Gretchen sought creative adventures as a kid with fort building to inventing pastries, called Roll-E-Os. Formal art education started at ISOMATA, now known as Idyllwild Arts, before she was a teen. Upon graduating high school, Gretchen attended Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, discovering a love for endless mediums: from figure drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpting to bronze casting.
In 1995, she graduated from Sonoma State University with Distinction, where the traditional methods of printmaking in etching and lithography was instructed by Kirt Kemp and Shane Weare.
After graduating, Gretchen returned to San Luis Obispo and became a member of the San Luis Artists' Gallery in the historic Creamery, where she directed the painting of a mural with the art community.
Then in the heat of August 2003, it became clear that returning back home to 29 Palms to establish her life long dream of the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery with the support of her mom, Jane Van Lahr Grunt-Smith, was the best choice of her life. Also, another desert art movement was well on its way of redefining the whole Morongo Basin community, and today is one of the most desirable places to live.
As the Creative Center bloomed, Gretchen joined the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council (MBCAC), Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007. The MBCAC now represents a diverse range of artists in their JTAG gallery and the Annual Hwy 62 Art Tours.
Today, Gretchen still works in a wide range of mixed media: clay, painting, printmaking on or off the etching press, pyrography, encaustic, collaging and bookmaking. She shares her knowledge by teaching directly out of her art studios to children, adults, schools, scouts, party goers and lots of homeschoolers.
With the Griffin Etching Press, making unique monotype prints to complex combinations of traditional processes: drypoints, stencils, collage elements, etchings, and linoleum cuts is a joyful adventurous experiment. On canvas, the brush-strokes have emerged in striking colors using the surrounding desert landscape for inspiration. In recent years learning new techniques in pyrography (wood burning) and encaustic painting has added to the joy factor, plus developing more skills in sculpting clay to throwing unique desert reliefs on the pottery wheel keeps her young at heart.
Convinced that the desert environment and its community are a source of inspiration, Gretchen donates 3% of her personal art sales to the Mojave Desert Land Trust to give back thanks for their inspiring stewards of this fragile and sacred desert landscape.
CLICK HERE to read Gretchen's teaching philosophy.