Greg Olsen: Mormon Artist
Greg K. Olsen is a prolific and diverse artist, but is most famous for his depictions of Jesus Christ. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the Church gravitated to his work that appeared in the Ensign Magazine and was available for purchase through Deseret Book, catapulting him and his work into widespread demand. He has since published calendars, tabletop books, and other products in addition to his originals and prints.
Olsen was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in 1958, and raised in the nearby farming community of Iona. He recalls that his parents, Gordon and Janel Olsen, were supportive of his artistic interest and talent. “Greg remembers a time as a teenager when he had been hired to paint a large sign for a local grocery store. It was wintertime and too cold to paint in the garage so his parents let him set up a workshop in his bedroom. He promptly spilled two quarts of black and orange enamel paint all over his bedroom carpet. Amazingly, his parents still encouraged him in his artistic endeavors.”
During his teen years at Bonneville High School, he studied under art teacher Bob Whitney, who “contributed more to Greg’s art education and desire to make it his life’s work than any other person.” He then studied art at Utah State University. After college, he was hired as an in-house illustrator in Salt Lake City, where he worked on a variety of projects, from murals and dioramas to simple paste-up. Two years later, he followed a friend's advice and began painting full-time. Sales from his first show only just covered the cost of refreshments and invitations, but yielded the first of many commissions that were to come.
There wasn’t a market for Christian art after concluding his missionary service to Toronto, Canada — "no galleries he was aware of carried it, he said. Over the years, as he focused on Western art and scenes of childhood, the market for Christian art gradually opened and he found his way in."
At one point, Olsen had expanded his artwork into a network of hundreds of galleries and bookstores across the country. He eventually stopped working with wholesale accounts in favor of reaching customers directly on the internet. Deseret Book was the only exception. In the fall of 2023, he signed a deal with Deseret Book, passing his business affairs to the only retailer he has used for about a decade. Deseret Book will own all the rights to Olsen's work, will handle Olsen’s website, and will also handle Olsen’s wholesale business. Olsen wants to focus solely on creating.
Olsen and his wife, Sydnie, are the parents of six children.