Creative artist Jayne Spencer gets to teaching

Jayne Spencer, center, works with a class last week including (l-r) Kim Grant, Grace Hoenig - standing - and Bonnie Carpenter./Pennie Engelhardt

Don’t tell award-winning watercolor, portrait and landscape artist Jayne Spencer that art is best executed and appreciated only by fellow artists. An award-winning creative artist and teacher, like TV’s father, knows best.

“Anybody can be an artist,” Spencer said. “Anybody can learn to paint once they learn the skills and techniques. Find something that inspires you. Paint what you love. Art is subjective”

Jayne Spencer’s cottage studio, located at her home between Interstate 5 and Highway 101, Encinitas/Facebook

Art is for everyone. Its worth is in the eye of the beholder and creator, according to Spencer, who teaches what she practrices and vice versa. The point is there are many ways to approach art, all valid, and anybody “can become your own artist,” Spencer said, “paint whatever you love.”

Spencer teaches a variety of classes for a variety of skill sets and interests. Subject matter includes portraits, painting, drawing, and plein air. Skill levels can vary from beginners to more experienced. Classes last three hours. They generally are offered Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at Spencer’s Encinitas cottage studio by her house.

All ages are invited. However, Spencer specializes in teaching mature adults, finding a lot of interest from people looking to express themselves in new ways. Spencer presents artistic inspiration with a technical edge. She instructs, critiques and works with her students, showing them structure and direction ultimately enabling them to create to their heart’s content.

Results can satisfy. Results can enlighten and delight. A lot of times, the act and interactions within a class can provide emotional benefits.

“I love to teach,” Spencer said. “I’ve been doing this so long because I love to see how much it transforms my students. Sometimes they come in feeling lonely or depressed, bored or they have lost their husband or their wife. They find joy, happiness and contentment. One of my students is 96 years old. You can start at any age.”

Spencer added: “Most people do paint what they see. But it doesn’t have to look like something. It can be very therapeutic and then it becomes something.”

Painting has transformed the lives of many of my students, according to Spencer. “Expressing yourself through watercolor is spellbinding,” she said. “The tremendous satisfaction we feel from creating something in spectacular color can generate self-confidence, a sense of generosity and achievement, inspiration, and a new awareness of one’s own unique gifts.”

Past as prologue

Creative artist Jayne Spencer at work./Facebook

Spencer grew up on a rural Bonita property where she tended to chickens, horses and other animals. Her father, Raymond Spencer, was a civil engineer who took up painting later in life. She still displays with pride his rendition of the Mona Lisa at her studio. She learned business and discipline through various life experiences and jobs that culminated in a creative art and teaching career.

A college scholarship track athlete specializing in running middle distances at UNLV, and later San Diego State, Spencer was inspired by her father’s self-taught painting to graduate with a degree in graphic arts. Her first post-graduate job came as a computer artist.

“My background in graphic design is seen in my paintings,” Spencer said. “They are bright and bold with a strong sense of design. I paint what inspires me, capturing a moment in time…My father’s paintings and my graphic design degree strongly influences my work, which focuses on bold lines, shapes, and color.”

Spencer moved on to the world of commerce after that. She spent 12 years as a pharmaceutical representative for Fortune 500 drugmaker A.H. Robins Company. That enterprise marketed Robitussin cough syrup, Advil and Chap Sticks among other products before going into receivership and being absorbed by Wyeth LLC, later acquired by Pfizer Inc.

“I was in the corporate world, and glad I did it,” Spencer said. “It helped me buy my home in Encinitas where I was able to build my studio.”

Pharmaceutical sales led Spencer to over 15 years working as an executive and trainer in the health and wellness industry. Among assignments, she was operational manager at Check Institute, a Carlsbad-based educational and training company offering  fitness and healthcare professionals a uniquely integrated and holistic approach to health, fitness and well-being. That’s where she trained the trainers who went into functional exercise and optimal health practices.

Through it all, Spencer had her eyes on the prize that is art. She started teaching adult art classes at Mira Costa College in 2007, continuing through last year counting over 1,000 students in her educational number. She also started teaching classes at her studio.

“For over a decade,” Spencer said, “I have been running workshops and juried watercolor shows in the San Diego area while teaching all levels of watercolor painting at a local community college and at my studio. I find tremendous satisfaction in teaching and love seeing my students, improve, gain confidence, and express themselves through watercolor.”

Spencer has combined her passion for art and her skills in teaching to develop a uniquely blended style in the classroom. Her methods enable students at all levels to better grasp the concepts of watercolor, while also feeling at ease in the learning and creative process. One of her greatest joys, she said, was helping her students embark on their creative journeys.

Personally speaking

Sunset colors was the inspiration of this recent painting- Alpine Magic Glow./Jayne Spencer

Spencer said her work was influenced by her personal day-to-day experiences as well as her travels abroad. She specializes in watercolor and displays her work around San Diego. Her works include local scenes, figures, landscapes, animals, and commissioned work.

“I love skiing and travel,” Spencer said. “Traveling is aways key, examining new things in places like Italy, Switzerland, and Japan. I love the Telluride Mountains, Yosemite, Wine Country, Northern Arizona. When it comes to local subjects, Southern California beaches, palm trees sell well.”

Spencer paints 2-3 hours daily generally. “You have to paint,” she said. “There is no magic to it; work, work, work. I’m not afraid to tear up some work. It’s not going to be a masterpiece every time…My work is inspired by the idea of capturing that emotional and visceral response we feel when we see a beautiful but fleeting image — a moment of color, intensity, movement, and expression that stays with us long after.

Award-winning Masai boy painting by Jayne Spencer/Facebook

Well-known for her representational works, and more recently for her abstracts and portraits, Spencer once ran her own gallery in Encinitas, and has exhibited in the Coal Gallery, San Dieguito Off Track Gallery, and the San Dieguito Art Guild, as well as with the San Diego Watercolor Society, where she’s a member.

Spencer has won several awards, including Best in Show for “Cowboy” at the San Dieguito Off Track Gallery and the Logan Award and Golden Award for “Maasai Boy” at the San Diego Watercolor Society’s 34th International Show.

Spencer has studied with notable national artists, including Don Andrews, Timothy Clark, Ted Nuttall, Tom Fong, Jeannie McGuire, and Arne Westerman, among others.

Each year, Spencer donates an original watercolor to one, or two, of her favorite charities to help raise money. She has donated to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Encinitas YMCA, Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club and Club St. James Academy in Solana Beach. Last year, she donated to the CAF- Challenged Athletes Foundation and Surf-Rider Foundation.

Perspectives on art therapy

Jayne Spencer works with students at her cottage studio last week/Courtesy

Circling back a bit, before getting to the nuts and paintbrushes of taking one of Spencer’s classes, the subject of art therapy for older adults has turned hot in today’s society graced by longer lives and more active lifestyles later in life.

The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation, founded by Bob Kelly, former former San Diego Foundation president and CEO, has taken a leading role in developing programs and funding for older adults. This includes attempting to facilitate the arts among older adults through the group’s senior center initiative, according to Joe Gavin, the group’s chief program and community engagement officer.

“The benefits of artistic expression for older adults are numerous,” Gavin said. “Research shows that gains in the physical, emotional, cognitive and social domains are all positive byproducts of engaging in creative pursuits. Additionally, one’s art is a celebration of the unique voice and individuality that we all possess.

“Creativity is especially Important for older adults,” Gavin continued, “as the later stage of life can be dominated by loss: loss of career, loss of social standing, loss of income, loss of independence, loss of loved ones, etc. These realities can lead to a dwindling sense of self and an erosion of sense of meaning and purpose.”

Pursuing long-time artistic hobbies or picking up new forms of expression, an older adult is declaring that “my voice matters, I have meaning and purpose and my creativity is my expression to the world,”. Gavin said. “They are not ‘losing’ their voice, they are strengthening it.”

To that end, the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation is looking to its senior center initiative, raising awareness, engaging stakeholders and increasing philanthropy to cerate sophisticated senior centers that go beyond the traditional roles that senior centers have played, according to Gavin.

“A key element of these more dynamic centers would be an increased emphasis on artistic and creative opportunities for seniors that would include more equipment, more artistic mediums to choose from and more dedicated space,” Gavin added.

Likewise, Dr. Alessandra Colfi, an Oceanside-based expressive arts therapist who has studied and taught the subject extensively, said, “The guided expressive arts therapy processes offered in many formats are designed to facilitate and allow for a playful, non-judgmental approach to self-expression and exploration, safe risk taking with hands-on art making, empowering by stimulating agency and decision making.

“They are grounded in the patient-centered approach which aim at safely inviting the psyche to express itself, facilitating layers of awareness to emerge and be utilized to support transformation and therapeutic goals,” Colfi said.

“Throughout the process,” Colfi added, “participants’ stories unfold, transform, and might present new meaning. Each story becomes a ‘soulscape’ as it allows for a new narrative to emerge from the unconscious, and open to a new prospective, potentially useful insights. Each art expression is a process of introspection, awareness, creativity, celebration and healing through symbolic integration.”

Colfi cited a Pablo Picasso line: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” She also provided links to a few articles pertaining to the subject of art therapy, which included:

And then, all things considered, bottom line; art is fun. Art imagineer Ray “Bong” Davis has a movement he terms “awful art” which maintains that all art is a demonstration of awe, meant to be fun and springing from the heart.

“It’s all too easy,” Bong said, “it’s all for art. It’s cross-sectional. It’s omni-directional. It might be bubbling up from outer space. It’s in your face. It’s the potted palm…A genuine ‘awful artist’ can always say, ‘My heart is pure.”

Or, bringing it back home, as Garit Imhoff, one of Spencer’s students said: “Jayne is a delightful instructor who is very knowledgeable and talented. She covers the fundamental of design as well as special techniques of watercolor in a clear concise manner, and is able to address the special needs and abilities of a wide variety of students.  Best of all her classes are fun to be in because of her upbeat and caring attitude.”

Meanwhile, all in the studio

Typically, classes consists of 8-10 students. “I keep my classes small in order to offer a highly supportive and warm environment for students to explore their journey in the world of watercolor painting,” Spencer said.

“Through lectures, demonstrations, group discussions, evaluations, and individual attention,” Spencer continued, “students learn the fundamentals of design, composition, light values and color temperature, basic color theory, and painting techniques used in painting watercolors; all skills and tools ​that help you paint confidently on your own.”

Classes are all temperature-controlled and accompanied by soft music. ​Students are welcome to bring a snack and beverage of their choice. ​They even can enjoy a quick break out on the sunny deck.

Each class begins with a lecture and demonstration, followed by step-by step instruction. “Once you are working on your own, I will spend time with each student to answer more questions and help with technique,” Spencer said.

Classes run for 1-month sessions.

Students doing their thing at Spencer’s cottage studio./Facebook

Class Schedule

Tuesday:  Intermediate to Advance level watercolor
Wednesday:  Beginning watercolor
Thursday: Beginner to Intermediate  watercolor
12:00pm-3:00pm (Wait list)
All students must register and pay prior to starting a new month of classes


Learn to paint in a beautiful garden studio in Coastal Encinitas, located between Highway 101 and Highway 5. ​


There are none!  No previous watercolor experience necessary. ​

Class Prices/Packages

Package of 4 classes $150
Missed classes may be made up with 48 hours advanced notice.
Gift Certificates are available for purchase.​

Registration & Payment

Students may register for classes by email  or over the  phone. Please call (619) 889-1478 or email at
Classes run for three hours and the schedule is determined by monthly attendance.
I take advance payment for the class package or on the first day of the class.
Credit card, check and cash accepted.

Supply List

Need Supplies?
For $10 per class I will set you up with everything.
Please bring all of your supplies to all classes.
Down load list

Gift certificates also are available. For classes, visit Spencer’s website or sign up here.

Online to the artistic future

Spencer has branched out in recent years going with the online flow. She offers courses courtesy of Nineteen professionally created videos have been posted to date with more to come. Courses can be taken individually according to taste and skill. Spencer also has a Youtube channel with a few sample videos

However, a best bet appears to be Essentials for Beginning Watercolor. Just some of the things people take from the 7-hour course — also available in three parts — include:

  • The fundamentals of painting –using values, creating contrast, choosing the right materials, and mixing pigments to create new colors
  • Controlling the water/pigment mix, maintaining white spaces, glazing, and creating textures
  • Painting specific subject matter like skies, water, landscapes, trees, and rocks

“Slowly, you will start to uncover your own unique style and preferences,” Spencer said.. By the end of the course, you’ll feel confident enough to start your own paintings.

For a quick preview of what courses are like, Spencer recommends her free online class, Turn One Color into a Variety of Shades. This study on the use of “values” such as light and contrast is fundamental to all painting mediums, and “will give you a more discerning eye the next time you visit a gallery,” Spencer said.

Already painting in watercolor and looking to grow those skills?

Courses like Winterscapes in Watercolor and Painting Dramatic Skies are just some of the classes Spencer created to help students tackle specific challenges or subject matter.

“When you hang your first creation on a wall one day for the world to see or just you,” Spencer said, “you will feel thrilled about having picked up that first paint brush.”

The  benefits from learning watercolor online

  • Enjoy the comforts of painting in your home.
  • Paint on your own schedule.
  • Learn at your own pace you and watch the video it as many times as you like.
When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does two years access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for two years – across any and all devices you own.

Single courses generally cost $35 while a 3-course package runs $108.

For more information about pricing information, or commissions, contact Spencer at

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