Thursday, December 13, 2012

The concept

Those of you who have been reading my blog or getting my newsletters know that I have a solo show coming up in April at the Metro Galleries in Bakersfield, California. I have been turning ideas over and over in my head for the show. I wanted to have something new that still had a strong connection to the work I have been doing. (Artists always want something new, doncha know.) As the days passed and the clock ticked, I began to fear that an idea would never come. Just when all hope was lost, it came. Whew! (breathe a sigh of relief for me here.) Now at last I can move forward with my paintings for the show. Since I abhor waiting until the last minute, I am really really happy about this.

Here it is: "Real and Imaginary: A Collection of paintings." I plan to paint a series of animals. Some will be done from real animals like what I've been doing with the desert animals, and some will be done from imaginary animals (mainly toys.) I am going to include the non-representational (abstract) paintings in the show. It is a way to show a progression: how far can we get from the way a real animal looks, while still recognizing it for what it is? It is a way for me to explain that my abstract work is not imaginary, as one might think, but rather a conglomeration of all the visual information that I take in all day every day.

Here is the first painting:
"Seated Horse." Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. ©Karine Swenson 2012
This was painted from a tiny eraser I have, which was given to me by a dear friend. For one thing, when was the last time you ever saw a horse sitting down? If you compare it to what a horse really looks like, it really doesn't resemble a horse at all, and yet, somehow, we think of it as a horse, and we even teach our kids that something like this is a horse. There are more ideas that have been sparked surrounding my idea for this show, but I just wanted to give you a little taste. (this isn't a great photo of the painting, but it's too rainy outside today to get a better photo.)

What do you think of my concept?

I'm getting ready. Canvas and stretcher bars have been ordered. The first batch of art supplies arrived today.  Now I need to do some exploring of places with animals, to get some photos from real animals to paint. I will keep you posted on the progress here, just stay tuned.

"The concept is only the start of the process, the hardest work always comes after, when you're trying to make the idea real." - Harry West (Continuum's CEO)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One last peek at Sequim

It's fun to look at my photos from Washington state after being back in the desert. Such contrast. Mushrooms, for example. Not something we see everyday in Joshua Tree, that's for sure.

This photo has pretty much everything Joshua Tree doesn't have: water, leaves and tall trees.
It was nice to see the ocean, too. I took photos of the water, but of course it's always the creatures that really capture my attention.

I even got to ride on a ferry, and see Seattle in sunshine. WOW.

I knew I was back in the desert, driving back from Las Vegas Airport, since I had to watch out for all the tarantulas crossing the road. I wanted a photo to share with all of you, but it didn't seem safe to lay down in the middle of a road to photograph a tarantula. (I now regret not taking that small risk, since I haven't seen a tarantula since I got home.)

I love visiting other places, but it is always always nice to be home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A walk in Sequim, WA

I am visiting family in Sequim, WA for the Thanksgiving holiday. What a complete change from the desert! It rained for 6 hours straight the day before yesterday, which was an absolute marvel to this desert dwelling girl. (Real rain?) When I went for a run yesterday, I could see my breath. Another wonder! And leaves. Oh, and did I mention I have seen shades of green I had nearly forgotten about? I've decided to drink in all of these new sights, and fill up my creative well. It's so important to do this, from time to time.

I thought you might like to come for a walk with my Dad and I.

I am fortunate that my Dad is incredibly patient with me, since I have to stop every ten paces to snap another photograph.

There are deer wandering around this neighborhood, and I have seen them three times now. Here are a couple of shots of them I NEVER would have gotten, had Mr. Pono the fuzzy dog been with me.

Are you doing anything special for Thanksgiving?
I am grateful for you, for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts with me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


One good reason to wake up early:

I love this bent over Joshua Tree in our backyard. It feels like an old woman with osteoporosis, bent over with age. Yet she still stands, resilient in the wind.

I found this short little clip about Georgia O'Keeffe on It is well worth five minutes of your time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Tile House

The sweet face that greeted me upon arrival.
The longer we live in the desert, the more opportunities I have to see the infinite wonders of this place. Last weekend, I was privileged to be the dinner guest out at the Tile House in Wonder Valley, CA. (Wonder Valley is about 20 minutes east of Joshua Tree on Highway 62.) I always love driving out to Wonder Valley. It has a vastness to it that I find powerful and grand.

Artist Perry Hoffman started covering the surfaces of his desert house with mosaic tile about twelve years ago. I have never seen anything like it. Both interior and exterior walls have been lovingly re-surfaced with colorful tiles. A little help from Kickstarter this year has propelled him forward. What an incredible work in progress!
The View from the patio

Dining area
Hoffman told me he took a class in San Francisco from a friend to learn how to do mosaic tile, and that was where is all started. Now, Hoffman teaches classes in mosaic tile when he isn't working on this phenomenal house. Hoffman is also a photographer, works in clay, and has recently begun painting in acrylic. Some of his clay pieces end up in his mosaics.

This is the section he had been working on the day I visited. 

In the kitchen

The back of the house is not tiled, but the colorful stripes danced with many of the same colors in the mosaics.
We had a wonderful night of pizza, dog petting and art talk. I am so fortunate to meet so many creative people. To find out more about the Tile House and see some more of Hoffman's work, you can click here to visit his website. A big thank you to Perry, for inviting me to visit!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dog love

Someone flipped a switch, and BAM! it's windy and cold in the desert. (only 48 degrees F when I went out this morning with Mr. fuzzy Pono-who-loves-the-cold). The only reason I went outside was because of a pestering dog who couldn't WAIT to run out in the cold. Once out in the cold, this pestering dog stopped for a moment to sniff the wind, then ran and barked at absolutely nothing. Dogs are the best therapy out there. They know how to live in the moment. They show joy and enthusiasm for life and simple pleasures. They eat kibble, the same kibble, every day and don't complain. I am inspired by my dog.

While out on said run, we were joined by the bravest raven I have met so far. It flew right alongside us while we ran. Pono loves to bark at ravens, but despite his ferocious barking, this raven remained undaunted. It kept up with us, occasionally landing on a Joshua Tree to squawk at us. I felt like it really had something to say, but I don't speak raven. A little part of me wonders if it was merely trying to tease the dog. I tried to take a photo with my phone, but with the wind trying to blow the raven off the tree and the camera out of my hand, I'm afraid the photo is not worth posting.
Yesterday's stormy sunrise.
I am heading back into the studio today, as I am gearing up to show with the talented artists at JTAG starting in December. I will be showing new work there every month until April of 2013. Then, in April comes a solo show in Bakersfield at Metro Galleries. After selling so many paintings during the Art Tours, I have some work to do! Such a nice problem to have.

How are you adjusting to fall? Has everyone settled into the time change? (I still haven't, but I am loving being up to watch the sunrise every morning.) I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall's arrival

It has been a beautiful Indian Summer here in the high desert. We've had the kind of wind-free, warm-sun weather where it's hard to stay indoors and get "things" done. The outside beckons. Therefore, I answer its call and go out. Come in. Then go out again. Things are just beginning to show the touch of cooler night air.

The fishhook cactus. It's always red, but I think I notice it more now that the sky is that impossible fall blue.

The desert willow

I don't have much to say tonight, so I have decided to share with you words written by my friend Erik Stalheim. This is what I really want to say, and it is so much better in his words. (Thanks, emmet!)

ridiculous to dam tears, at times
i am so full of the world
It can only squeeze Itself through ducts
collect itself in perfect globes of 
                      wet salt
and then fall, following gravity
               to Its source
And the world does not fit
inside my skin, bursts me like a
splitting cocoon to birth the sun - 
Its light allows no boundaries
still these eyes that give tears
make them out, blurred or cut
sharply in love
                                          ~Erik Stalheim, 2004

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The critic

She lives inside of me. When I look in the mirror, all she sees are the flaws - a chubby belly, every single wrinkle and blemish, limp hair, a crooked smile. When I go out in public, she has something to criticize about what I say or what I don't say. She's hard on me, and makes me doubt myself. When I enter the studio, she tells me I have no right to think I can paint or draw. She asks me who I think I am - to spend time believing myself to be an artist. She is the loudest before I begin. Sometimes, her voice paralyzes me. She lends an air of uncertainty to every line, every brushstroke. Even when I have done well, she tells me not to get too excited. There must have been a mistake. It won't last.

Who is she? She is my inner critic.

No matter how much criticism I may get from others, no one knows me the way she does. What she tells me hurts the most. Maybe because she knows me so well, and knows what I am capable of. She is honest, and for that reason I can't ignore her completely. She is there even when I sit down to write, that busy lady. There is her voice in my ear, "You aren't a writer! What do you think you are doing? No one is reading your blog. Give up now." She really does say things like that.

Over time, I have learned to tune out much of what she says. It is the only way I can create art. I push her to the back of my head, and play music to drown out her voice. However, I have also learned there is a reason I have her. Her voice is what spurs me on to be better. She has prompted me time and time again to see my shortcomings and to try to improve upon them. She propels me forward. Without her challenging voice, I may not have pushed myself into higher levels of achievement, both as an artist and as a human being. We are now even on friendly terms. (Well, sometimes anyway.) I recognize my need for her. But I have learned to identify when to listen to her and when to turn up the music.

Do you have one of these? If you do, then you know exactly what I am talking about. Maybe you too have learned some of the things I have about that voice in your head. Perhaps you even have helpful thoughts to add to what I have learned. If so, please share!

In other news, I just want to take a moment to thank EVERYONE who came to my studio last weekend during the Art Tours. I had my best event ever, and it is because of you. I am grateful you took the time to drive down our bumpy, dusty road to see my new work. You took the time to give me your feedback, and many of you found something you loved and bought my art. WOW. I am blown away. Thank you! (There's also a heartfelt thank you to those of you who came before the Art Tours and bought something from me. You know who you are.) Many of my blogger friends who are far away sent me messages of encouragement. I am including all of you in my gratitude. You are all important to me - I couldn't keep painting without all of your support! Mahalo to you all!

Two of THIRTY ONE paintings that went to good homes over the weekend:
"Heat Tolerant I." Collage, acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012 

"Heat Tolerant II." Collage, acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.  ©Karine Swenson2012
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quail paintings

This will be very quick, since I am busy getting everything just so for this weekend's open studio. I did get to visit other artist's studios last weekend. I think I visited about twelve other artists. I had so much fun, and I got to meet some new faces. It is inspiring to see what others are creating. I am so glad I took the time to drive around and visit.

More new work:
"One Step at a Time." Collage, acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches. ©Karine Swenson

"Paused." Collage, acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012
I hope you are all doing okay and enjoying fall! I will try to actually write something next week, when the Hwy 62 Art Tours are over.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Art Tours begin

"Dragonfly." Oil and graphite on canvas, 14 x 11 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012

This is it! The weekend that begins the Hwy 62 Art Tours. This event encompasses over 100 artists and is our biggest annual art event. I am not showing my work until next weekend, so I am looking forward to going out and seeing what the other artists of the desert are working on. How exciting! I still have some work to do before I am fully prepped for next weekend, but I feel much more ahead of the game than I usually do at this time. It helps to plan ahead, doesn't it?

I finally sat down at the computer yesterday and updated my website. I should have done it last week, but I chose to paint instead. Really, there is no question of what will win out when choosing between sitting at the computer all day and painting. Painting won. Yet, I understand that the art I create must also been seen and then must venture out, bravely into the world. Therefore, the website gets tackled. If you are interested and have a moment, I would love for you to click on this link and tell me what you think: I would greatly appreciate any comments.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! I am grateful for your comments, emails and visits. Thanks for reading, and thanks for interacting!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Connecting with art

I enjoyed the comments and emails I received after my last post. Thank you all, for making the effort to tell me your thoughts! The things you wrote have led me to another topic - one about connecting people through art. I do think there are times when a piece of art draws us closer to ourselves. We respond to something un-nameable within that just feels "right" somehow. It's as though you look at the art and feel a bell, deep within, resounding. I love it when that happens! When it does happen, then the artist has truly tapped into something universal, and I suppose that is really what we are striving for. Connecting with other people and with someone else's art is all about finding a common thread. Something that we can relate to.

Don't you often think that finding differences is sometimes easier than finding commonalities? I think encountering "strange" art (and I mean "new to us" when I use that word) is often just like encountering "strange" ("new to us") people. At first, we might feel threatened or unsure. Do we like this? Do we feel a common thread? Is there anything about this "strangeness" that we can relate to? I have always asserted that time is what we need in order to find the common links with something new. The more time we spend with something or someone, the better chance we have of knowing and hopefully, understanding. Of course, the reverse is also true. Sometimes, we meet someone or something and we think we really like them, but after spending time with them, we find that we don't really like them as much as we thought. Or maybe we are just looking at differences, instead of searching for commonalities. What do you think?

I remember when I was in college, I read an article about people who cried in front of a work of art. Here I was, studying art and creating art, and nothing like this had ever happened to me. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I wasn't even a real artist!!!! Then, about five or six years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I have always loved Van Gogh's paintings, but I don't think I had ever seen one in person. I was so excited! The things that I remember about that experience will stay with me forever. For one thing, despite years and years of looking at reproductions of Van Gogh's paintings in books, I was unprepared for the colors. The colors he used and the way he put color together literally blew my mind. Being in the presence of his paintings was nothing like seeing them in books! Then, towards the end of the museum visit, I came across a painting he had painted for his nephew. It was a painting of a flowering tree. As I stood before this painting, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. And there I was, crying in front of a painting.

For me, that says a lot about the difference between seeing a reproduction of a work of art versus being in the presence of the actual work. It is the reason why the internet will never replace the physical world. It just isn't the same thing. It is also the reason why a reproduction of a work of art will never be the same as the original work.

Let's face it folks. Nothing beats the real thing.

Another new painting:
"Going Postal." Collage, acrylic and oil on board, 8 x 10 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012
Happy Wednesday, all!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


"Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better." ~Henry Rollins

"Music to My Ears III." Collage, acrylic and oil on board, 8 x 10 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson
It has been argued that the human condition is one of loneliness. Others may think that loneliness is unique only to them. Still others have told me that they prefer solitude to being with other people, for various reasons. Being alone is not always lonely. I am alone quite often. There are no children to distract me. My husband is gone frequently. (more often now than at other times, but it is the nature of his work that he is away often.) I have a dog, and I love my dog, but a dog is no replacement for the companionship of other humans.

Of course, in our modern era, we have devices to make us feel more "connected." Telephones, internet, and the social connection of all social connections - FACEBOOK. And yet, despite these modern wonders, I am often left feeling lonelier after having used these devices and having visited Facebook than I was beforehand. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing that will replace a face-to-face visit with a friend or loved one. Perhaps our modern devices only prevent us from seeing each other in person more. What do you think?

The reality of an artist's life is one of solitude. Hours are spent alone, in the studio. Hours are also spent alone, reflecting on the work. Good work only comes from that solitude. I don't find the solitude of the studio to be lonely. On the contrary, when I am in the studio working, I am the most at peace. I am the most myself during those times. The struggles and triumphs I experience in the studio are mine and mine alone. Yet, I do have hope that those moments of trial and joy are somehow transferred into my paintings and then on to others. I do hope for that. I also have hopes that somehow the art is another way to be connected. A way to jump start a conversation, or a way to understand another person. I wonder, do you find art to be another door or window into another person's life or outlook on life? Do you think art can be used to connect people?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hwy. 62 Art Tours

The desert begins to feel more and more like fall every day. Cooler nights, cooler, shorter days. It seems to take FOREVER for the sun to come up in the morning. Somehow, the extra darkness seems to demand more caffeine. I guess I am just a sunshine addict.

The artists of the Morongo Basin all join me in a frenzy of excited preparation for the Hwy. 62 Art Tours. This is our biggest art event of the year, featuring over 100 artists and venues. It takes place the last two weekends of October every year. This is the eleventh year for this event. If you want to find out more about it, visit the website here. I will be having my open studio on the second weekend only, October 27th and 28th from 9 to 5 pm. I love this event, because I get to meet so many wonderful people, and share with them my art. It is so much fun. The art and artists can be enjoyed during the day, and then at night there are other events. If you are thinking of coming out to the desert to visit, there is no better time to come! The weather is usually at its finest in October. (Although I make no promises here. Weather is unpredictable, as we all know.)

Here is just one of my new paintings, especially painted for the Art Tours:
"Bunny Love." Collage, acrylic and oil on board. 10 x 8 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday night

I took my portrait exhibit down from the Joshua Tree library yesterday. There is a new artist showing there now, Vera Topinka. Vera is a talented portrait photographer who mounts her photographs onto metal and combines them with rusted metal and other desert detritus. I highly recommend taking a look at her work if you happen to be in the library in Joshua Tree in the next three months. It is beautiful! Topinka will also be doing the Hwy. 62 Art Tours this year, so you can meet her in person and see even more of her photography then.

I am still focusing on the studio. New paintings! Here is a little bunny, hot of the easel:
"cottontail." collage, acrylic, graphite and oil on board, 9 x 12 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just another jackrabbit painting

It is already time to put pajamas on, so I won't write too much tonight. I just wanted to post another painting, since I have been working hard.

"Music to My Ears II." Collage, acrylic and oil on board, 9 x 12 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We have a WINNER!

Hello everyone! The moment has come. Out of 87 unique and wonderful comments, a random winner has been chosen. It is Jorin! Congratulations, Jorin!!!! You have just won a copy of Carla Sonheim's newest book Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals. Thank you to everyone who left a comment. I had fun reading all of your comments. And just so you know, Jorin, the reason my jackrabbit has such big ears is because I exaggerated his ears. He is imaginary (although based on a real jackrabbit.) I love those big jackrabbit ears.

Thanks again, everyone who left comments and visited my blog. If you didn't win this time, do hop back on over to Carla's blog. There will be more chances to win.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

I leave you with my latest painting of a bobcat. This animal is NOT imaginary, rather the painting was based on a photo I took of a bobcat that was in our backyard. It was stalking a rabbit, and you can see how just one paw was in motion:

"Stalking." Oil on board, 16 x 20 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I am excited to announce that my talented friend, Carla Sonheim, has another book out. It is called Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals and Carla is giving away a signed copy of this book right here! How cool is THAT? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. On Saturday, I will choose a random comment from this blog and give the winning name and address to Carla, who will mail the book out to one of you. You should also hop over to her blog, since she is having a TWO WEEK blog celebration with more giveaways to come.

One of my jackrabbit paintings is happy to have made an appearance in this fabulous book. Carla and I have known each other for many years. She was one of the artists I represented when I had my gallery, Cool Mountain Art, in Salida Colorado. She is a talented artist, a gifted teacher and a dear friend. Whenever I see her art, I think, "Carla is one of the most creative people I know!" I am always honored to be a part of her endeavors, so when she asked me if I would like to have a spot in this book, of course I jumped at the chance. I have taken a class from her, and I would recommend her classes highly to anyone who wants to grow creatively. I will also mention that this is her second book, and if it is anything like her first book, Drawing Lab for the Mixed Media Artist, it is well worth adding to your library.

"Badass Jack." Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches. ©2011 Karine Swenson (This is the rabbit.)

What if you don't want to wait for a chance at a giveaway? If you already know you want this new book, all you have to do is click on one of these links:
Barnes and Noble
Q Bookshop
Independent Bookstores


Don't be shy. Leave your comments right here!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Fall Return

Hi. It's been over a month since I have written anything, but I am back again. I hope all of you are doing okay. I will try to catch up with all of my fellow bloggers this week, if I can. Sorry for the long silence. Sometimes a person just needs to retreat and re-group. Maybe that's what I was doing.

I recently watched the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins. If you have yet to see this movie, I highly recommend it. Especially the part where Hopkins' character (Burt Munro) says to the neighbor boy "If you don't follow your dreams, Thomas, you might as well be a vegetable."

I will be having a giveaway on Wednesday here on the blog, so if you like trying for a chance to get something for free, please check back on Wednesday! (I am not going to spoil the surprise.)

I am gearing up for this year's Hwy. 62 Art Tours. I am going to once again open my studio for the last weekend of October. Walls are being patched and painted. Wires are being put on new paintings. Things are getting framed, dusted and generally cleaned up. I plan to have everything looking sharp! For those of you on my mailing list, some postcards will be sent out in the next week or so. (Some of you have already gotten yours.) This is a once-a-year event, and it is the biggest event for the art community here in the Morongo Basin. I hope you are marking your calendars for October27th and 28th! More about this event will be available in the upcoming weeks, but if you have questions, please feel free to email me.

It is slowly beginning to feel like fall, and today brings a gusty wind. I had forgotten about wind, it's been so calm and hot. It won't be long now before I am dragging out longer sleeves and (ulp!) SOCKS.

What have YOU been doing lately?

Here is a still-wet-and hot-off-the-easel Cottontail painting:
"Tail End." Collage, acrylic and oil on board. 12 x 9 inches. Karine Swenson  ©2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dancer's Daydream

"The Dancer's Daydream." Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. ©2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hot day help

We can learn a lot by observing nature. Today's lesson is about how to survive in the desert on sweltering summer days.
1. Find a shady spot near water.

2. Drink a lot of that water.

3. Dig down to the cooler earth and stretch out.

4. Get as low as possible and try not to move.

5. And no matter what, don't let the heat turn you into an a**.

Happy August, my lovelies, from the jackrabbits, the cottontails, a roadrunner and myself!