Artist Says Brain Takes Him In Many Directions



The wind whistles softly through the sculptures in Jay Kemp's yard. It rotates the hanging spindles he has made and the morning sun shines through the color wheels, casting patterns of colors and light in spots.

The loon Kemp made out of galvanized metal surveys a small pond that the raccoons plundered.

Metal is far from all Kemp is about.

The former TV producer and largely self-taught artist is in his studio, adding rocks to a Southwestern-themed canvas with a pallet knife.

"I love to experiment with different materials," Kemp said. "My brain will not allow me to go in just one direction."

The finished works in his studio range from a realistic doorway into a Mediterranean street, to painted fish more reminiscent of stained glass, to foot high models that are plans for larger sculptures.

When Kemp paints the natural world he often "sneaks a little critter" into the painting.

"It's a fun thing to do that nobody notices right away," he said.

For instance, a tree frog sits unobtrusively on one of the broad leaves of a rainforest tree.

"There was a rabbit, but he got away," Kemp said with a twinkle in his eye.

As far as sculptures go, Kemp is in large, rather than small, mode.

His smaller works keep each other company in a curio cabinet.

The South American ground snail has a bronze body, and Kemp inlaid turquoise and silver in a mosaic, all over the shell.

A bronze butterfly sits on a hand he sculpted, rather than cast, in bronze. It is not a young person's hand.


A Jay Kemp painting might be completely realistic, such as the nature scene (above), or it might have elements of realism, such as the stained glass fishes (top).

"I wanted to make a statement about life," he said. "Life is as fragile as a butterfly's wings."

Then there are his whimsical "Venus people," because Kemp is not only an artist with color and metal, he is a science fiction fan who sculpts with words, too.

He wrote his autobiography about the years he spent as a parachute rigger for a fighter squadron, based in the South Pacific in WWII.

"Critters from the Third Planet" is a collection of imaginative short stories and poems.

While, "Over the Back Fence" -- available at Payson Florist, Carpenter's Wife and the Rim History Museum -- is a collection of stories about his father, a cobbler, born in 1897, who lived in Arizona as a young man. There is even a tale of a train robbery.

Kemp is part of the ‘Neath the Rim Studio Tour, sponsored by the Payson Art League May 4-6.


Name: Jay Kemp

Mediums: Oil and acrylic paintings, metal sculpture and mixed media.

Art education: Self-taught, but took workshops from Jay Datus and Bill Arndt.

Motto: I'm not a religious person. The temple of my mind is my mind.

Advice to beginning artists: Get a job. I could never be a starving artist. My wife was an artist too and she and I always worked good jobs. Anybody who has the mental ability and opportunity to go to a good art school should go and make the time count.

Award most proud: (not for art) 2001 Flagstaff Senior Olympics javelin throw

Upcoming project: I am painting, but at the same time I am thinking about the going to do next. I don't have a one-track-mind.

Hobby: Photography

Favorite food: A good petite filet

Favorite music: Jazz

Favorite authors: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, but in science fiction, just about anyone.

Points of contact: (928) 474-2798

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