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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Nola Sullivan, top, with some of her artwork.

PROVO — At age 83, Nola de Jong Sullivan continues to teach art and exhibit her own paintings.

Chiefly a watercolorist, she hung some 80 paintings in the recent monthlong show at the Historic County Courthouse.

"I sold lots," she said.

She won't say how much her paintings bring.

"Whatever they have in their purse," she shrugs.

But she admits her work brings much more outside Utah.

The daughter of Garrett de Jong, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Brigham Young University for 40 years, and the wife of retired clinical psychologist Clyde Sullivan, she and her family moved several times following her husband's career before settling in Provo more than 25 years ago.

They raised three children, two sons and a daughter, in the Bay Area of San Francisco. The Sullivans now have nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A world traveler, she has captured many of the places they visited in her paintings but never works from photographs.

She has several paintings from her trip to China in 1992 depicting rural life, living at the rivers with steep mountains in the background.

"We've traveled all over Mexico, and I've done the whole Caribbean on cruises," she said.

Sullivan always returns with what she considers treasure — her paintings.

She has worked in many mediums, including oil, pastels and even leather tooling. But her soft-edged watercolors are a favorite and what she is teaching now from her home studio.

"I teach that details are not important," she said.

Sullivan starts with shapes, only five are available, and then brings in the value of light.

"Without it you get no three-dimension," she said.

Then she adds excitement with color.

"You make a statement and then quit," she said.

Her students number less than half a dozen.

"It depends on who's in town," she said. "I've taught art for 50 years, and I will until I drop dead."

Over the years and wherever her husband's career has taken her, she has taught art in public or private schools. But she says her most important work was with handicapped people, including children with Down syndrome or those who are retarded or brain-damaged.

While in New York, she worked with the Training Opportunity Program teaching children with cerebral palsy not only how to paint but also how to dance.

"My work with handicapped people taught me about life," she said. "They taught me patience (and that) every person, no matter their handicap, is valuable to God. If we work together, we can accomplish anything."

Sullivan comes from a family of artists that spans seven generations "that we know of." Her heritage stretches back to England, Germany and Holland. Family members have been involved in all aspects of the arts: music, dance, sculpture, painting and writing.

"That's what makes life worth living," she said.

E-mail: [email protected]