Clarence ”Ike” Lewis (1898 – 1982) painted houses professionally for his lively hood, and painted as an artist because he loved the world that he saw around him. Born in Pottsville, Pa., he was always drawing or doodling. He enlisted in the Army, just as the United States entered World War I. He became part of Eddie Rickenbacker’s air squadron, The First Air Pursuit Group, as an insignia painter. After the war, he started his own painting business and married Martha P. Reese of St. Clair, Pennsylvania. During the ‘30’s he applied to Carlisle Barracks and was employed there until the outbreak of World War II when he volunteered as a ship painter at Pearl Harbor.
After the war and his return to Carlisle, he continued to work for the United States government and it was during this period that he started to paint for his own pleasure. Painting on prepared wood paneling, Clarence ingeniously used the main tool of his trade, oil based exterior house paints instead of the traditional artist’s oil paint. He would keep different colors in half filled Dixie cups with a layer of turpentine on top of them to keep them from skinning over. While the use of these paints might see unorthodox, it made his paintings extremely durable and this is a great advantage now when some of these paintings are in need of cleaning and restoration.
Clarence painted mainly from memory various scenes of Cumberland, Lancaster and Lebanon and other counties. He would take pictures of a scene he would like and jot down notes on colors and other details. While never having taken an art lesson, he was influenced by California artist, Walter Foster. In gratitude for Mr. Foster’s influence, Ike sent a painting of his own to Mr. Foster.
The charming and innocent expressions of Clarence Lewis’ paintings are sometimes further enhanced by writings on the back of many of them. Sometimes with clever sayings or just a simple dedication to the person whom he was giving or selling the painting to. Clarence Lewis was a unique kind of artist that painted without inhibition and just for the love of it.