The following is excerpted from LDS Living. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

Walter can’t remember a time when he didn’t love art. Born in Southern California in 1949, it was evident early on that Walter had a talent for what would later become his profession in life. His mother even saved a note from his kindergarten teacher who had spotted his ability.

“I don’t know if that’s just because I wasn’t good at anything else,” jokes Walter, “[but my teacher] was encouraging me. And you know, that stuck, and all through school it just became part of my identity, really. And I always loved it, so it wasn’t a burden or anything. . . . I still find it exciting.”

Walter’s parents fostered their son’s passion, giving him art kits for Christmases and birthdays, as well as art history books about the old masters from the Renaissance like Rembrandt and Rubens. He was captivated by their work and soon became attached to the classical figurative style. His talent also quickly grew; at around age 10, he says, he “started ignoring the numbers on paint-by-number [kits],” so his parents bought him art supplies instead. Taking classes in a variety of mediums both in and outside of school, he experimented in sculpture, collage, and carving, but oil painting was always his greatest interest.

And yet despite his love for classical art, Walter decided as early as middle school that if he was going to make a living through his passion, illustration would be more practical. While abstract pieces by 1960s artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were highlighted inside major magazines, Walter’s parents had observed that illustrations were often featured on the covers of publications like The Saturday Evening Post. So he set his sights on studying at the ArtCenter College of Design in the Los Angeles area, which specialized in career-oriented arts.

Before pursuing his career, Walter left for a mission in France the day after he turned 19. At one point during his service, he and another elder were asked by their mission president to create a mobile visitors’ center. Walter made several pieces of artwork and collected Church posters for the open-air exhibit, taking it around their mission and giving tours. As part of their efforts, they set up the center near the Eiffel Tower on the Place du Trocadero, and a local newspaper and the Church News each printed an article about it.

After his mission, Walter pursued his studies at the ArtCenter College of Design. Upon graduation at age 24, the aspiring artist then set off in his Ford Falcon and began the long drive across the country to work as a freelance artist in New York City. But before he arrived in the Big Apple in 1974, he wanted to make a short detour.

“I stopped in Salt Lake [City] and tried to show my portfolio, but there was nobody to show it to. The Church didn’t use visual arts much, and what little they did, they had the Harry Anderson and Arnold Friberg paintings. They didn’t seem to see a need for any other, so the idea of doing religious art . . . I just kind of tucked it away as not being practical,” he says. So Walter went on his way again—only his car “blew up” in Iowa, and he had to borrow money from his father in order to purchase a Volkswagen Beetle, which he drove to New York.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE.