“I Did Not Feel the Cold”

by Maddie Christensen

“On the 31st of Dec I with my Brother Azmon Woodruff . . . went forward in baptism.”1

Sam Day, professional artist and illustrator, was commissioned to create a work of art detailing Wilford Woodruff’s baptism for the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation Conference, “Building Latter-day Faith.” Having been an artist for over forty-five years, Sam has extensive experience in painting spiritual topics and portraits.

Before this commission, the only known painting of Wilford Woodruff’s baptism was of a beautiful spring day. However, Wilford was baptized on December 31, 1833, in upstate New York, where over three feet of snow blanketed the ground at the time—unlike the scenario depicted in the earlier spring painting.


After doing some research about the historical event, Sam began to draw up some preliminary sketches. From there, he met with a photographer to select a location for a photoshoot to draw inspiration from. With the photographer and a few models, Sam traveled up to the mountains in Washington to a Church-owned property called the Ensign Ranch. 


Model used to depict Wilford Woodruff

Wilford Woodruff was baptized in a lake, so Sam found a lake on the property that had been completely frozen over to recreate a similar scene. Sam himself broke up the ice with an ax as they would have done a hundred years ago. He placed models on the shore to represent onlookers who would have been watching Wilford’s baptism. Additional models waded into the water and created a baptism scene without saying the actual prayer. The rope seen in the picture was used as a safety precaution; ropes like this were likely used at the time of the baptism as well. 

Models enact a baptism for inspiration

Models on shore participated as onlookers of the baptism. Realistically, it is likely that a crying baby may have been on shore at the original baptism, so Sam decided to include that scene in his final portrait.

Crying baby in final painting

After about fifty close ups and wide shots, Sam felt he had plenty of reference materials. He went home and made a composite collage on Photoshop to envision exactly how he wanted the painting to look. Then he started the process of actually creating the work. 

Preliminary Drawing

The Creation Process

Sam stretches each of his canvases himself rather than buying them ready-made. For this specific painting, he chose a Belgian portrait linen and oil paint. Sam primes his canvases two to three times and leaves them mostly rough, except in certain areas, such as where he paints faces. When looking at the painting in person, you can see both very thick and very fine brush strokes. 

From planning, sketching, and brainstorming to actually painting, the creation of the piece spanned about six weeks. Sam, however, quotes Leonardo da Vinci in saying, “A painting is never finished. Only abandoned.” While he is pleased with the final product, he can never say it is fully finished. 

Inspiration from the Painting

While reflecting on the process and the experience of creating this artwork, Sam notes that this painting was quite different from anything he had done before: “[I] had to try to speculate about what exactly transpired in a historical event, and research as much as I could about what that would've looked like. And even with fifty-plus reference photos and historical photos from the internet provided to me by this wonderful Foundation, there’s still an awful lot that I have to invent and this painting has been a unique challenge for me in the amount of historicity that I needed to reproduce.” 

Despite the difficulty, Sam learned a lot from the process. He feels inspired by the faith of the people involved with the baptism and the faith of Wilford Woodruff, who had such a strong testimony and such a great faith that he couldn’t even wait until the warm springtime to be baptized. What an inspiration!

About the Artist

Sam has been an artist since age eleven. His father was a newspaper editor and writer, so Sam began to illustrate his father’s columns and other articles. After graduating from high school and serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sam studied graphic design and illustration at the Art Institute of Seattle. He began his career by doing cartoons and storyboards for ad agencies, as well as caricatures for parties. Now, he travels the country, spending his time creating paintings at weddings.

Recognizing Jesus, Sam Day

Display of the Painting

The commissioned original painting was revealed at the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation Conference on March 4, 2023. The painting is currently on auction with all proceeds going to support the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation. To view the auction, please visit airauctioneer.com/wilfordwoodruffpapers.

The Foundation’s mission is to digitally preserve and publish Wilford Woodruff’s eyewitness account of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ from 1833 to 1898. It seeks to make Wilford Woodruff’s records universally accessible to inspire all people, especially the rising generation, to study and to increase their faith in Jesus Christ. See wilfordwoodruffpapers.org.

Maddie is the Public Relations Manager for the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation. She is currently a student at Brigham Young University working towards a degree in Public Relations with a minor in Global Studies. She will graduate in December of 2023. She is originally from Missouri and enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, and spending time with friends and family. Maddie has always loved learning about Church history and loves to read the words of Wilford Woodruff. She is passionate about sharing those words with everyone and is grateful to be part of such an incredible work.


  1. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, December 31, 1833, p. 12, Wilford Woodruff Papers, wilfordwoodruffpapers.org/journal/1833-12-31.