The Life And Work Of Jay Kemp


Payson author and artist Jay Kemp is a man of many talents.

Kemp, 82, fills his days with sculpting, metalwork, painting or any other creative endeavor that springs to mind.


Jay Kemp will be signing books tonight, but his talents extend off the page, to canvas and sculpture.

His house and studio are cluttered havens, with art scattered among each spare inch of space. Metal mobiles throughout the yard sway serenely in the breeze.

"Hardly anywhere in this place doesn't reflect art," said Kemp, standing beside a glass case containing his scrimshaw pieces and a necklace of turquoise-inlaid elk antler.

Kemp's more recent works include three books, "My Hopscotch Life," "Critters From the Third Planet" and "Over the ‘Back Fence': True Stories and Yarn Spinning."

His latest book, "Over the Back Fence," is an illustrated collection of short stories.

First Friday on Main Street Book signing by Jay KempWhen: 5 to 8 p.m. tonightWhere: Bootleg Alley Antiques and Art, 520 W. Main St.Select pieces of his art will also be on display.

"All are true adventure stories from my life and from my father's life, when he was a young man in early Arizona," Kemp said.

His storytelling ability comes from his father.

"Since I was 5, my father used to tell us stories that had been passed down through generations," Kemp said. "The stories came prior to the publishing of J.R.R. Tolkien's ‘The Hobbit' and were in the same vein."

Kemp calls "My Hopscotch Life" his "unauthorized autobiography." It chronicles his personal stories from age 2 to present.

"It's a fun book," Kemp said. "None of my books are serious, although this one covers my tour of duty during World War II."

The book also details Kemp's entertainment career in Hollywood and Arizona, as he dabbled in singing, acting and television production.

Short stories, poetry and illustrations constitute "Critters From the Third Planet," Kemp said.

"When you say the title, people get the idea it's a science fiction book, but it isn't," Kemp said. "Animals or people, we're all critters."

Kemp said he is still looking to publish several of his manuscripts.

One story involves a young man's adventures, which he likens to the first "Harry Potter" book. However, Kemp said, he developed his account before the release of J.K. Rowling's writings.

"They are similar in excitement and action," Kemp said.

Kemp's books are available locally at The Carpenter's Wife, Payson Florist and Gifts, The Bookstore and More and Fireside Espresso.

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