David Jenks - Biography

My 10th great grandfather came to Massachusetts from England in the 1600s to run the first ironworks in north American for the colonial governor. I was born, raised and educated in the Bay State and spent my formative years in an early 18th century house, a mile and a half from the sea, which my parents had restored and furnished with period antiques. I also went to schools founded in the 18th century, so I was totally imbued with the New England tradition.

I always loved art and had demonstrated some gifts as a child. My mother was a freelance commercial artist who worked at home, specializing in airbrushing kittens and puppies for greeting cards, though she was an excellent draftsman and could draw and paint anything. My earliest memories include her at a drafting table. I began drawing and crayoning at an early age, particularly inspired by the illustrations of N. C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle in books from my father’s childhood.

By the time I got to boarding school I thought I wanted to be an architect. At Andover, academic life was extremely rigorous without much of a chance to do art outside a basic design course. So I arrived at Williams College in 1961 knowing Art History would be my major, and the department became a nurturing home and a blessing for me. It is renowned for producing directors and curators for many of America’s greatest museums. The expected track was an art history degree, then on to architectural school.

A couple of months into my Junior year I was learning oil painting in Advanced Design, and I had the revelation that architecture was my father’s idea of making me a respectable, white-collar artist. I was a committed fine-art painter from then on; it was really what I always wanted to be. I spent the following summer at Yale Summer School of Music and Art and had my first one-man show at the college art museum in the spring of 1965.

Living in Boston after graduation, I still had to eat and took a number of small jobs: photographer’s assistant, paste-up and layout, etching printer, and settled on driving a cab at night. I spent one term at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts but ended up in the rock music business promoting bands with a partner from MIT because I wanted to do psychedelic album covers. I did some interesting concert posters in the late ‘60s but dropped out of the business for lack of income, even though one of our bands went on to play at Woodstock. Serendipity took me on to Manhattan and a shot at acting while I worked as a fashion model and dabbled some more in pop music. The movie business was my goal, but by 1973 I fled back to the New England countryside and reinvented myself as a carpenter.

I drew and painted a bit along the way; married my wife, Anne; moved to Los Angeles in 1977; and, ironically, worked as a carpenter at the movie studios for five years while our son, Matthew, and our daughter, Meredith, came into the world. Finally, I made the now-or-never break and committed myself to painting full-time in the early 1980s, beginning with a year in the English countryside.

Returning to California, I lived and painted plein air in Big Sur for six months and then on to Mendocino on the northern California coast for a year and my first one-man show in 1986.

Then, by way of seven years in Sedona, Arizona and annual sojourns on the coast of Maine, I’ve ended up back in Mendocino, where I’ve made my home since 1993, the same mile and a half from the sea as my childhood, primarily painting the ocean and sky. And today, I only listen to classical music in the studio.