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Who is the Artmaker?

My name is Jenny Mehlenbeck. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would bother with this page but I have to admit that I usually look at the "who is the artist" pages myself when I visit someones site. Must be sort of like looking when you pass by an accident. I'd much rather you look at my work but to satisfy the curious, (or those with really nothing better to do,) here are the boring facts.

Height: 5' 11"

Weight: eee gads, way more than I'd like! (Damn genetics!)

Age, well, lets just say I'm a child of the 60s and leave it at that.

Hobbies: Swimming, high diving, scuba, oh heck, anything to do with water.
Gardening, camping, hiking.
Raising tropical fish. In fact I'm a bit of an "expert" in this area. I love to share what I know whenever I can. Got a fish tank? Lets talk fish. Oh and pets. Love animals of all kinds.

My first job was at a large pet store in Chicago named Animal Kingdom and I acquired lots of weird critters such as snakes, lizards, a variety of small animals, frogs, turtles you name it despite the disapproval of my mother who put up with my zoo. (To a point.)

While working there I was able to work with animals no city kid would ever see let alone handle. I regularly handled tarantulas, very large snakes, a llama, vulture, kinkajou, coati mundi. (A south American relative of the raccoon.) And even a cougar. That was a fun and very unique job. Not to mention the TV jobs I got to work with. Got to meet a few stars while I worked there. Pretty awesome I'd say.
Sadly, the store closed down and the building was actually bulldozed in 2010. Very sad indeed. That was quite a landmark.

Other pets. Well.... I could write a book with all the animal stories I have. But... As of Jan 2011 I've decided to edit this whole page. My pet stories tended to ramble on.
Just know I'll always have animals around me. Perhaps not exotic ones anymore. But I'll always have a dog. And probably cats too. I bought a macaw back in the late 70s when I worked at Animal Kingdom. I still have him and he'll probably outlive me! I have a picture of him on my webshots page HERE

I will leave this one pet story on line. A story of inspiration to anyone who has ever lost a pet or loved one.
Peanut was our miracle dog.

Peanut was a small beagle mix mutt who wandered into my back yard as a young dog, with a too tight collar on. We tried to find her owner but after learning another person in town found one just like her also with a too tight collar on and adopted her, it seemed clear someone dumped a litter in town. So fine. We'd keep her.
We had another mutt we got from a shelter at the time. "Snickers." He was a lab mix, mixed with what who knows. He was small for a lab.
Well Snickers seemed to adopt Peanut. They were best buddies. She was my tough little guard dog, as long as she was standing UNDER Snickers. lol. He'd share his food with her, always letting her eat first. He'd bring her his toys, treats, anything. They were pals.

Before Snickers I still lived in Chicago. I spent time training my dogs then. Had to. But once we moved into our own home in rural Michigan I got lazy with the training.
Snickers was an escape artist. And he would NOT come to me once he learned off leash meant he was FREEEEEE! Blasted dog figured out how to open the back door! Three different door knobs didn't stop him. He'd just work that knob till the door popped open and off he'd go. We had to keep it locked by key just to prevent his constant escaping.

My husband and I both love camping. And always brought our dog with. This would be Snickers and Peanuts first time. Well.... we took the dogs to the beach, wore them out, came back to the camper and tied each one to their tree. Somehow, and I still don't know how he did it, but Snickers managed to get a locking swivel clasp undone from his collar and took off. We tried and tried to corral him. Had everyone at the camp site alerted to his escape. But after awhile we gave up. Figured he'd run around for a few hours and come back just like he did at home. Problem was, unlike home, there was a freeway very close to this park.
Well first thing in the morning my worst nightmare came true. Some guy came by with his collar and bent tag and said he was hit by a lumber truck. Told us he pulled the remains off the road and where to locate them. My husband didn't want us to come with but we all insisted anyway. OMG it was horrible. The only good thing about it was he went fast. No doubt about that. Peanut was in my car when we located and buried what was left of him by the side of the road. She knew.

On our way home from this horrible vacation, my husband and son were in the truck pulling the camper. I was in my car with Peanut in the back seat.
Not long before this happened, my sister in law Carol had just died unexpectedly. She was a pet lover too. Now I am not a particularly religious person but in between crying and wiping my eyes I was talking out loud to Carol. I told her to please take care of our mutt. He was a good dog even if he didn't come when called. Then I said, I wish you could somehow let me know he's ok.
Just at that moment, Peanut gave me a lick on the ear. Snickers used to do that. It was the first thing he did when we found him in the shelter. He was an ear licker. He would stand in between the front seats and kiss my ear all the time. Peanut NEVER did that before, and as much as I would try to get her to she would never do it again. It was like Snickers was there. I smiled and said, Carol, that was my sign wasn't it? Yes, it was. I know that for a fact. I still miss Snickers, so did his buddy for a long long time, but he is ok, and so is Carol. I know that.

Addendum. Peanut passed away on Memorial Day 2010. She hadn't been feeling well. I even called the vets emergency number because she stopped eating or pooping. The vet suggested cod liver oil which seemed to help a little, but the morning of Memorial Day I knew she wasn't long for this world. I took her outside. It was a sunny morning and she loved to lay in the grass on a long dog run I have. My husband, an over the road trucker was due to be home later that day. I told Peanut "Daddy comes home today." Got a tail wag out of her.
Well when Jim came home, she got excited as always. Grinning, tail wagging. She couldn't jump on him like she usually did but you could tell she was happy.
Later that day it started to rain so we all went inside. She was laying right where my son sits so Jim picked her up and laid her on a matt I had for her. She curled up, and went to sleep. And that was that. Jim went to pet her later and she was cold and stiff. I'm SURE she waited for him.
Know what? I've had lots of animals up to this point. Dogs and cats simply don't live long enough. And it's always hard when they leave us. But this was the most peaceful passing I ever saw. When it's my time to go I could only hope to pass as easily as she did. She died happy and comfortable with her people all around her. Maybe that was her reward for being my little miracle dog. I'm sure she's tearing circles around the garage just like she did as a pup. Ears flying in the wind. Then sharing Snickers treats.

I was born and raised in Chicago Il. I happily moved to Michigan with my husband in 1991 and had our son in 92. After a year of dirty diapers and daytime television I was about to go insane! I looked around at some old drawings of mine and remembered one of my friends telling me "your good, you should do something with this." I called a local community college and said "I like to make art, can you teach me how to make a living at it?" The art teachers looked at my very unprofessional, dog eared drawings and granted me a $700.00 scholarship. Wow! So, I enrolled full time in their graphic arts two year program and that's how it all started.

I must admit that the thought of going to college full time after being away from school since graduating HS back in, (yikes,) 1977 was a little scary. Everywhere I looked I saw pens and books and worried looks. As it turned out, Southwestern Michigan College was the best thing that ever happened to me. (Aside from leaving Chicago.) I can't rave about this college enough. Everyone there was just wonderful and in the process of filling class requirements, and learning this computer stuff, (quite a task for someone who's only computer experience was an Atari game,) I also took a few fine art classes. Painting for one. S.M.C. has a very gifted art instructor and I was amazed at just how much I learned from him.
Although S.M.C. is only a two year college, I signed up for extra classes, stretched my two years into four and and graduated with two associate degrees instead of only one. It's not that I wanted or needed the extra degree, this was just an excuse to take as many fine art classes as I could fit in.
I hoped to earn a living painting. Or at least get a nice job as a graphic artist and paint in my spare time.
Alas, there simply are no jobs anywhere near me. And moving back to Chicago or any other big city just for a job is NOT in my plan. I hated it there. Sure don't want to go back.

I did get to work part time for several years at S.M.C. teaching photoshop classes, web design, and briefly I worked at an adjunct teacher at Purdue teaching Freehand. I'd still be teaching Photoshop but for what ever reason the college doesn't run short courses anymore. I keep hoping that will change again, but for now I'm unemployed.

It seems painting, as much as I love to do it, is darn near impossible for me to sell. The rural area we live in does not have art galleries or anything. Fine art doesn't do well at craft fairs, Half the battle with making it as an artist is being able to promote your own work. Gotta be a full time salesman and well, I'm a lousy sales person.

But... I have to be creating something. Lately it's been more "craft" items than fine art. And that can be just about anything. I had the brilliant idea to make CEMENT hand painted garden stones and lug those to a craft show. What was I thinking???

Gourds are always interesting to work with and so many things you can make from them. I have piles just waiting for me to do something with.
I do a bit of carving in summer (so I can work outside and let the dust fly.)
And I discovered polymer clay and am hooked on that now.

Once I discovered sites like Etsy.com where craft items do sell well, I started really getting into this. Still not earning anything close to "income" but the hobby at least makes enough to pay for itself. Which lets me keep buying tools and getting practice.
Best thing about polymer clay, the things I make are small, light, inexpensive, and do very well at craft shows. In the summer of 2010 I tried a few shows and did ok. I just might try to get into that again.
As long as it's fun, I'll keep doing it. Until I find something else to keep my creative juices flowing.

Well that's about it.

Oh yea, here is a picture.
I'm usually the one behind the camera so I don't have many of myself. I was outside taking shots of the latest painting "sky" at the college when my photography teacher insisted in taking this one. Talk about a bad hair day huh? This shot was taken oh, I'm guessing 1994.