Painter Erma Clarkson of Marion developed an interest in art very early on.
“In first grade, I drew a picture of President Nixon,” she said. “I couldn’t believe as an adult looking back how good that was for a first-grader.”
Drawing was never her primary interest in art, though. She said she always wanted to be able to paint like some of the adults she knew. In 1977, she painted a park scene in her school’s student lounge in Madison, which stayed on the wall there for more than 30 years.
She bought her first painting supplies of her own in 1980, getting canvasses, paints, and brushes. She didn’t know how to start, though, so she turned to self-help books.
Clarkson said she chose to self-teach because she never liked the styles of teachers she found. Learning on her own was often frustrating, but it allowed her to paint how she wanted to.
Along the way, painting became a form of religious expression and prayer. Her painting enhanced her faith and vice versa.
Once when she was working on a painting related to a Bible verse, something was wrong but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She prayed for guidance, then watched as a piece of blue lint landed on her painting, casting a shadow. She realized immediately what was wrong with her painting — she had forgotten to include shadows.
On another occasion, she was painting during a church service and was inspired to paint a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Later in the service, without seeing her painting, the pastor used butterflies as a metaphor for transformation, Clarkson said.
She said she prefers oil painting, but she often uses acrylic, like when she paints during a church service, because it dries faster. She also prefers painting on a large scale, with some of her paintings being 40 square feet or more.
“I love large paintings,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson moved to Marion in April. She will be the feature artist at Gallery 101 during Christmas Celebration in Marion on Sunday. She will be displaying 11 original paintings and a variety of prints.