Tag Archives: sketchbook

Painting in Paradise



I’m so proud to be offering another wonderful painting workshop in Mexico. This year we will focus on nature, flowers, plants, color and the wonders that you will find in Melaque, Mexico. Melaque is a beautiful small town on the west coast of Mexico. It is a magical place and alive with color, excitement, texture and inspiration for artists of all levels. The workshop will be held at the beautiful La Paloma Resort right on the water. I’ve been painting for over 30 years and will be there alongside you both inside and outside the studio as your teacher and coach. For those of you who are beginning…don’t fear. I keep the size of the class small and will work with you at your own level. For both beginning and experienced students I try to focus on bringing a touch of Mexico into your work. This year we will be in Melaque during St. Patrick’s Day. There is a lot of celebration in the town on that day that we can be a part of! The cost of the workshop is $600. (Not including airfare). Housing for the week will be arranged through La Paloma Resort www.lapalomamexico.com/. It will be up to each student to contact Kyla in the office to pay for your stay and choose your room. Mention you are coming for my workshop and you will get a discount. Travel, Art and Great Company plus plenty of time to relax! It’s a promise.
To sign up for the workshop please fill out and send this form and a check for $600 made out to Jerry Ann Fenter. My address is 26 Frontier Road, Appleton, WA. 98602. Questions? Call me at 509-365-5119. My e-mail is fenter@gorge.net. The class will be limited in size so sign up now.

(Photo at the top of the page was taken last year during the workshop at the Flower Market in Melaque.)

Ideas, Ideas and More Ideas

Last week I talked to an artist who has just returned to painting after a long period of time.  The conversation finally got to a familiar place, “Where do your ideas come from?” I tried to think fast on how to give him an easy answer, when out came, “I have so many ideas I could work another lifetime on just the ones already in my head.”  Not very helpful to him, I know, but wow…expressing that thought lit a bulb inside my head. Conceptios, inspirations, ideas, and creative thoughts seem to be easier to come by for some more than others. Some artists agonize over getting them, and are afraid to follow through with them.  Others can’t seem to stop their minds from grinding  them out and expressing them in paint, ink, crayon, music, mud,  gardening, photography or what ever might be their way of making themselves understood.


Having ideas and then making great art is a skill that comes from  many different places. When we are children we have endless imagination that creates uncountable ideas each hour and each minute. We may or may not choose to fully express those ideas because they may be scary, dangerous or way above our capabilities. Most of us artist types do follow them. We let our imaginations run wild, we experiment, we scribble, we cut, we paste,  we sing at the top of our voices and we sometimes see things that aren’t really there (or are they?).  When an idea is inconvenient or impractical to develop at a particular time true artists  file them away in their creative brains and keep them fresh and at their fingertips.

Having an idea is defined as the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or not previously known or experienced.  This gives us as artists the freedom to go anywhere. We don’t need to travel the earth or the skies to paint what passes through our minds day or night (dreams).  If we feel stuck with no ideas it may be our own fault.

Self censorship. “I can’t put that on paper. It’s too embarrassing. My mother, father, teacher, children, the public will not be able to relate to what I’m imagining. It makes me too upset to write it.” So we stop ourselves and try to make only exact imitations of what we have seen or heard before. We try to make things so close to the real that we might as well take a picture.  But, artists, real life is just as interesting and weird as anything we can come up with. We must be brave, look hard at the world and express what is on our minds, in our heads and needs to get out.

Fear of rejection. Every artist I know fears rejection. The successful ones fear rejection less than the unsuccessful ones. That is why we’ve seen the weakest artists quit working during this awful recession. Some will never come back.  Financial ups and downs and rejection are both part of making a living from the creative process. Don’t paint for anyone but yourself.  My most successful paintings have been of ideas and subjects that I’m obsessed with. When I put them into a show, I find they sell better than any “pretty pictures” I might paint.  And they’re sure a lot more fun to finish.  They are real and I can be proud of them.

 How can I get and use ideas?  The answer is close enough to touch. You need to work to get ideas. You need to tap into that good memory of yours. Look at the world around you. Look at the real places and things that are happening each day. Pull from your childhood, teenaged years and from that crazy group of relations we all have.  Watch TV, look at websites, know what’s going on around you.  Find your place in it. “La vida te a sopresas.” (Life is full of surprises). Lucky for us. Be aware of them. Have no fear.  Use them. If you overhear an interesting conversation somewhere, LISTEN, and write down what you hear or draw what you see in a sketchbook.  I think at this moment in time artist’s sketchbooks have become way too precious.  There are even what I’ve heard are “very good” classes on how to keep one.  You don’t need a class!  A sketchbook should be down and dirty, messy and full of writing, quotes from books, new words, scribbles, songs, poetry, notes, sketches, bad drawings, bad language, jokes  and of course touches of genius. It doesn’t have to be perfect and organized and done in color or available for all to see. It’s YOUR private space to be uncensored and real and recollect all of the ideas you’ve had since you’ve been born.

 For the last few weeks my ideas are flowing like waterfalls. I’ve been doing what I call “En ese momento” (At that moment). These are small collages that I finish and send by mail to artist friends. I don’t censor myself. I just create.  Some make sense.  Some don’t.  But it’s fun.  It flows.  I have more ideas than I can handle. Work comes from work. Ideas come from ideas. I have countless great reasons to get up each morning and go into my studio. If you love something… happiness will follow.  Trust me.

“A painter can turn pennies into gold, for all subjects are capable of being transformed into poems.” –Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 1780-1867

I’ll be having a weekend workshop on Saturday and Sunday, August 28th and 29th at The Dalles Art Center. I’ll be teaching “Making Monotypes with Pastels and Metallic Crayons”.  We had so much fun doing it last time that we’ll be doing it again.  The class will be from 11:00 AM to 4:00PM each day. Watch my website for more information. Sign up early by calling the center at 541-296-4759. I’ll be limiting attendance.

Also I have the dates for next year’s Mexico class. It will be held April 13th through 19th, 2011, in Melaque, Mexico. In 2011 we’ll be arriving and leaving in the middle of the week. This will save on airfare. More information will be available later. If you’re interested in being kept up to date just e-mail me at fenter@gorge.net.

Ideas For the New Year

I’ve been reading lots of lists of New Years Resolutions and would like to share my own strange list of suggested resolutions for artists, writers and all those outrageous creative types who walk daily on the rough path towards creative meaning.  Take them or leave them but I’ve tried all of them at one time or another and found them invigorating and inspiring. They will really get those juices flowing. Trust me. These are in no specific order. 

1. Take some of your supposedly awful ideas…long rejected…and transform them into a miracle piece. Rework it. (Terrible ideas…don’t you just love those?) Do this at least twice this year.    

2. Set aside a whole day: No plans, no responsibilities. Start driving, biking or walking. Go in unexpected and random directions. Document your day with photos, sketches and odd memorabilia. Do this at least once a month. Warning: This may bring lots of new ideas into your brain. Welcome them, write them down, sketch them, remember them and maybe even sing them.

 3. If  rejections make you crazy (I know this is true of all of us) do this. Write an incredibly cold and generic rejection letter to that irritating gallery owner, book publisher, juried show, reviewer or person that has pissed you off in the past. Explain why you won’t sell any artwork /stories/songs/books to them, no matter how much money or fame they might offer. Make it clear that they are not worthy of your talent. No amount of compensation will change your mind. The price to them will always be too high! Don’t mail it.  Treasure it.   

4. Nourish your childish enthusiasm each day of the year. For instance read a small part of a favorite childhood book, look at your old view master discs, notice smells and tastes that remind you of the good parts of being a child. Buy a hula hoop.  

 5. Give away things, without hesitation, to someone who does need them at the time. You can do this anonymously.                                               

6. Share your talent for free with at least one person per month.

7. Spend a whole day without speaking. Try this once a month. Warn your family and friends.

 8. Look for signs during all of the seasons.

9. Be discerning in who you choose to spend time with. Don’t waste your own precious time with unworthy people.

10. Paint, draw, joke, laugh, write, sing, talk and laugh as much as you can.

11. Write, draw or tape a long personal letter. Send one of these to a special person each month. Enclose a picture, photo or clipping that makes you laugh, cry or ponder.

12. Actively acknowledge the people and animals that you love each and every day.

13. Celebrate your birthday for at least a whole week but always try for the longest celebration you can negotiate.

14. Tired and crabby from over creativity? Curl up in your new Snuggie and watch Law and Order, Criminal Minds or Top Chef to rest your brain and renew your energy. (Other programs on TV can be substituted but they must be mindless and must not make you think). Mad Men is a must see. Artists need to be up to date on the latest cultural happenings, news and weird trends. Artists are the canaries in the mine shaft. That is why it’s important to read and watch as much as you can.  Become familiar with more of the world than your own little space.  Expand your thinking.

15. Find yourself an incredible mentor or creativity coach if you need help on your path.

As I re-read my list I realize it’s a little crazy, sometimes too sentimental and sometimes a little cruel. But I guess so am I. Have a good new year. This list is dedicated to one of the craziest and most influential people I’ve ever known.  He was a loved and respected professor and mentor to me.


Don Berry 1931-2001

Find out more about him at donberry.com and berryworks.



Commandments for Creative Work


I have a lot to get done today and I was up early…for me.  Today is the day I start working with clients on creativity counseling through a class by Eric Maisel.  I’m very excited about this and will make my first contact with my clients through E-mail this afternoon.  This morning I’ve been up, eaten my Cheerios, cleaned the cat boxes and fed the animals.  In the back of my crazy mind I’ve been thinking about the way I create.  I’ve found that just like the Catholic Church I have developed some dogmatic rules over the years. 


  1. Thou shalt make sure the studio is in workable shape. Make sure the studio is dusted and cleaned at least a week before proceeding to attempt to work in it.  This means clean up my shit, pay all of my mom’s bills, put them into a neat pile and mail the rest, get any birthday presents or cards sent out so my big table is clean, dust off my boom box (I guess I’m old fashioned that way…no I Pod), then look around the studio with a confused look on my face.  Turn out the lights in the studio and leave.
  2. Thou shalt check the work calendar and see what shows or activities are on my list.  I’m obsessive. I keep a calendar of things I need to prepare for.  I check the list and see what kind of work I’ll need to do between now and December.  If this list is empty I know I’m screwed.  Usually it’s not.
  3. Thou shalt pick Passions to paint.  This happens as I stack up all of my old sketchbooks and see what shapes up.  My passions for this period of work are Dark Side Pieces for the Attic Gallery in December, some small trailer pieces I just want to do, pieces with a “religious” theme, some actual religious pieces for Dynamic Catholic’s website…maybe some prints or cards, probably cards, pieces for Maryhill Museum Art Festival and pieces for Kings Mountain Art Fair in the Redwood Forest in September. Also I am painting a hubcap for a book and show but that’s another story.
  4. Thou shalt start a new section in a sketchbook to narrow down ideas.  This is where I look at old sketchbooks and jot down good ideas gleaned from them to a new sketchbook.  I also look at my “working file” that has drawings, pictures and ideas I want to fool around with.
  5. Thou shalt search out some visual passions.  I look at pictures I’ve saved, other work and see what turns my creative self on. 
  6. Thou shalt do sketches for the first five paintings I’m interested in doing.  I draw in a sketchbook for awhile.
  7. Thou shalt always use the best paper and cut it or tear it to size.  I figure out what sized pieces I will need for each show or series of paintings.
  8. Thou shalt get off your ass and actually go in the studio and work.  Loud music usually gets me going.  Usually Fred Eaglesmith or Tom Waits.  For more mellow work James Taylor or KD Lang.


So these are my first eight commandments for myself.  I realize everyone is different.  BUT also everyone has rituals that work for them.  These work for me.

 bleeding hearts

My garden is beautiful this year and so different from last year.  The weather has been weird, but you’ll notice some of the pictures I took this morning showing my little area of flowers.  I usually have time to go outside for coffee a couple of times a day here.  It’s nice.  If I’m out there all the animals seem to gather for a break with me. 


We lost our oldest cat Woody a week ago and I still think I see him resting in the garden.  We are all really sad because Woody was an exceptional cat.  Arlo has been looking all over for him and is wants attention more than usual.  They were buddies.

 Woody warms up

If any readers have rituals for getting started please share them.  Use the comments click.


TV tip.  Watch the Stephen Colbert show this week from Iraq!  If you don’t you’re missing a great moment for a true cultural icon! ColbertAlso don’t forget to sign up for my Maryhill Museum painting class at the end of the month.  Contact The Dalles Art Center for information. 





I’ve Been Thinking

my thinking sailorThis morning I got out of bed, started a fire, had breakfast, made coffee, cleaned the cat boxes, gave treats to the animals, sat down for coffee and fell asleep for two hours.  I think my body is screaming out to me to slow down and FOCUS.  I’m a person that has eighteen completed journals  and an uncountable number of sketchbooks laying around my studio and house that are full of ideas for painting, writing, printmaking, reading and just plain silliness.  During the last year, due to the economy and other outside forces I’ve been doing a balancing act between painting,  shows, writing stories, writing a blog, running a small antique booth, taking classes to be a professional conservator and guardian, being an actual conservator and guardian for my mom, teaching workshops and substitute teaching.  In addition I will start classes and taking on clients in June as a creativity counselor.  My instructor is Eric Maisel. 

Whew.  My mind is so distracted that I have totally been unable to concentrate for weeks.  I’ve decided to simplify.  I’m sure my head is spinning because I try to think about too many things at once.  My head is overflowing with painting and writing ideas and they are my total passion.  Follow your passion, right?  Hard to do when the stock market is down.  BUT I will do it.  First, I won’t give up painting and drawing …that’s a no brainer.  Second, I do not like substitute teaching because I’m not the boss.  I’m used to being in charge of classes not just marking time  through seven periods and lunch.  So goodbye to that, maybe not forever but for the time being.  BUT I still love teaching art and writing so my art classes and my workshops are a real priority for me.  I work hard to give my students painting and writing skills and to jog their imagination and fight those artist blocks.  I also try and instill in them “a sense of humor” that is needed for any artist or person on this planet to survive and be happy.  Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I encounter people who never laugh at themselves.  Very sad.  But I’ll keep on teaching and trying to find new ways to get students to realize that their own creativity can be their joy and the struggle for creativity can truly be both funny and a great ride.  Next, I did it, I’m closing my antique booth at the end of this month.  Now I can go to garage sales and the Salvation Army and buy only stuff for me and for fun to give to my friends.  I realized after a few impulse buys at an estate sale over the weekend that I’d rather decorate my own house.  I think I lost my mind for a minute when I bid on and purchased this great antique sailor man for an outrageous twenty five dollars.  If anyone has ideas for names…let me know.  You can see him thinking at the top of this post.

So I’ve simplified.  I feel better.  Painting, writing, teaching and posting is gonna get me through.  Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci went through a phase like this?  He was also distractible, and couldn’t concentrate some of the time because he  had so many ideas that he had trouble focusing on just one at a time.  I think he only completed twenty paintings during his lifetime but he had unending ideas crammed into notebooks. He  just wanted  to get things down on paper.  He understood the fleeting quality of imagination and was endlessly curious.

“Tell me, tell me if anything ever got done.”

This was a quote attributed to Leonardo.

After long discussions with friends I’ve decided not to follow the professional conservator road.  I’m too old to start a brand new business that uses so much of my left brain.  Of course I’ll still take responsibility of my mom’s care and business affairs. Tavish's art show 2009  

I took a chance when I became a full time artist.  My imagination won’t stop even when I sleep.  I want to have time to paint and write and keep up with all of the wonderful culture and technology that we have around us during this interesting time in history.  I love doing things that bring me joy and make me laugh out loud.  I love terrible TV along with good TV.  I have a dark side that is fascinated with true crime and intricate twisted plots.  I adore Tom Waits music.  But I’ll still be able to tell you the plot of “Marley and Me” and how I laughed at that scene where Marley is running along side of the moving car with Owen Wilson holding on to him.  I like to laugh, I’m interested in lots of things and finally feel confident enough to share them with the world.  I’m happy and now maybe I’m a little closer to being focused.  Here’s a focused guy. (Tavish, my grandson at his second art showing!) Always remember to laugh like a child!

If you’d like to read more on Leonardo go to http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=zs61txc4kwr4kd1q1rjbfxt41952gdmf

News From A Watercolor Painter

For those of you who don’t know me my name is Jerry Fenter and I’m a watercolor artist and writer.   I’ve been painting for many years and also write and teach and will soon become a creativity coach and counselor.  The painting below is from my last show at the Attic Gallery in Portland, Oregon and is titled “The Dogs Loved Having Their Own Couch”.  I did a whole series of Bedtime Story Paintings.  Each has a story of it’s own written on the painting itself.  I checked out the tales I wrote with my copy editor, Tavish, my grandson and a connoisseur of books and reading.  He’s five years old and is wiser than anyone I have met in a long time.  He loves my stories and paintings and I hope you will too.  If you’re interested in purchasing a painting please contact Diana at the Attic Gallery or call me at my home.  You won’t regret it!


The Dogs Loved Having Their Own Couch


Today I’d like to thank painter, Becky Joy, for giving me the Passion for Painting Award.  I own two Becky Joy pieces and enjoy them now as much as when I first got them.  Becky is a wonderful plein air painter and has an incredible way of handling paint.  I’m going to pass this award on to some of the other painters I love but first I want to take time to search websites and pick some of my most  favorite to recieve the award. 

You can find Becky’s website on my list of links to my site.  Check it out.  You’ll like it.  After getting this award I am asked to list seven things that I love.  I love so many things it’s hard to chose and of course my passions change daily.  So I’ll give it a try.

  1.  Being in Timber Valley in the late summer with my family.  Relaxing in the flower garden.
  2. Painting, drawing and printmaking.  Playing in my sketchbook is probably the most fun.
  3. Traveling to Mexico and soaking in as much Mexican culture as I can.
  4. Looking up at the milky way at night when it looks so close you can touch it.
  5. Wind storms.
  6. All types of animals especially cats, dogs and horses.
  7. Being on Mt. Adams or Mt. Hood in the summertime.

So there you have it.  Me in a nutshell at this moment in time.  It’s hard to pick only seven.  I have many friends I’d put on the list but they already know who they are. 

This has been a strange and wild week, pirate fighting on the high seas, snow in my yard this late in April (It snowed last night), thinking about learning to be a creativity counselor and also studying to be a guardian/conservator which is something I do for my mom already.  The eagles are out everywhere on the rivers (Klickitat and Columbia) and we have ducks in Disappearing Pond again.  Each year a few ducks raise up their family there.  Last year we had ten ducklings that finally started flying right before the pond dried up.  Last night the coyotes were howling so loud I could hear them over the sound of the TV.  It’s been a good week. 

Next Saturday I will be leaving to teach my class in Mexico.  I’m trying to figure out how to pack all of the art supplies I want to take with me and also have room for clothes.  I’m watching the DVD of Like Water For Chocolate tonight and just finished watching Pan’s Labyrinth to put me in a Latin Magical Realism kind of mood.  I will try to do a blog from Mexico but that depends on if I can find a computer.  So adios and I’ll write a new post as soon as I can. Meh mantendre en contacto!

Sex, Tigers and Videotapes…an Artist’s Day



It’s a tough economy.  I’m an artist.  Artists are like the canaries in a mine shaft, first they stop breathing and then the economy goes into the toilet.  In hard times artists have to try and find ways to make ends meet.  Before doing art full time I was a high school teacher.  I’m told I’m one of the lucky ones who have the right certification and experience to be a substitute teacher.  I thought easy money.  On Friday I subbed for Mr. R who teaches 7th through 12th grade science.  Here are the highlights.

  • I arrive at a quarter to eight.  The secretary opens Mr. R’s door.  I find a lesson plan.  Before I’ve had a minute to read the plan in come about 16 ninth graders.
  • They are all talking at once.
  • The boys sit on one side of the room and the girls on the other.
  • The boys have their “tough guy” looks on their faces saved for substitutes.
  • The girls start drawing and popping gum. As far as they are concerned I’m invisible.
  • I can’t figure out how to take attendance. I need to take roll on Mr. R’s laptop and with the wild group in front of me I don’t dare take time to do that.
  • I decide to go role-less.
  • I start them on their Physical Science worksheets.  I find that they haven’t finished their worksheets from the day before.
  • I still foolishly believe that if I’m nice I might be able to teach them something.
  • I tell them to finish both worksheets and that Mr. R is still sick and won’t be back until Monday.
  • A kid I’ll call H. starts to make barking sounds.
  • I tell him to stop.
  • The other kids wait to see what I’ll do.
  • Everyone has to go to the bathroom. I only let one go at a time.
  • H continues to bark after I tell him that if he doesn’t want to work that’s fine, I still get paid, but he would have to read and be quiet.
  • H barks again.
  • I tell H that if he does that one more time I’m going to strangle him.
  • H says, “You’re threatening me?”
  • I say, “Get out of this room and go to the office.”
  • He slams the door on the way out.  The room is quiet.  All eyes are on me. 
  • I leave the room to make sure H has made it to the office.  Yes, he’s there and is telling the secretary that I almost “choked him out”.  He has a very dramatic way about him that’s almost endearing. 
  • I’m back in the room.  The period is over.
  • The next few periods go ok.  These are juniors and seniors and a small group.  They do little work but are quiet and don’t glare at me or throw anything sharp.
  • Then comes two periods of what Mr. R calls “The Armchair Naturalist”.  This means I stick a tape in the video recorder and the students write down the names of critters as they show up in the film.  Today the film is “The Tiger”.  This is boring.  I try to talk during the film to drum up a little interest…tigers are beautiful, right?  The 7th and 8th graders don’t think so, but they watch and are quiet.  I relax in the dark.  This was fine for about ten minutes.  All of a sudden I look up and the beautiful Indian tigers are shown happily mating on screen in full living color. The class is appalled.  The girls cover their eyes.  The boys laugh nervously but they are turning red enough for me to see their embarrassment in the darkened room.  I make light of the scene thinking it would pass quickly.  No.  It goes on for another three or four minutes.  I finally get up, turn off the video and tell everyone to finish their naming worksheets and turn them in.  I give them a couple of extra questions to answer. You’d think I’d pulled out their fingernails.  The bell rings.  Class is over.
  • Prep period then lunch and then the gym.  As a sub I’m not shown where the teacher’s lunchroom is.  I finally find it and eat a dry peanut butter sandwich with a root beer that I had to get out of a vending machine for $1.25. After lunch back to class. We have a special speaker in the gym even though I’m supposed to be teaching advanced math.  The speaker is a jock who looks like he just got out of the Marine Corps. 
  • The girls immediately hate him for no reason.
  • The boys act crazy.   One is running around like a little electron and won’t settle down. Remember these are 7th graders on a Friday and it’s the last period of the day.  He attempts to have them do isometric exercises. 
  • They glare at  him and kinda sorta do what he wants.  One girl sits down on the bleachers and goes limp with a loud sigh. Another hurts her knee and needs ice. The electron boy spins.They scowl at the Marine and kind of half do what he wants. Finally they get some free time to run and throw basketballs.  
  • The girls notice my sketchbook.  They gather around.  “You drew these?” they ask and for the first time look into my eyes.  “Yep,” I answer.  I wasn’t a substitute any more.  I was an artist.  I was now magical.  It was the best moment of the day.
  • The bell rings and I run to my car.