When Jeff Hepworth paints a landscape, he doesn’t focus on the trees, flowers, mountains or streams.
“I focus on the mood or the emotions — the fleeting moments that occur in nature,” he said.
The result is an image that’s soft and calm, and a perfect contrast to the bustling atmosphere of an arts festival.
“We’re really excited to have him be one of our Invited Artists this year,” said Lisa Sewell, executive director of the four-day Utah Arts Festival, which opens on Thursday, June 20, in Salt Lake City. “They usually highlight three standout artists they feel will round out the show.”
Hepworth, of West Haven, was selected for the honor by the jury that decides who can show work in the festival’s Artist Marketplace. This year’s marketplace has 162 artists and artisans, who create everything from wall art to wearable art.
The other two Invited Artists this year are purse designer Sandra Seifert, of Layton, and Stephanie Swift, of Murray, who makes digital illustrations of business signs.
This is Hepworth’s first time at the Utah Arts Festival, but his work is in collections all over the country.
“I don’t think there’s a state where somebody doesn’t own one of my pieces,” he said, adding that his work can also be found in homes, businesses and museums in the U.S., Europe and Mexico.
Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” books, owns several Hepworth originals.
“They’re not ‘Twilight’ pieces,” Hepworth says. But they may have been painted just before twilight.
“I paint a lot early in the morning and late in the evening, when the sun is either rising or setting,” he said. “I actually use the point of light as it rises or sets behind the horizon as the focal point of the painting.”
Hepworth begins his paintings outdoors, often in the Ogden Valley or Morgan Valley.
“I set up my easel and paint for maybe 15 to 20 minutes in one spot, to catch the light,” he said. “ I use a lot of back light — that’s when the light source comes from behind, rather than in from the side.”
The sketches and small paintings give him the visual cues needed to create larger pieces in the studio.
“My technique is referred to as a luminous technique,” he said. “My pieces are very atmospheric, where you try to paint light in the air.”
This style of painting is most associated with the Hudson River School, which included artists Sanford Robinson Gifford and Albert Bierstadt.
“My paintings are not as detailed as those, but they still have a nostalgic feel to them,” Hepworth said.
Artist and mentor
Hepworth began painting as a child.
“My mother was an amateur artist,” he said. “I used to paint (at) the kitchen table with her when I was quite young.”
He went on to study art at Weber State University (then Weber State College).
“I had some real outstanding teachers, and one I really loved was Farrell Collett. I think that’s when I realized that it was part of me,” he said of art.
Hepworth taught art in Weber School District for most of his adult life, but is now retired.
“I didn’t get to paint a lot for myself, because I was so busy trying to make living. I supplemented my teaching income by painting outdoor signs, billboards and building fronts. ... I did maybe four or five paintings a year,” he said. “Now I do well over a hundred paintings a year.”
A few of his paintings are currently on display in Ogden’s Eccles Community Art Center, as part of an exhibit focused on art teachers and mentors.
He teaches art workshops occasionally, but mostly enjoys spending time with his grandkids.
“I have a granddaughter who paints with me quite often,” he said.