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Ashland to Zimbabwe through Watercolors

Back in the 50s, when local watercolorist Jerry Whitsett — was painting in high school art classes, he received an honor that must — have been pretty heady stuff for a young painter - for any painter. Two — of his paintings were hung at Carnegie Hall.

"After high school, I didn't paint for 50 years," says — Whitsett.

A Grants Pass native, Whitsett went straight from high — school into the Navy to pay for college where he earned a degree in geology. — After working for more years than he liked in Texas, he returned to Oregon — in 1965, this time to Ashland. Not finding geology work, he became a stock — broker.

He spent the next 30 some years working, and raising two — children with wife Joan. Now retired and a grandfather, Whitsett has been — painting seriously for nine years, is a member of the Art and Soul Gallery, — the Oregon Watercolor Society, and in 2004 participated in the by-invitation-only — Medford show, "Art in Bloom."

He emphasizes that his paintings are not photo-realistic — (although they are fairly realistic), that he enjoys using his imagination — and wants the viewer to use his also to fill in the blanks.

While his local landscapes, especially of Lithia Park, — outsell all others, several of his watercolors developed from scenes that — captured his imagination while traveling with his wife. The current count: — "about 35 countries."

Whitsett's favorite painting emerged from Bulgaria. While — traveling there, an old white building and yellow-leafed tree caught his — eye. He photographed the scene, then sketched it, adding a woman in a — long skirt walking down the road.

"Women like this one are everywhere in Bulgaria smiling — and waving.

This is what I remember most about Bulgaria, so it's very — rewarding to be able add her to my painting — It's my picture, so I can — do it," he says, expressing sympathy for the Bulgarian women working, — stooped over in the fields, while the men hang out in the pastures herding — the sheep and goats.

While he sometimes paints on location, he prefers photographing — and sketching the scene, noting the contrast, shadows, colors as he feels — led to paint them, and then having the time luxury to paint in his studio. —

Using 100-percent acid-free, rag paper, Whitsett lets — the paper provide any white needed in the painting. Using a stick-like — tool, he applies a substance similar to rubber cement. Once he's painted — the rest of his picture and it's dried, he peels this off. His prints — are created with a Giclee printer.

Bringing out photographs of hundreds of paintings, Whitsett — says, "I paint everything. Some can paint only one thing, but I would — get bored."

The watercolors are inspired by a wide spectrum of subjects: — The barn at Weisenger's Vineyard and Winery, Costa Rican birds (he's a — member of the Audubon Society), Black Rhinos in Zimbabwe (one of the tours — he and his wife took with Earthwatch), capuchin monkeys in Venezuela's — rainforest, the Ashland Plaza, and of course Lithia Park, to name a few. —

Whitsett who seems to be as passionate about nature as — he is about colors and contrast and shadows, hearing the sounds of water — or the leaves rustling in a breeze as he paints.

"The joy is in the creating. And there's nothing more — rewarding then someone buying a painting - because they like it. I enjoy — it and I want other people to enjoy it too."

Jerry Whitsett's watercolors can be viewed at the Art — and Soul Gallery, 247 E. Main St. In April, his work along with Joan Whitsett's — will be shown in the Upper Room Coffee House, Ashland Christian Fellowship, — 50 W. Hershey St.