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Introduction

How much can one learn about an artist by looking at his work?  A review of painter Robert Pack’s pieces over his life-time reveals a great deal about the soft-spoken artist’s life and passions. He has traveled far in the 45 years that he has been selling paintings in galleries.

The mysterious setting of a great horned owl seeking its prey – the majestic span of the wings of a Canada goose enroute to winter nesting grounds – the sunshine illuminating the face of a young child listening to her mother read her the scriptures.  Each scene conveys a sense of the beautiful and sublime nature of God’s creations, while at the same time, Pack’s masterful use of gesture and strong compositional elements convey the deep feeling the artist sees in the world around him.  His paintings invite the viewer on a journey to explore a world that lies far from the hustle of everyday life.

Robert Pack’s personal journey as an artist began in his childhood.  Raised on Rainbow Ranch, a dude ranch in Montana in the 1960’s, Pack showed an aptitude for art from an early age. “My parents were personal friends of Clark Bronson, a professional wildlife artist, along with his wife Pauline,” Pack recalls.  “When I was eleven or twelve, I started noticing some of his original watercolors hanging on the walls of the lodge at our ranch. After expressing some interest in this, my parents bought me a set of watercolors and I started to paint stuff.  I particularly remember a painting I did of a deer bounding through a snow drift with Lone Mountain (near present day Big Sky) as a backdrop. I was mesmerized by what emerged from the paper and was hooked!” Mr. Bronson gave the young artist pointers and before long he was doing wildlife commissions for neighbors and friends; all this while attending a one-room school house just down the road from the ranch.

Because of the remote location of his ranch home, Pack had to board with friends for four years while attending high school.  During these years, his ability as an artist began to become known and his paintings could be found in galleries in West Yellowstone, Big Sky, and Bozeman. “I was good with a small brush, Pack recalls. I tried to paint the details of every feather on a bird.  People liked owls so I tended to paint a lot of them.” He was honored to be invited to several art shows including one sponsored by the National Ornithological Society at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

Pack went on to study art and architecture at Montana State University. But, his love of geology nurtured by guiding guests through Yellowstone National Park compelled him to eventually get a PhD in geological engineering. As a part of this education, he illustrated dinosaurs and landforms for two geology books by Kenneth Hamblin at Brigham Young University.  Pack reflects, “I am particularly proud of a relief map I did of the entire world with an ultra-fine ink pen. It included all the mountains on the ocean floor and took several months to complete in-between classes.”

Following graduation he continued to paint watercolors and sell in galleries in Victoria, British Columbia where he first moved after school. “I loved to paint orca whales for galleries in Victoria when I lived there,” Pack says, “it fit the marine environment and tourists visiting the area loved them. I learned an appreciation for Payne’s gray, a paint color that matches the misty marine weather of coastal British Columbia.  Having the opportunity to frequently fly by helicopter into remote mountainous areas, I was deeply moved by the richness of the landscapes of British Columbia.”  This is reflected in the quality of his landscape paintings.

In the late 1990’s, Pack moved to Logan, Utah.  Here he switched his career focus and eventually became an internationally recognized inventor and expert in 3D color laser photography at Utah State University. Pack reflects, “Some thought that his was a unrelated to my artistic inclinations. However, it taught me to thoroughly understand color which I’ve been able to better incorporate into my paintings.” 

In 2012, Pack took his wife to Munich Germany to visit the great classical art museums there.  His wife Lorri reflects, “When we were looking at the work of the old masters, it occurred to me that my husband could do this.”  Not long after that and with his wife’s encouragement, Pack retired early from his job at the university and moved to Salt Lake City to attend the Hein Academy of Art to apprentice under Jeff Hein, a nationally recognized portrait artist[1]. “Jeff taught me how to draw accurately, “Pack explains. He was an exacting mentor that pushed me, along with his other students, to not compromise the accuracy and detail of our work. By spending nine to fifteen hours every week for two and a half years drawing from the live model, Pack developed the skills required to accurately draw the human figure.  Pack reflects, “In the time I spent studying with Hein, I spent more hours developing drawing skills than one would get by getting a PhD in art at a university.  The focus of effort was incredible and I experienced a huge leap in my technical abilities.” This academic work, along with his past experience with color, composition, and fine brush work endowed him with technical competence to produce serious figure and portrait paintings, which is now his full-time focus.

 Pack is now committed to being a full-time professional artist and a teacher of students who would like to learn academic painting. “This is incredibly difficult but fulfilling work… striving to paint with the skill of old masters like William Bouguereau,” says Pack. “It is the work of a lifetime and I hope to learn something new every day alongside my students.” Pack believes that there seems to be a resurgence of interest in this type of art and hopes to help with its advancement by teaching others through classes and workshops.

 “I start a story with each of my paintings,” says Pack, and I invite the viewer to convey their own feelings and experiences into finishing that story; stories of love, affection, beauty, toil and trial that we each experience as individuals. I want to create paintings that touch and edify the deepest feelings of the human soul.”

[1] Hein received second place national awards in portraiture at the Portrait Society of America conventions in both 2013 and 2014.