William Whitaker: Mormon Artist
William Whitaker is a classical realistic painter who focuses primarily on portraits.
He was born in 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, the only son of W. Ferrin and Martha Whitaker. His father was a commercial artist, designer, painter, and owner of the Whitaker-Gurnsey studio. Whitaker showed natural talent at a young age and learned his earliest artistic lessons from his father.
His father retired to La Jolla, California, when Whitaker was six years old. Three years later, the family went to Utah for a family vacation and his father decided to develop The Homestead Resort in Midway with his brothers Scott, Wetzel, and Berlin. Later, Whitaker studied in Carmel, California, when his family stayed there for a winter. In 1960, he left public school to study at the University of Utah and began studying art in Alvin Gittins’ advanced drawing class. He postponed his university studies while he served a full-time mission to Germany for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member. After his mission, he worked for Evans Advertising Agency in Salt Lake City and created many projects and illustrations for magazines for the Church of Jesus Christ. In 1967 he traveled to Mexico to study with Gittins for a semester. During the trip, he confirmed that he wanted to be an artist, despite his family’s discouragement. He earned his business degree at the end of 1967 and then devoted his attention to working as an artist.
He studied art at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and worked as an advertising director at Capitol Records for two years. He then set up the graphic design department at Brigham Young University. He also taught commercial and advertising art and later fine arts. After twelve years he decided to quit teaching so he could devote his time to his pastel drawings of the female figure. He especially focused on Native Americans and moved his family to Mesa, Arizona, in 1985. He returned to Utah in 1990.
Many of his portraits of prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ are exhibited in the Conference Center.
Whitaker has received gold and silver medals from the National Academy of Western Art and is featured in numerous collections.
He is married to Sandra Phillips, a watercolorist.