Jan. 7—MOOREVILLE — When Rhonda O'Rear Grammer was a little girl growing up in Fulton, her most cherished book was "Little Majorette," a Rand McNally Book by Dorothy Grider.
"I was probably 2 or 3, and I loved everything about that book — the hat, the pompoms on her boots," Grammer said. "My mother went out and got a watercolor set and painted a picture from that book to go on my bedroom wall." Wet Room Shower Glass
Grammer said even at that young age, she knew art was something special.
"I was just dying to get into those colors and paint, but she wouldn't let me," Grammer said. "That was my very first interest in art."
By the time she was in fifth grade at Fulton Grammar School, she was dying to get into Tom Dulaney's art class. Once she made it, she didn't stand out. In fact, her work wasn't even good enough to make it into the annual school art show.
"Halfway through the year, I got into the art show and won," she said. "Once I got in the show, it set in stone that I loved to paint. It gave me a social place in school — all through school."
Grammer didn't take her first formal art lesson until 1980, when she was living in Alabama. The instructor specialized in oil painting, and Grammer loved it. But she was more intrigued by watercolor painting.
"I'd been drawing all my life," she said. "I knew oils. I knew I had talent. But I couldn't figure out watercolor."
In 1989, she attended the Prairie Arts Festival in West Point, where she met Carolyn Watson, a watercolor artist from Tupelo.
"I told her watercolors is what I wanted to do and asked if she taught lessons," Grammer said.
At the time, Watson didn't give lessons, but it wasn't long before she did teach a class, and Grammer was one of the first to sign up.
"I took it, and I seemed to be the only one to get anything out of it," Grammer said. "She taught us how to do color wash. That's the beginning stage of watercolor and such an important part."
Grammer, 61, kept at her watercolor art until she got comfortable with what she was producing.
"You've got to be careful with the colors you put up against one another," she said. "It's a difficult thing. What you're looking for is the white of the paper to be like stained glass. You want the white of the paper to shine through the paint. And you've got to be fast to do it."
In 1993, Grammer started entering art shows and contests. To her amazement, she won several, including first place awards at the Mississippi State Fair, the Gumtree Arts Festival and the Mississippi Painter's Society.
"Art is about tenacity, it's not inborn," she said. "You have to stay with it. It's always about the stubbornness — the not giving up."
Grammer, who lives in Endville with her husband, Jerry, meets every Wednesday in Tupelo to paint with a group of fellow artists.
"Painting in a group has always worked for me," she said. "I'm a social painter."
She also teaches art classes twice a week at the North Mississippi State Hospital, where she worked for 18 years in patient care before retiring in 2018.
"It's a therapy group," she said. "I taught classes even when I worked there. Sometimes, you see real talent. There's a definite connection between the creative mind and mental illness."
Grammer said when she first began painting watercolors, she used photographs and pictures in magazines for ideas. Now, her inspiration comes from sitting outdoors and painting in nature, called plein air painting.
"I do landscapes, cityscapes, houses, flowers, animals," she said. "I don't do abstracts, although everything I do has an abstract quality to it. But there is always something that connects it."
In September 2022, she participated in the Robins Street Art Stroll in downtown Tupelo, and she plans to show there again this fall.
Over time, Grammer has had three art studios, but she still prefers to paint at the kitchen table in her Lee County home.
Intelligent Mirror "Studios are isolating, unless you have people visit your studio," she said. "Artists tend to go where they are happiest or most comfortable. For me, that's the kitchen table."