Header Graphic

Born in Los Angeles, California, Elena Willets showed an interest in art from an early age. She was encouraged in her pursuit of an art career by her father, noted California artist and portrait photographer W.S. Burnham. She took her art training at California State University at Northridge with additional study at Art Center College of Design. She spent fifteen years in the commercial art field, and then moved to Estes Park, Colorado in 1983. At that time she began to follow a full-time fine art painting career, experimenting with media before deciding to concentrate fully on oil painting. She began private study with various artists in 1985, eventually focusing on plein air painting by 1990. She was one of the founders of Plein Air Painters of Estes Park, a group which continues to paint outdoors on a weekly basis.

Ms. Willets has been a winter resident of Arizona since 2003, and became an Associate Member of the Tucson Plein Air Painters in that year. She also does portraiture and other studio work, but continues to find inspiration out-of-doors, trying to capture the effects of light on the landscape. She enjoys travel and frequently paints in various other parts of the United States and Europe.

“Art is a huge part of my life, both making art and appreciating it, studying other artists. I enjoy and have learned from Sargent, Sorolla, Lucy Kemp-Welch and the French, Russian, and Californian Impressionists. Making art is how I express my love of life, my appreciation for the gifts of the earth and all it offers us. I respond to art that creates a feeling of serenity and wonder, and that’s also what I’m drawn to create. It’s what I need in my own life, and I find that other people respond to that as well.”

California State University- Northridge, CA
Art Center College of Design- Pasadena, CA

Private Study
Don Walters
Gladys Myers
R.S. Riddick
Patti Andre
Phil Starke

Workshop Coordinator for R.S. Riddick
Plein Air Colorfest 1992-1997

Awards and Shows

2007 "Journey: the Artist's Path"
The Murphey Gallery Tucson, Arizona

2006 Little Treasures
Karin Newby Gallery, Tubac, Arizona

2006 Best of Show
Variations From Life
Estes Park Plein Air Painters

2004-2006 Painting the Parks
Cultural Arts Council of Estes Park

2003 Painting the Parks
Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters

2002 Purchase Award
Cultural Arts Council of Estes Park
Plein Air at the Stanley

2001 Featured Artist
Madison & Main Gallery
Greeley, CO

1997 National Show
Northern Colorado Artists Association
Lincoln Center- Fort Collins, CO