Jay Steensma was born in Moscow, Idaho on December 8, 1941 and moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington School of Art in 1959 where he studied with d George Tsutakawa, among others. He also later studied with Morris Graves and in 1965 began teaching at Cornish College of the Arts. Because of his chronic manic-depressive illness, he did not exhibit between his first show at Francine Seders Gallery in 1976 and his subsequent "come-back" at Jackson Street Gallery, Seattle, in 1985. However, Steensma was, by all accounts, an eccentric and frenzied worker, constantly drawing and painting to produce countless works on paper and canvas. Often he would draw on whatever materials he had on hand and has become known for his mixed media works on paper bags.