Born and raised in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, Mary Blaser Jenkins can’t remember a time when she could not draw. As soon as she was old enough to stick a pencil into her hand, this precocious preschooler was constantly “doodling” on her paper. And those doodles were stunning.
By the time Mary was in elementary school, her teachers would consistently ask her to illustrate the day’s lessons on the blackboard. Mary didn’t understand why she was always chosen. Couldn’t everyone draw like she could?
As a teenager, Mary’s artwork was frequently placed in The Oregonian newspaper. Her work was so high-quality, the man in charge of the Young Oregonian Club, a place where kids met in their own special room, asked her to teach a class to the younger children. Ever so practical, the first thing Mary did was to check out a book at the local library instructing her how to teach children to draw. Her students loved her.
Later, Mary moved to Tillamook, got married, and raised seven children. Though her artwork was limited during that time, she did focus on handmade greeting cards for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions.
When her youngest child was between ten and twelve, Mary joined the Tillamook County Art Association and began selling her paintings. One of the Association’s shows, where Mary was a vendor, was Art in the Park held once a year at Tillamook’s Goodspeed Park.
People would also commission Mary for portraits. Once, a lady even asked if Mary would draw a picture of what her son would have looked like at 18 using only a photograph taken just before he died at age 12. Since age-progression technology was not available at the time, Mary simply imagined what the boy would have looked like and completed the portrait. The woman seemed quite pleased.
Mary was also involved with a group of artists who demonstrated their paintings at local schools where different tables were set up – one table had oils, another demonstrated watercolors and acrylics, one table had jewelry, and Mary’s table consisted of drawings of pencils and pastels. Mary would prepare a sample for each student to take home and then demonstrate how she drew those samples.
My mom’s sister has contributed so much time and talent to her community and I’m proud to call her, Aunt Mary.
A sample of Mary Jenkins’ artwork can be seen in the gallery below.