John S. Sears: Mormon Artist
John “Jack” Septimus Sears was an editorial cartoonist, newspaper writer, and long-time university art professor.
Sears was born on February 20, 1875, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He studied with James T. Harwood from 1891 to 1893. He then studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco for one year. To continue his art education, he sold frog legs to a Salt Lake hotels, sold medals he had won as a cyclist, and played baseball. He then studied at the Art Students League in New York. He earned living expenses by joke drawing for William Randolph Hearst’s Journal. He worked for the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune and worked for a year as a cartoonist for out-of-state newspapers. In 1900 he became a reporter for a New York news organization and then in 1904 he was an illustrator for the New York Morning Telegraph and the New York Evening Journal. He took more art lessons in 1907–1908 with friend and fellow artist Mahonri Young. He was a freelance illustrator from 1907 to 1917. He also worked for the Democratic National Committee in 1911 and the Republican National Committee in 1912.
In 1919, Sears came back to the University of Utah and taught graphic design and printmaking. Shortly after the chair of the department resigned, Sears and two other artists headed the art department. Sears remained at the University of Utah until 1943 while he organized the commercial art program. While at the U, he was also known for his “Cat Drawings” and published them in book form in 1943. He again worked for the Deseret News from 1920 to 1924.
During his lifetime, he also completed many landscapes and portraits. He and his wife, Florence, were the parents of one child. He passed away on June 6, 1969. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.