Elaine Frenett at Ashland Art Center

"Cactus Blossoms" and other floral, watercolor paintings by Elaine Frenett are featured this month at the Ashland Art Center.Photo courtesy of Elaine Frenett

Elaine Frenett's journal is more interesting and colorful than most. The Jacksonville artist records observations and life experiences in shorthand and adds small, corresponding watercolor sketches. Most of the time her subjects are simple — a jar of jam, a tree, a cloud — but some pages feature more involved vistas.

Every fall for the past three years, Frenett has co-led a visual arts journaling retreat to Lake Alpine Resort in Bear Valley, Calif. Participating artists spend nearly a week enjoying the outdoors and documenting their adventures in an artistic fashion.

Frenett says some of her miniature sketches have provided inspiration for full-scale paintings later on.

Born and raised in Colorado, Frenett lived in Denver, Telluride, Evergreen and Steamboat Springs, and in various other places across the U.S., including Maine, New Orleans, California and now Oregon.

Although she's possessed a keen interest in the arts since grade school, Frenett says she didn't pursue it seriously at first. Her mother, a single mom and secretary, warned her that she couldn't make a living as an artist.

"Finally, I just knew I had to put myself through school to be an artist," Frenett says.

With help from grants and work-study programs, Frenett completed a five-year program at San Jose State University and graduated in 1991 with a degree in graphic design.

Her interests evolved from illustration to fine art, particularly watercolor. She works from plein air studies, like those in her journals, as well as photographs, transferring images to white rag paper with pencil before adding colors, values and textures.

"Blooming," a collection of her floral paintings, are hanging at her studio in the Ashland Art Center, 357 E. Main St. To view more of her work, see www.elainefrenett.com.

For more information about her annual retreat, see www.visualartjournaling.wordpress.com.

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