Jed Benjamin Dorsey was born on July 8th, 1776, in Seattle WA to Jack and Ann Dorsey, just missing the Bicentennial of the United States by four days. Jed was the youngest of the family, his brother Jason was seven and sister was four when he was born. And he was a surprise. After their daughter April was born, Ann didn’t think they could afford any more kids on Jack’s artist salary. So she had an IUD implanted. But in the winter of 76 she felt pregnant like she had with her Jason and April. When Jed was born, Jack and Ann felt like he was a special gift from God.
In 1976, Jack was at the height of his art career. In 1969 they had moved from Seattle to a little house on ten acres on the south end of Camano Island to pursue a career in art. Jack worked hard on art and on the house gifted them by Ann’s father, eventually getting running water and indoor plumbing installed. Ann filled the home with flowers and food, the smell of warm cookies greeted the children when they got off the school bus almost every day. They were poor but happy.
As the youngest, Jed was doted on not only his parents and siblings. He had an easy, happy, peaceful personality. He liked everybody and everybody liked him. He tagged along after his older brother and sister, and helped out with work like bringing in wood and haying at his uncle’s farm.
Island life is a slow, leisurely life. Jed’s summers were filled with people and play: at the beach, in his uncle’s barn, in the woods.
Jed didn’t show a great interest for art, though he enjoyed drawing and was surrounded by art in the house. His mom Ann remember’s Jed doing horizontal paintings that were “the most peaceful paintings in the world.” He sold them at the fair to friends of the family who wanted to support this burgeoning artist.
Jed loved baseball. Baseball was always in Jed’s life and he was good at it. Looking through old family photos you can see that while he tried his hand at acting and played football, baseball is omnipresent. From the time he could walk, Jed’s dad taught him the fundamentals. He coached Jed’s teams all the way from his first Little League team, Bob’s Red Apple, all the to high school.
In these pictures, Jed is characteristically on the mound or being mobbed by his teammates after a victory.
As a freshman at Stanwood High School, Jed played on the JV team as shortstop and pitcher. Beginning his sophomore year, he was the starting shortstop and an anchor on the pitching staff. Known for his smooth fielding skills and strong arm at shortstop, he batted .411 his junior and .339 his senior year. Jed shined as a pitcher. Very smart, very accurate, with incredible control and change of speed, Jed controlled the game from the mound. His senior year he was given all league honors and also chosen to play in the all-state game. He went on to play four years of baseball at Western Baptist College, now Corban University, in Salem, OR.
While football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer kept him busy during his middle school and high school years, Jed was lonely. In 1979, at the age of thirty-nine and after a ten-year run as a full-time artist, his dad had gone to work at Boeing to put bread on the table for the growing family. While he kept up his coaching, he wasn’t as present around the house as he had once been. In 1987, when Jason left for college, his mom took a part time job to help pay for the kids college. April got married in 1991. The little white house was empty.
The summer going into his senior year Jed started painting with Harold Hogan “Hogie” who owned Hiz Biz. He worked with his athlete friends Eric Thorness and Russ Bumgarner painting houses. He worked for Hogie all through college. He developed a sense of holding a brush, making straight lines, and covering a space with paint.
During high school Jed’s mom took an old guitar that was laying around the house, had it restrung and gave it to Jed as a Christmas gift. She had noticed Jed had a good ear for music, he was always right on tune when he sang. Jed picked up the guitar and discovered he really enjoyed playing it. It opened up a whole new world for him. His mom felt that she’d lost him to the art world for the world of music. During college he started playing together with friends Jason Martin, Jeff Parsons, and Micah Nightingale. After college they formed a band called Pilgrim. Jed wrote the songs and tunes. They made a demo tape, and toured a little bit. He graduated from Western in 1998 with a Bachelors of Science in English Communications.
Playing the guitar would come in quite handy in Jed’s wooing of a beautiful Canadian girl years later. In 1998, Renae Schneider was visiting her sister, Melanie, on Camano Island. She went to a Bible study with Melanie and met Elizabeth Nelson, an elderly lady who was also Jed’s sister April’s mother-in-law. She told her that day “I’m going to keep my eyes open for you for someone to marry.” Renae was twenty five and single and skeptical. A few weeks later she called and invited Renae over for dinner. April and her husband Roger, Melanie and her husband Merle, Elizabeth and Jed were there. They had sphaghetti for dinner, hung out, and Jed played his guitar. Renae remembers him being very charming and fun.
She didn’t see Jed for a couple of weeks, he was counseling at a camp. Jed called Renae and asked her on a date, and they went out with one of Renae’s sister Nicole and Barak, a friend of Jed’s. They went hiking at the State Park. At the end of the summer Renae went back to Edmonton. They had a long distance relationship. She visited Jed in February, and he came to Edmonton in April. He came back in May in a ring.
They got married September 4th, 1999 on a beautiful fall day in Edmonton.
Their plan was to honeymoon in Oregon and live in Washington. But God had other plans. They didn’t have all their paperwork in order, so when they arrived at the US border Renae wasn’t allowed to enter. They quickly changed their plans and got an apartment in Abbotsford, near Vancouver, BC. Over the following months they got connected with a church plant in Vancouver, called Grace.
They wanted to be fully part of the community. They changed their immigration plans, and decided to live in Canada full time. Jed started his own painting business called Pilgrim Painting. At its peak they had a ten person crew. They painted high end homes in Vancouver. At Grace, Vancouver, under Reverend John Smed, Jed led music. Jed and Renae taught Alpha courses, helped with the youth, served in discipleship and homeless ministries, and best of all made lifelong friends.
In 2002, for their two year anniversary Jed and Renae took a two week vacation. Jed, wanting something to do on the break, brought his watercolor pad and paints. He painted during the first week of vacation at Renae’s parent’s home in Edmonton. The second week was transformational for Jed as an artist. They were in Whisler, BC. They happened upon a couple of galleries. In one of them, Jed discovered some paintings that he fell in love with. He was literally awestruck with the compelling beauty of the paintings. It was the first time that he had been up close and personal with large scale oil and acrylic paintings. He fell in love.
He spent an hour there every day of their vacation, just looking at the paintings. Jed talked to the Gallery owner, asking questions, trying to figure out how he could paint like this because up to this time he had only painted in watercolor. She suggested that he should try to paint in acrylic. He went out that very hour and bought his first acrylic paints. He spent the rest of the week in the hotel room trying to paint acrylics, then going back to the gallery and comparing his work, which was always a reality check for him.
This opened his eyes to the world of acrylics.
His mom and dad saw Jed’s excitement about acrylic. She gave him a book, when he opened them up the paintings looked familiar. It was Mike Svob, the artist Jed had discovered in Whistler. He looked at the back flap and found his e-mail address and promptly e-mailed him. He wrote back that he was going to be having a workshop in a couple of months. Jed and his dad attended Svob’s workshop in Vancouver.
Jed had some of his acrylics in the Camano Island Mother’s Day Studio tour on Camano. That Mother’s Day tour was the first time he had sold a painting since the booth at the Stanwood Camano fair.
Jed had regular art shows at Grace, Vancouver for local artists where he would show his work. He started selling his art through the Seagrass Gallery on Camano Island. His dad, April and Jed had a show in Anacortes and at the Gunner-Nordstrom Gallery in Kirkland.
In 2010 Jed and Renae were ready for a change. They decided to move from Vancouver. Without a clear plan, Jed and Renae sold Pilgrim Painting, packed up their belongings and and moved temporarily to Camano Island. They arrived on Camano April 1st and stayed with Jed’s dad and mom through May 18th, then drove up to Edmonton to Renae’s parents through June. They returned to Camano in July. Both parents were thrilled to spend this quality time with Jed and Renae. They are warm, pleasant people, and Jed is an enthusiastic contributor in every situation. Like his father and mother are, Jed’ is a helper. Everyone likes to see Jed come over, especially Jed’s dad. During this summer, Jed painted his parent’s house inside and out. He helped his dad restore the deck and improve the carport.
But they didn’t plan to settle on Camano. Jason and his wife, Jenny, encouraged Jed and Renae to come to Indianapolis, IN where Jason served as pastor of Redeemer, a Presbyterian church with a thriving art community located downtown. They were intrigued with the idea, packed their few belongings and headed east. Their first year in Indy, Jed and Renae stayed in third floor of Jason and Jenny’s home. The home was packed with Jason and Jenny and their four children, as well as Jed and Renae. It certainly wasn’t a lonely time for Jed and Renae, and they gracefully made do with their small space and sharing the kitchen and living areas.
Then they added their daughter Willow to the mix. She was born November 6th, 2011.
Jed, Renae and Willow moved into a duplex in the spring of 2012. Eventually they were able to buy the duplex. Then they had an opportunity to move into a beautiful historic house just up the street, on a corner lot with a side lot that has a lovely garden, and a full porch.
During the first couple of years in Indy, Jed was a handyman and did renovation work. He has technical gifts, and is something of a perfectionist when it comes to finish, and he was in high demand. He helped out with worship at Redeemer. He even took some seminary classes and considered going into full-time ministry. He eventually got involved with the Young Life ministry at Arsenal Tech high school, where he volunteered for a year and then came on as full-time staff.
Jed flourished in this ministry. His passion for God and his heart for hurting young people met a great need in the lives of hundreds of high school kids from “the hood.” Jed and Renae opened up their home to forty highschoolers each week for a Campaigner’s Bible study, and Jed encouraged and mentored many young men. They knew Jed loved them and trusted him with their hearts.
During his time in Indy Jed had begun to show, and sell, his art at the Harrison Center for the Arts. The Harrison Center is a cultural development organization. It leases more than half the space of the 56,000 square foot facility that Redeemer owns, has four galleries, over thirty artists and monthly art openings. Jed had a number of shows at the Harrison Center. His work was very popular and sold briskly. He began to feel the tug of art; more than just doing art on the side, he was feeling a call to be a full time artist.
Like his father Jack had at the age of twenty-nine, Jed decided to leave vocational ministry for the life of art. He was hopeful that with the flexibility of art he’d be able to continue to work with young people. Jack was thirty-nine, when he went to work at Boeing. Jed was thirty-nine when he launched into being an artist full-time.
Launch he has. His art has continued to sell well, and Jed has received a few significant commissions. He often paints outdoors with other Harrison Center artists, and even participated in a few plein air competitions, winning awards in these. Jed’s passion for people makes the art workshops he holds not only instructive but relationship building.
But it is his art where his gifts are most evident. Light, design, color and values make the places Jed paints come alive with wonder and glory. He has an intuitive sense of design; his paintings are pleasing to the eye. The colors he uses tend to be warm, and his values striking. Most distinctive is his use of light. His paintings glow with light.
Jed paints with the same effortlessness that he played shortstop with and mastery that he demonstrated on the mound. Stanwood high school has produced a number of gifted baseball players, but perhaps not as gifted of a fine artist as Jed Dorsey. His future, like his paintings, appears bright indeed.