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
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,"
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
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
"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
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.
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