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Artist makes walls works of art

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After Billy Hensler was laid off from his job as a computer programmer, he wasn't sure what he was going to do.

The Provo resident, who lived in Salt Lake County until two years ago, had always been good at art and decided to try utilizing his skills to become a professional artist for hire. Seventeen years later, Hensler continues his work, doing a wide variety of commissions and other works he hopes to sell. He finds doing something he loves is fulfilling.

"The most gratifying thing is that each job has its own individual life that I am contracted to breathe life into," he said. "I love being an artist for hire. I'm contracted to go to a home, business or restaurant and see those who hired me see that I got in their head and put (their idea) on the wall."

Hensler's work has taken him from Ogden to Park City and even occasionally to St. George. Many of his jobs end up coming from Salt Lake County. His murals have appeared in numerous places, including The Living Planet Aquarium, the Stateline Casino and a South Jordan dentist's office. He has also painted murals in many high-end homes.

"It's very fulfilling that someone has an idea in mind and I get to go fill the bill or requirement for art," he said.

One of Hensler's most recent commissions was doing a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper." Although he didn't create an original painting, Hensler said the process was educational. His client wanted it to look as close to the original as possible, and Hensler said it was an opportunity for him to walk in Da Vinci's footsteps.

"I've always admired Leonardo's work, yet never emulated his style. Another bonus about my job is if I'm reproducing old masters or an established artist, I get to learn their process and the steps they took. It gives me a window into how they got to be where they're at as artists," he said.

The time it takes him to complete a painting varies. Sometimes he sees it in his head and can finish it quickly, while other times it's slower in coming. However, if he has a time deadline, he can work well under it. One of his favorite paintings he did 12 years ago on a 4 x 4 canvas, a large painting, only took him a few hours to complete, while another of his original creations took months.

"I realize from what comes into my life, I create not just my paintings but my happiness and that I am actually more than a creator of art but creator of joy and happiness in my own success, which is somewhat of a new philosophy for me," he said.

Once he's done with a job, Hensler said it's important to remember it's out of his hands. Sometimes the murals will get painted over or people will move out of a house where the mural he completed is, so he has to tell himself he is finished with it. The client has control of what ultimately happens with it.

Anyone interested in contacting Hensler about an art commission can call him at 801-560-8771 or visit his Web site illusionfineart.com.

Hensler is a strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. "I love oil painting, but now I'm doing some sculpture that will be incorporated for the Maverik stores," he said. "This is another genre of art (I'm being tossed into). I just take it all in. I believe that throughout our lives, we use everything. We have experiences for a reason, and somewhere those experiences come into play."

E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com