Local artist John “Jack” Dickson first started watercolor painting in 1978 at the encouragement of Richard G. Scott.
At the time, Dickson and Scott were living with their families in Mexico. Dickson was president of the newly organized Mexico City North Mission while Scott was the general authority seventy over Mexico for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Not only did Dickson report to Scott in church matters, but the two families lived next door to each other for three years. Dickson and his wife Delores had eight young children, two of whom were born during their time in Mexico.
“Our kids would go to his home and his kids came to ours,” Dickson said. “We spent a lot of time together. We were very close.”
One day, Scott approached Dickson about learning to paint.
“He said, ‘Jack, … let me help you get started watercoloring,’” Dickson recalled. “Elder Scott sat me down and showed me some strokes — how to use the brush wet and dry, how to use the brush to make trees, how to use a sponge for … different types of leaves and vegetation. Then he gave me a couple of really good books.”
The fact Dickson only has one arm hardly slowed him and Scott at all.
“He started me out with 140 pound [watercolor] paper, but that requires stretching as it gets wet and I had a hard time stretching it with one hand,” Dickson said. “So I switched to 300 pound paper. He helped me with that.”
That simple introduction turned into a lifelong love of watercolor for Dickson.
He doesn’t paint every day. In fact, sometimes he goes months between paintings. But whenever he feels inspired to put a brush to paper, something inside of him rejoices.
“I think it’s just, to tell you the truth, I love nature,” Dickson said. “I love beautiful things. I spent my life in the woods [in the timber industry]. I just love everything about our beautiful outdoors and when I’m painting, even on the worst day of the year, I can be here at my desk painting and feel like I’m outside. It’s wonderful.”
He continued, “To me it’s very soothing, especially when I come up with product that’s maybe better than I thought I could do it; it just turned out very very well in my eyes. Now, an artist might laugh, but that’s all right. It makes me happy.”
Dickson’s favorite thing to paint is nature. He draws inspiration from every place he’s seen — and he’s seen quite a few, thanks to his church service.
In June 1992, 11 years after finishing his service as a mission president in Mexico, Dickson was called as a general authority seventy. His first assignment was to serve in the South America South Area presidency. The call required Dickson, his wife, and their three youngest children to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina. They lived there for five years.
In August 1997, Dickson returned home for a new assignment. This time, he was called to serve in the North America West Area presidency. For the next several years, as Dickson served in various church departments and areas, he and his wife lived in the United States.
The next country they were asked to go to was China, when Dickson was called to preside over the Asia Area in August 2002. Although he and his wife lived in Hong Kong, he traveled all over Asia in his capacity as area president.
After four years in Hong Kong, the Dicksons came home to the United States. Again, Dickson fulfilled various assignments as a general authority seventy. Again, he and Delores were destined to stay in the States for a relatively short time.
The next foreign assignment came in 2011, when Dickson accepted a calling as president of the Africa West Area. He and his wife lived in Ghana until Dickson was released as a general authority seventy in October 2013.
“We’ve had busy, busy lives,” Dickson said. “My wife has spent 16 and a half years of her life outside the U.S. … We have 39 grandchildren and most of them were born while she was away.”
He added, “My wife Delores has been a wonderful, wonderful companion throughout all those years living away from home. All those years, and I never once heard her complain about anything.”
Now that Dickson is an emeritus seventy, he and Delores have a much more flexible travel schedule.
“We have a home in Stansbury Park and our other home is in Gilbert, Arizona,” Dickson said. “We’re down there in the winter. I have cold weather asthma so it’s hard for me in cold weather, but I go down there and I’m just fine. We go back and forth and see our grandchildren as we’re coming and going.”
Over the years, Dickson has amassed an impressive collection of paintings. Scott introduced him to watercolor in 1978, but Dickson didn’t start painting regularly until the ’90s.
Since then, he’s created around 70 paintings he felt were good enough to keep or give away.
“Over the past 10 or 12 years, I’ve painted quite a bit, really starting in 1998,” Dickson said. “My goal was to have an original painting for all of my 39 grandchildren and my eight children, which I’ve pretty much done. That’s kind of driven me forward.”
Dickson had the chance to show some of his works to Scott.
“I had a chance to show him some things I did and he seemed pretty pleased with them,” Dickson said.
Scott passed away in September 2015.
Last October, Gerrit W. Gong, one of the church’s 12 apostles, mentioned in a General Conference address that Scott had also introduced him to watercolor painting.
“Elder Scott started him [Elder Gong] a few years back,” Dickson said. “When Elder Gong said that, we talked a little bit and reminisced a little about how he [Scott] got us started. It was really fun.”
In addition to painting, Dickson enjoys other hobbies with his wife. Every day, they walk a few miles around their neighborhood, go swimming and ride their adult tricycles.
“We enjoy a good life,” he said. “Painting is just a little part of it.”
Dickson expressed gratitude for how his wife has supported him in painting.
“She could have been upset that I took so much time to paint, but she never said a word but to say, ‘Oh, I like that,’ or ‘Do more of that,’” he said. “She always builds me up.”
He and Delores have been married 53 years.
“It’s been a good life, and painting is giving me an opportunity,” Dickson said. “We’ll leave a bit of our legacy with our grandchildren; something they can remember their grandparents by. On top of the church and the doctrine, [they can remember] our way of life, which was very much enjoyed.”