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HomePersonalEXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: LDS Temple Artist, Chad Hawkins, Part I

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: LDS Temple Artist, Chad Hawkins, Part I

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Chad Hawkins is an LDS artist and author known for his stunning sketches of temples around the world. His most recent book, Temples of the New Millennium, tells the unique stories of each of the Church’s 150 temples. 

We recently sat down with Chad to get his unique perspective on temples, his journey to document them through art, and in book. In Part 2, Chad tells a few stories that he discovered while interviewing for his new book and describes details of the book.

Q: Who are you?

My name is Chad Hawkins and the temple has been the focus of my professional career since even when I was in high school. I drew my very first temple drawing when I was a senior in high school and that drawing helped me win the State Sterling Scholar Award as a high school senior. And then as I prepared for my mission I thought, “It was a high school assignment; it wasn’t meant to be a career path.” But it turned out very well and I was able to start making prints and every penny that I made from all of the art that I sold prior to my mission went towards funding my mission. And so almost a year before I left, I was able to completely pay for my mission just with temple drawings and there were only four or five that I did. Selling each one five dollars each, 11×14, one size, that’s it… That’s how I financed my mission⎼that was a goal of mine.

While I was on my mission, my parents continued to sell my art while I was serving⎼filling orders for me and then I came back from my mission and then I just had a whole bunch of temples to draw and get busy with. And so I just got after it and graduated from Weber State with a Bachelors of Fine Art. I think that means a lot to me… how I decided to draw temples and make art by career and profession in the early 90’s prior… when there were like only 30 temples announced, anywhere. And it wasn’t until five years later when President Hinckley announced the smaller temples when I realized why I feel like I was meant to be doing what I am doing, because of what was coming and how I was kind of building a foundation for an explosion of work which was about to come. I’ve always liked to research whatever I draw and know what I’m drawing, whatever it is. I still do that with everything I do today. So when I started drawing temples, I thought well if I’m gonna draw temples,  I want to learn about these temples. And this was when I was still in my teens and right after my mission. So I started reading everything I could, interviewing people, going to the Church History Department. And the main reason is not that I’d thought I’d ever write a book, but because it helped me figure out the hidden images.

Q: What inspired the hidden images?

Ever since I was a kiProvo-City-Center-Templed, I have always hidden things in my artwork whether it was LDS related or not. I’ve always just done that. So when I started drawing LDS temples, I thought what would be appropriate for a temple?  It needs to be appropriate. This is a sacred place. I want people to like this, so that’s when I started doing research. And I thought, “Well that’s a natural idea.” In the temple, there’s levels of learning and meanings in temples, and on the temples. And I thought, I hope with that idea, that people can look in my heart and say, hey there’s the drawing or painting of the Salt Lake Temple but a week later, or a month later, or a year later, they can look at it separately in a different way and say, wow there’s Joseph Smith looking at the light of the First Vision in that tree and it takes on a whole new meaning. It’s almost like a picture within a picture. And I love it when I get the stories, people saying, it’s been on my wall for years and it wasn’t until my home teacher came over and pointed it out to me. And that tells me they buy it for the art, for the sake of the drawing and that now they have a separate meaning.

Q: What is your favorite temple?

To me, they’re all special, I have a lot of favorites. I’m not your average person. You can’t say what’s your favorite temple. I say, what do you mean? Architecturally, landscape, history, are you talking pioneer temples?

My favorite temple … I just have to say the Salt Lake Temple. For me, that’s where I was married to my sweetheart, but also I love how it was so inspired, the history of it, how it was built, the sacrifice to build it, the symbols on the outside, the iconic image that it is and how it represents the whole church. There’s nothing that can ever compare to that.

New Zealand Chad and Stephanie
Chad and his wife Stephanie visiting the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.

Outside of the Salt Lake Temple, I love the Nauvoo Temple because to me it was just such a historic thing to have the Nauvoo Temple rebuilt. I had the privilege of attending one of the temple dedicatory sessions. I was actually a couple feet away from the prophet in the assembly room in the very last dedicatory session. To be in there with the last session was something that I’ll never forget.

Landscaping: Laie Hawaii. The landscaping of that one is stunning. The reflection pools. Its relationship
with the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s incredible. The royal palms everywhere. 
l love that temple. I love the Portland Temple because of the tall trees all around it.

Another one that I love so much is the Hamilton New Zealand temple because it’s up on a hill and it has orange trees and lemon trees on the grounds and it’s on a huge property. And so just to go up there and see the vistas of New Zealand, to see the green, it’s amazing.

Q: Where are you excited to see the Church go as far as temples?

The thing that I get most excited about is getting to met with people who have shared their stories with me of where they were when this [a temple] is announced. And I’ve been in a lot of people’s living rooms when they cry and they can’t wait to not have to travel so far and sacrifice so much financially to go. So what I get excited for is when new temples are announced; I’m thinking of the members in that temple district. I want to just close my eyes and I can hear members cheering in Thailand. I hear people just rejoicing that they can now be sealed as a family because they weren’t able to go through political tape to leave their country, or for financial reasons…I’m excited for them. I’m hearing it. They’re partying. They’re standing on their feet cheering in Thailand. I get excited because I know how people react. That’s first and foremost.

And then I love to see the evolution of temples, how the church refines its temple, not only the design, but the flow and the technology, its efficiencies.

They fine tune it.  I literally went from the first one to the second one to the third one. I went from the first 30 in a row in order and I’d meet with people and I’d see things, and I’d say, oh they changed that. And they’d say, oh how did you know and I’’d say, oh because I was in Spokane. It’s really neat to see the evolution of the temples.

Q: Why are temples so fascinating to members of the Church, in your opinion?

The same reason why temples have been fascinating to all of God’s faithful children since the beginning of time is because they realize it’s like baptism, it’s an ordinance that must happen. And a temple is the place or the housing where ordinances, these saving ordinances take place. They’re not fascinated by it because they’re beautiful and wonderful settings. They’re fascinated by it because that’s how and where and why my family’s being sealed together. It’s just the core of their belief. It’s like President Howard W. Hunter said, it’s the great symbol of our membership. That’s why we’re so attached to the structure and to other things to a lesser degree because it reminds us of eternal things. That’s why it’s all so powerful. That’s why the drawing is not just a beautiful building, but it’s so much more. It’s powerful.

Q: How does all of this involvement with temples affect your family?

Thankfully, I don’t drive them nuts. I make it fun for them and of course whenever we go on vacation like everybody else we visit every temple we can and whenever we visit a temple, we’re sitting on the grass in the shade and I will tell them the stories of what they’re looking at and they find it interesting.

Chad and his family visiting the factory that made the Sunstones for the Nauvoo Temple.

When I wrote this book, I realized that it was a huge blessing to write this book.. For that year, we had scripture study but frequently I would say, you know what, let me tell you about the Twin Falls Temple and how a life was spared when a man fell off two stories above in the frigid cold weather, near death, was life-lighted to Salt Lake. And while he was being life-lighted to Salt Lake, a relative of that person called the secretary to President Monson who they knew… President Monson was there to give him a blessing. He had a huge hemorrhage on his brain. And two days later he walked out. No surgery needed. And when I heard that story, I was able to tell it to my kids.

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Lauren Kutschke
Lauren Kutschke
Lauren is studying Journalism at Brigham Young University and considers the East Coast home. She has a passion for writing, photography, skiing, hiking, and traveling. She enjoys studying German and is married to her best friend.

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