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



Jeff Merrill sits with his paintbrush in his office, where he creates much of his work.

Photo by Christal Lee

Creating works of art mimics the creative power of God, said Jeff Merrill, associate professor of visual arts in the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

Merrill, who worked as an illustrator for over 10 years and attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Calif., Said many people saw art as a “frivolous and unimportant activity”, but he emphasized the importance of creative power.


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

He said he wanted to stress the importance of creating, but didn’t try to compare himself to God. “Being creative generally benefits more than the creator. In a sense, it’s a service to everyone. When we create, we solve problems, we invent, we build, we develop, we beautify. It is a positive experience.

Gospel principles and creativity

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

He explained how he tries to teach his students in a way that combines the two subjects. “Some of these design principles integrate and reflect and interface perfectly with gospel principles,” he said. “It gave me a map to navigate and a lens to see the world through. ”

Hikaru Kikuya, a senior Japanese student of painting, said Merrill is very spiritual and encourages students to include their faith in the Lord in their careers. “He offers challenges, but at the same time he knows how difficult it is to paint [and drawing can be]. ”


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

Hikaru Kikuya, one of Merrill’s students, holds her brush and palette as she begins the creative process.

Photo by Emarie Majors

Merrill said he hoped his students would learn to be “critical observers.” He explained that he wanted his students to not only learn the principles of the art, but also understand them and have the critical thinking skills to solve any problems that may arise.

The rush to create and teach



Merrill, a self-proclaimed “figurative artist,” said he experiences a sort of euphoria or “adrenaline rush” when he’s able to portray a person through art.

He explained that adrenaline “is like an energy drink. It gives you something beyond your own strength. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily adrenaline, but it is like that.

His personality plays a role in his enthusiasm for art, he said. “I go through those times when my mind gets super creative. It’s like all the synapses are going off and there are so many thoughts and ideas.

Merrill’s favorite part of teaching, he said, is interacting with students. “I feel full of energy … to be with them and to share art. There is something there that also gives me an adrenaline rush. It’s super exciting for me to share what I know with the students.


landscape photo of student in blue shirt posing with temple park painting on easel

Samuel Ching, Merrill’s technical assistant, poses with a painting he made on the grounds of Laie Temple.

Photo by Emarie Majors

Samuel Ching, a senior from Hong Kong with a double major in arts education and painting, and Merrill’s teaching assistants, said Merrill strives to help international students, especially those who do not speak English. as mother tongue. “He would contact them and make sure they [understood] each notion [clearly]”, explained Ching.

Merrill said that in choosing his career path he tried to consider other options, like becoming an orthodontist, but he always came back to the art. “Art gave me a sense of identity. It gave me opportunities to grow. As much as anything, it gave me a sense of accomplishment in life. •


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