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Sketch of an Artist (3): The Rebirth

 

“Character is Destiny” Heraclitus

Artists are not born as blank canvases. Like each of us, artists are born into a particular family, culture, time and place; their particular family, culture, time and place might be seen as the sketch that lays out the general shape of what will become their portrait. Like each of us too, artists are born with a personality that powerfully shapes who they are and who they become; this might be compared to the beginning brushstrokes of the painting which establish the darks, mediums and lights of the their portrait. Finally, like each of us, artists adopt a set of values – spiritual, moral and aesthetic – which guides them and by which they make decisions;  these values are like the finishing brushstrokes that colors, contrasts, and defines the portrait of the artists. The convergence of these three things – the particularities of their family, culture, time and place, the shape of their personality and their values – make up the the artist’s character. As the Greek Philosopher put it “Character is destiny.” This is true in the case of Jack Dorsey: his character shaped the artist he would be.

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So in this third part of this biographical sketch of Jack Dorsey we will look inward – at his character – to track its influence. We will focus on those years after Jack retired from Boeing up to today, then even gaze forward to Jack’s future vistas as an artist.

We have chosen to title this section “Rebirth of an Artist” for two reasons: first because Jack had an opportunity for a new beginning – a fresh start – as an artist; second, because being “reborn” or “born again” is language that characterizes the Christian faith, and it is impossible to understand the life and artistic legacy of Jack Dorsey without recognizing him as first and foremost an artist who is a Christian.

Rebirth of an Artist

In July 1995 Jack retired from Boeing. He was one of 9,000 Boeing employees that took an early retirement having fulfilled the requirements of being at least 55 years of age (He turned fifty five on March 12th, 1995) and having worked at Boeing for at least 15 years. Jack took the “golden handshake”, just in time to fly with Ann (this was their first time of flying together) to celebrate their son Jason’s graduation from seminary in Chicago.

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Jack would work for one more year as a contractor at Boeing (from January 1996 through the end of January 1997). So it was in January of 1997 that Jack’s time at Boeing finally came to an end. He put down his Technical Illustration pencil and picked up his hammer (to complete the finishes touches on the remodel of their home begun in 1984) and paintbrush (to launch back into his art career).

After he retired from Boeing, Jack did not have a plan for his artistic rebirth. In fact, he was overwhelmed by all the work he had to do just to get his own home into shape. And being out of the art world for the past 16 years, it had, in many ways, passed him up and moved on.  Finally, by personality Jack is a not a person to create a plan, his strength is adapting to the situation as it develops rather then taking charge of the situation. In the language of the Myers-Briggs personality profile, Jack is a very hard-core “P”.

Thankfully, while the art scene had changed and while Jack had lost his name recognition as a leading artist, Camano Island itself was gaining a reputation as a place with many gifted artists, burgeoning with art studios and galleries, becoming a kind of “artist colony.” Jack, being the flexible man that he is, was able to ride the wave of the emerging Camano Island art culture.

Here is how that happened.

Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio Tour

In 1998, Jack Gunter, Karla Matzke and some other artists on Camano Island launched a studio tour for the public that took place on Mother’s Day weekend.  Sometime in the fall of 1998, after the first studio tour, Jack was in a second hand store in Stanwood that was then run by artist Jack Gunter. Gunter encouraged Jack to get involved in the art tour saying “you’re the best artist on the Island.”

In May 1999 Jack and Ann joined the Tour, opening their home to the public.  Ann tells how on the that  first Saturday morning of the Tour she was out working in the flower bed not expecting many people to come – “I didn’t think it was sensible and that no one would come” – when all of a sudden a stream of people began showing up. That got Ann (and Jack’s attention). The next year they took a little more notice, sprucing up their house and the grounds outside.  Jack and Ann enjoyed showing not only their own, but the family’s art, including artworks of Ann’s famous grandmother F.Y. Cory as well as paintings by Jason, April and Jed.

Jack and Ann participated in the Studio tour until 2010. They enjoyed the camaraderie with the other artists, appreciated the exposure to the public and enjoyed meeting many new friends, patrons of the arts, and collectors. They paid the bills, at least in part, by the income they made from art sales (anywhere from $2,000-$14,000 a year). It is not hard to imagine why their warm, quirky home surrounded by tall firs and cedars was a favorite stopping point for people: here was a real vintage Washington watercolorist in person and in his well-loved place!

 

What was behind Jack and Ann’s pulling out of the studio tour in 2010? It was a combination of things. First, Jack, being an independent man – something of a mix between a maverick and contrarian – and not-having a political bone in his body, did not appreciate the need for some policies, rules and regulations that came with the growth of the popularity of the Studio tour.  Nor was he wired for the regular meetings required of participating artists.   In particular, he did not understand why all of his family couldn’t participate on the Tour (since they were a family of artists),  because of the rule that only artists who lived on Camano Island could participate in the Studio Tour (which ruled out his sons Jason and Jed, as well as F.Y. Cory who was deceased).

Second, Jack and Ann were growing older and hosting hundreds of people over Mother’s Day Weekend and the following weekend was hard work, even exhausting.  Each Spring Jack and Ann worked for three weeks before the tour, raking leaves, mowing and cleaning up around and in the house.  And there were hidden costs associated with hosting a studio on the tour.  For example, one year Jack had 3 truckloads of gravel brought in for a parking area; and they were required to hire a parking attendant. So after the Tour in 2010, Jack and Ann sat down with a yellow legal writing pad and noted the pluses and minuses of participating in the Studio tour.  One of the pluses of being on the tour was the great publicity it brought; they knew if they struck out on their own they would lack that publicity.  A plus was that they would not feel so pushed and so tired.  At the end, they decided to launch off on their own.

It wouldn’t be until May of 2016 that Jack would participate in the Studio Tour again, in the unfinished “Sunnyshore Studio” a new Studio/Gallery built by his son Jason, just 200 feet up the road from Jack’s art studio. Being an official gallery on the tour, Sunnyshore Studio can show the artwork of each family member. And even though Sunnyshore Studio was not completed in May 2016, it welcomed over 900 guests, and sold over $10,000 of art work. Jack recently said this to Jason: “Your Gallery has really made it good for us.  I can’t wait for this spring [2017] because you’ll be loaded with customers.”

 

Launching out on his own: open houses, galleries and shows

The Studio Tour had, in effect, revitalized Jack’s art career. Now Jack was ready to strike out on his own. Jack and Ann decided that they would have three “open house” shows a year: one in March, one  piggybacking on the tour and one in November. On Mother’s Day weekend in 2011 they put out their sign and opened their doors. A number of people who remembered them from past studio tours stopped by. But some of the artists who were participating on the studio tour did not appreciate this “piggybacking” and complained.   After a couple of years Jack and Ann decided that they would stop being open on Mother’s Day in any fashion and they also discontinued the March and November open houses.

By then Jack’s art was making its ways into Northwest galleries. His work was shown in the Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery in Kirkland, WA in 2001 and 2005; in the Scott/Milo Gallery, Anacortes, WA in July-August 2005; and in the Chase Gallery, Spokane, WA in August 2005.  In 2007, he showed paintings and participated in the collective of artists at La Conner’s Seaside Gallery.

One of the things Jack has written on that yellow legal writing pad was to enter national competitions which he had already begun to do in 2005 and in took up in earnest in 2011. He had a great deal of success. In 2005 Jack received second prize at the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) Waterworks show and was juried into the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society 26th International Juried Exhibition.  In 2007 he participated in the West Coast Paper Exhibition. In 2011 he won first prize ($1,500) at the Artist Association of Northern Colorado (AANC), was juried into the 30th Annual Adirondacks Watercolor Exhibition, and was in the NWWS Waterworks show.  In 2013 he participated in the AANC’s 22nd National Art Exhibition, the 36th International Exhibition Watercolor Society of Houston, the Coos Art Museum’s Expressions West Exhibition and its 20th Annual Maritime Art Exhibit, and the Palouse Watercolor-Society’s Regional Juried Exhibition (winning Best of Show and an award of $1000.00). In 2014, Jack won honorable mention in the Southwest Watercolor Association Juried Member show.  Clearly Jack was painting watercolors again at a very high level. His impressionistic-realism, his loose washes, exceptional hand-control and technical detail was being noticed and appreciated at the national level. But entering these art shows was costly, and they were not, shall we say, making Jack rich.

In the midst of his artistic rebirth, a big event shook Jack’s world in 2010 that revealed his true character, his values and spiritual allegiances. To that event we will now turn.

Family Loyalty

We saw in the Studio Tour how much joy Jack and Ann had in sharing not only their own art, but the art of their children. It might be helpful now to return to Jack’s valuing of his family. Every artist must do his or her work in the context of his or her many relationships and roles, and values that come with them. Jack has always been an artist, but he has never allowed his artwork to overshadow or devalue his family.  In fact, it could be argued that Jack’s valuing of his family takes precedence to his valuing of his art and his career as an artist. Jack’s valuing of his family and his loyalty to his family can be seen in the following ways, each which affected his career as an artist.

First, even though Jack was making just barely enough for his family to survive during the 1970’s, he never pushed Ann to work to make ends meet. He so valued her being a full-time mom devoted to raising their children that her going to work at a 9-5 job was never on the table.  Ann would only get part-time work with Flight Line Industries and later full time work with the Stanwood School District to help pay college expenses for their children.  Ann’s presence in Jason, April and Jed’s life would reap great rewards as they grew up to be solid citizens and parents themselves.

Second, when Jack had to decide between a full-time career as an artist or providing for his family he chose his family.  So in 1979 he set down his paintbrushes and began a fifteen year career at Boeing to provide for his family.  Later in 2015 Jack would again lay down his paintbrushes for almost a year to take care of his beloved “Annie” after she was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 8th, 2015. That year was devoted to Ann. Jack was faithfully at her side, driving her to chemo and picking up extra chores at home.

Third, Jack has supported his kids on their artistic journey. Wired as a helper, Jack thrives in coming alongside and helping people. Nowhere has Jack shined in his gift of “helps” then in his helping of his kids in their artistic careers. This began, as we already have seen, in his giving his kids free rein to use his studio, including its supplies of paints, brushes and paper. Jack has framed countless of Jason, April and Jed’s paintings. Jack’s agreeing to take a week to help Jason illustrate his book I Remember Fishing with Dad long before the book would see the light of day (December 2015) is a case in point. A book which has, by the way, sold close to 1,000 copies and counting.

But nowhere has Jack’s loyalty to his family and faith in God been tested and proven more than it was in the winter of 2010.

 “A Sinner Saved By Grace”

In the first section we shared how Jack moved with his family to Plain, WA, a little  community  in the Cascade Mountains near Leavenworth when he was seventeen. His dad, Bert, was a hard-working, blue collar man who loved to fish and chew tobacco. He was tough and rough-around-the-edges; though he loved his boys he was reserved in showing his affection. His mom, Emma, was a good mother but struggled profoundly with alcoholism, with its attendant pain, shame and anger.  It was a spiritually barren home with only the slightest hint of faith when his mother taught Jack a simple good night prayer as a boy.

Jack finished High School in Leavenworth and it was on the school bus when his neighbor and friend Bill asked, “Are you saved?”  Jack didn’t understand the question.  Later Jack met Pastor Otto, and on one winter night when we was nineteen years of age, Jack knelt with Otto in the basement of Plain Community Church and asked Jesus Christ to come into his life, to forgive him of his sins and his sin nature, and to give him a new heart, a heart devoted to Jesus and His Word.  (Much of this confession was out of obligation to do what was right, not out of true repentance for he thought of himself as “good” boy).

Even though in his prayer Jack had admitted that he was a sinner and needed salvation, he hadn’t really personally felt his sin or his need of salvation. He was drawn to Christianity out of the ache of his own heart for love and belonging. He was taking baby steps into the heart of the Christian faith.  At the heart of the Christian faith is the discovery that one is a sinner in the sight of God and that out of great love for sinners God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. In other words, a Christian is someone who believes that there is a Personal God who is morally beautiful, who has designed each of us to represent and reflect his moral beauty in the world, that we have fallen far short of who we should be and what we should do, and that Jesus Christ came and lived the morally beautiful life that we should have lived and who on the cross took the just punishment of our sins upon himself, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and accepted into God’s family.

Jack’s personal discovery of his sinfulness and need for a Savior would hit home over a year later when he was a student at Wenatchee Valley College. He had gone on a few dates with an attractive and fun girl in the spring of 1960. On one evening date they drove up a road overlooking Wenatchee and one thing led to another and they became intimate.  Jack was overwhelmed with guilt, struggled with suicidal thoughts and broke off the relationship. He did not see her again, or hear from her.  Jack’s experience of intense guilt revealed him to himself as a sinner and it clearly showed him his need for a Savior who would forgive him.  So it was in January of 1961 that God started to work on Jack’s heart.  One Sunday afternoon in April, Jack was with his dad going by the Plain Community church to get some hay for the cattle on his dad’s ranch, and on the way home Jack saw all the people visiting with each other after church and it seemed they were “so happy” basking in God’s sunlight.  This was when God impressed upon him this thought, “This is where you need to be to get to know Me”, and so this can be described as the “moment” from January to April of Jack’s conversion to Christianity.   God had changed him from within, he was born again. Jack started regularly attending worship services.

Forty nine years later, in February 2010, just months before his 70th birthday, Jack received an email asking,  “I am in search of a ‘Jack Dorsey’ who lives on Camano Island…senior in age…. have dated a woman… 51 years ago, who lived in Wenatchee….Here is the tricky part, but life happens and it could be SUCH a blessing!”  She “had a son. His name is Jeff Davies.”  She “never told Jack about the child. Jeff did not find out that his father was not his birth father until about four years ago.  His father did leave the family when Jeff was a young teen and Jeff was the man of the house, and has been a responsible and upstanding individual ever since.”   Jack’s world turned upside down. He had thought that this was all in the long-forgotten past, even though it was the catalyst that convinced him his need of a Savior. After a few days of wrestling and prayer, of guilt and accepting God’s grace, Jack shared the story with Ann.  Ann was very surprised and forgave him. And together they agreed that they would reach out and meet Jeff. And so on Jack’s 70th birthday, March 12th, 2010, Jack met his son Jeff for the first time. He confessed his sin and asked forgiveness of Jeff. When Jack shared this over the phone with his sons Jason and Jed who were in Indianapolis at the time, he began by saying “I am the chief of sinners.”

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Jack’s brokenness, his need for God’s grace and his embrace of his son Jeff and welcoming of him into his heart and family over the past seven years (2010-2017) is a testament to Jack’s valuing of family, and, more importantly, faith in the God of grace.   Jack’s career as an artist simply can’t be understood apart from his allegiance to his family and his faith in God. Jack is not what might be called a “Christian artist”, that is an artist painting so called “Christian” paintings. He is an artist who is a Christian.

What does the rebirth of Jack Dorsey as an artist look like? It is evolving, so we can’t know for sure. But we might hazard the following as new vistas that we see emerging in the final sketch of Jack Dorsey the artist. In many ways these vistas are not so much as a new, but a new return to the old.

New Vista One: Art Teacher

Jack was trained and began his career as an art teacher. Over the years he has taught his kids about values, perspective, color and design. While Ann has been their kids great cheerleader, Jack has been their best critic. His eye for basic design, technical detail, and experience with watercolor has paid off in many ways in their development as artists.  In recent years Jack has personally benefitted from taking classes and workshops by the likes of his friend Ned Mueller, Canadian artist Mike Schwab. Jack and Jed spent a week studying under Ovanes Berberian at his Studio in Idaho. Over the years Jack has amassed an impressive library of art books.

Jack is a people person. While he can at times be too outspoken and can have a critical edge, people sense that he cares deeply for them. The few art classes Jack has taught (for two of them teaming up with his friend Tom Jones) have been well-appreciated. The only thing lacking is a space to teach students in.  That space is now available in the newly finished Sunnyshore Studio.

We can imagine many people in future years enjoying learning to paint watercolors and advancing in their art career under the tutelage of Jack Dorsey.

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New Vista Two: Enduring and Accessible Watercolors

Over the years Jack has experimented with different mediums and styles, with some degree of success. For example, he studied figure painting in oil under Ned Mueller. Jack learned a great deal about figurative work through this process, and since then has sold at least five commissions of historic people painted in oil. For example, Ann’s cousin, John H. commissioned Jack to paint a portrait of Richard Beatty Anderson, a young man who was a Marine and who in WWII threw himself on a grenade and saved some of his buddies in a foxhole.  He received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.   Richard Beatty Anderson has a Federal Building in Port Angeles and a Navy ship named after him.   Other painting  commissions were of these notables:  Charlie Russell, Billy The Kid and Moose Meat John.

Jacks’ bread and butter, however, is watercolor. His best works are his watercolors that use loose, impressionistic washes in the background, with the subject in realist, technical detail in the foreground.  Jack’s impressionistic-realistic paintings combine the realistic nostalgia of a Andrew Wyeth or Mike Burns with the rich colors and striking contrasts of a Tom Jones, and yet in Jack’s own voice. Perhaps what’s best about Jack’s watercolors is their accessibility. Jack is a common man’s artist. He is an artist, one might say, for the blue collar man and woman. You do not need to be rich to be able to afford one of Jack’s paintings, which is fitting in light of Jack’s own origin.

Jack is one of the vintage watercolorists in Washington. Washington has a history of great watercolorists, many who have passed on, like Wes Broten, Arne Jensen, Perry Acker, Mike Burns, William F. Reese, Paul Immel, Victoria Savage, Jackie Brooks, Warren McAllister, Carl Christophersen and many others.   While life moves on there are still vintage artists living like,  Jerry Stitt, Thomas William Jones, John Ringen, Nancy Axell,  to name a few along with Jack, who paint and are ready to pass the torch to the next generation of artists.   We can only hope that Jack is able to paint his enduring watercolors for many years to come.

New Vista Three: Sunnyshore Studio

After Jack moved onto Camano Island in 1969, he turned an old fox barn into his studio and named it “Sunnyshore Studio.”  Many years later, in 1998, Jack and Ann gifted a piece of land just 200 feet south of their home to their son Jason and daughter-in-law Jenny. Since that time Jason dreamed of building an art studio/gallery there to showcase the family’s legacy of art, to be a vibrant working studio and from which to share the beauty of Camano Island.

In 2016 that dream became a reality. Sunnyshore Studio opened with a “soft launch” at the Mother’s Day Studio Tour. Its’ Grand Opening was in December 2016 with the show “Beaches of Camano”.

Family members each painted beaches of Camano and collaborated in the creation of a coffee table book that celebrates the beaches of Camano.

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On March 11th and 12th Sunnyshore Studio is hosting an Art-Retrospective, looking back at Jack’s 50+ years of art. jack-art-retrospective-final-postcardSunnyshore Studio has an important place in Jack Dorsey’s art history. It also has a bright future as the Dorsey family collaborates together in showcasing their artwork and in raising up new generations of artists in the pacific northwest.

On Personality

The story of the building and launching of Sunnyshore Studio highlights Jack’s personality and its influence of him as an artist. Jack’s personality is a combination of melancholy, flexibility, helpfulness, extroversion, loyalty, and contrarian.

Jack has a melancholic personality, as he puts it, he can be a “Puddleglum” always looking on the pessimistic, glass-half-empty side of things. Over the years, when Jason shared his dream of Sunnyshore Studio Jack always had critiques of it, and reasons why it was a bad idea and why it wouldn’t work.

One of Jack’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses is his flexibility. He doesn’t want to get locked into one plan, one way of seeing things. He wants to keep his options open. It required Jason’s “results oriented” personality to make the Studio happen. But when it came time to help out with the studio project Jack was there, he was rock solid, building a temporary power pole and hundreds of other tasks to move the building project along. He is, at heart, a helper.

Jack’s loyalty and extroversion – he is a true people person – paid off in the opening of Sunnyshore Studio. Jack has many, many friends who he has been loyal to over the years. People know that Jack genuinely cares for them, and they responded with overwhelming support of Jack and his family at the opening of Sunnyshore Studio.

Finally, at the end of the day Jack is a bit of a contrarian, doing things his own way in his own time and fashion. This dose of contrarianism makes Jack the special, unique man that he is. Friendly and people-oriented, Jack is also outspoken and happy to argue and debate;  appreciating people’s approval but not political or wishy-washy, Jack is not afraid to dig in his heals and even to be disliked.  And Jack’s presence at Sunnyshore Studio makes it a place not whitewashed in sameness, but full of personality.

On Patrons, Collectors and Friends

When one listens to the life of Jack Dorsey, one is struck by the symbiotic relationships of artists to art patrons (those who support a particular artist by buying his/her work), collectors (those who enjoy art and buy art), and friends (those who are friends to artists). In short, without patrons, collectors and friends, there would be no artists. It is hard enough in this world that values the practical and functional of everyday life, to eke out a life as a man or woman devoted to the making of good art. It would be impossible to do so without the support of patrons.

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Over the decades Jack has had many people in his life who supported him, who saw his talent, even his genius, and in one way or another served as patrons. Rather than risking leaving out names, we will simply note the vitally important role that people play in the life and career of artists. There is such a thing as aesthetic poverty in a culture, in a city or countryside, even in a home. Those patrons and art collectors who buy art are addressing this poverty through their support of artists and their art works.

One is also struck by the role of artist friends in the life of an artist. Jack has been privileged to have artist friends like Mike Burns, Bill Reese, Ned Mueller, Walter Graham and Tom Jones to journey with. Their friendship, support and encouragement – as well as their challenge and critique – has made Jack the artist he is. There is, indeed, a symbiotic relationship of Patrons, Art Collectors and Friends and Artists. They need each other to survive and to thrive.

On Legacy

What is Jack Dorsey’s art legacy? He is satisfied to leave that verdict in the hands of those who have bought his artworks. Reflecting on his work he says “I have done it the hook and crook way. But I can say that I made a living as an artist. Thanks to my dad and my father-in-law who were my  benefactors.  I’m proud of what my art career has been.”

Interesting enough, a little known fact in Jack’s legacy is his role with launching “Art in the Park” in Leavenworth in 1966. Ted Price and Bob Rogers had started the Squirrel Tree Restaurant off Highway 2 near Leavenworth. They had turned it into a Bavarian Restaurant there. Being from Carmel, CA, they had an idea of what could take place if a city adopted a unified theme/culture. So they began to talk up the idea of Leavenworth being a “Bavarian Village.”  They knew of Jack Dorsey as an artist, and brought him to their apartment to talk their vision over with Jack, and to get his help in the starting an “Art in the Park” idea to bring in tourists. Jack joined them at a town hall meeting, and their vision for a Bavarian Village and Art in the Park took hold. Jack helped launch the first Art in the Park at the Autumn leaf festival. Over time, the town changed, partly because of the vision that Jack, Ted Price and Bob Rogers had.

Will this cultural change in the town of Leavenworth go down in history as part of Jack’s artistic legacy, or will it, like so many other things, be forgotten. Who knows?

Perhaps more intriguing is this question: Will Jack Dorsey’s long-time dream to build some kind of art gallery/studio/retreat on the 60 acres that he owns just three miles outside of Leavenworth happen in his lifetime.

Who knows? But knowing Jack’s passion for the Leavenworth area, his decades old dreams and visions for what might be created on his property there, his multi-talented family, and his God-of-miracles, we might say anything is possible.

 

Jack Dorsey: Sketch of an Artist (2) – The Fallow Years

Jack Dorsey seized the opportunity provided in his father-in-law’s gift of a house on ten acres tucked amid the towering firs and cedars on the south end of Camano Island and he threw himself into the life of a full-time artist, producing a noteworthy body of work, mainly watercolors, from 1969-1979. His art sold briskly, but, reasonably priced as they were, Jack was barely able to provide for his growing family of five: wife, Ann; son, Jason (born in 1969), daughter April (born in 1972), and son, Jed (born in 1976). While Ann had been Jack’s great cheerleader in his career as an artist, she was glad when he took the job at the Boeing Company and had a steady paycheck and health insurance.

Photo 1: Jack and Ann in the 1980’s; Photo 2: Family portrait with Ann, Jack, Jed being held by Jack, Jason and April taken in 1982 at David and Karen Day’s wedding. Photo 3: Jason playing in box with his stuffed animals; Photo 4: Jack reading to Jason, April and Jed; Photo 5: Jack reading from the Bible to April an Jed. 

On November 16th, 1979 Jack started at the Boeing. He woke at 4:00am, had breakfast, drove the forty-five minutes to the plant in Everett and was off work at 2:30pm to make the long drive home.

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Photo: A very rare photo of Jack working at Boeing – must have been early in his years there because his hair is still youthfully dark

His work at Boeing sapped his strength and stole time that would be spent in creativity. In many ways, it tremendously limited his career as an artist – right at a point in which he had gained strong name recognition.  But the next 16 years at Boeing (from 1979 to 1995 as a Technical Illustrator and from 1996 to 1997 as an Illustrator, sub-contractor) should not be viewed as a wasteland but rather as the fallow years, when the field of Jack’s artistic creativity and career was allowed to rest and be renewed, to go to seed, and even to see new life shoot up.

There are three developments during these years that proved to be significant in Jack’s life as an artist: (1) Jack’s art career moving from the center to the margins; (2) the remodeling of their home and (3) the emergence of Jack’s children as artists.

Jack’s continuing career as an artist on the margins

 When Jack went to work at Boeing, his career as an artist was pushed from the center to the margins of his life. Like many artists before him, Jack walked the well-worn path of artists who get a 9-5 job because they can no longer rely on the unpredictable income of art to provide for their family.

Jack’s art career was pushed to the margin by the daily grind of his work at Boeing. This, however, did not mean that it ceased. Not at all! You can take the artist out of the art career but you can’t take the art out of the artist. That, at least, is true in Jack’s story.

Jack’s records, now written by pen in Ann ’s flowing cursive instead of Jack’s more scratchy pencil jottings,  show that in 1980 he sold fourteen paintings for a total of $1,915; in 1981 he sold eight paintings for $1,430; in 1982, eight paintings for $1,450; in 1983 seven paintings for $1,100; in 1984, five paintings for $1,150; in 1985, six paintings for $1,100; in 1986 two paintings for $800; in 1987, four paintings for $815; in 1988, one painting for $300; in 1989, one painting for $700. At this point the record of paintings sold stop, until 1999 when they show that Jack’s painting “Canadian Honkers” sells to Felipe Cabrera at the price of $700. So while there is certainly a slow decline in the art sold and presumably in the art painted, still Jack’s life as an artist struggled along, albeit at the margins. During these years Jack’s paintings begin to command more money, though arguably not as much as they should have.

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Photo: From Stanwood Camano Newspaper in 1982. Jack is one of the guest artists for the first annual AAUW annual art fund raiser.

One of the paintings sold in 1987, “Odin Sitka”, the old Arthur Foss Tug that sat at Dagmar’s landing in Everett, was displayed in the 1987 calendar of the Great Western Savings Bank.  Jack drastically reduced the price of this painting from $1200 upon receiving an offer of $500 so he could pay an insurance bill that was due.

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Photo: Odin Sitka

Jack looks back at his years at Boeing as an artistic wasteland. Even though he did technical Illustrations of the inside wiring and equipment of Boeing 767s  by hand with pen and ink (this is before the days of the computer) he claims this didn’t develop his fine art skills, only his technical skills.  When asked what these years at Boeing did to his art career, Jack says:

“It paid the bills; it helped me provide for family. And once I retired, gave me a little more security. But it hurt my art career. There was nothing else I could do. I had to provide for my family. I’m trying to play catch up now. I don’t have the same energy level I did when I was young. I don’t have the same eyesight.  And what I do have will definitely continue to diminish.”

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Photo: Jack wins first place for watercolor in a Boeing Sponsored Art show in 1984. 

We leave Jack for now with his art career on the margins. We will see how it was to be reborn.

The remodeling of their home

Doc and Sayre Dodgson’s gift of a home allowed Jack to embark on the path as a full-time artist. Not having a mortgage allowed Jack and Ann to survive the unpredictable, up-and-down, paycheck-to-paycheck life of an artist. But it was a double edged sword. The artist’s income limited their ability to fix up their home, and certainly to mortgage it.

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Photo: Summer view of Camano home around 1982 before addition.

Ann had led the charge in embracing the life of artistic poverty. She would often say to Jack when he felt ashamed of the place, “We’re not poor. We’re rich. We have a beautiful place. I have a husband I love and kids that I love. And we don’t owe money on a mortgage. So many other people don’t have the things we do.” Ann would also make their cozy little home beautiful, filling it with flowers and smells of home-baked bread, cookies and cinnamon rolls.

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Photo: Peaches canned by Jack and Ann, a ritual they carry out together each year. 

But it was a tight fit for the family. The main floor had an entrance on the north side of the house into the kitchen area with the old monarch wood stove.

Photo 1: Ann’s parents, Doc and Sayre Dodgson would come for Sunday dinner each week; the old monarch stove can be seen in the background. Ann is feeding April a pea. 

Photo 2: Jack and Ann entering Sayre many years later before the kitchen was completed. The kitchen “nook” can be seen behind Ann. 

There was a sofa in the living room. Jack and Ann had a bedroom with a heavy curtain for the door. And next to their bedroom was an unfinished bathroom also with a curtain for a door. There was a steep staircase leading up to the unfinished attic; after a rough floor was put in, Jason used the bedroom attic from the 8th grade through his junior year of high school. You had to go outside to get down to the basement which had a fruit cellar in it where the peaches and pears that Jack and Ann canned were kept. Over the years the kids slept in many corners of the house including under the staircase, sharing the pull-out sofa, and for a while, on a bunk bed in an alcove next to the kitchen.

The small and unfinished house made it challenging for Jack to showcase his art. For example, there was the time that one of Jack’s collectors named Dick Wheeler and his wife Gloria came to view and purchase some of Jack’s works. Dick would later tease Jack saying, “I couldn’t believe it, you had your daughter in a cabinet drawer.”  It is understandable, therefore, that Jack would feel a sense of shame and some misgiving having such wealthy and powerful people to his home (At the time Dick Wheeler and Duncan Wallace owned a city block on 8th street in Bellevue that they would later sell to Kemper Freeman.)

Jack’s income from Boeing allowed him to begin an addition to their home and in 1984 the remodeling work began. Cliff Ulsted designed the addition plans, Jerry Rutledge built the foundation, and John Bow framed it in until he left due to unknown reasons.

Photo 1: Jack and John Bow framing (top left); Photo 2: Jason trying to get a tan while he works (top right); Photo 3: Jack hard at work; Photo 4: April helping Jack (middle left); Photo 5: April and Jed getting in on the action (middle); Photo 6: Jed and April resting (bottom left); Photo 7: Jason and Jack working (bottom middle); Photo 8: April taking a much needed break (middle); Photo 8: Jed resting (bottom right). 

After that Jack worked hard on the remodel project whenever he could. For example, during the 1970’s Jack had had the foresight to cut and collect Old Growth cedar blocks from burned cedar stumps on logged areas owned by Dan Garrison, who graciously gave him permission to cut wood in them. Jack stacked the cedar blocks and over the years hand-split them into shakes, creating a tapered shake by turning each cut.   Jason, April and Jed shaved and trimmed them if needed. Jack installed them on the roof during the remodel and they still hold out rain today.

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Photo: Jack installing his hand cut cedar shakes. They still keep the rain out. 

Remodeling the house, which included an addition, provided the space the family needed. It added two new bedrooms, a second bathroom and a large living room space. The kitchen was opened up with two sky lights and an area for a dining room table was created. Jack and Ann’s former bedroom was opened up into a great room and the bathroom was completed. There are now five levels in their home with stairs joining each level, including stairs leading to a charming attic bedroom and stairs providing access to the basement from the inside of the house. Jason moved into the first completed bedroom his senior year of high school.

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Photo: A view of the finished addition in the snow. 

After Jack retired from Boeing in 1995 he threw himself into finishing what had been started in 1984. But again there wasn’t enough money so he got a mortgage through the Boeing Credit Union.  This “borrowed money” enabled him to finish the kitchen and the upstairs. With the help of Jed, Jack painted bold colors on the walls to accentuate the artworks by family members that filled them.  Guests remarked on the warmth, coziness and hospitality of Jack and Ann’s home. Like she did when the kids were young, Ann continued to spin her magic making the place beautiful and inviting with her well-loved antiques and well-placed flower arrangements, and Jack was an inveterate host, continually inviting friends and strangers to a meal.

Beginning in 1999, Jack and Ann would welcome the stream of art collectors and patrons who visited as part of the popular Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio tour. But we are getting ahead of our story.

 The emergence of Jack’s children as artists

Photo 1: Jed sketching while laying on his stomach. Photo 2: April helping Jason out on his painting. Photo 3. Jason painting next to his dad.

The old fox shed that Jack had remodeled into an art studio sat, for the most part, unused during the fallow years.

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Photo: The old fox farm that Jack remodeled into his studio. 

There was a black and white TV in it where Jack and Jason would watch the Seahawks on Sundays and where Jason would sneak out to watch Saturday night live. One dark winter day during his junior year of high school (1986),  Jason ventured out to the studio not to watch TV but to paint. He pulled out one of Jack’s full sheet watercolor papers and painted a scene of snow scene of mountains and trees and a duck flying.

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Photo: Jason’s first full-time watercolor that he painted when he was 16, 1986.

Jason realized then that he was good at painting watercolors. And Jack and Ann, seeing his flowering artistic gifts, took him for a private lesson to northwest artist legend Wes Broten. Jason learned quickly and would go on to win awards in high school art competitions in both his junior and senior year.

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Photo: Jack and Ann sit in front of Jason’s watercolor that one first prize at a WA State high school art competition in 1986. 

Three years later April, also when she too was 16, retreated to the studio and began to paint striking watercolors of flowers, Mount Baker and other northwest inspired scenes.

Even Jed got into the act of painting watercolors, following in the footsteps of his older brother and sister. You might say they were “studio rats” just like kids who spend all day and night in the gym playing basketball are called “gym rats.”  What is notable is that Jack shared his watercolor brushes, palette, and even watercolor paper with them. He also generously supplied framing supplies. How many kids grow up next to an art studio that is open, welcoming and accessible to them?

In 1987 Ann, seeing what it cost Jason to go to college (he attended Western Baptist College, Salem, OR) came up with the great idea to sell his art, and the art of other family members, at the Stanwood-Camano Fair that runs each August. Her vision was to use their pick-up truck as the booth, hang art off the sides and hope that the many nice people and friends of the family would stop and purchase a work or two of art. Jack, who wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first partly because he didn’t think it would work and chiefly because it was below his dignity as an artist, decided he would build a booth to display the family art. He did.

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Photo: The Dorsey gallery designed and built by Jack. 

For the next seven years, the portable “Dorsey Art Gallery” could be found at the “Best lil’ fair in the West”. Ann was right. Many of the Dorsey’s family and friends, and many of the nice people of the Stanwood-Camano area supported them in this effort. Ann remembers how the dad of Jed’s friend Eric Hughes, Dr. Hughes who was a dentist, bought a couple of Jed’s paintings at the fair each summer. “It was a great encouragement to Jed”, she remembers.

Photos 1-13: Family and friends visit the Dorsey Family Art Booth at the Stanwood Camano Fair. 

Jed’s life as an artist was to blossom after he married his beautiful Canadian wife, Renae. On a trip to Whister, B.C. in 2001 they stumbled on some galleries that were showing some vibrant oil and acrylic paintings. That very week on their vacation, he bought his first acrylic paints and spent hours painting in this new medium. He loved it, and thus began the journey that would result in his following his father’s path as a full-time artist.

Photo 1: Jed and Renae at their wedding in Edmonton. Photo 2: Jed painting in April (Dorsey) Nelson’s art studio on Camano Island (top right). Photo 3: Jack critiquing Jed’s painting; Photo 4: Jed painting in the great room of Jack and Ann’s house. 

Jason, April and Jed have all gone on to be gifted artists each in their own ways.

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Photo: April with her husband Roger Nelson, and son Joshua and daughter Rachelle, Roger and April standing by her paintings at the Tulip Festival Art Bash where she received a ribbon for one of her works –  There are two red dots – for sales. 

 

Jack would discover that he has another son, named Jeff, who is also gifted artistically. But that is another story that comes in the last chapter of this Sketch. So in sum we might say that while during these years the soil of Jack’s artistic career lay fallow, new shoots of life were springing from it.

 Concluding Thoughts

Looking back on what we call the “fallow years” we definitely find that Jack’s art career is pushed from the center to the margins; it lies dormant, waiting. We also see the sprigs of new life springing up that will later be part of Jack’s rebirth as an artist: a remodeled home that will serve as a center of hospitality and showcase for the family’s art and children who would become gifted artists and, with Jack, put their shoulder to the plow as a family of artists.

Photo 1: April reflecting on her artwork (top left); Photo 2: Jason painting at the ocean (top right); Photo 3: Jason painting during his high school years (bottom left); Photo 4: Jack painting; Photo 5: Jason, April, Jed and some of Jed’s friends at the Dorsey Family Art Booth at the fair. 

Artists tends to be melancholic, Jack included. One of the striking aspects of Jack’s art is the nostalgia – or melancholy – that inhabits all of his best works. Jack takes subjects common to people’s experience (like an old house, fishing lures or a saddle) and paints them in a way uncommon to expression, particularly, in a way that infuses each with the melancholy or nostalgia of an artist who captures in these objects something in them not to be thrown away but to be kept, to be valued and treasured.

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Jack looks with melancholy on these years as lost years, his artistic wasteland. But looking ahead to the next chapter of his life as an artist, we would not want to see them thrown away. We might more accurately see them as the “fallow years” when his artist calling lay dormant, waiting to be reborn.

Jack Dorsey: “Sketch of an Artist” (1)

Early Beginnings

Being a full time artist takes a passion to create, hard work, flexibility and the courage to seize opportunities when they come. Jack Dorsey possesses these characteristics, with a healthy dose of contrarianism and nostalgia/melancholy thrown in.

Jack was born at Harborview Hospital, Seattle on March 12th, 1940, to Herbert and Emma Dorsey. His mom would later tell him that he had almost been born on the Blackball Ferry that ran from Kirkland across Lake Washington to Madison Park.

Jack and his older brother Bob grew up on a little farm on fifty acres in Redmond, WA, where Microsoft’s main campus now sits. His half-brother, Chuck Bay, who would become a strong supporter of Jack and collector of his art, lived a mile down the road with his dad Charles Bay Sr.

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Photo 1: Jack Dorsey in high chair, brother Bob standing, Redmond, WA home

Photo 2: Jack (left), Bob (right) Dorsey and faithful dog “Buster”, Redmond, WA home

Photo 3: Bob (left), Jack (right) with half-brother, Charles Bay Jr. “Chuck” in middle. 

It was a rustic, pioneering life. Five of the wooded fifty acres had been cleared.  They lived in a two bedroom house – without a proper foundation or indoor plumbing – that Herb built, and raised a few cattle and one milking cow, some pigs, chickens, and a pet Turkey. Every day Jack cranked water from the hand dug well and carried it to the house and to the cows. He and Bob milked the cow “Pansy” and chopped, carried and stacked wood for the fire, their only heat.  When it snowed Jack and Bob wore gunnysacks around their old boots to keep their feet warm and dry in the snow.

Photo 1: In front is Bob Dorsey, Jack Dorsey behind, father Bert Dorsey cutting wood
Photo 2: Bob (left) and Jack Dorsey (right) with milk cows, home Redmond, WA area
Photo 3: Bob and Jack Dorsey with improvised snow boots, i.e. gunny sacks over their shoes/boots

Perhaps these experiences prepared Jack for his decision in 1969 to set forth on a pioneering life as a full time artist on Camano Island.  They certainly made him tough and gave him a strong work ethic.

WWII was raging in Europe in 1940, and Herbert worked at the shipyards in Kirkland. Jack and Bob took the bus to Redmond elementary school (1st – 6th grades) and to the same school, now called the “Old Redmond Schoolhouse” for Junior High School (7th – 9thgrades).

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Photo: Jack Dorsey, 2nd grade, Redmond Elementary, Jack is second in on the 
second row, left side 

Jack attended Lake Washington High School for 10th & 11th grade and Leavenworth High School for his senior year.

Jack had artistic genes and from an early age showed interest and ability in art. His mom had artistic talent, working in watercolor and fashion design at Queen High School.  In school she did a WWI poster urging citizens to buy Liberty Bonds.  One of her paintings, a still life in watercolor, still hangs in Jack’s home. His uncle Vic, his dad’s brother, also painted; one of his oils hung in their apartment in Seattle, and Jack remembers a Thanksgiving dinner there and gazing at it for hours. His grandmother, his mom’s mom, did a swan with Lilly pads on black velvet; unfortunately this painting was burned when a home Bert and Emma owned in Granite Falls burned down. And his grandpa on his dad’s side did stained glass windows.

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Photo: Aunt Em mother of George(Bud)  Coogen, and Aunt Marian Brown, Jack and Bob Dorsey 

By the age of four Jack was constantly drawing. He still has early drawings he did of airplanes bombing the Germans.

Sketch and Colored pencil 1 (left) : Jack was 10 and ll/12 when he drew this picture.  On the back he wrote:”To Mom and Dad, Feb. 7, 1951.  I cut my tip of my thumb so I am staying home from school.”

Sketches 2 & 3 (top right and bottom rights): Drawings by Jack Dorsey done sometime in Jr. High years. 

He had talent too. He was made the art editor for the annual staff at Redmond Junior high and did all the lettering and ads for the annual by hand. When the annual editor looked into the “crystal ball” he foresaw that “Jack Dorsey has become a famous artist.”

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Photo: Jack Dorsey from 1955 Warrior Annual, 9th grade,  Redmond Jr High

Artistic Influences

One important influence in Jack’s development as an artist was his Uncle Norm and Aunt Marion. They lived above Northgate and Jack’s family went to their house many times. Grady Spurgeon, who worked as an illustrator for a printing company and who was also a fine artist, was a family friend, and many of his beautiful oil and watercolor paintings hung in their home. “He was a phenomenal artist” Jack recalls. He painted lots of windjammers and some Spanish Galleons. Jack can still remember  “a striking painting of a rapids in the Cascades,  another one of birches with reflections, and one of a night scene looking out over water with reflections.”

Jack met Grady. He coached Jack “when you start a painting always establish a horizon line first” and told him that he used printer’s ink for some of his underpaintings. Jack had a chance to stay with him for a couple of weeks and learn art from him; he still kicks himself that he was too shy to seize this opportunity, not knowing what he was missing.

When he was 14 or 15 years old Jack submitted a drawing to the Famous Artist Course that had famous teachers like Normal Rockwell. He was accepted to the correspondence course, but it cost $400 and his parents didn’t have the money for it. “It broke my heart a little bit that I wasn’t able to do that”, he said.

But, thankfully, he did have some good live teachers. One a Miss Cederstrom in the 7th and Mr. Goetschius in the8th grade, another, Mr. Greer at Lake Washington HS was a good instructor, which serves as a great reminder of the importance of art education and art teachers in our public schools. His family moved to Plain, WA (near Leavenworth) during his junior year, and Jack joined them there and attended Leavenworth HS for his senior year, where he again served as the artist for the annual.

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Photo: Bob (left, Jack (right), Bert and Em Dorsey in front of their home at Plain, WA.  Jack is probably a senior in high senior.
 
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Photo: Jack Dorsey, from 1957-1958 Lecapi Annual, Leavenworth High School, senior

Jack’s artistic abilities were also recognized outside the doors of the schools he attended. At the age of eighteen, he did technical, line-drawing illustrations for Merry Tiller, a company based in Leavenworth. They were of a meta-vach, a mobilized stretcher (the army never went for it) and an idea for snowmobiles. His mom and dad saw his artistic leanings, and one day in 1958 his dad took him to Wenatchee to meet well-known artist Walter Graham.  From 1958-1963 Graham had a big influence on Jack’s art career, modeling the life of a professional artist (he made twenty-two thousand dollars one year from selling just a few of his large scale oil paintings) and offering helpful tips here and there; he even offered for Jack to come and be an art assistant to him; he didn’t take Graham up on the offer, which Jack regret to this day.  Graham also encouraged Jack to attend the Art Center school in Los Angeles, CA.

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Sketch: Jack was a senior in high school when he drew this shed behind their home – now in Plain, WA

 

Other opportunities were passed up too. The summer after he graduated from high school, he painted a storefront on the Safeway in Leavenworth and won first prize. He was offered a four year art scholarship at Central Washington College but didn’t take it up.  He did, however, attend Wenatchee Valley College where he took art classes from Fern Duncan, “the worst art instructor ever” Jack recalls. Duncan gave him a D in art class.

Sketch 1: Sketch of tree in 1961, during Jack’s time at Wenatchee Valley Jr. College

Sketch 2: Sketch of Sun Basin Mill in 1961, where Jack hauled logs to from the ranch in Plain, WA

Sketch 3: Third sketch done sometime in the years 1961-1963

But by this time Jack was growing in confidence as an artist; he was selling paintings, and one day he got in trouble with his baseball coach for missing practice because he was taking paintings up to a gallery in Leavenworth.

Photo 1: Jack Dorsey, 1958, hs senior, winner of sweepstake, decorating windows in winter competition for Leavenworth stores, in front of family home, Plain, WA
Photo 2: Jack Dorsey 1959, trying for a second sweepstake win, Leavenworth, WA businesses, winter decorations.

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Photo: Jack Dorsey, from Wenatchee Valley College, Sophomore year, 1963 annual

After two years at Wenatchee Valley College, Jack transferred to Seattle Pacific College. He was drafted in 1963, but took a deferment to attend school.  At SPC (now Seattle Pacific University) he took classes in sculpture, ceramics, art design and oil painting and to make ends meet sold a lot of paintings to a secretary at SPC, who appreciated His work and was his first patron, the first of many who enjoyed his work and supported him in his calling as an artist. Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  And on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1966 an event occurred that turned out to be most significant to Jack’s future as an artist.

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Photo: A month and 5 days before we were married – Jack did this sketch of Ann, who he  
then fondly called  “Pixy” 

He married the petite, beautiful, and indomitable Ann Dodgson before a handful of witnesses at her grandmother’s little, homey cabin on Camano Island that looked out onto Saratoga passage, a cabin west of the family farm.    Through the woods east from the family farm was the deserted white home where they would move in just three years.

Photo 1: After the wedding of Ann and Jack Dorsey, Meetsy’s house, Debbie and 
David Day, T S Dodgson, Becky, Bobbie Jo, Brad and Brian Bay April 10, 1966
Photo 2: After our wedding (a week or two) Jack and Ann had two separate receptions.  The first one at Mabana Sunday School put on by Doc and Sayre Dodgson and dear friends from Mabana; the second on was at Plain community church put on by Betty and Otto and their dear friends over there.  The picture is of the reception at Mabana.
Sketch 1. Sketch from hike to Glacier Falls: Ann writes this about this sketch Jack made during their “honeymoon” summer in a little cabin in Plain, WA.  “We took an overnight summer hike up to [Glacier Falls], entrusted with about 5 teenagers (I was finally 20 !) from Plain Community Church.  Jack didn’t believe in suffering as far as the food went, and we packed up various canned food items.  However, the thing I remember the most was the watermelon that some poor skinny teen-age boy had given to him to carry in his backpack.  All I know is that that guy and I were at the end of the  athletic hikers by a considerable margin —  Beautiful wild flowers helped make up for the pain!
Sketch 2: Glacier Falls, from the same hike in the summer of 1966.

From these early beginnings we can divide Jack’s journey as an artist into three chapters: (1) launching as an artist; (2) the fallow years, and (3) the return that is still evolving.

Chapter One: Launching as an artist, 1969-1979

When Jack married Ann, he was on a path was to be an art teacher. After he completed his cadet teaching under Ms. Jean Wendell at Highline HS it was natural for him to fill her position when she went on sabbatical in 1966-1967. She returned and Jack had to find a new job. He was offered a post in the Seattle School District for $5,200 a year, but turned it down feeling like he should stay in the Highline School District. He did take the post of Art Teacher at Olympic Junior High School, making a solid $4,800 in 1967-1968. Ann worked at the Dental School at the University of WA, and sold many of Jack’s unframed watercolors to the Doctors and nurses there, who saw his emerging artistic genius; one in particular, Della Johnson, who worked in the lab, was an early proponent, a “pusher” of Jack’s work.

But instead of locking in as a teacher, Jack took another course. He went into the Christian ministry. He had taken first steps of faith as a Christian at the age of nineteen under the ministry of Rev. Otto Sather, pastor of Plain Community Church. At the age of twenty one, he had what he describes as being “born again”, from that point on his highest allegiance was to Jesus Christ. So maybe it wasn’t surprising that Jack and Ann, having paid off college debt, and wanting to do “something more” with their life (then just settle into a career in teaching), and having decided that Jack wouldn’t go back to school and get a masters to teach art in college or attend Multnomah School of the Bible for their 5th year program, and seeing the need for pastors of small churches, Jack became an assistant at Renton Bible Church under the tutelage of elderly, and conservative, Pastor Nazarenus.

Jack worked for nothing, but the church hired Ann at $100 a month to be the church secretary and they graciously agreed that Jack could continue to paint and sell his art. They rented a concrete block house in a nice little development in Renton, and made lifelong friends like the Kapioskis, Doellefelds and Hakes, (along with others). They took the young people roller skating and other like activities that  Pastor Nazarenus felt were questionable but which the kids really liked. When Pastor Nazarenus offered to go out from Renton Bible Church as an evangelist and leave the church to their leadership, Jack and Ann feared they were dividing the church, which they did not want to do.   At about that time another door opened.

Jack had been showing, and selling art at the Burien Arts Gallery, having been pursued by this “mover and shaker”, Dottie Harper, when he was teaching. He also had “a wonderful weekend at Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair,” where he made $700 in just one weekend, which was “lots of money in those days.” Jack and Ann, with their baby Jason, were featured in a photo taken at the Bellevue Arts Fair in the Seattle Times titled “And Baby Makes Three”.

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Photo: Taken during Burien Arts Festival – this particular rendition is from the Kent News Journal, July 30, 1969. 

It was in light of the glow of this success, and the expectation of riches as an artist, that Jack and Ann decided they would be the ones who would move from Renton Bible Church; they didn’t want to be the cause of any problems.  A thought came to their minds. Maybe they could move out to Camano Island and live in the vacant house owned by Ann’s father, Doc Dodgson. They inquired. Doc Dodgson and his wife, Sayre, decided that they would give each of their kids an early inheritance: Jack and Ann were given the ten acres with the little white house surrounded by high firs and cedars.

They moved onto Camano in September, 1969, and stayed that first winter across the street from their house, in a “beautiful house that belonged to Helen Bates Thompson, an old friend of family. She let them stay there for nothing. It was old, big, nice and furnished, with a big porch and beautiful view that looked over Port Susan to the Cascade Mountains in the east,” Jack remembered. When the weather was  warm enough Jack painted at his art table out on the big porch.

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Photo: The porch where Jack painted in the fall, winter, spring of 1969-1970 at Helen Bates Thompson home overlooking “our beach” that was, along with another big and old and lovely home, demolished – so the new owners could make the beach area and road that is there today.

 

As nice as the Helen Bates Thompson house was and as much as they loved this kind woman, Ann dreaded seeing her car come down the drive: “I wasn’t the best housekeeper and I had a baby” Ann said. So Jack and Ann were so happy to get into their own home, on what had once been the “Sunnyshore Fox Farm”, and some of the old fox sheds were still standing.

Though many people had lived in this house since its days as a thriving Fox Farm, it had sat empty for ten years before Jack,  Ann and Jason moved in; all of the copper wires had been stolen. It was rustic: “there was no electricity, no water, no power, no inside bathroom. We roughed it.” Jack recalled.

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And so began the years of pioneering as a family of artists. The house was next to the road, so Jack built a fence. There was no refrigerator, so a wooden box sat on the porch where they felt it was cooler. There were no disposable diapers and no washing machine, so Ann rinsed cloth diapers by hand in water that Jack hauled from Ann’s brother and sister-in-law’s farm through the woods.  Once a week she went to the Stanwood Laundry mat to wash the family dirty clothes.  There was no indoor plumbing, so Gerhard Doellefeld and Pete Kapioski, from Renton Bible Church, came and helped make a nice “two seater” out house.  For several years, every bit of water they used was brought from the farm and stored on the porch until it was used; and every drop of water from the sink had to carry outside and dumped. But Ann and Jack were happy;  it was their own house. (Eventually the 150 foot hand dug well that had formerly provided water for the house was repaired to fairly reliable working order.)  They purchased an old Monarch Stove for $25, Doc and Sayre gave them their old refrigerator when they upgraded, and Ann and Jack  got the electricity hooked up. Jack grubbed out alders, split and stacked firewood, and began to collect old growth Cedar blocks out of which he planned to split shakes for the house.  Best of all, they didn’t have a mortgage to pay. It was all theirs! They were following their hearts dream; they didn’t expect to be poor for long.

Photo 1: Their home with basketball hoop on back wall. 
Photo 2: Jack worked hard every year getting wood to keep his family warm.
Photo 3 & 4: For years this Monarch little stove was their main heat, although they did put in another large wood furnace in the basement that would heat all the house.  Later Jack put in an electric furnace that cost so much that we went back to our wood burning heat.  This monarch stove was purchased for $25.00 used.  The snapdragon flowers were a hostess gift from Ruth and Jim Youngsman.
Photo 5: Jack, April, Jason working at preparing a garden plot on their home, Camano Island.  Jack’s future studio in background.

Pioneering in this way allowed Jack to launch his career as a full time artist.  And launch he did. He applied to be an art teacher in Stanwood, but the Superintendent Bob Larsen had someone else in mind, and so, with the door of teaching closed, Jack threw himself into his painting. His early watercolors are fresh, bold and lively, mirroring Jack’s youthful exuberance and emerging style in watercolor. He was accepted into his first Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) Show in 1971.

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Photo: Jack Dorsey teaching his mother-in-law, Sayre, and sister-in-laws, Marge, and Margaret, niece Debbie and others in a painting workshop, around 1970.

Jack set up his studio in the unfinished basement. The light wasn’t great, but he made do. The day his daughter April was born, March 25, 1972 he opened the big weighted door and painted the fresh snow that sat atop the cedar blocks and frosted the fir tree that hovered over them.  After painting this watercolor titled “The Day April Was Born”, he put away his paints and went to Stanwood for the actual birth of his little daughter in Ann’s parent’s home with her dad the official doctor.

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Eventually Jack fixed up and moved out to an old fox shed next to the house; he called it “Sunnyshore Studio” because it was on a plot of land named “Sunnyshore Acres” and because “the name sounds happy.” Those were happy years for the growing family.

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Photo: Bert, Jack, Jason, and Emma holding little April.  
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Photo: Jack holds their new baby, Jed while his mom, Em, April and Jason admire
the new miracle !

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Photo: Jack and Jason painting outside their house on a sunny summer day. 

When asked what his business approach was during those early years Jack answers in a single word: “survival.”  Providentially, even before launching into his career as a full time artist, Jack had connected to the O’Brien family who had a summer place over by his folks in Plain; they became friends of Bert and Emma, and learned about their artist son Jack. They told Jack he could display his paintings at the Turkey House restaurant they owned at the Island Crossing exit in Arlington. And they told him they would take no commission. That was in 1968. A few years later, O’Brien sold the controlling interest in the Turkey House to Gene McGovern, who franchised it and built restaurants in Eastgate, Redmond, Bellingham, Southcenter, Lake Union, Aurora and Olympia. In each restaurant Jack hung his art, each took no commission on sales. So during these years Jack had up to seventy paintings circulating at all times in the Turkey House restaurant chain.

Beside the Turkey House restaurants, Jack displayed his paintings in Galleries, at art shows, and just about anywhere that would hang them. Terri Small who ran the Redondo Beach Art Gallery south of Burien and Jenette Brooks of The Creative Eye at Friday Harbor, and Roy Meyers at the Cascadian Hotel and Mrs. Cook at the Firdale Art Center in Edmonds, Doris Rogers at the World of Art Gallery on Mercer Island, George Lak of the Die Bruder’s Gallery, Nina Burton at the La Petitite Gallerie at Crossroads Shopping Center in Burien who showed his work. His paintings also hung at the Burien Art Gallery, the Vashon Island Arts Gallery, the Barber Shop in the Bellevue K Mart, Summer’s Interiors in Mount Vernon and at the Seattle Covenant Church. Dr. William Church hung his paintings in his optometry clinic in Everett, WA. Jack was truly pounding the pavement and working hard as an artist. As Louis Pasteur put it, “chance favors the prepared mind” and when an opportunity presented itself Jack was ready.

Photos 1 & 2: Jack working in his studio in the 1970’s.

Jack’s big breakthrough came in 1972 with a solo show at the Frye Art Museum. Here is that story.

Mike Burns, who was an old friend of Jack’s from SPC days and who was also a very gifted artist, had had a show in 1969 at the renowned Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum in Seattle. Jack thought “if he can have a show there why can’t I?” and inquired about it with Mrs. Greathouse, introducing himself to her, showing her some of his paintings, and asking if she would give him a show. She said yes! This was a big deal, and Jack spent a couple of years painting in preparation for it.

Jack’s solo show, “Watercolors by Jack Dorsey” ran from December 21st through January 7th 1973. John Vorhees, arts columnist for the Seattle Times, had this to say in an article title “Realism keynotes two fine shows” on Sunday, December 17th.

“Two new exhibitions, which may have been obscured by the Christmas commotion, should be ‘musts’ for those who like realistic paintings – watercolors by Jack Dorsey at the Frye Museum and acrylics by Marshall Johnson at the Ing Gallery.”

 “Dorsey’s exhibition, which can be enjoyed through January 7th, is a very large one – 50 Watercolors, a show large enough to confirm the fact that Dorsey is one  more of the ever-expanding group of expert watercolorists.”

 “There are the familiar subjects – rural scenes, marine scenes, snow scenes, flowers – and all of them well-painted, although Dorsey is equally adept in two different styles. He can do the impressionistic bit, and quite nicely, but I happen to like his more precise, detailed paintings better – there is a sense of illustration about them and Dorsey often approaches these scenes from an interesting point of view.”

 “Best of all are those paintings that combine both elements – soft focus background with emphasis upon a realistic bouquet or plants. ‘The Grace of Nature’ is a good example, as is ‘Labor rewarded.’

 “’Beyond Repairs’ is an interesting painting utilizing a boat and ‘Saved from the Mower’ is another notable painting. ‘New England Winter’ is postcard-lovely while ‘Yellow Transparents’ is a pretty yard scene. Dorsey’s work should thoroughly please the watercolor fanciers – and the prices are very reasonable.

When one considers Jack’s art log books, a show with fifty watercolor paintings is not surprising.

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In 1966 Jack’s records show a total of 50 new paintings shown. In 1967 38 more were painted and shown; in 1968 another 36, and in 1969 when he officially launched as a full time artist, he painted and showed 50 paintings. In 1970, a whooping 95 paintings are catalogued, and in 1971 there is a grand total of 100.

Of course, Jack did not sell all of those paintings each year (in 1972 he sold 51 paintings of the 91 paintings he had in circulation), and his sale prices was very reasonable, averaging about twenty dollars per painting in 1966, with those numbers inching up each year. His records show Jack making a total of $946 in 1966, $1,172 in 1967, $948 in 1968, $1,445 in 1969, and $3,822 in 1970 the year he launched full time. 1971 was down $1,555 from 1970 with a total of $2,667. 1972 was up with a total of $4,279 and $1,275 of that made in the fourth quarter. At $4,931, 1973 was Jack’s top earning year until 1979, the year he transitioned to working at Boeing, when he made $4,935. Taking into account that a dollar meant much more in the the 70’s than it does today Jack’s earnings are solid and respectable; but taking into account the cost of framing these paintings and travel, one can see that it was not much for a growing family of five to exist on.

Five it was, because Jed Dorsey burst onto the scene on July 7th, 1976. Through the 70’s Jack continued to paint hard and sell as much as he could, at inexpensive prices. Looking back Jack believes that he should have changed his approach and begun to paint fewer works and asking much more for his paintings.

1979 was a big year for Jack. He had his second one man show at the Frye Art Museum, September 11-30th.  He also had a show at the Blue Heron Gallery in Tacoma.The “Blue Heron has something for everyone” write up in a December 1979 issue of the Tacoma News Tribune gives tribute to Jack’s body of work:

“For the eclectic art fancier, the Blue Heron is a little slice of heaven. The Lakewood gallery shows works by artists of local, national and international repute and everything from jewelry and pottery to painting, collages, prints and sculpture. THE CURRENT who is a case in point. Although the rustic watercolors of Jack Dorsey (President of the Northwest Watercolor Society) are being spotlighted, there are plenty of examples of other forms to satisfy more abstract tastes. Dorsey’s charming scenes will appeal to everyone who’s ever had a nostalgic feeling upon encountering some old much-used object that has outlived its usefulness. For instance, Riding Days Over depicts a worn, old saddle lying abandoned in the tall grass, allowing the viewer to make up his own story about why the saddle is no longer being used. An anvil and tools are the subject of A Rare Find, and again, we are allowed to speculate about these items and their former hey day.”

Next, Jack’s “superior control” as an artist was noted in this write up on his one man show at the Franell Gallery in Tokyo, Japan in 1979:

“About 18 landscape watercolors by American northwest artist Jack Dorsey (b. 1940’s), of translucent texture and evocative of the mood, time and temperature of the scene concerned. In the main they are cool, with a feeling of the liquid in shadows, clouds and woodiness, and the paper exposed for white. It’s a difficult medium a tendency to become messy under clumsy brush. Dorsey has superior control.”

How Jack got this one man show at the Franell Gallery is the matching of a decade of his hard work with the right person at the right place. Francis Blakemore was dining at the Turkey House restaurant at the Arlington exit off I-5  when she saw Jack’s watercolors and fell in love with them.  As it turned out, she was the owner of Franell Gallery in  Tokyo and Jack sold out his show there.

But it was not enough. By this time the writing was on the wall. Jack wasn’t able to provide for his growing family or fix up their old home like he wanted to on his artist’s unpredictable salary. A friend mentioned that they were hiring at the Boeing Company’s Everett Plant. Jack applied and was hired as a technical illustrator. That was in 1979. What came next in Jack’s art career might be seen as the fallow years, where Jack’s art career rested like farmland that sits fallow, renewing nutrients in the soil, waiting for future harvest.

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Photo: Jack’s letter in 1978 to Gene McGovern who was then the corporate owner of the O’Brien Turkey houses.  Although there were many restaurants, the profits were low.  Things were lean and Jack took the job at Boeing in 1979.It paid so much (around $11,000) that Jack and Ann were quite sure he would only need to work one year and then they’d be all set to do art full time again !!!

Fresh Off The Easel

Sunnyshore Studio is honored to represent Jed Dorsey. Jed is an urban and rural landscape painter who uses strong design, light, and bold colors to capture the beauty in everyday life.

Once a month Jed Dorsey posts  a new painting that is available for purchase. Here is “Oregon Coast”, a 16″ X 40″ acrylic.

To learn more about Jed, view his artworks, and catch his monthly “Fresh Off The Easel” feature go to www.jeddorseyart.com.