FAIRFIELD BAY — Doris Sexson is developing quite a reputation as a muralist.
She has painted large murals in Fairfield Bay — at Indian Rock Village, the Fairfield Bay Hart Center and the Fairfield Bay Senior Center — and in nearby Shirley at the schools and the Shirley Centennial Museum.
She is just finishing up a mural inside the restroom of the Log Cabin Museum, located behind the Indian Hills Country Club in Fairfield Bay. Using acrylics, the 79-year-old Sexson has painted a nighttime scene of Native Americans gathered around their tepees.
Marilyn Robertson, museum director, said the scene is apropos to the area because Native Americans once lived there.
“There were Osage, Caddo, Quapaw, Choctaw and Cherokee in this area,” Robertson said. “Their drawings can be found in the Indian Rock Cave [located near the museum].”
Robertson said that once Sexson completes the mural, the restroom will be enhanced with a rustic décor that will complement the artwork. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, and from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
“I just love mural painting. I’ve probably painted 50 or 60 murals,” Sexson said.
“I do it for the community as a volunteer. I also do commission work. I just finished a commission piece for a man who lives outside Mountain View,” she said.
“The first mural I painted in Fairfield Bay was at the bowling alley,” Sexson said. “It’s still there.
“This community is so amazing. Everybody helps everybody.”
Sexson, who was born in Maryville, Missouri, said she has worked to develop her artistic skills for 60 years.
“I have dressed hair for 50 years,” said Sexson, who worked as a licensed cosmetologist in Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, California, Tennessee and Illinois. “I always thought if I could dress hair, I could paint.”
She said her interest in the visual arts began in the mid-1980s when she enrolled in an oil-painting class in Memphis.
“I had a wonderful teacher, Joyce Alexander,” Sexson said. “She was better than any college class. She’s still teaching.”
Sexson attended a variety of workshops as she honed her craft. Since then, she has become an instructor herself, teaching art classes at her home and at various locations in Fairfield Bay, including the Fairfield Bay Education Center, and at the schools in Shirley.
Sexson said her slogan might be, “Have brush, will travel.”
Sexson and her husband, Jim, moved to Fairfield Bay in 1993, when Jim retired as director of the YMCA in Blytheville.
They have two daughters — Shawn Jacka of Fairfield Bay, who is a stay-at-home mom, and Peggy Poole of Searcy, who works for the Department of Human Services in Searcy — eight grandsons and a great-granddaughter.
While in Blytheville, Sexson was hired by the Arkansas Arts Council as an artist in residence for the Blytheville School District. She taught visual art in five elementary schools.
For seven years, with her art supplies piled onto a portable cart, she said, she went from room to room teaching 2,100 children.
“The children called me ‘Mrs. Art Cart,’” Sexson said with a smile.
She said the curriculum emphasized art appreciation by having the children study the works of famous artists, as well as sketch and paint pictures. The students also shared in decorating the hallways and gymnasium walls by painting large murals.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Sexson said.
Sexson said she prefers to paint in oils, but that medium is not appropriate for large murals. She uses acrylics because they dry so fast.
“I try to make the murals look like they are oil paintings, making sure the paint flows as if it were oil,” she said. “I also use big brushes.”
Sexson said she donates a lot of her paintings to the Shirley schools and other nonprofit organizations for fundraisers.
“I’m an easy touch,” she said.
Sexson is an active member of the Fairfield Bay Artist League and the North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts. She has displayed her paintings in art exhibits at the Indian Hills Country Club, Indian Rock Village, the Fairfield Bay Library, Ozark Mountain Medical Center and the Fairfield Bay Conference Center.