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Beauty of detail embraced by LDS artist

Argentinian painter's art is an extension of his gospel beliefs

For Oscar Campos, it's the Lord that's in the details.

The LDS artist from Argentina is gaining global renown for his wildlife paintings. Collectors and gallery owners appreciate Brother Campos' extreme attention to details — demonstrated perhaps in the delineated hairs sprouting atop a cougar's paw or the colorful plumage of a falcon's wing. But the details extend beyond a painting's most prominent subjects.

"I'm also capturing the small rocks and the fauna," he said.

Such unassuming objects, he explained, reflect the beautiful yet often unnoticed details crafted by the Creator.

Creating art has allowed Brother Campos, 40, to earn a living while simultaneously celebrating the vast, detailed works of the Lord.

"Painting is a spiritual experience," he said. "I'm simply copying the patterns of nature.

Whenever Brother Campos begins a new painting he's reminded of the steps found in Creation — the divine process of joining an immortal spirit to a mortal body. His works are developed in deliberate, incremental stages.

"When I am painting, say, a cougar or an eagle, I'll start with a transparent base that serves almost as the animals' spirit. Later, I'll add the more defined (physical) parts."

Like many artists, Brother Campos felt early in life the impulse to capture the world around him on paper and canvas. A native of Cultral-Co along a stretch of Argentina's Patagonia, young Oscar began drawing in elementary school. He and his family regarded his artistic interest as a hobby. There were few professional opportunities for fine artists in rural Argentina. Like many of his schoolmates, Oscar wanted to be a professional soccer player.

When he was 14, a group of Church members rented a small building in front of the Campos' home. Each Sunday the branch would gather inside the building for LDS worship. Intrigued, Oscar accepted the branch members' invitation to join them for Sabbath services. Soon he was listening to the missionaries.

"Their discussions changed my life. I was given a completely different vision of my life," said Brother Campos, recalling his conversion.

After graduating from high school, Oscar took what work he could find before landing a job painting letters on business advertisements and posters. While not ideal training for a would-be naturalist artist, the lettering job provided the funds he would need for full-time missionary work. At 22, he accepted a call to the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. Lessons of patience and persistence learned amid daily proselytizing "have helped me throughout my life."

After his mission, Brother Campos returned to his brushes and paints. His raw talent caught the attention of prominent Argentinian artist Axed Amuchastegui, who would become a friend, instructor, mentor and critic. It was Amuchastegui who inspired him to commit himself to his talent and develop as an artist.

Soon Brother Campos began selling paintings. He realized he could, indeed, earn a living through his art. Today he enjoys national regard in Argentina and a growing worldwide audience. His paintings can be found hanging in galleries throughout Europe and the United States. He recently completed a two-month stay in the American West, spending time in Wyoming's Grand Tetons, Utah's Zion National Park and other locales. There, he shot countless photos of wildlife and vast landscapes to inspire future paintings. He was especially fascinated by buffalo.

"Oscar is an artist that doesn't like to leave any (detail) out — he includes everything in his paintings," said LDS artist Jim Wilcox, who represents Brother Campos in his gallery in Jackson, Wyo.

A father of four, Brother Campos says his art work is an extension of his gospel beliefs. He has painted a portrait of the prophet Mormon gripping tight to the golden plates. The painting has hung in the Museum of Church History and Art and now belongs in a private collection.

"My testimony is the basis of my work."

E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com