Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What stops us

Steven Pressfield calls it "Resistance."  Julia Cameron calls it our "Censor."  What is it?  It's that mean voice in our head that tells us we can't do it.  Sometimes it's not even a voice in our own head, but the voice of someone we love.  You wouldn't think so, but sometimes those people who are the closest to us are also getting in the way of our dream.  That longed for dream - that play we want to write, the painting we want to paint, the song we want to sing - whatever it is that we really want to do.  Our dream is always met with something that makes it really, really hard to get going.  Even if we can get going, it may show up again and say, "this is stupid."  "This is the dumbest thing you have EVER painted!"  And Yes, it happens to me.  Sometimes it will take me all day to get in the studio and paint.  And on days like yesterday, when I am finally in the studio working, it will say something so horrible to me that I wish it would just take form so I could slap it in the face.  Funny thing is, it seems to come from within my own mind.  (and I am not quite ready to slap myself in the face.  Yet.)

It seems that any time we want to change our lives for the better we are met with this force.  You might not understand what I am talking about.  Or maybe you think it only happens to artists and creative people.  So let me bring it closer to home.  Have you ever tried to start a new exercise plan?  Lose weight?  Have you ever wanted to quit a high-paying, secure job to do something that is more spiritually fulfilling or to serve others?  Those kinds of endeavors are also prime targets for the Censor.  Resistance.  Fear.  Shame.  Call it what you will, it is real, and it will make it SO HARD for you to live your dream.
"Where Treasure Lies."  Oil on Canvas, 40 x 30 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011
 It was a revelation for me to first read about this force.  I thought I alone experienced it.  I even thought there was something wrong with me.  I thought to myself, "if I know I want to be an artist, WHY can't I just go after it?"  I first found out about this whole thing by reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  Then, when I read Steven Pressfield's book, The War of Art, I felt better.  I wasn't alone, and what I was suffering from had solutions.  Maybe not a cure, but ways to push that mean old Critic out of the way so I could keep on going.  So if any of what I am writing about sounds familiar to you, take heart.  Go out and get yourself one (or both) of these two books.  And then, whatever you do, take a step towards your dream.  You will be surprised what happens when you do.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”     ~Marianne Williamson

Thursday, June 23, 2011

True World Gallery

This is a tribute to the art gallery where my art was first introduced to the high desert community.  True World Gallery in downtown Joshua Tree will (sadly!) be closing its doors this weekend.  This gallery is not a large gallery with high ceilings and pretension (thankfully), but it is a gallery that offered art both from local artists as well as artists from outside our community.  There was always something new hanging on the walls at True World.  George and Bonnie Kopp, the proprietors of the gallery, managed to show artists from 6 states, not including California.  The art ranged from local desert landscapes to abstract to outsider art - even art cars.  Three art car artists had shows at True World Gallery, and at one point, True World even managed to get some art cars to come to Joshua Tree.
My first solo exhibition in Joshua Tree, True World Gallery, February 2009.

When True World Gallery first opened four years ago, they were the first tenant in the Starlite (a small cluster of buildings with a beautiful courtyard in the middle.  There is now a yoga studio, pizza place and Mt. Fuji General Store in the Starlite.)  They were also the first retail venue on the North side of Highway 62 in downtown Joshua Tree.  George and Bonnie Kopp are active in the business and art community of Joshua Tree.  Supporters of the MBCAC (Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council) and participants in the annual Hwy. 62 Art Tours, they have been a boon to the art and artists of this area.  George Kopp is currently the president of the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce. 
From left, Barnett English, George Kopp and Bonnie Kopp

While Bonnie Kopp is the smiling face one usually would see when walking into the gallery, George has been behind the scenes working as the website designer, postcard designer, and all-around graphics wizard for the gallery.  The gallery would not be what it is without both Kopps working together to make this gallery a success.  The last day the True World Gallery will be open will be this Sunday.  Please do take a moment to stop in and thank True World for their contribution to our desert community.  This gallery has given many artists a place to show and sell art, it has been a place to find unique gifts, and it has been a place for people to gather during openings and gallery crawls.  The role of this gallery in Joshua Tree has been an important one.  Gallery hours this weekend are: Friday and Saturday from 11 to 4 and Sunday from 11 to 3.

When I asked what she will miss about True World, Bonnie responded by saying she will miss being in the public and meeting so many wonderful people.  It is because of the gallery that Bonnie knows so many people and artists in Joshua Tree.  No one knows what is next for the Kopps, once the gallery is closed, but the list of adventures and things to learn has them both excited about the future.  I know I am speaking for many of us when I say THANK YOU TRUE WORLD!!!!!  We love you, George and Bonnie!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Well, it has arrived at last.  Summer came to the desert in a blast of heat.  The rabbits came and stretched themselves out in the afternoon shade created by our house.  At one point this afternoon, I had five of them, hanging out back there.  Pono and I sit side by side, noses pressed up against the glass, and watch.  I love it.  You all know how much I have been longing for this hot weather, and now it is here.  Hurrah!!!!  Remember how I said I was going to strap the camera around my neck until I got a good photograph of a lizard?  Well, turns out it's too hot to have a camera strapped around your neck, this time of year.  So the good lizard photo must wait.  Instead, I give you photos of a morning walk with Mr. Pono the fuzzball dog, taken just a few days ago.

I also have a photo of a new painting to share with you.  After two weeks of working on it, contemplating it, changing it, changing it again, moving it from the studio to the living room to the floor to the easel to the living room and back, I still don't know how I feel about it.  But maybe it's done.  Or maybe I am done with it.  I even got to the point where I had sewed a large piece of rusted metal on it, only to decide that was a mistake and cut the metal off.  Come to think of it, this painting was actually re-worked from something I had started way back in February.  yeah.  Anyway, here it is.  I know I always say this, but it's much better in person. 
"Diminished."  Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011.
Now go eat some watermelon, wouldja?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Thursday

Here we are, at the tail end of a week that has been rather unproductive for me, at least in the studio.  I have been struggling with some whopping headaches, which I am attributing to bad allergies.  I am frustrated by the setback, but at least today I didn't wake up with pain in my head.  It's the first time I have felt like myself in five days.   I still plan to move slowly, just to be on the safe side.
Here the iguana is again, running from my camera.

This will be a brief post, because I am anxious to get back to my paint.  I just want to show you the desert iguana I saw yesterday, sitting in the shade.  I have had some trouble getting a good lizard photo, because those lizards are quite shy, especially when I have my camera.  (I swear they seem to know!)  I now resolve to strap my camera around my neck, until a good lizard shot is accomplished!

Here is the first painting of a tortoise I have done.  Another in the "art journal" series.   And no, this painting was NOT actually inspired by my tortoise sighting earlier this week.  I painted it last week, from a photo I had taken a year or two ago.  Isn't it interesting that I painted this, and then had my tortoise sighting?  I thought so too.  I just realized that many of you are new to my blog, and probably haven't read my past posts about the desert tortoise.  So if you want to know a bit more about this amazing creature, click here. 
"mnop."  Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.  ©Karine Swenson2011
I hope you all have a sunny, ice cream-laden weekend.  I plan to lock myself in the studio until something happens.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Close Encounters

Because I spend so much time hiking and running with Pono, I usually get a chance to see a desert tortoise or two in the spring.  This year, I was beginning to despair that I missed my chances since I was out of the country for much of the prime tortoise-viewing.  I have been careful to go to the places where we've seen them in past years, but to no avail.  The hot weather is beginning to descend, and the flowers are fading.  I feared the worst - that I would not get a close encounter of the tortoise kind!  So you can imagine my joy this morning, when I returned to the car at the end of our morning run to find a tortoise, quietly hanging out about 20 feet from the car.  It was as though someone came along and placed the tortoise there and said, "wait for Karine."  I know that's not what happened, but it felt like such a gift to see her!  There isn't much that equals the wonder at seeing a desert tortoise in the wild.  I was careful not to get too close or make too much noise.  She merely waited for me to take a few photos, with a casual blink, every now and then.   

That one tortoise sighting was enough to make me float on a wave of happiness all day.  Maybe she was sent to me, to tell me that even though M is halfway around the world, and even though my paintings aren't turning out the way I want them to, and even though I am not selling as much art as I would like, it's all going to be okay.  From the blinking eye of a tortoise, who has endured much more than I have:  life goes on.  

The other recent close encounter was this one:
"uhhhh...what the heck is this thing?"

"Hmmm...smells exactly like stinky dog breath!"
Have a great week, you crazy kats.  And remember, it's all going to be okay.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I don't know what's wrong with me, but today I don't feel like doing much of anything.  Is it a belated spring fever?  Or is it because the two big paintings I have been struggling with all week have completely worn me out?  Or maybe it's because M is on the other side of the world and the other side of the clock, and in order to talk to him, I usually stay up late or get up early.  (Sometimes I do both.)  Perhaps it is a combination of all of those things.  Whatever the cause, I guess one day of little productivity won't be the end of me.

Our palo verde tree is in full bloom, and I have been finding excuses to go outside and sit near it, listening to the bees happily buzzing.  I can't decide if there are more bees or more blossoms.  It seems as though the entire tree is buzzing!  I love it.  Knowing it won't last means that I am more than justified for enjoying it.  Once the blossoms fall, it will be one more year before the glory happens once more.  The lobivinia cactus in our yard also bloomed again this week.  The giant pink bloom usually only lasts one day.  This year, the cactus set a record for itself, and bloomed four times!  The first time was when I was in Thailand, and so you can imagine my joy when it bloomed again and again when I got home.  A wonder.  A gift.

I finished (I think I finished) a 40 x 30 inch jackrabbit painting this week.  You have to wait to see it, though, until I am sure that I am satisfied with it.  It was touch and go for a while, because I very nearly painted over the whole thing at one point.  That is how it goes sometimes.  I also have been in the middle of a large 48 x 48 inch abstract, which is in a stage of wait and see.  In order to keep you all from mutiny, I will share a tiny (in comparison) cottontail painting.  This is the third in the series of "art journal experiments."
"air."  Acrylic and paper on canvas, 8x 8 inches.  ©Karine Swenson2011

To all of my fellow bloggers:  please forgive my lack of reading and commenting!  I will slowly try to catch up with all of you this weekend.  Thanks, always for reading and commenting, and have a fantastic weekend!  Love ya!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rabbits abound

Another jack rabbit painting found a home this weekend.  The best part about its new home is that I will get to see it again, because it doesn't live too far from us here in Joshua Tree.  That is happy news! 
"Black Tailed Ck," Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches.  ©Karine Swenson2011

It has been a challenge to be in the studio after being away for so long.  I am having trouble re-connecting with my work in the same way.  It's not surprising.  I have been to a foreign country and seen all kinds of new things.  Life has shifted.  Enough has changed that my work must change with it.  Of course, that kind of transition is never without feelings of confusion.  Maybe even a little frustration.  It may take awhile for my art to reflect the shift.  One must first absorb new experiences before that information is integrated into art.  We shall see what becomes of it all.

In the meantime, I have been experimenting with ideas that came from my art journal.  (For those of you who don't know what that is, my art journal is a place where I write, draw, collage AND paint.  I allow it to be a free platform for play and experimentation.  I don't work in it that often, but I do pull it out from time to time and glue, write, and basically make a mess.)  The first two paintings from the art journal explorations were completed last week.  They are a mix of collage, acrylic, gesso and various other markers and paper.  On board. 
Music to my Ears, mixed media on board, 12 x 9 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011

"Those Ears," mixed media on board, 14 x 11 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011
So many rabbit paintings!  I blame it on the proliferation of rabbits in our yard.  They are abundant this year.  Do they know this is their year?  I wonder.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Plight of a Lifelong Nerd

Ten Reasons why I will never be "cool":
1.  I grew up in South Dakota
2.  I have worn glasses since I was in oh, like 4th grade.  Despite the transition to contact lenses, I always have an image of myself: skinny & short, with braces and glasses.  Un-cool.
3.  I don't watch TV, but I have been known to spend hours watching the wild creatures outside our windows.  Jackrabbits, quail, cottontails, lizards, and even the occasional roadrunner or coyote.  That, for me, is entertainment.
4.  I don't like the city.  Traffic, noise, crowds...uck.
5.  If given the choice, I would take a night at home alone over a night out at a party, pretty much anytime.
6.  I don't really like the Beatles.
7.  Abstract Art.  My favorite.
8.  Hours of my time are spent with books.  Not Kindle.
9.  Apple, MacIntosh, IPhones, ITunes.  I don't really see the draw.  Is it some kind of cult?
10.  I am in love with the idea of dressing up to travel or go out in public, and I'm not talking about just putting on a clean t-shirt here.  Hats, gloves, heels, lipstick.  You see?  Decidedly un-cool.

Don't worry.  I am not upset about it.

Here I am, back in Joshua Tree, waiting for it to be 100 degrees.  I know of at least two other people who like the hot summers as much as I do.  (Pono is not one of the aforementioned people.  Even if he WAS a person, instead of a dog.)  Lovers of the heat, we must wait.  It's been cool and windy.  We'll get one day of hot weather, and then the wind comes and blows it all away.  I haven't even switched my bed out of flannel sheets yet!  But I am a notorious wimp, when it comes to the cold.  So don't mind me.  Much.

I swear, I am trying to be a better blogger.