The Art of a First Impression
No one understands the art of a first impression better than David Meikle. For eight years, images created by the award-winning Utah artist have welcomed drivers to the state via billboards posted at all major entry points. Air travelers are greeted by Meikle’s art at the Salt Lake City International Airport baggage claim area. Visitors at City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City can’t miss his 10-by-23-foot fine art landscape above the east stairs to the food court.
In addition to his success as freelance illustrator and painter of fine art landscapes, Meikle has enjoyed 27 years as a graphic designer for the University of Utah. “Having my hat in three rings keeps me constantly challenged,” Meikle says.
Welcoming Visitors in Style
Although it’s been eight years since Meikle created the “Welcome to Utah” images, seeing people stop along the highway to snap photos in front of his art never gets old. “It’s fun when you’re coming back from a road trip and you see the sign and know that was artwork you created,” he says.
Meikle’s “graphic” or “travel” style — used to create images for the “Welcome to Utah” signs and posters for the Go Learn educational trip program offered through University of Utah Continuing Education — is inspired by travel posters from the 1930s and 1940s. In contrast to his work as a painter of fine landscapes in oil, he uses a computer to color and layer shapes he composes by hand. “It forces me to work simply,” he says.
A Different Mountain Every Day
In his fine oil paintings, Meikle focuses on the interaction of light on Utah landscapes, from grand vistas to small towns and rural scenes. “I’ve always been a realist, I like to create things that look like I see them,” he says.
Various art teachers throughout the years tried to get Meikle to loosen up and be more abstract. “I remember a professor telling me, ‘I hate to see you do the same painting over and over again.’ But for me, with landscapes, it’s never the same painting. Mount Olympus is a different mountain every day, depending on what the clouds are doing and the light in relation to the land. It just seems like the possibilities are endless,” he says.
So, it’s not surprising that after almost 40 years with a brush in his hand, Meikle still eagerly anticipates each new project. “When I go on trips with the family, I’m looking out the window when I’m driving; and I’ll have my wife take pictures of what I’m seeing so I can take it back to the studio,” he says. “There’s something about the process of re-creating an image, especially when you size it up to a larger scale, that reinforces my love for open spaces.”
Shining a Light
Shining a light on the open spaces he loves has brought Meikle into the limelight as well. The Springville Museum of Art named him one of Utah’s 100 Most Honored artists. Highland High School (his alma mater) inducted him into its Hall of Fame. His work is included in “Painters of the Wasatch Mountains” and “Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts” art books.
But Meikle isn’t resting on his laurels. “I keep trying to improve what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I’m there yet. I’m always looking to be even better,” he says.