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Portrait of an artist: Grant Romney Clawson

Published: Thursday, April 22 2010 12:18 a.m. MDT

MURRAY, Utah — Grant Romney Clawson is the most famous Mormon artist no

one has ever heard of.

For the past 42 years, his brush has created hundreds of precious

paintings depicting the Lord Jesus Christ, the prophets, scriptural

scenes and other gospel artwork. His works hang in LDS temples and

church-owned buildings around the globe.

"I am like a guy who is famous in a way because my paintings are all

over the world, but no one knows my name," said Clawson, a

self-described perfectionist. "I believe I was born to do this. I feel

like the most blessed guy who ever lived. What a privilege to paint

portraits for the prophets. It's beyond my imagination. I thank my

Heavenly Father every day."

__IMAGE1__Sitting in his home studio on his favorite 50-something-year-old wooden

dining chair (one leg held together by a pair of C-clamps), the longtime

freelance artist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

recently completed his portrait of LDS Church President Thomas S.

Monson. He devoted approximately 325 hours to perfecting the prophet's

likeness on canvas.

The painting will hang in the council room of the Salt Lake Temple next

to its 14 predecessors, all but one painted by the 82-year-old Clawson.

"Brigham Young was already there," said Clawson, who is President

Young's great-grandson.

Not too bad for a guy who taught himself to paint.

Clawson was first interested in art at a young age, but almost gave up

when a fifth-grade school teacher accused him of tracing an assignment

he had worked on at home.

"I was very distraught," Clawson said. "I wanted to be recognized as an

artist at school."

The heartbroken lad was sitting outside the school reflecting on what

had happened when he had a spiritual experience. He said his mind was

opened to see a day in the future when he would paint for the temples of

the Lord. "From that day forward, I knew what I was supposed to do,"

Clawson said.

Years later, after serving in the army as a cook in Korea, Clawson had a

16-year stint with KSL-TV. He started as a floor manager and worked up

to production manager. He takes credit for discovering Dick Nourse,

KSL's longtime award-winning television news anchorman.

__IMAGE2__"My brother was my boss. I told him, you need to see this guy," Clawson

said of Nourse.

But Clawson's heart wasn't in television; it was in art.

In 1957, he began painting on the side and entered as many art contests

as he could find. The more he painted, the less interest he had in a

television career.

One day he was walking through the Salt Lake Temple and saw a 1964 Harry

Anderson painting of the Lord Jesus Christ ordaining the apostles. He

describes the experience as "an awakening."

In the late 1960s, through a series of events, Clawson was given the

opportunity by Elder Mark E. Petersen to paint an enlarged version of

Harry Anderson's "John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus." After months of

work, it was accepted, and Clawson was commissioned to produce several

more enlarged paintings, which now hang along the wall at the North

Visitors Center at Temple Square.

The paintings are admired by people from around the globe, like Yair

Koshet, a recent Temple Square visitor from the Middle East.

"They are very beautiful," Koshet said. "It's a wonderful idea to tell

the story with vivid images. Having lived there, the landscape and

scenery is also very accurate."

Clawson also painted the 66-by-14-foot mural titled "Go Ye Therefore"

that resides in the lobby of the Church Office Building.

If you look closely at his paintings, you will find the faces of

Clawson's family members. Take the face of a sibling, son or daughter,

add a beard, long hair and ancient clothing, and you have another

subject in a scriptural depiction.

__IMAGE3__"It's the greatest compliment to be in one of his paintings," said Megan

Clawson Doezie, Clawson's youngest daughter and art agent. "He has a way

of making everyone feel important. It's fun to go to the visitors center

and see the faces in the paintings."

While Clawson has produced several original paintings, both religious

and nonreligious, much of his church-commissioned work has involved

painting enlarged murals of Anderson's smaller originals. Each time,

Clawson added his personal touch to small details.

When Anderson saw the size of the mega-canvas in the Church Office

Building, he said if he ever had to paint something that big, he would

faint.

"He was just trying to make me feel good," Clawson said. "He was a

master artist. I learned a great deal from him. He has been a big part

of my life."

Clawson has drawn inspiration through the years from daily reading in

his Book of Mormon. The influence of the Holy Ghost has also played a

role in his numerous paintings.

"I have only missed about 20 days (reading) in more than 20 years," he

said.

His other daily chore is to record his hours, details and thoughts in

his spiral-bound journal. He has filled 38 such volumes since 1968.

Clawson and his wife, Irma, are the parents of six children, 12

grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They are all big fans of

grandpa, but so far no artists have emerged to take up the brush. They

have, however, already started to stake their claims on his artwork.

"Rather than watch the family tear each other apart after he is

deceased, they say, 'You want it, take it,'" Doezie said.

In addition to LDS art, Clawson has also painted for the western art

market. He has even done portraits of some of his grandchildren. For

more on Clawson's art, visit grantromneyclawson.com.

Clawson doesn't know how many more projects he will do for the church,

but he has enjoyed associating with church leaders and seeing others

enjoy his many pieces of artwork over the years. He credits his wife,

family and friends for their support.

Perhaps now people will know his name.


E-mail: ttoone@desnews.com

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