Greg S. (BFA ’17) and Jean Mcfarland Bean (BA ’17) were BYU dropouts. After a baby and an illness derailed their studies in the 1980s, they decided to leave BYU and head to Washington state. Greg, who had been working nights in Utah with the Springville Police Department, got a job as an officer in Bellevue, Washington, and was eventually promoted to detective. One day his lieutenant ordered him to a weeklong forensic-art class. Then a self-described “art imbecile,” Greg hadn’t put pencil to paper since middle school; this class began a lifelong journey into art.
The teacher began by saying that art isn’t about the pencil in your hand, but about what you can see. Those words “literally changed my life and changed the way I saw people,” says Greg. By the end of the week, he could draw “a decent-looking human head,” and by the end of his career on the force, he had become the foremost forensic artist in the Seattle area, helping apprehend scores of criminals with his composite sketches.
Being exposed to the worst in humanity as a cop had started to make Greg bitter. But learning to see the details of people’s faces changed his perspective about the people themselves. “Having him go through that process of learning to see people as Christ sees them [and] understanding that nobody’s perfect helped him get over that hurdle of hate,” Jean shares. “His heart softened. We all benefited from [his] going to that class.”
Meanwhile, Jean developed her own native interest in art. “Everything she touched turned into artwork,” says Greg, “bulletin boards, invitations, menus, anything you can think of.” With her help, Greg’s interest in art expanded, and he started drawing and painting for pleasure.
Thirty years after leaving Provo, the Beans received a clear prompting that, even though it was early, it was time for Greg to retire from the police force, and even though it was late, they needed to return to BYU. They did, and Greg and Jean loved their second BYU experience—the romance of getting their art degrees together and the fun of both learning from and mentoring younger students (and sometimes younger teachers).
Since graduating in 2017, the Beans have kept up their skills in their home studio, including creating a portrait a day in 2018. This year both were featured in the Springville Art Museum Spring Salon. Though they joke about their motto, “Happier living through lower expectations,” the Beans have truly learned to be happy through art. They say, “The best thing about learning to see life as an artist is the world is just a more beautiful place.”