FOREST CITY | Every one of Marvella Blome's watercolor portraits tells a story.

"I always want some kind of feeling and emotion behind the paintings," said the 67-year-old rural Thompson resident, who has an exhibit in the art gallery at the Campus Center at Waldorf University through Oct. 6.

Many of the paintings in the exhibit are of people.

Blome said she enjoys doing portraits because they tell something about the subject's personality and character.

She does portraits on commission, but also likes to capture moments with a photograph that she later turns into portraits.

One day when her husband, Jeff, was holding the couple's first grandchild, Aubrey, she noticed her tiny hand on his much larger one,

"I thought it was such a sweet thing," she said.

She took a photo and did a portrait showing just the two hands. The painting is part of the Waldorf exhibit.

Another portrait shows her small nephew, Barry, wearing sunglasses and a black hat. She titled it "Barry Cool."

Blome, who grew up in rural Woden, always liked to draw. 

However, she said she wasn't sure she would be able to pursue a career in art because in those days girls either got married at a young age or became teachers, secretaries or nurses.

Blome said she was fortunate Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo started a commercial art program while she was in high school and sent a representative to her school looking for students. 

Blome enrolled in the program after graduating from high school.

In those days graphic design was done on a drawing board rather than on a computer.

Even though it was a commercial art program, the students learned to do figure drawing.

After she got her degree from Hawkeye Tech, Blome got a job as a graphic designer at a printing company. From there she went to Jostens in Owatonna, Minnesota, where she designed class rings.

Blome then returned to Hawkeye Tech to teach for several years. 

She got married and returned to North Iowa to raise a family. Blome also did some 3-D drawings of houses designed by her brother, an architect in the Des Moines area.

When her children were older, Blome began working at the Forest City Summit as a graphic designer. Later she taught in the communications department at Waldorf for a year.

She now has her own studio in her home. 

Blome said she does a lot of painting during the winter because she likes being outdoors in the summer months.

When she was younger, Blome worked with oil paints, pastels and pencil.

She said she has grown to love watercolors, even though "if you mess up, it's harder to fix it."

"It's a challenge," she said.

However, it's a challenge Blome enjoys.

Blome is a member of the Iowa Artist's Society and the Iowa Watercolor Society. She has received a number of awards from these groups, including the People's Choice Award and Best In Show.

She said the best part of belonging to the organizations aren't the awards, but the opportunity to meet other artists from all over the state.

"It's good to see them and see what they are doing," Blome said.

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