"Art was in me. I think artists are born and then they choose to develop more. I think when you have an intense passion for something it is born in your soul," said Kristin Grevich, who has been intensely developing her artistic side for the past 10 years.

Grevich always had a creative bent, but got distracted from her artistic path by horses. She loved horses as a young girl, had riding lessons in her youth and even was a rodeo queen.

The late 1960s found her on a path studying fine arts and business at what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato, exploring her interests in the arts. When she spoke of her dream of going to England to ride horses, her friend dared her to do it.

Grevich took the dare.

At age 19, she left school and spent two and a half years in England riding horses.

"It was an intense program," she said. "I worked six days a week with horses, got an instructor's certificate, fox hunted [and] competed showing horses."

When Grevich returned to the United States, she continued working with horses for the next two decades, including a stint with McQuay Stables as an amateur rider. She traveled across the country - from Arizona to Florida - competing in the hunter and jumper circuit.

"But sometimes things just come to an end," Grevich said. At 35, she was ready for something else.

Real estate and appraisals

Grevich married in 1977, her son, Justin, was born in 1979 and shortly after that, her husband died. "I became the sole provider at my house," she said. "I was making it on my own."

While she still had an interest in art, she said she felt she "couldn't go off and be an artist when I needed to provide for a household and child. I didn't have the faith or the guts."

Instead, she went into real estate and eventually into appraising, owning her own business in the hope of having more control of her time - including time to paint.

"The appraising took off and I was busy with both [the real estate and the appraising]," Grevich said. Fortunately, "I got out of [the appraisal business] before the crash."

Around 2002, she decided "that if I was ever going to do my art I just have to quit everything - and I did."

Heart and soul

"I had so much to learn - still do - but I felt more stable in my life," she said of taking the dive into full-time painting 10 years ago. "I just knew that if I didn't make this choice that was in my heart and soul, I'd look back at myself when I was 90 years old and I'd be looking back at a life not yet created. I asked myself, 'Am I going to be upset at 90?' "

So she planned and saved and changed her life to paint.

Grevich had the basics of drawing and design from her time studying fine arts at MSU, Mankato. She continued learning by taking classes - such as at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts - and workshops from artists whose work she appreciated. For a time, she said, she had a goal of creating a painting every day as "a great way to improve at a faster rate."

She said she enjoys both studio work - "it's more defined and realistic" - and plein air painting - "it's outside and very fast, because of the light changing. It's very impressionistic, very loose, because it has to be."

Tibet as inspiration

Grevich describes her artwork as abstract realism. Often a part of a painting will have a focal point, real and defined. The rest of the painting may be blurred and more abstract, with brush strokes bringing you into the focal point.

The inspiration for "Way to Market" - the painting on the November cover - came from a couple of photos in a book about Tibet.

With her interest in Tibet and its people, she found herself taking a workshop in Texas taught by Huihan Liu, a Chinese artist from San Francisco. One thing led to another, and she signed up for a three-week artists' workshop Liu was leading in Tibet in September 2006.

"It was incredible," she said. "The world gets you ready for the gifts it's going to give you."

Grevich is prolific, estimating that she has completed around 1,000 paintings and drawings.

"First, you need to have the skills," she said. "Then, when you paint - if you can get yourself into the awareness deep in your soul - you're not thinking. Everything just comes natural. It just spills out of you."

FFI: www.kristingrevichart.com