It’s not everyday you come across a body of work that feels as though it belongs in an archive along side the creative works of Michelangelo. Peter Olsen, a New York native who came to south Florida to live in what he calls paradise, could be considered one of the most prolific artists in our time living right here in Oakland Park. He’s most well known for his expansive series of original images based on every verse in the Book of Revelation (That’s over 404 verses!).
Sparkling the Imagination
It all started in 1968 when he received the book “The Late Great Planet Earth.” The imagery in the text sparked his imagination to create his first Apocalyptic piece, “The Rainbow Angel.” And since then with his classical, Academic, and Pop Art training and influence, he’s created over 1200 pieces in oil, pen and ink, and collage on just the book of Revelation alone.
He was brought up in a Christian household and his father was a painter/interior designer. But other than that exposure, his creativity was stifled for much of his earlier years. He was the oldest of 3 siblings, but he always felt his path strayed from what was considered normal or “productive.” He was an artist at heart and he always knew that. At the age of 15 he was accepted into a private arts academy, and studied there for 5 years. He was the youngest in his class at the time and had finally found the place that accepted and nurtured his immense creative spirit.
A Faith-Based Background
He began his work as a professional, taking commissions and painting murals to help pay for his education. Even still, the religious themes of his work were clearly prominent and his inspiration seemed to pull him back to his faith-based background. Originally he had thought to create works based on chapters of the Bible, but after meeting his wife in 1979, who still handles much of his PR and studio administration today, the idea to truly comb through and let the inspiration come verse by verse took hold.
Peter describes his process as quite similar to that of a Carpenter. He starts with the preparation and reads the verse he intends to work on to decipher its meaning. This often requires deep research to understand context and visualizing the piece as he listens to teachings or videos that cover the verse in detail. After visualizing and sketching the image in his mind, he’ll draft it in pencil, and once his hand hits the paper the inspiration simply flows and the work practically completes itself.
Peter and his wife are working on having his work preserved, possibly by the Vatican.
The most exciting part of the process is the research, which his wife volunteers to help with, and both of them find joy in uncovering the lesser known details of such an influential book. He’s currently working on a couple new series of works. The Women of the Bible focuses on depicting the female figures who sometimes aren’t even acknowledged in the text but play significant roles culturally. He wants to showcase their strength and beauty and tell their unique stories.
With his current work in progress, Genesis, he’s approaching it like he did the Book of Revelation: verse by verse. And while he works on these current projects he says, “the work is never done.” Though his greatest collection consists of 35 years of work he will still create a new image as inspiration strikes. This is why each verse often has 2 or 3 accompanying images often in different mediums.
Creating an Opportunity for Artists to Express Themselves
This freedom of creative energy and allowing his process to produce what it will, is something he strives to share with the artists that utilize his Oakland Park studio. He’s adamant, it’s not a school, though he will advise and guide artists on how to best create their art. He’s made his studio a space that is welcoming and encouraging for all who long for a creative outlet that also feels like a second home. With artists ranging in age, from 11 to 95, he’s proud to have provided the opportunity for artists to grow and express themselves in an environment dedicated to building confidence and uplifting their unique creative spirit. Currently Dania Beach City Hall is featuring an atrium exhibit showcasing 20 of the artists from his studio.
Despite having his work featured on TBN, the 700 Club, European television networks, and in Norwegian Magazines, as well as in local museums such as the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, his greatest mission now is to help others to simply get involved with art. “Art can express things that nothing else can.” This philosophy is what makes his work one of the greatest and most influential collections of our time, much like his greatest inspirations, Michelangelo, Beethoven, and Shakespeare.
You can find regular updates on his most current works on his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (Peter Olsen Artist). Also feel free visit the his Oakland Park studio located at 225 W. Prospect Road to learn more about the various programs and service available to our community for all ages.
Take a look at Peter’s students art exposition at Dania Beach City Hall: