The rural West — its dramatic mountain scenery, lush farmland, cattle ranches and “ordinary folk” — is the preferred subject matter for Utah painter Stephen Henry.
Henry was raised in a small town in Texas; his father was a sign painter, Western artist and cowboy in the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame. Henry loved growing up around the rodeo, riding horses and working cattle, and he connected with the “everyday, down-to-earth” people in his community.
Henry was also fascinated by drawing and painting, but what his little town lacked was an art program. After high school, Henry joined the army so he could go to college for art and earned his BFA from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“There’s a story being told about me and about where I come from,” says Henry of his work. “I’m painting what I know and what I love the most.”
Upon moving to Utah over 15 years ago, Henry and his wife immediately felt at home in the vast landscape of the far West. While his most recent watercolors depict imagery from Northern Utah and the surrounding area, Henry’s artwork also channels the environment he grew up in.
Henry’s watercolors are light and airy, painted with loose expression and a sense of spontaneity. His oil paintings are similarly soft and freeing but with added vibrancy and tighter compositions. Consistent across his work is the artist’s personal attachment to his subjects and layered emotion. “I want people to feel something when they look at my art,” he says. Henry also works in charcoal, acrylic and printmaking, which was his emphasis in college.
While Henry finds inspiration from a combination of photographs and past experience, his preferred practice is to paint from life. Plein air painting brings excitement and intrigue to his process and enlivens the final outcome of a painting. “When an artist has questions about light, value, color harmonies and things of that nature, plein air is where all the answers are,” he says.
In addition to his painting career, Henry teaches art at an alternative high school, a path he was unexpectedly but naturally drawn to after college. Inspired by his own experience as a young person, Henry aims to provide an outlet for creative learning in settings where students are otherwise under-exposed to the arts.
Henry’s current works can be viewed at henryart4christ.com.