When John K. Fetzer, age 83, painted a scenic landscape of Mount Moran on his trash can, the garbage collector left him a note: "Thanks for breaking the monotony of my route."
Since his retirement in 1985 at age 70, Fetzer's been breaking the monotony of life by doing what he's wanted to do for more than 50 years - paint pictures.He first became interested in art as a student at the old LDS High School. While others were drawing, Fetzer's teacher, A.B. Wright, gave him permission to go outside and sketch. "In one two-hour period, I sketched the Smith Memorial Building on campus," says Fetzer. "Back in class, Wright held up my drawing and said, `See, class? This boy accomplished something.' That was a real treat."
Fetzer grew to love sketching architecture because of an experience he had at age 14. His mother had passed away, and while his grieving father spent time in Europe, he went to live with his Uncle John, an architect. "I was curious and interested in Uncle John's library." Early in the morning Fetzer would go into the room and read his uncle's architecture books. "That's where I learned what the four main orders of architecture were."
When he was 18, Fetzer served an LDS mission to Germany for 21/2 years. Even during this period, Fetzer found opportunities to sketch the buildings and surrounding landscape.
But for the next 50 years, his artistic talent was largely dormant as he went to work for his father's furniture manufacturing business, raised six children and served as an LDS bishop. And while he was able to incorporate his creative skills in areas such as drafting and interior design, Fetzer's love of art and the desire to paint remained strong.
In 1983, two years before he retired as chairman of Fetzer Inc., he began taking art classes from local painter Harold Olsen. After his retirement, Fetzer continued his studies under Valoy Eaton, George Dibble and Jay Hennefer.
Since retirement, Fetzer has painted hundreds of watercolors and oils, many of which line the walls of his home or are neatly filed away in vertical racks in closets. Recently, he completed a large watercolor of the cathedral in Milan, Italy. Copied from a photograph he took back in the 1960s, the painting depicts the elaborate nature of the cathedral's architecture from the edifice's roof.
"When you see the complexity of the cathedral's workmanship, the fact that there are 2,000 statues around the outside, and each one sits on top of an intricate tower, well you're just amazed," he says.
Fetzer's age has forced him to decrease the amount of painting he does. "I try now to do one painting a month," he says. "When I was younger (age 75), I painted one a week. The next painting I have in mind is one of Mount Olympus from a different view than I've ever painted it before.
"I also have three oil paintings on the panel of my garage. One is of the Matterhorn, my favorite mountain; the other is Jackson Lake and the last is Delicate Arch. I painted them there so it would be easy to tell people how to find our house. When giving directions, I just say, `look for the three paintings on the garage.'
"The garbage can? Well, that was just for fun."