Watercolor Artist Kristine Fretheim
Through abstract art, Kristine Fretheim searches for clarity. The introverted watercolor artist had given up her lifelong painting hobby to dedicate her undivided attention to Zen meditations. A few years ago, however, she returned to art to find that her true passion had been quelled. It was ready to flow again. She painted profusely.
“It was … whoa,” says the petite woman in a soft voice from her Maple Grove home studio. “It just all poured out. It was quite nice. I would say that I’ve calmed down quite a bit since then, but I think most artists have a spiritual dimension in their work.”
Fretheim has been painting for about 30 years and has been featured in the Splash watercolor book series. She has won many awards, including honors from the Minnesota Watercolor Society, and has received notoriety in over 25 juried exhibitions across the U.S.
Yet Fretheim is still searching. She is constantly looking for new subjects, new angles and new styles. She is seeking art appreciation and aptitude from the public. She wants to understand the meaning (if any) in the works of other artists. She hopes to convey the emotions in her own artwork.
Fretheim says anything from trips to her backyard garden or to a Maple Grove coffee shop can inspire her to paint. She is routinely framing paintings with her eyes. “You begin to feel like your head is a camera,” she says. “It’s everywhere you look.”
On a dreary December day, Fretheim’s studio had the color of summer. On her work table was a painting of a young man at a street-side coffeehouse table on a sunny day. It was based off a cell phone camera snapshot she took. It was a departure from the close-up paintings of the plants and gardens she typically depicts. Another one of Fretheim’s departures is an upcoming project drawing off of photos of her body’s shadow in the grass. “I just love it,” she says. “It’s abstract!”
Fretheim’s work focuses on nature, with a series on the Hen and Chicks plants. “I do bring color and emotion to my work,” Fretheim says. “It’s not exactly what reality looks like. I bring color and hope that whatever emotion I’m feeling in the painting is going to come out.”
LuAnn Svendsen understands Fretheim. She has two of Fretheim’s still-life paintings in the dining room of her Plymouth home. “There is so much depth to the color,” Svendsen says. “The color is so true. When you think watercolor, it can look muddy or the color can be faded, but these are bright, true and real. That is what attracted me. … She has amazing talent with color.”
Sometimes, however, people will see Fretheim’s work in a gallery and give an intended compliment which ends up stinging her. “I see it as more abstract; and they say it’s more realistic,” she says. “People will come up and see my paintings and say it looks like a photograph. That kind of hurts. I’m sure that when they say that, they mean it as a compliment, but that is not my objective at all. That is one of the problems that I struggle with. I don’t want to be a photo realist. I’m painting from my heart. This is my view. I’m sharing that with the world.”
Fretheim, a part-time graphic designer, is undecided on what direction to take her hobby. She sells originals, giclée prints and notecards directly to customers, but doesn’t know where to put her work next. More juried shows? A gallery?
For Fretheim, it’s just another search.
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