He was accepted at the prestigious Art Center in Pasadena, California, but lack of funds kept him from attending.
Derek left the Rexburg area in 1989. In that same year, he won the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future, an international competition with entries from thirty countries. He toured nationally, and then settled in Provo, Utah, working for Bantam Books in New York and BYU Motion Picture Studio, as an illustrator and as an actor. There were commissioned works in between. While in Provo he met his wife, Jolynn Muhlestein. They have been married ten years and have five children.
Doorways of opportunity opened to Derek. Hollywood beckoned with promises of millions but with a standard very different from his own. Enticed for awhile, he found it impossible to produce and promote products in which he didn't believe. "Then you remember the really dedicated professors like Leon Parson who actually give up money," he reflects, "to teach us toads how to be real artists."
Derek has since studied for three years with Renaissance master Frank Covino to develop the classical realist style of the masters Rembrandt, De Vinci, Michelangelo, and Bouguereau. After five centuries of augmented information about each master, the Verdaccio method has been brought to the point of perfection to produce rich, pure skin tones. Derek uses a grey-green underpainting and the fewest number of brush strokes possible to achieve translucent tones.
But before applying paint to a canvas, Derek does extensive research into the architecture, textiles, and scriptures to authenticate his art distributed by Hegsted Fine Arts, Inc., in Orem, e-mail, or on the Web at Research and production can take a year for a single painting.
Derek explains how his ideas come: "When I read the scriptures, I don't just read them--I watch a movie. I start having all these different paintings come through. I can't get them out of my head. You do not see those type of things that clear, with such vivid detail, and think you are so great as to design something like that yourself."
For each of his religious pieces, he also writes an interpretation. For example, "Christ's Prayer" represents the sacred moment of discovery when faith changes to absolute pure knowledge. "Words cannot express the joy the people are feeling. It is a freedom only to be expressed with tears of gratitude and joy... With every fiber and sensation of their body and mind, they desire to grasp the Savior's cloak and bury their tear-stained face in the Savior's embrace. This they know will bring long-sought healing to their soul."
With the production of his religious paintings, Derek has received many invitations to speak on the arts. For the past eight years he has spoken on how Bach, Mozart, Rembrandt, and others struggled and yet they used their talents for good. Utilizing his talents in poetic expression and with the help of friends like Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Art Museum and Dr. Carma de Jong Anderson of BYU, Derek speaks often about the art world of art to audiences in firesides and conferences.
Derek is currently involved with commissions of portraits and landscapes of the Holy Land. These experiences have broadened his knowledge in the arts. He has a burning desire to share what he sees with others. He enjoys teaching and is looking forward to sharing the techniques of the masters in community classes he has been invited to teach.
Using the words of his favorite poet, Robert Frost, Derek says, "I have tried to take the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."