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Holladay Journal

Museum exhibits scale models and super-realism paintings of local artist of the month Richard Engar

Jun 02, 2023 11:21AM ● By Collette Hayes

The R.C. Engar Scale Model Museum and Studio walls display over 400 national, regional and state model-building awards in addition to local awards for Richard Engar’s highly illusionistic, landscape paintings. (Collette Hayes/City Journals)

The R.C. Engar Scale Model Museum and Studio opened its doors in Bountiful to the public in January 2021. Founded by Holladay resident Richard Engar, an accomplished scale model building artist and super-realism painter, the 900-square-foot museum exhibits more than 300 scale model airplanes and cars primarily crafted by Engar. The walls of the museum are covered with over 400 national, regional and state model-building awards in addition to local awards for Engar’s highly illusionistic landscape paintings.  

Selected by the Holladay Arts Council as Holladay Artist of the Month, Engar was a highly esteemed dentist in the Sugar House area, retired CEO of the Professional Insurance Exchange, a mutual insurance company for local dentists, and currently is the founder and curator of the R.C. Engar Scale Model Museum and Studio. Scale models are continually being added to the exhibit by Engar, and with few exceptions, the impressive collection is his work. A number of ceiling murals and historic posters from World War I and World War II are on display in the museum, and reference materials are on hand in each display case to provide a history and model specifics.

“The museum has been a project since 1982,” Engar said. “I displayed my airplane models in an extra room at my dental office. My patients enjoyed looking at them, and it was their interest that gave me the idea at some point to create a museum.”

The first model airplane Engar built was the Supermarine S.6B racer. Engar’s brother, Bill Engar, who is eight years younger, talks of how when they were young, he would frequently try to sneak into Engar’s bedroom to play with all of the irresistible gadgets and dangerous treasures available for exploration scattered throughout the room as well as suspended from the acoustic tiled ceiling. Engar’s collection of scale model airplanes included dozens of 1/72 scale aircraft from World War II. It became necessary for Engar to install an expensive lock on his bedroom door to keep his little brother out of his bedroom. 

Apparently, Engar’s big Lionel trains with three-rail tracks used to draw approximately enough current to light a sizeable portion of the Las Vegas Strip. “I don’t specifically recall plugging the massive transformer from Dick’s set into the wall terminals together,” Bill Engar states in his small-scale modeling blog, “but I’m told that the resulting arc of electricity would have made Ben Franklin jealous. Everyone seems to recollect that one of the first words I learned to say was ‘shock.’”

At age 19, Engar cleaned up his room of all the hazardous paints, tiny model parts and dangerous voltage, packed it away and left for Japan to fill a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Returning from his mission, Engar earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Utah, and then went on to complete a degree in Dentistry from the University of Washington School of Dentistry. After completing dental school, Engar opened his general dentistry practice in Sugar House and then was head hunted away from his highly successful practice to work for Professional Insurance Exchange Inc. and retired as CEO in 2020. 

Engar has enjoyed drawing since childhood. Continually encouraged to pursue his artistic interests by his parents, his dad started him building scale models at age 8. He enjoyed his art classes in junior high school from Dale Gibbs, who encouraged Engar to create something original and not to copy. Engar completed linoleum and wood block cuts under Gibbs’ instruction that hang on the wall in his studio.   

At the University of Utah Engar studied basic drawing and learned shadowing technique from Don Shepherd, who encouraged Engar to pursue a degree in art. Engar had been interested in dentistry since age 13, and he was loaded down with his pre-dental classes so he had to decline the recommendation. Until his retirement, Engar limited his artistic interest to the spare moments of time he could find for creating, building and painting. Now, Engar is at his museum and art studio three days a week as curator and to pursue his interest in super-realism painting. Engar spends many hours in his studio using a combination of watercolor and acrylics to complete his paintings. 

“The whole thing about painting is fooling the eye with brush strokes,” Engar said. “One little area on a painting may take me two to three hours to complete. The way I paint is to use photographs on my computer. My rule is, in order to have a feeling for what I’m painting, I have to have visited the place I’m going to paint. I particularly enjoy landscapes. The 12-by-18 Wasatch Peaks painting took me 42 hours to complete. The 8-by-10 paintings take about 80 hours.” 

Engar began writing and illustrating a children’s book in pen and ink in high school. Just recently, he completed the final editing and is in the process of having it published. The children’s book titled “The Adventure of Harry the Worm” is about what it means to be a true adventurer—a book sure to make any toddler smile. 

“I encourage everyone to live their creative dream,” Engar said. “Create something that is worthwhile and that others will enjoy looking at whether it’s clay sculpting, figure drawing, painting pictures or building scale models.”

The R.C. Engar Scale Model Museum and Studio is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. It’s located at 535 E. 500 South, Suite 8, in Bountiful. The museum is on the ground floor of the Liberty Place Building near Lakeview Hospital and Bountiful High School.λ