ST. GEORGE — This snowbird is flying high as she takes the spotlight at Arrowhead Gallery as this month’s featured artist. 

Mary Jane Grow enjoys Plein Air art, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Mary Jane Grow, St. George News

The works of painter Mary Jane Grow can be seen by passersby through the towering windows of the gallery. Inside, more of her work is featured front and center and again along a large back wall. The displays offer art enthusiasts a unique opportunity to experience Grow’s creative expression.

“I love immersing myself in the natural world and feeling alive,” Grow said, standing next to her highlight display.

Grow is a plein-air artist, meaning she creates most of her watercolor and oil paintings on location in nature. She doesn’t just plan trips to paint, she keeps supplies in her car, ready to paint what she sees at the moment.

“I love it because it uses all five senses,” she said about painting outside. “You’re out there, listening to the wind, the feeling of the sun on your shoulders. A variety of smells come across with the breeze, hearing the birds sing and seeing amazing things. It’s a whole-body experience.”

An oil painting by Mary Jane Grow features textures made with a palette knife, St. George, Utah, Feb. 1, 2024 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

While many oil painters start with a gray or brown underpainting, Grow starts with a white surface and goes directly to color – something she learned in a class eight years ago with Camille Pissarro, a famous oil painter. 

“She taught me the colorist approach, which really rang my bell,” she said. “The white paper is the secret because it gives you light, and I think that’s the most important ingredient. As a plein-air artist, I really go for the light.”

While she loves both watercolor and oil painting, the main difference is the texture that’s created. Her watercolor work is flat, while her oil paintings are made with a palette knife to build up textures and create movement.

Grow is a Northern Utah native who grew up surrounded by the mountains – something that has always fascinated her. In her high school years, she began painting with watercolor. Through the help of an impactful teacher and lessons from a family friend, she fell in love. She also dabbled in other forms of art such as interior design, songwriting, drama, theatre and more.

“Just anything creative, I just love,” she said. “ I’ve just always been kind of a creative soul.”

Mary Jane Grow enjoys plein-air art, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Mary Jane Grow, St. George News

After obtaining a fine arts degree at BYU, she took a break to raise her children. Later, she taught private art lessons in her home and decided to obtain her teaching certificate. That led to her 20-year career as an art teacher.

It wasn’t until retirement that she decided to focus on sharing her personal artwork with the world.

“It’s about spreading the joy that I feel,” she said. “I get excited when somebody else gets excited looking at my work.”

Since then, her work has been seen at the Spring Salon in the Springville Museum of Art, along with multiple galleries in Salt Lake, California and Arizona. She also has a mural inside a children’s museum in Texas.

And she’s not slowing down. Her main focus has been entering plein-air festivals around the United States, where she’s won many first-place awards.

While people talk about the dryness of the desert, she said there are many wetlands in Southern Utah’s winters along with wildlife. She loves spending the winters enjoying the weather and painting the beauty around her. She is also a signature member of the Dixie Watercolor Society.

Mary Jane Grow is the Arrowhead Gallery’s featured artist for February, St. George, Utah, Feb. 1, 2024 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

“I like spreading joy,” Grow said. “And light is my joy. My goal is to find the light. That’s why I paint.”

Grow’s work is featured at the Arrowhead Gallery at 68 E. Tabernacle Street in St George. See her work throughout the gallery in the proceeding months. Visit her website for more information. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

The Southen Utah Art Guild, which runs both the Arrowhead Gallery and Red Cliff Gallery, invites the public to also attend the “My Favorite Things” showcase artist reception, which will take place at Red Cliff Gallery on Friday, Feb. 9, from 6-8 p.m. Visit their website for more information.

Photo Gallery

Mary Jane Grow’s artwork hangs inside the Arrowhead Gallery in St. George, Utah, Feb. 1, 2024 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

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