Tag Archives: teaching

A Story From Mexico

Palms Mexico smaller Mexican Time by Jerry Fenter

“Get in the damned car”, barked Richard from the passenger side in the front seat. “This is going to be an adventure!” Richard never just spoke, he barked.

Like a decorated general from the old English Raj he talked to Nancy and me like he was addressing his troops. Car fully loaded we shot out of the parking lot of the Costco in Puerto Vallarta into bumper on bumper traffic. Traffic on the main highway was particularly slow this morning. We passed small accidents. A crowd of people stood in a circle around a crushed ice cream freezer pulled by a bike. It seems the driver had been distracted by what he thought were three people carrying a kicking goat in the lane next to him. Watching the goat and not the road, he’d rear-ended an old rusty Chevy. The impact caused him to fly through the air into oncoming traffic. He bounced off the hood of a tricked out Ford with a decal of Guadalupe on the back window. His bike and its contents were destroyed in the crash. Traffic was stopped. People watched the ruckus from open windows, cigarettes dangling from their lips. Street dogs were having their fill of the sweet melty liquid spilling out of the tiny broken freezer. They lapped it up. They rolled in it.
“I swear I saw them crossing, the goat was kicking and I didn’t want to hit anyone,” the ice cream man explained.
The Chevy driver was pissed. He hadn’t “seen any fuckin’goats or nothing”. Richard didn’t stop. The accident disappeared from view. Richard pulled out his map.

“By map it’s only two hours to San Sebastian.” Richard shoved the tail end of a Costco kosher hot dog into his mouth. “Piece a cake!”
Nancy rolled her eyes. She knew that two hours Mexican time could mean anything. In Mexico time can be bent, go backwards, even stop. Time will always surprise you. We turned left onto an unmarked road just past the Botanical Gardens. The car stumbled up the vertical highway, over topes, past broken parts of huge boulders, some that blocked parts of the road. Each of us took turns moving obstructions.

“And this is the new road,” said Richard, relaxing into the passenger seat while hooking up the new hand held gadget for driving directions he’d just bought.
“Check this out Nancy. It’s called the Tom-Tom. It’s the latest thing in getting to wherever you want to go. No getting lost. Saw it on TV. Picked it up back at Costco.”

Nancy looked hard at the little screened device. Her attention was fully on the gadget in Richard’s hand. I held on tight as the car absently drifted to the left side of the road just missing a noisy large group of crossing chickens. As we rumbled over loose rocks The Tom-Tom guided us with its feminine voice and detailed map. The voice was confident with a strong English accent. You could trust this that voice to get you anywhere.

Trucks full of livestock, cars stuffed with oxygen tanks and old pickups sped downhill, swerving just in time to miss our car. Signs saying PELIGROSO marked hairpin turns. Yet somehow I felt safe. I had moved into a fearless Mexican mode. I was invincible. I had lost all doubt. We had the Tom-Tom and the English lady’s calm reassurance. Also, luck seemed to always stay close to Richard.

An iguana languidly crossed the road. The blazing sun was gone. We had entered the jungle. Unfamiliar plants entwined road signs. We crawled by dwarfed pineapple trees and overloaded banana plants. A mist rose up from the pavement and clouded our windows. I couldn’t get enough air. It was like breathing under water. I cleared my window. Gold light shined out of small openings in the trees like a promise.

The map on the Tom-Tom was harder to follow as we drove higher. Roads on the screen split, turned and even curled backwards where no roads could exist. The calm female voice repeated that we’d missed our turn over and over despite the fact that there was only one way to go and that was straight up.

We were surrounded by jungle. I imagined ancient animals peering through dark branches. Irrational geography confused the real with the unreal.

We drove around potholes as the pavement became cracked and broken. To our right the trees opened up leaving a half moon shaped clearing by the road. We slowed to a crawl. Too our right was an entire traveling carnival alive with dwarves, sideshow characters and workmen trying to push a dilapidated fallen trailer to an upright position out of a deep muddy rut. People appeared from nowhere just to watch. They talked and smoked as Siamese twins tried to wedge a plank under the trailer’s sunken back-end, every careful movement the exact copy of the other’s. The twins whispered to one another as they struggled with the weight.

“Tamales, tortillas, pan dulce,” a birdlike man called out to the crowd hopping from one foot to the other then setting his platter down to spin around and around. People surrounded him. The food was gone.

Nancy and Richard were arguing about directions. The road grew narrow. Moss dripped with moisture as bright pink leaves and dirty speckled lizards fell on the car. So many bugs smashed to death on the windshield made it hard to see. I turned and watched the circus vanish as we rolled up the steep hill.
The screen on the Tom-Tom went blank.
The English lady went silent.

“Shit, let’s get rid of this God damned thing.” Richard rolled down his window and tossed out the Tom-Tom. It vanished, sucked into the shadow of the jungle wall.

The mountain air was fresh and fragrant with mangoes. I could breathe. Above the mist of the jungle the sky was cobalt blue. Two hours turned into four as we crossed a one lane bridge. We looked down. A creek ran under us surrounded by white water. Standing birds lifted their wings and danced near the shore. We had entered a place where magic could happen. Church bells chimed the hour. The road now was cobblestone. The city of San Sebastian Del Oeste shined white with casas de adobe. We were inside living history full of old haciendas, gold and silver mines protecting ghosts from the past, acres of sharp blue agave plants and broken down tequila tasting stands. Bakeries displayed pan dulces fresh from the oven. We passed the Catholic Church in the square, drove another half mile and pulled to a stop. A statue of San Sebastian pierced with arrows shone in the afternoon light. We had arrived at La Galerita de San Sebastian, once a ruined hacienda and now our destination.

Richard’s voice quieted as he and Nancy settled into their private casita. I was alone with the jungle. Tiny birds moved from tree to tree, each telling their own story. Coffee beans brushed against my face. I carefully pulled one from a cluster carefully leaving the stem. Smoke rose. The roasting coffee smelled amazing. The statue of St. Anthony with his tortured eyes watched as I picked up my bag. I stopped at the door of my own casita. Two dark purple orchids shifted then turned toward me from their tree branch. Their spicy aroma teased me as I walked up the steps into my own private sanctuary.

Hi everyone. I thought you might enjoy a story an experience I had in Mexico. I’m hoping to get a few more people to sign up for my painting workshop. This years Mexico Class is in Melaque, Mexico at www.lapalomamexico.com/. The place is beautiful, and so much fun. Check the last post on this website for a sign up sheet. If you have any questions just give me a call at 509-365-5119 or fenter@gorge.net. Our dates are March 14-18, 2016.

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.)


2011 Watercolor and Art Retreat

Making Magic In Mexico

April 13th through April 19th 2011

Melaque, Mexico

Jerry Fenter Instructor

It’s winter here and time to plan for something exciting, fun, relaxing and creative in a truly magical place. Reserve your spot in Jerry’s 2011 workshop in Melaque, Mexico at the beautiful La Paloma Resort! Open to both experienced and inexperienced students of all ages, this year we will focus on magic, Mexico, figure drawing and painting along with some surprise projects guaranteed to jump start your creative brain. We will learn to relax into Mexican time and loosen up our painting styles by soaking up local Mexican culture. Jerry is an experienced teacher and creativity counselor whose goal is to bring out and develop your own style of creative work.

La Paloma is a small boutique hotel/retreat. They offer a pool right at the ocean’s edge, studios with cooking areas and many more amenities. We start class each day in the on-site studio after enjoying a complimentary service of fresh orange juice, all the Columbian coffee or tea you can drink with toast and jam. Studios run $700 per week double occupancy. ($350 per person if you share a room.)

Sound great? The price for Jerry’s workshop is $650 per person for the 5 day workshop. Total cost? $1000 for the 5 day workshop and two free play days in Mexico!!  Airfare is not included but we are staying Wednesday to Wednesday for savings. For more details or questions call Jerry at 509-365-5119 or e-mail at fenter@gorge.net.  To see the beautiful La Paloma Resort go to www.lapalomamexico.com/. You’re invited to Mexico for a great time!!!!

To save your place, fill out and send this form and a check for $50 made out to Jerry Fenter ASAP. This check is non-refundable but will go to the price of the workshop. To make reservations at La Paloma, e-mail retreat@prodigy.net.mx Questions? Call Jerry. The address is 26 Frontier Rd., Appleton, WA 98602. DON’T MISS OUT!!!

Phone____________________ e-mail____________________

Class Canceled and a Rant on Teaching

Costumed Cody

I thought I’d better do a post to tell everyone my class for making the most exciting Christmas Cards Anyone’s Ever Done has been canceled for lack of interest. No one signed up for it. Of course I immediately took it personally, felt like a lousy teacher and then thought, “No it’s a good idea so we’ll just try it next month on Saturday and Sunday, November fourteenth and fifteenth from 11:00am to 4:00pm.” Never give up is my motto. This will give you all one more chance to learn watercolor and produce some original cards for those special people that you love. Bella’s Beads has ordered some already made watercolor cards and you can get them there. Other pictures, bangles, spangles, glitter etc. should be brought by you to personalize what you’re doing. Or you can simply bring your watercolors and I can teach you how to do a quiet snow scene or a funky Christmas tree or any other Holiday type of card. PLEASE if you’re interested call The Dalles Art Center before November ninth if you want to take the class. Sign up early so I’ll know what to bring to share with you. If I don’t have a full class by the ninth I’ll have to cancel again and it would break my heart. (Not really, but I’m kind of a drama queen. You can take the girl out of the theatre but you can’t take the theatre out of the girl.) Remember it’s ALL about me.

What will you be when you grow up?

Which brings me to teaching. Most of you know that before I started working full time at my art I was a teacher. I went through student teaching, certification and everything. I was a student teacher at Madison High School in Portland and had a great experience there where I worked with two great coaches and another student teacher as a team of four. There was never a day I didn’t want to come to work. It was a wonderful learning experience and I’ll never forget it. We would facilitate debates (Revolutionary soldiers vs. the English), (Hawks vs. Doves), (Unions vs. Union Busters) and taught lots of really interesting subjects in US History. We had big classes, but we taught to the students needs and really brought them into the process of learning about our country. It was magic. During this time I was found to be excellent at teaching those students who didn’t quite fit the “high school” norm. This could be any kind of student who hated school for various reasons including hating themselves. I was told I had to teach an “extra” class, a class on environmental science and responsibility and I was given a full classroom of “alternative type” students. I fell in love all over again. From that time on, my resume reads like a crime novel. I taught as a permanent substitute teacher at Jefferson High School for a year. I had six great classes in Social Studies per day and one class called aptly “The Nuggett Group” who were kids who had all committed felonies of one kind or another but were on probation from “kid’s jail” only if they came to school. I had them last period of the day, after they would get high or drunk at lunch and as a result were impossible to control. I was told that I HAD to teach them about China. That was the unmovable and unchangeable curriculum. Those of you who know me know that following rules isn’t my best trait so after waking up Wanda (a teenaged prostitute) during films on the Great Wall for about a week, I changed everything. I changed to MY curriculum, (unbeknownst to the principal at Jefferson who would have passed out). We planned what the class would consider an ideal school, using art, field trips, movies etc. It sort of worked. The kids came to class. But from then on I knew how important it is to be a teacher who actually knows WHO she is teaching. I, from that time on, let Wanda sleep because she really needed the rest! From there I taught at Rosemont, a lock up for girls run at that time by the Good Sheppard Sisters with the help of Portland Public Schools. I was chosen to be the only teacher in a Good Sheppard run group home called The Bridge (From the song Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel). It was a locked facility for status offenders (runaway girls) in the Beaverton area located in a big house where the girls lived, went to school and played. I loved doing this. My students and I became very close and I’ve much later on various occasions seen a few of them in passing on the street or drunk at a movie theatre where they yell my name, run up and hug me soooo hard. I worked for seven years at Multnomah County Juvenile Court with “crook” students. I worked with alternative school students for Multnomah County and with “teen mothers” at Wynn Watts School. I was Director of Thomas Edison High School on the Jesuit High campus in Portland for two years. So I have my teaching creds and my street creds. Don’t doubt it.

line for flu shot

 So…I was over at Kaiser Permanente the other day getting a flu shot when I got into one of those conversations that you get into while in line anywhere. I was talking to a woman, a professional woman, about various topics and she asked me about my kids. I told her about what they did and where they worked and how well they both were doing. I, in turn, asked her if she had any kids. She answered, yes; she had a son who was a junior at The University of Oregon. I said how nice that was and asked her what her son was majoring in and what did he want to do with his education? She got a very worried look on her face. She told me that he was leaning toward being a… (get ready for it) a TEACHER and that she was quite disturbed about it. He’ll have no chance of a good life or of making a big amount of money she explained. I must have looked horrified. Here was a person who didn’t understand that teaching is more than a job, but like a doctor or a priest or a nun is a CALLING. If you’re called…you will answer. (Sorry I just watched Field of Dreams) I began to explain how great teaching is and how lucky she was to have a son who recognizes this and is willing to become someone who might teach my grandson and all of the others in our next generation.  As I looked at her face I realized that she would never understand. I hope her son sticks to his guns and becomes the greatest teacher in the world. My own son doesn’t teach for a living but he is an excellent teacher of his own child and I think that deep down inside he would maybe really love to teach some Junior High Science.  But he followed another passion of his, a very creative passion,  and is happy and doing great. My daughter is a journalist and would make a great teacher if that was where her passion was. I know my children both respect the teaching profession. Both their parents and step-parents have all been teachers. All of us have been influenced in some way by our past teachers. So I’m saying this… Teaching is an important and difficult job and not everyone is cut out for it. It means giving up all of that corporate money, giving up lots of your free time and means going to school in the summers for the rest of your life. But it can be magic. You can mean something to your students and you may not ever know how much your words and actions meant to them. You can make a difference.

 “Teachers are the books that students read most clearly.”

I suggest you read “Dehumanized” an article by Mark Slouka from Harper’s Magazine/September 2009. Also read any book by Ken Robinson who writes about creativity and education. My son turned me on to his books and swears by them.

Our grandson a match for any teacher!

 Don’t forget to sign up for card class in The Dalles. Get those costumes ready for the opening of The Dark Side Show at the Attic Gallery in Portland in December. And of course October twenty forth is coming up so Happy Birthday to me and Happy Halloween.

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

I Tell It On The Mountain

Resting SpiritCoyote

by William Stafford


My left hind-



in the track of my right



and my hind-right



in the track of my



and so on, for miles—


Me paying no attention, while

my nose rides along letting

the full report, the

whole blast of the countryside

come along toward me

on rollers of scent, and—


I come home with a chicken or

a rabbit and sit up

singing all night with my friends.

It’s baroque, my life, and

I tell it on the mountain.


I wouldn’t trade it for yours.


                                                                                             I found this poem in an old folder eariler today and had to share it with everyone.  William Stafford is one of my favorite all time poets.


All morning I’ve been rooting around in old handouts, notes, poetry, drawings, cartoons and all sorts of odds and ends getting ready for teaching my class in Mexico and my next workshop in The Dalles.  It just proves to me one time again how much I love to teach.  I’ve taught all ages, types and varieties of students since I was in high school.  Even when I think I’m going to walk away from it, something comes up, someone calls and I’m back into it again.  I love watching students learn to express their emotional selves in each painting or story that has been created during one of my classes.  I teach them to let themselves go and let the work bubble up from deep inside of them.  Instead of having students just copy my style I like to help them develop their own style and try to give them the courage to not be timid about what they paint or write.  I want them to laugh, have fun, explore and take risks.  It’s a magical state being an artist and painting and writing are sacred and always to be celebrated.  So spend this afternoon writing on the sidewalk or making paper dolls.  Read a book that you’ve wanted to open since you bought it three years ago.  Give yourself permission to create and play and believe in magic.  Get loose…practice being an artist.  Then tell it on the mountain!



“Resting Spirit” can be purchased through The Attic Gallery in  Portland, Oregon.  Their link is on my list.