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Jeannie St. John Taylor
Shifting focus
by Kathy Anderson

Born in Illinois and raised in Ohio, Jeannie St. John Taylor moved to Yamhill, Ore., in 1970 to teach school. The artist-slash-writer now lives with her husband of 25 years on a small cattle farm surrounded by subdivisions – 10 minutes from downtown Portland. In her spare time, Jeannie works as a private investigator for a company owned by her husband, a retired federal criminal investigator.

Following footsteps
The careers, hobbies and beliefs of Jeannie St. John Taylor's parents are a big part of who she is.

Red Tulips
"Red Tulips"

"My mother was an artist with her home," she said. "She'd go out into the fields and gather flowers and weeds into enormous, fabulous arrangements.

"My dad was a pastor whose writings were published regularly in the newspaper, a national magazine and his weekly church letter."

Liquid color
Jeannie's attention bounces back and forth between art and writing. When in a painting mode, color and other artists' work are her inspirations.

"I love all the impressionists," she said, "and Portland artists Ann Ruttan and Judi Darling Davis.

Super Bowl Sunday
"Super Bowl Sunday"

"I like to do weird paintings, though they never sell. So I don't really focus on the whimsical aspect of my art."

Jeannie uses several different media: acrylic, oil, pencil, pastels and gouache.

"Usually I start out with acrylic, no matter what other medium I plan to use, anchor it in that, then branch out," she said. "And sometimes I illustrate. Unfortunately, publishers never seem to want my artwork – not even for cards!

"Art relaxes me, as opposed to writing, which exhausts me," she said. "Though I do feel tired after a day of painting, it's more like floating through another dimension where everything is swallowed up in liquid color."


Show business
Jeannie sells most of her art by word of mouth, and from a showing in her home every December.

Along with having shown in several Portland galleries, Jeannie's artwork was used earlier this year in the Street of Dreams. Her "Noah" series appeared at the Museum of Biblical Arts in Dallas, and the same 14-piece show was held over for four months at the Portland Metro Zoo Gallery.

Future shows include the Yoshida Gallery in Troutdale, Ore., next March, and a show of miniature paintings – none larger than 9x12 inches – next October.

My Shed
"My Shed"

Late bloomer
Jeannie claims that as a child she had little artistic ability.

"In fourth grade," she said, "Mrs. Crumb – yes, that was her real name – literally shook me by the shoulders once, after I lied for eight weeks about illustrating each day's story.

"I said I had, but I hadn't. I wouldn't draw because I couldn't and I didn't like to do things I did poorly.

"But I loved all sorts of crafts and quilting and could spend hours making beads out of Play-Doh," she said. "I have to make myself stay away from crafts now, or I would while away all my time doing them."

At 24, Jeannie was in the midst of a difficult time. So, as her dad had taught her to do, she prayed – asking for something to help her cope.

Garden Fountain
"Garden Fountain"

"The next day I found a how-to-draw book showing a simple ostrich made with circles and lines," she said. "I was thrilled!"

Jeannie proceeded to make and sell pottery for a few years, then teach junior high art in Yamhill, Ore., and later at a Christian school in Aloha, Ore.

"I didn't start painting until 1982," she said. "I took a seascape class in Northeast Portland from Harvey von Baseman, now deceased. I think his name was really just Baseman without the von; he added that to sound more artistic! He'd rumble up to the art store in a rusted-out brown thing that rode close to the ground. A bit eccentric, but a nice man nonetheless.

"Later I painted landscapes with Ann Ruttan. I love her work, and learned a lot from her.

"Though I've had many college art classes," she said, "I've learned the most by just painting."

Jeannie earned a degree in elementary education from Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, and a masters from Lewis and Clark College. She also took an extra year of art credits from Portland Community College and Portland State University.

The write stuff
Lately, Jeannie's been focused on writing. She may have as many as seven books coming out in the next 18 months.


"Four children's books are already written. One comes out next April, and another is supposed to be out in November, but the publisher is having financial difficulties, so it might never happen," she said. "Two more are being presented in committee at another publisher soon. That means the editors love them, but they have to convince the sales people to go along with them.

"Two adult books are 150 and 240 pages, and I have a co-author on one. I'm general editor of a third and am trying to gather stories from people as well as writing part of it myself."

Jeannie worked closely with writer Helen Haidle on the majority of her award-winning books, including: Sleepy Time Rhymes, The Candy Makers Gift, The First Christmas Tree, What Would Jesus Do?, God Made Me and The Living Nativity.

"My dad convinced me I could do anything," she said. "It was one of his greatest strengths. Now it's one of mine."

Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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