Monday, February 28, 2011

Flora and Fauna

Even though spring is near, it has been rather cold here in the high desert.  I go outside with Pono, rain or shine.  (Although I admit that in the wind and rain, I do tend to complain a lot.)  It only takes a hint of sunshine for me to be outside with my camera, looking for glimpses of the desert to share with you.  I have been especially on the watch for Joshua Trees with blooms or buds on them.  Oddly enough, I don't have as many photos as I thought I did of the blossoms.  I will blame it on the rain.  Here is a sampling of what I have been seeing, in the past few weeks.
A bud on a tree just down the street from our house.

A Cactus I saw in the Park that looks like someone took a bite out of.
This is a popular time of year for the Joshua Tree National Park to be filled with rock climbers.  For some reason, I always like to see them dangling.
Temperatures are expected to slowly climb all week.  Those of you who know me will understand how happy that makes me. 

My solo exhibition opens this Saturday, March 5th at The Red Arrow Gallery here in Joshua Tree.  Here is another painting that will be included in the show.
"Almost Heaven."  oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches.  ©k.swenson2011

I have been working on inventory for the paintings I have finished so far this year.  Last year my goal was to paint one hundred paintings.  (I did achieve it.)  This year, I hadn't really finalized how many paintings I wanted to finish, but right now I have already completed over FIFTY!  I did not realize I had done so many.   I guess I have been working hard. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


It is cold.  I have gloves on, and something to cover my ears.  One foot in front of the other, again and again.  I run up the hill.   Pono is beside me, then in front of me, then he stops to sniff and falls behind.  He will catch up; he always catches up.  The air is crisp, but there is no wind.  One foot in front of the other.  Faster now, then slower.  I like to vary my pace, to see every now and again what it feels like to go all out.  Does it feel like flying?  Sometimes.  Does it feel like agony?  Sometimes.  I keep running.  I run because I need to breathe hard.  I need to feel my muscles working.  If I take too many days off from my running, I become sluggish and the stresses seem to build up within me.  I run because I like to sweat.  I run so my dog doesn't bug me all day with his restlessness.  I run.

I don't run every day.  I don't run that fast.  Sometimes, I don't even go very far.  It's just enough to be outside, breathing hard in the outside air.  Yet there are times when I feel like I need to run and run and run.  I want to push myself really hard, and be tired.  I want my legs to ache a little, when I go to bed that night.  I want to feel it.  I want to feel the sweat as it runs down my face.  Maybe it's because I ate too much sugar.  Or maybe it is just because life seems so hard sometimes.  At least I know when I am running, some of those things that drag me down are being left behind.  If I run, I know those things haven't stopped me.  If I run fast enough, they can't catch me.  It is good to have that feeling, even if it doesn't last.  When you come back from a run, you feel light, like you can float.   

Once I was running fast in deep sand, and something caught my eye, just for a moment.  I tripped, and went down hard.  My knee took the brunt of the fall, but I knew better than to look at the damage before I got home.  If you see the blood, it hurts more.  Did you know that?  It's true!  If you don't see the blood, you can pretend it isn't there, and you can run all the way home before you sit down and let one single tear fall down your cheek.  You fall down, and you get back up.  You are injured, but you will heal, and the next thing you know, you are out there running once more. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things that inspire

There are so many things in this world that make my heart sing.  One of the most delicious things in that category is friendship.  I am not only fortunate enough to have good friends that live near me, but also I have friends scattered all over the world.  Some of those friends I have never even met in person.  They are people who I have met because of the world of blogging.  It is amazing, when you think of it, that you can meet someone in another country virtually.  Mind-blowing.  To my dear friends, both near and far (you know who you are) thank you for being out there.  For putting up with me, and my incredibly long list of imperfections.   

Not too long ago, I checked my post office box to find a well-traveled brown envelope.  REAL MAIL!  Can you believe something like this even exists today?  Well, I hugged that envelope to my chest, and waited until I was at home to really savor such a special event.  Turns out that fellow artist and blogging friend Cynthia, from Germany, sent me this envelope with all kinds of goodies inside.  (Click on her name to read her blog.)  A beautiful handmade book, a card with an image of one of her paintings, and a tiny book with a cover made from a paint swatch.  So much fun!  Cynnie, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for such a thoughtful, beautiful gift!!!  Treasures.

Another thing that makes my heart sing is music.  I love music - many different kinds.  I nearly always listen to music when I paint.  Thanks goes out to M, my dear husband, who always supplies me with new interesting music to listen to.  Lately, I have been listening to several bands, and enjoying them immensely.  One such band is Over the Rhine.  Several of their albums speak to my soul, one of the favorites being Drunkard's Prayer.  Another band I have been obsessed with lately is a bit more obscure, perhaps, but equally compelling - Broken Bells.  There are many more wonderful bands making music that helps me paint, and I am thankful to them for sharing their music with the world.

I think I will devote more time on this blog to things that inspire me.  It is always nice to remind ourselves that creativity isn't something that comes from a vacuum.  It comes from how we interact with all that is around us.  So much of that is worth sharing. 
Shoreline.  Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches.  ©k. swenson2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It begins

One sure way to know that spring is coming to the desert is by the velocity of the wind.  Today, at one point, the wind was blowing at 37 miles per hour.  I suspect that there were stronger gusts than that.  Dark clouds loomed, but no rain fell.  The wind acts like a giant eraser, scrubbing away footprints in the sand.  It will also give you a free exfoliation, if you are brave enough to stand out in it while the sand pelts your face.  Pono believes the wind also makes for quality sniffing, since he will stand with his wet, black nose pointing into it, sniffing with gusto.

The other way to know that spring is coming to the desert is by the appearance of tiny green things, sprouting from the earth.  All kinds of new growth is appearing.  The first Joshua Tree bud of the season was also spotted just over a week ago.  Now my eyes scan every Joshua Tree for the sight of more buds.  It is so exciting!  I am sure most of you know that the Joshua Tree does not bloom every year, but is dependent on rainfall and a hard frost.  So far, it looks as though we are going to have a Joshua Tree blooming year, and that is something worth waiting for.

This is the first stage of the Joshua Tree bloom.  You would miss it, if you didn't know what to look for.
Later stages of the bud.  
You can be assured that I will keep you appraised of the latest desert bloom status.  I am, after all, a flower fiend.

I have been hard at work in the studio, with new paintings for an upcoming solo show on March 5th.  Here is a sneak preview of one of the smaller works that I will be showing.
"Warm Days."  Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches.  ©kswenson2011
The exhibition is at the Red Arrow Gallery, in downtown Joshua Tree.  The paintings will be a collection of my recent abstractions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bunny Love

Happy Valentine's Day, all you dear blog readers!!!  This bunny loves you.
Say What?  oil on board, 9 x 12 inches.  ©kswenson2011
and so do I!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A story

My darling blog readers, I have decided to write a story, not just for you, but also for me.  It is a reminder.

The Ungratefuls

     There once was a family who forgot to be thankful.  The sun would shine, and when they saw it, they would complain.  "It's too hot."  They wouldn't feel its warmth, or see the golden light it cast on every thing around them.  They did not put on shorts and enjoy the heat.  They did not see how the flowers reached for the sun with longing.  They did not appreciate how the earth was warmed.  They didn't eat watermelon, or go for a boat ride on a lake.  They were not able to enjoy the sun.  They forgot.  It was too hot.
     The rain would fall.  This poor family did not see how it would make the sidewalk shine.  They didn't even notice the wetness against their skin.  The earth would take in the rain, and things began to grow, but the ungratefuls would sit inside and say, "it's so wet!  Who would want to go outside in this awful weather?"  They did not see how the rain pooled and collected in puddles.  They didn't go outside with umbrellas and splash in the puddles.  They would complain about the mud.  They didn't even see the rainbow that appeared after the rain.  They did not appreciate how the land looked after a good long drink.  They forgot.  It was too wet.
     The wind would blow.  The little girl would go outside for only a moment.  She would then come right back in and say, "Oh!  The wind has messed my hair!"  The mother went out, and came right back in and said, "I have gotten dust in my contact lens!  I hate the wind!"  This poor family did not see how the seeds would be spread by the wind.  They did not see footprints in the sand erased.  They did not notice how the trees would sway in a dance, pushed by the force of the wind.  They could not appreciate the beauty in the power of the wind.  They forgot.  It was too windy.
          Autumn came.  The trees began to turn red, copper, yellow, orange and gold.  The gentle fall sunshine seeped through the leaves in the trees.  The trees slowly began to drop their leaves, gently, all over the ground.  The ground was covered with a fragrant layer of slowly fermenting leaves.  The air became crisp.  Apples ripened.  The father looked out the window and thought, "I need to rake up all of those leaves."  Father went outside and raked up the leaves, but as he was putting them in the trash bag, He stubbed his big toe on a rock.  He went inside, hunched over in pain, screaming, "blast this stupid fall weather!!!  I hate leaves!  I hate fall!"  The poor family did not appreciate the cooler temperatures or the colors of fall.  They forgot.  
     Then the snow would fall.  It covered the whole world with a soft, white blanket.  All of the shadows turned blue.  Everything was cold and quiet.  The little boy went outside, slipped and fell.  He got snow down his waistband.  He went right back inside.  "It is so cold outside!  Now my pants are wet!  I HATE snow!!!"  The father decided to drive to the store.  He got in his car and drove out of the driveway.  He began to drive down the street.  The car slid into a ditch.  It got stuck.  The father became angry.  He cursed.  He yelled.  He got out of the car and kicked the tire.  He walked home, shivering.  He went in the house and said, "the roads are terrible!  You can't drive anywhere!  I can't wait until this weather clears up!"  This poor family didn't appreciate the snow.  They forgot how.  It was too cold and snowy.
     Eventually, the family no longer left their house.  The weather was never good enough for them to enjoy.  They watched television and complained.  Nothing was ever good enough.  Soon, the hinges on the doors rusted.  Leaves piled up along the edges of the door frame.  The car battery died.  The family was not seen by the neighbors for many years.  People began to talk about the family that once lived there, but no one knew what had happened to them.  Children would dare each other to run up to the door and touch it.  People wondered if ghosts lived in that house.  The Ungratefuls seemed to vanish. 
     The seasons continued to change outside of the Ungrateful house.  Others danced on summer evenings, splashed in rain puddles, built snowmen and planted flowers in the spring.  All of these things were lost on the family who forgot how to give thanks for the good things, as the family was finally lost to the world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Opening weekend

The weekend was a smash it.  We had an amazing turnout for the Joshua Tree gallery crawl.  It is fun to see so many people out and looking at art!  A big thank you to all of you who came out on Saturday night.  It was great to see you.

I thought I would post a few of the paintings Tina Bluefield and I collaborated on for those of you who are out of town and couldn't make the opening.  We had a total of fourteen paintings in the show at JTAG.  These were painted over the course of four paintings sessions.  Each one was painted by both of us.
"Dodo."  oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches.  ©Swenson & Bluefield 2011

"Musician."  oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.  ©Bluefield & Swenson 2011
"Wonderland."  oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches.  ©Swenson & Bluefield 2011
Here is the statement I wrote for the paintings:


The experience of painting with Tina was like a visual dialogue.  Two artists, side by side, each artist making their own marks on every painting.  The marks were the words and sentences, and they passed back and forth, just as in a conversation using words.  We found ways to knit the marks together – there were even times when we could not tell who made each mark.  We talked of other things while painting: music, food, books, life.  The only discussion of the paintings before us was to determine when they were finished.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Joshua Tree Art Events

The weather has turned cold, and all I want to do is snuggle under a blanket and drink hot tea.  However, this coming weekend is a busy one, and there won't be any resting until I know I am ready for it.  There is a gallery crawl in downtown Joshua Tree, and I will have art in TWO downtown galleries!  Is that exciting or what?  I will also be sitting JTAG during the day both Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 3 pm.  So if you fancy a trip to downtown Joshua Tree, stop by and take a look.

JTAG will be featuring a collection of the collaborative paintings Tina Bluefield and I created in late December and January.  True World Gallery will feature some of my latest desert-inspired works, right next to some exquisite desert landscapes by Tina Bluefield.  I will have a couple of my newest rabbit paintings, since it is the year of the rabbit, after all, in addition to this painting here:
Applause, please.  Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches.  ©kswenson2011
Now I must rest, to be prepared for the weekend's festivities.  I hope to see some of you out and about!  Also, a special thank you to those of you who gave feedback about my website facelift!  I hope to continue to improve it this month.