Art professor says that the creative process of painting and drawing is related to God’s creation of the world


Jeff Merrill is sitting in his office with his brush, creating many of his works of art.

Photo by Christal Lee

Creating works of art mimics God’s creative powers, said Jeff Merrill, associate professor of fine arts in the Faculty of Arts and Literature.

Merrill, who worked as an illustrator for more than 10 years and attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, said that many people view art as “a frivolous, unimportant pursuit,” but emphasized the importance of creative force.

“One of the titles that God often uses and that we read about in the scriptures is ‘Creator,'” Merrill said. “The scriptures contain a lot of information about creation and how He created things and why He created things. That is something really essential to the definition of God. ”

He said he wanted to emphasize the importance of creating but was not trying to compare himself to God. “Being creative is usually more useful than the creator. In a way, it is a service to everyone. When we create, we solve problems, we invent, we build, we develop, we beautify. It’s a positive experience. ”

Gospel Principles and Creativity

One of the things that fascinates him, says Merrill, is that art and the creative process contain analogies to the gospel, such as the creation of the world.

He shared how he tries to teach his students in a way that combines both subjects. “Some of these design principles blend in and mirror really well, and blend in perfectly with the gospel principles,” he said. “It gave me a blueprint to navigate and a lens to see the world.”

Hikaru Kikuya, a senior from Japan studying painting, said Merrill is very spiritual and encourages students to incorporate their faith in the Lord into their careers. “He offers challenges, but at the same time he knows how hard it is to paint [and drawing can be]. ”

Portrait overhead shot of a female student smiling while holding a paintbrush and wooden palette

A student at Merrill, Hikaru Kikuya holds her brush and palette in her hand as she begins the creative process.

Photo by Emarie Majors

Merrill said he hopes his students learn to be “critical observers.” He stated that he would like his students not only to learn the artistic principles, but also to understand them and have critical thinking skills to solve problems that arise.

The rush of creating and teaching

Merrill, a self-proclaimed “representative artist,” said he felt a kind of exhilaration or “adrenaline rush” when he was able to portray a person through art.

He explained that adrenaline “is like a power drink. It gives you something that is beyond your own strength. And I don’t know that it’s necessarily adrenaline, but it feels that way. ”

His personality plays a role in his enthusiasm for the arts, he said. “I go through these times when my mind is getting super creative. It’s like all synapses are firing and there are so many thoughts and ideas. ”

Merrill’s favorite pastime in teaching is interacting with students. “I feel full of energy… to be around her and to share art. There is something there that also gives me an adrenaline rush. It’s really exciting for me to share my knowledge with students. ”

Landscape shot of student in blue shirt posing with painting of temple grounds on an easel

Samuel Ching, Merrill’s TA, poses with a painting he made from the grounds of the lay temple.

Photo by Emarie Majors

Samuel Ching, a Hong Kong senior with double degrees in art education and painting and assistant professor from Merrill, said Merrill is committed to helping international students, especially those who do not speak English as a first language. “He would reach out to her and make sure she [understood] any concept [clearly]”, Explained Ching.

Merrill said when he chose his career path he tried to consider other options, such as being an orthodontist, but he kept coming back to the art. “Art gave me a sense of identity. It gave me opportunities to grow. Above all, it gave me a sense of fulfillment in life. “•


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