Roy Purcell has lived and worked as an artist in Las Vegas since 1970 and has created a large body of work in various media. While known throughout the southwest for his etchings, he has mastered watercolor, oil, pastel, ink, acrylic and pencil to express the world around him.
Born in 1936, Roy grew up in rural Utah, where he learned an appreciation of the earth and developed a sensitivity for its beauty. He appears to have sprung directly from the desert itself; tall and wiry with traces of his fiery red hair weaving through the gray, he personifies the life that thrives in the desert: patient, intent, vigorous. Like the desert after a thunderstorm, he is prolific; his work, like wildflowers, is dazzling at a distance and compelling in its detail.
Roy Purcell first gained national attention as an artist is 1966 when he painted “The Journey”, 2000 square feet of murals on the granite cliff faces in the Cerbat Mountains near Chloride, Arizona. He had recently been working toward his Masters in Creative Writing and Fine Arts at Utah State University, and was working as a miner. The extraordinary taxing project provided Roy with the symbolic foundation for his future work, “I could no longer hide from myself. I had begun a journey of self discovery from which I could never turn back.”
Roy became the Director of the Mojave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, Arizona where he began doing the etchings that would become his trademark. The bright gold of a sunrise or the rich purple of a sunset became recognizable elements of his inked intaglio prints: western themes, desert scenes, but also the symbols and imagery of Native American and world mythology.
Roy came to Las Vegas as Director for the Southern Nevada Museum in Henderson and four years later began working solely as a free lance artist. His work and published poetry and sketches, such as “The Wayfarer” took him around the southwest and eventually around the world. he has exhibited his work across America and his etchings are in numerous private collections in Japan, Europe, Australia and in corporate art collection such as Standard Oil, Dow Chemical, and in the homes of celebrities and prominent locals.
In the early eighties, he began a series of monumental projects that would include the world’s largest engraving. “The Christ Light” murals for the First Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas borrowed the talents of hundreds of local residents to re-enact the life of Jesus Christ. Photographers chronicled the events and Roy worked from these pictures to create the murals. The finished murals accompanied crucifixion panels and stained glass to create a uniquely southwestern spiritual environment. The Bridge for Peace project joined the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Tel Aviv, Israel with the government of Egypt and the State of Nevada in planning the re-enactment of the life of Moses and the Exodus. Tensions in the middle east forced Egypt and Israel to drop their involvement, but hundreds of people from all over the country participated in the Nevada phase of the project completed in 1984.
The balance of the 1980’s were spent primarily creating large works in acrylic, pastel and mixed media, exploring landscape and historical subjects and developing proficiency in several media and styles of mural work.
With the coming of the 90’s and a very supportive and inspiring marriage, Roy turned his talents to wildlife and environmental concerns creating several series of wildlife etchings and paintings. His prolific output, talent and diversity of experience prepared him for the imaginative and demanding creative designing of the Atlantis Resort Hotel & Casino.
His wildlife and environment interests launched him into another major project to document the Nations’ Natural Legacy in a series of mixed media paintings. To date nearly five hundred have been completed including birds, butterflies, plants, mammals, reptiles and assorted little creatures.
In commemoration of what he considers a vital epoch of western history, he created the “Journey to Zion” series in 1997, a very limited edition of etchings depicting the Mormon exodus west to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1857.
Remaining true to his fascination with mankind and their cultural/historical journeys, Roy has created a series of 25 etchings, L’Chayim L’or, depicting major episodes of Jewish history. The artist’s proofs suites are printed horizontally on Torah-like scrolls and presented in beautiful hand-crafted boxes, covering five major aspects of Judaic traditions and beliefs. Beginning with the covenant of Abraham and rounding off in modern day Israel. This beautiful boxed set emphasizes the relationship between Abraham, his God and the Land of Promise given to his children which has influenced world history to this day.
Roy is currently working on a series of etchings dealing with
the Native American Legacy and their message for todays world.