Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Loved the Play

For the third time, I really enjoyed the play "Wicked, the Untold Story of the Witches of Oz" in New York City. Yes, I know, that makes me a geek. My wife and daughter went with me this time, and they loved it, too.

There's something about the power of the writing, and the music, and the ideas, that just grabs me. I loved the show because I loved the talent, the raw show of excellence and effort and skill. I was crying and laughing. Those performers put their hearts and souls into it, and the audience felt it. Unanimous standing ovation. Marvelous! The effect was to make me want to take my own poor skills to levels like that, and that may be its best effect. I may take my son to it after he returns from his mission in Guatemala. He loves the soundtrack but hasn't seen the show.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013 Entry

Today I posted an entry to the Smithsonian Institution's 2013 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. I just finished this painting, titled "Portrait of a Modern Father," today.

Some of the comments I made in the entry:
Title: Portrait of a Modern Father.
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Size: 24"x36".

Description of “Portrait of a Modern Father”:
To steer their families safely through today's many challenges, fathers must step outside of their comfort zones, trusting that as they hold up their candle of experience and inspiration their way will be lighted for a step or two ahead. Recognizing that they do not walk alone increases their light.

Artist's Statement:
Whatever we do in this life is bettered when we do it for others. Our world is bettered when our goal is to bring joy, uplift, and change hearts.

Are there any special circumstances surrounding the creation of your portrait?
As a father, I stepped outside of my comfort zone this year when three of my children left our home within a few months of each other. They were excellent young men and women but had been struggling, drifting as they tried to find their own way. We were all grateful when their divergent paths, some of which were very painful, brought them great growth, joy, and satisfaction. Today we are all wiser and happier, and grateful indeed that we do not walk alone.

I will finish the companion to this piece, which is titled "Portrait of a Modern Mother," before the end of the year and submit it to the Portrait Society of America's 2012 International Portrait Competition.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Softcover Edition and Price Break

I have created a softcover edition of my book, The Christmas Orange. My preview copy looks even better than I had hoped. The glossy cover and satin pages hold the color beautifully, and the great review I got from James Gurney looks excellent on the back cover.

The price is lower, too. If you buy the unsigned softcover edition from my publisher, the price is only $24.95, shipping extra. If you buy the book from me, I will sign it and ship it for $30.00.

Of course, you can choose to buy the original, hardcover, premiere edition from my web site. This version is signed and includes a signed, 8"x8" print of "While Mary Sleeps" .

Either way, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a very merry Christmas season.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend In Arts Heaven

Thanks to a generous invitation from James Gurney, I spent last Friday and Saturday with him, his gracious wife Jeanette, Jean-Baptiste Monge and Margot, Garin Baker, and Armand Cabrera in touring art sites and openings in the Wilmington area. We visited the Brandywine River Museum, the Frank Schoonover Studio, and the Delaware Art Museum, being joined by Kev Ferrara, Eric Millen and Kristina Mah. And that was after attending Gurney's lecture Thursday night at MICA.

The goal was to attend the Howard Pyle opening at the Delaware Art Museum. Great stuff, great times, great conversations. The details of each event are covered in the sites listed below. To me, the best part of the weekend was the time spent watching and listening to these great artists, observing how they interacted and how they went through galleries, and learning a lot from their conversations. I deeply admired their learning, experience, and passion. These folks really feel strongly about the art profession, and drinking in their feelings was a marvelous treat.

I was also touched by the support each of these artists enjoyed from their families, only some of whom were in attendance, but each of whom made it possible for them to move forward with their careers, some at great sacrifice. I add my wonderful wife to this list, and I am grateful.

And special gratitude goes to James Gurney, whose gracious invitation made the whole, unexpected weekend happen. Thanks again, Jim. I was an amateur among experts, but I learned a lot. Thank you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

James Gurney Reviews "Christmas Orange"

James Gurney, New York Times best-selling author of the Dinotopia book series and recipient of the Hugo, World Fantasy, Chesley, Spectrum, and Colorado Children’s Book awards, has reviewed my book, "The Christmas Orange." Here is what he had to say:

“Terrific. Beautiful. A really sensitive presentation with a deep and meaningful story. The message is universal and powerful, with the orange as both a visual and narrative element that really resounds in the telling. The cover image, with the girl's face in shadow, but still smiling, is very evocative, and perfectly executed. The varied and imaginative use of color throughout is impressive.”

Thank you very much, Jim.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Christmas Orange Holiday Price Drop

My publishers have announced a holiday price reduction for my book, "A Christmas Orange." If you order a copy from them before November 30 and enter the promo code "BIGTEN" at checkout, you save $10.00. As an added incentive, I have dropped my part of the book price as well. Just go to my bookstore to preview and buy the book.

If you want the signed premiere edition of the book and the included print, you'll have to order it from my web site.

Letter to My Son

Below is an edited excerpt of a letter to my son Ben (third from right, above), who is serving a mission in Guatemala for the LDS (Mormon) church.

 Hey, Ben. I'm in Altoona, PA this weekend at an illustration conference called Illuxcon.

Each year I learn something about humility. These folks are good! And many are students, or lifetime hobbyists like me. To meet their standards I'd have to double or triple the quality of my work. Most impressive, most instructive. Most humbling, and, if I'm not careful, very depressing.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm very pleased to be doing work as good as what I'm now doing. I'm also very pleased to see the impact it has on others. At some point, if I keep working, I'll come up to their levels, or better. In the mean time, I'll keep trying.

I am grateful for having such a marvelously supportive wife (far right, above). Sheesh! Ben, if there is one goal you must have in life, it is to marry someone as patient and supportive and sacrificing and loving as your mother. She listens to me moan and watches patiently as I suck my thumb because I can't be this big artist guy yet, but she is unflagging in her love and support. And she occasionally smacks me down, too, which is very good. All in great love. If there is one valuable attainment in life, it is to follow God's guidance to such a woman as that. And living so that she feels good about and has joy in that support.

Example: She completely re-decorated the living room walls, putting my religious artwork all over them, making it into a sort of Lester Yocum gallery. Wow! She arranged things exquisitely, too. What a great lady. I must admit, the entire tenor of our living room has changed. There is a palpable power in that room, a great feeling for good. I am most impressed. I makes me feel good, for sure. Especially about her.

I love you. God bless you. Thank you.


Illuxcon 4

I'm at Illuxcon this weekend, enjoying the animated, focused fellowship and learning that happens in this fantasy and science fiction annual event. This is my fourth year; I've attended every year since its establishment.

One of the most impressive things to me at this event, besides the quality of the original paintings and prints, is the eager hunger in the eyes of the participants. They want to learn; they want to grow. They are serious about taking in the advice they get from the lectures and demos, and you can see the enthusiasm in the faces of those who made it into the showcase.

Being here charges my batteries, humbles me, and sets a standard of quality in my work, every year much higher than before. I am grateful to be among such humble, friendly people.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Christmas Orange: Order the Book Now!

Holiday Classic: Premiere Edition

The heartwarming story of a chance meeting between a young man, a young woman, and a homeless child a few days before the holiday. The event transforms their hearts, giving them new insight into the real meaning of Christmas.

Written, illustrated, and designed by Lester Yocum.
2011; Hardcover; 10"x8"; 34 pages; signed; premium paper.
Price: $52.00, shipping included.

PREVIEW the first 20 pages of this book.

Described as "beautiful" and "sensitive," this Christmas gift book is fast becoming a holiday classic. Available only in a premiere edition, all copies are signed by the author and include a signed 8"x8" color print of Lester Yocum's popular oil painting, "While Mary Sleeps". SHIPPING INCLUDED!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Portrait Feedback

Title: Portrait of a Modern Father.
Subtitle: Candle of the Lord, part 1.

Medium: Oil on canvas, 24x36".
I've just finished my latest painting. At least, I think I have. I like it, but there are some people who don't.

So I'd like you folks to help me out. There's nothing like the wisdom of the crowd, right? Please look at this painting and its closeups below then give me your feedback in the comments section. Tell me what you like or don't like about it, and why. Tell me how I should improve it. If you want to keep your comments private, just email me at les@lesteryocum.com. I may or may not use them, but I will value them, whatever they are.

I'm not going to give you many details about the painting because I don't want to influence your response. I will tell you that I'm going to submit it to a rather large competition next weekend, and your feedback could be very valuable.

Part 2 of this painting is nearing completion. It is a mirror image of part 1 but features two female characters instead of two males. Together the two will form a diptych, or "two paintings as one."

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your feedback.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Portrait Finalist

I was just notified that my painting "Watchful" has been selected as a finalist in Art Space Herndon's 2011 Expressions Portrait Competition. The show will be Nov 1-27 at 750 Center Street, Herndon, VA, 21070. The painting is on my web site. Cool!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Book Released: The Christmas Orange

I have just finished writing, illustrating, designing, and self-publishing my first book, "The Christmas Orange." It is an inspirational story book.

Please check it out and let me know your feelings. I have already gotten some very positive reviews for it. Signed copies are available by contacting me. Thanks very much, and merry Christmas!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Letter to My Son

I sent this letter to Ben, our son serving as a missionary for the LDS (Mormon) Church in Guatemala, and felt you folks might be interested. He is now in his 6th month.


My sister and I at Disneyworld.
Your mother and I are back from a great week in Florida. We toured the adult way, visiting family, sleeping in, taking our time, seeing shows while avoiding roller coasters, relaxing during meals and having encouraging conversations with total strangers, and talking together about the many opportunities and blessings in life. We enjoyed an airboat ride and a stunt car show and a horse show and leisurely shopping and nostalgia rides and the weather. We talked a lot about children and parents and the future, and much about God. We had joint prayers and daily gospel study, and I added eight pages to my journal. And we exchanged lots and lots of hugs. Altogether, it was a great time.

Isaac has been told that he is going to get a black shirt in the Marines, a great honor, something he is excited about. He is doing very well and is very eager to ship out for basic training. One friend has returned from basic, and Thomas comes back this Saturday. Isaac is glad to see them and to be able to pick up many tips about the intense training, but it frustrates him that he hasn't shipped out yet.

Your last letter was very heartening. It signaled a possible turnaround within you, which we hope brings you much peace. We also hope it brings you much joy and enthusiasm, and that this change grows. We pray that it leads to answers to all your questions, and that your enthusiasm becomes infectious and irrepressible.

And most of all, we pray that it brings you a powerful, deep, permanent and growing relationship with God through the Holy Ghost. Become a master in that relationship, Ben, a very experienced expert in feeling the subtle and deep and powerful promptings of that spirit. Follow those promptings fearlessly and with much faith. That will permanently change your life and will powerfully affect the lives of others, including your future family.

God bless you in the things you do. You are doing a hard work. God bless you to succeed, to feel good about your efforts, and to have joy.

We love you, Ben. I love you.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Double Eagle

My wife is now the proud mother of two Eagle Scouts. Ben (on the left) is now serving a mission for the LDS Church in Guatemala, while Isaac (on the right) is waiting to be called into boot camp for the U.S. Marines. And Mom, long involved in Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and now a Boy Scout Unit Commissioner, is very proud of them both. Dad is, too!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rejected 60 Times

You may have seen this story, but in case you didn't, it is really inspirational to artists of any type, or any other endeavor you care about: The author of "The Help" says her book was rejected 60 times before it was finally accepted for publication.

Yahoo Shine's blog post: Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Art Studio Joys

For the first time ever, I got to experience what the joys of being in an art studio, or art commune, or whatever, might be. Instead of being a teacher or lecturer or a student, as I have many times, or laboring alone in my room, for a day I was an equal, a partner in a relaxed, casual art setting. It was wonderful.

To start the ball rolling, I approached a young lady I have known since she was in kindergarten with an oil painting illustration job. She has some painting experience and a knack for it. I told her that I would help her get started on the project and guarantee that she would meet the client's needs. My client was happy with the arrangement and agreed to give her a reduced fee for the work. The young lady came to my home studio today and we spent a very relaxed, happy four hours, she blocking in the colors on my easel while I worked on a Christmas book I wrote and am illustrating on the computer. Family members came in every so often to add comments.

I had a great time. The lady and I joked, told stories, caught up on news about friends, listened to some Weird Al Yankovic songs, and ended the day watching Youtube videos by the jazz band Jive Aces. We each made some great progress on our projects, and with all the jazz tunes we played, by the end of the day I was dancing on the ceiling. Still running the tunes through my head.

I was really impressed with this lady's skills; she says she's not a people painter, but her work belies that. She admitted that she was nervous and intimidated at first but she jumped right in anyway. I give her great credit for chutzpah.

As usual, I won't be able to work in my studio again until next weekend, but I gave her permission to continue the project even if I'm not there. She's an ice dancer and just got her EMT certification. Whatever she puts her mind to, she can do. I wish her very well.

If that's what the collegial atmosphere in an art studio is like, I'm all for it.

Jive Aces on Youtube.
Weird Al Yankovic on Youtube.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

While I'm recommending things, check out "Battle: Los Angeles". I saw it three times and have the soundtrack. My youngest son just joined the Marines, and this movie really grabbed me. It shows the ultimate use of the military: To protect the weak even in the face of overwhelming odds. A squad goes into a war zone to extract some trapped civilians and gives everything to save them. Shock and awe, this time from our perspective. Intense, powerful.


Those interested in stories of survival, determination, overcoming impossible odds, and redemption should check out Laura Hillenbrand's book Unbroken. It is a powerful story, very well told, and very moving. If you enjoyed Corrie Ten Boom's "The Hiding Place", this book will move you. My wife and I raced through it, she through the book, I the audio version. When she was busy I read portions to her, which was a treat because I got to see how some of the Japanese names were spelled and she got to hear how they were pronounced. Very good stuff.

Joseph Smith Movie

Last night I took my wife and a person interested in our church to see the movie "The Joseph Smith Movie - Volume 1" (http://josephsmithmovie.com/) during its East Coast pre-release run. Got to meet Dustin Harding, the man who played Joseph. Wonderfully done. Powerful impressions. I learned a lot about the man. I loved the inclusion of so much of Emma's perspective and influence during these very formative events.

Dustin's testimony before and after the movie was a powerful spiritual experience. Our guest cried. I also very much enjoyed learning historical details of Joseph's life in the question and answer session afterward. Go to the web site to check out local screenings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Painting: Christ Heals the Daughter of Jairus

I just finished an oil painting depicting a major event in the life of Christ.

Christ Heals the Daughter of Jairus
Oil on canvas, 24x36".

In Mark 5:22-43 and in other Gospels, Jairus pleads with Christ to heal his 12-year-old daughter, his only child, who was near death. Christ did so, taking her by the hand and saying, "Maid, arise."

This painting focuses on the moment after the healing, when the mother and father joyfully embrace their daughter, newly come back to life. The girl is very glad to be with her family again, but her gaze stays fixed on the one who performed the miracle: Jesus Christ. Light slants over Christ's shoulder, highlighting him, the girl, and their still-joined hands.

You can find this painting on my web site and order prints on my web store, http://lesteryocum.imagekind.com .

Please forward this announcement to anyone else who might be interested, and forward inquiries about purchasing this painting to me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Updates to "This Pig Flies" Series

I've added 12 new pictures to the "This Pig Flies" series of illustrations. These cartoon fantasies show pigs in different modes of flight, including hot air balloons, space ships, ski jumps, and various winged creatures.

You can buy copies of this artwork at my online store or in the products section of my website.

Here are some samples:

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Paintings Added

I’ve added new paintings to my website: A portrait of the baby Jesus titled “The Call”, a new portrait called “Watchful”, and a portrait of the Holy Family called “Treasure Them Up”. Also check out recent additions including “Orcs In My Forest”, “Cumbered Much”, and others.
Find them all on my newly-renovated website: http://lesteryocum.com.

Web Presence Upgraded

For the new year, I’ve rebuilt my website, http://lesteryocum.com. It’s user friendly, with many features to bring you the art you want. I’ve incorporated a search engine, a full featured gallery, slide shows, blog feeds, and links to my online store. You can now rate and comment on my work. Please visit and tell me what you think.

I also redesigned my blog, http://lesteryocum.blogspot.com/. The pages are simpler to navigate and have the same appearance as my website.