Jean Keaton was born in New Mexico and grew up in Utah. She and her husband have been married over thirty years and have five children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and early childhood development. Jean loved teaching professionally, but quit after nine years to be home with her children. She then supplemented her family’s income from home by providing daycare and piano lessons. Her artistic endeavors throughout these years consisted mainly of occasional penciled portraits as a gift or commission drawing. Although a person of deep faith, Jean had no interest in doing pictures with religious themes.
In 1991, Jean was intensely affected by news of the violent, senseless death of a young child. While fervently praying for the child’s family, heartache was replaced with solace and peace as she visualized that same child, smiling and joyful in the loving arms of the Savior. This experience helped Jean realize that our relationship with the Savior provides not only hope and comfort, but that it is also a source of joy.
Over the next few years, Jean noticed that most artwork depicting Jesus with children lacked the happiness conveyed in the image she had seen. She felt compelled to create something which would reflect that happiness. Sometime later she accomplished her goal by drawing, “Laughing Baby.” Feelings Jean experienced as she drew let her know it wasn’t just another picture. When it was finished, she stepped back to look it, and it took her breath away. “It was as if I was seeing it for the first time,” Jean recalls. “At that moment, I knew it wasn’t really mine.” Even more importantly, she felt as though the Lord approved.
Close friends who saw the drawing encouraged Jean to make it available to others through retail sales, but she was skeptical. She drew two more pictures, “Snuggling Infant” and “Playful Boys”, and all three prints went on the market in the fall of 1995. Her parents financed the first printing, and Jean feared it would take her a lifetime to sell all 2000 prints and pay them back. What a surprise and blessing it was to be proven wrong. Hundreds of thousands of prints later, she is still amazed by the continued interest in her artwork. She attributes her success to the positive response others have had seeing Jesus Christ depicted as a loving, joyful and personal being. Before long, more prints were added to what is now the “As I Have Loved You Series.”
Jean has stayed busy over the past seventeen years illustrating a picture book, and drawing over 500 commissioned portraits of people of all ages with the Savior- some of which comprise the series titled, “For they Shall be Comforted.” Most of her drawings depict deceased individuals with Jesus Christ. Families of these individuals feel great comfort in seeing their loved one in the tender care of the Master. This has been both gratifying and overwhelming to Jean as the demand is increasingly difficult to fill. With a waiting list that never goes away, Jean is constantly seeking a balance between all that requires her attention, while watching for a chance to compile a book of several drawings and related experiences that testify of our Savior’s love and awareness. Hopefully her book will become a reality in the not too distant future.
A message from Jean:
I am a simple person. I grew up in a large family with a modest life style of hand-me-downs and bare necessities. Still, the older I get, the more I appreciate my humble roots. We definitely had our challenges, but I learned to appreciate things of more lasting value, such as work, education, creativity, service, faith and love. It has always been more important to me to make a difference than to make a fortune; to be a friend than to be famous; and to be in tune with the Spirit than to be in step with the world.
The Lord gave me a gift. I am humbled and grateful that He has allowed a little nobody like me- with my pencil and paper- to help Him touch hearts and convey His love. Perhaps my simple drawings reflect the simplicity of His life and His awareness of each of us. As you view this artwork, I pray you will not only feel our Savior’s love, but recognize that you too have gifts through which He can bless others’ lives.