Inspired by her grandmother, Ms. Olson has been painting since she was a child. At school, she says, "kids were asking me to draw them a horse and I would give (the pictures) away."
Her parents, who were musicians, wanted her to become a violinist. Instead, she followed her passion for painting.
She was introduced to California landscapes when she visited her grandmother in Auburn, California. Her grandmother would take her on hikes in the Sierra foothills, and they would sketch and paint together.
Studying music and playing musical instruments influenced how she sees rhythm in nature, she says. "Music, nature and art are (as) alike as they are different," she says. One sees "rhythm in the way the breeze blows across water, the way things grow, how trees are aligned, and how clouds move."
The artist, she says, has to "be a silent observer of nature to take it all in and transfer it to paint."
Ms. Olson, who lived in Hawaii for 21 years, moved to Palo Alto a year ago. A local artist introduced her to Portola Pastures ranch on Arastradero Road and it has become one of the most inspiring landscapes for her, she says. She describes the area as tranquil, majestic and stately. Comparing her work in Hawaii with that in California, she says her palette is now "much warmer; the scenes are less repetitive."
She has painted people, but prefers landscapes. "When communicating with people, it's easy to feel emotion, and it's harder with something with a tree or landscape," she says. "You have to see the world differently. You have to isolate yourself in order to see beauty."
Local realist painter Tara Norwood, who takes classes from Ms. Olson, says she "has a wonderful way of explaining things that really breaks down the fundamental components of painting. For me, where I was, it was a blessing to find this class and her teaching, and now I am a devotee."
Ms. Olson's work has "a liveliness and character that is unique," says Ms. Norwood, "They're not photo-realist. They are very loose and expressive. That's something I want more in my work."
Visit KristenOlson.net for more information. Kristen Olson's work is on display through March at the Portola Art Gallery at Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road in Menlo Park.