Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I have been working large this year. Several people have been interested in the large paintings, but they do cost more - they take more time, more paint, more canvas, etc. I know that affording a large painting is tough, and I am sorry for that. But painting large is SO MUCH FUN. Nevertheless, I know I must also paint things that regular folks can afford. So I have spent the last couple of days working on smaller originals for the smaller budget. What a switch - large brushes and whole arm movements to small brushes and wrist or sometimes only finger movements. Wow.

"aahhh" Acrylic and collage on canvas, 6 x 6 inches. ©2012

"yrr." Acrylic and collage on canvas, 6 x 6 inches. ©2012

I had an exciting day, which included a visit from this beautiful desert iguana who loved LOVED having his (her???) photo taken.

Love that.

Monday, June 25, 2012


She walks in. The lights are shining, the music playing. She has been awaiting this moment all day. She inhales, exhales. The music washes over her. It is time to begin. She lifts her arms and walks into the light. She reaches out and touches. Brushes, tubes of paint. A pencil. A blob of still-wet paint on the palette. It is soft and wet on her finger. She wipes it off. Picks up a tube of paint. Squeezes. Paint slowly emerges and forms a mound on the palette. One more color...The mixing knife is in her hand. She picks up some of the first color and mixes it into the larger mound of the other color. Slowly, methodically. More colors are squeezed out, blended together. It is only now that she looks at the canvas in front of her. Not knowing exactly what mark will push the painting further, she picks up a brush. Dipping it into the glass jar, she then gently rubs it in the closest color already mixed. She draws breath and she touches the wet brush to the canvas. The canvas gives, slightly, to the touch. The brush is pulled across the surface, laying down a band of wet paint. More paint is loaded onto the brush. Another mark is made. It has begun.

The music plays. The trees outside sway in the warm summer wind. Time leaves the room. But now the artist is unaware of these things. Now the only thing is the movement of the arm, the feel of the brush, the knife, the wet paint. Paint is applied. It is removed. A sigh. More paint is applied. Another color. Edges are concealed. Others are revealed. The painting has begun to dictate terms. She is at the mercy of the painting. It knows where it wants to go and she must follow. Sometimes, she decides she is in charge. She knows where to go. But she is wrong. The painting must lead. She must follow. That is when everything comes together. Time passes, the light changes. She paints. The mounds of color disappear and new ones are created. The rinse jar becomes muddy with color. She holds three brushes in one hand, one plus a rag in the other. The painting talks. She listens. She begins to feel an ache. A fuzzy dog appears in the doorway. She does not hear the dog. The dog comes in and lays down near her feet. Touches her leg with a black, wet nose. She ignores the touch. The dog inches closer, whines. She crossly tells him to wait. She is painting. The dog gives up and moves away. Lays down in the corner and waits. Now time has crept back in. She knows the light is nearly gone. She knows she must feed the dog and eat. One more mark. Another. She steps back, brush in hand. It is time. Finished or not, she must walk away. The painting must wait. One more mark. She sets the brush down. One more look at the painting. She leaves the room.

The dog is fed. Dinner is on the stove. She walks back in to the room with the painting. Picks up a brush. Loses herself. A timer rings. Once again, she must leave. She leaves. She eats. She walks the dog. Entering the now dark house, the irresistible urge pulls her once more toward the paint, toward the canvas. She picks up her brush. She is tired. She loses herself again, once more in the paint, in the motion of her arm and body as marks are made, removed, made again. the brush becomes inadequate. A knife is chosen. Paint is loaded onto the knife and then frosted onto the surface of the canvas. Dragged. Blended. More marks. More paint. She feels her body resisting and knows the end of the day is near. Time breathes over her shoulder. She steps back. The dog sleeps near her feet. She looks at the painting. She knows she must stop. And still, it beckons. One more mark. Another. A pencil line. More paint. It is time to stop, but oh! Wait! One more mark. And then here. Rub there. Blend. Now stop. Put the brush down. Wash it. Wash another. One more mark is made with the brush. It is cleaned again. She sets it down, reluctantly. She walks out. Toothpaste on another brush. Brushing fast. Walking back toward the pulling, calling canvas. Looking. Thinking. Leaving the room again. Changing clothes. Turning off lights. Turning off music. ONE LAST LOOK. And we must part for the night.

She would sleep with it, if she could.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The last vestiges of spring

As the desert heats up and things begin to dry out, I have been especially tuned in to the last of the flower season.

Shortly after the Cat's Claw Acacia (Acacia Greggii) turns green, it develops these fuzzy blossoms. This year, the green of the acacia was a particularly welcome sight, since things have been brown brown brown with the lack of moisture. Oddly enough, the acacia blooms have been abundant, despite the dry weather. They are fragrant and loaded with bees.

The Desert Willow has to be one of my favorite desert flowers. They remind me of tiny ball gowns, so pink and ruffled. I imagine tiny fairies adorning themselves at night while I sleep, dancing around until dawn. Oh yes. (They dance with the rabbits!)

Happy Solstice, all you crazy cats.

Monday, June 18, 2012


"Stories." Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. ©2012 Karine M. Swenson
This new painting is fresh off the easel. It was started even before the trip to Germany, and has undergone so many changes. I have been documenting different stages of each painting with my camera. I find that in order for a painting to improve, I have to let go of things that I may have gotten too attached to. It is so interesting how art parallels life. We get attached to comfortable things, and we fear change. Even change that is good for us! But in order to move forward in life and paint, we have to be willing to let go. That is what I am learning to do with my painting (and hopefully, my life.) If I photograph the stages of the painting, I find that it is easier, somehow, to move forward. That way, whatever I may have been attached to in the painting will be preserved as a digital image. What I am discovering, surprisingly enough, is that the things I thought were so good, so worthy of saving, really weren't as good as what came next. Now is that a valuable lesson, or WHAT?! All I have to do is figure out how to "photograph" or document the things in life I think are worth saving, so that I can let go of them. Maybe that's what painting (or art) is, ultimately. A way to document how we are at any given time in our lives. What do you think, fellow artists and painters?

"Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance - often visible to us, but invisible to those around us. Difficult as it is to remember, it is our work that creates the market, not the market that creates our work."
                                                                                                                ~Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Monday, June 11, 2012


Why are we so infatuated with animals? I suppose we see ourselves in them, in a way. We project onto them our own emotions. Sometimes, their struggles become our own. I often ask myself why I like painting animals so much. The answer is fleeting, at best. I know that I am much more interested in painting wild animals than I am in painting domestic animals or pets. I think it's because our encounters with wild animals are so much more fleeting. I want to capture that moment and preserve it. Remember it. How special it seemed. As though, just for one moment, God was looking right at me and saying, "here is a gift." Whatever it is that keeps me painting the creatures of the desert, I know I am not done yet.

My newest painting of the desert cottontail:
"Approaching." Oil on board, 10 x 8 inches. ©Karine M Swenson 2012.
There is no telling if I may one day start painting domesticated animals and pets. I no longer say "I will never..." (I have proved myself wrong, one too many times.) But for now, I will stick to the wild things. Those creatures who come and go at their leisure. I will continue to try to capture those magic moments when I look out the window and see an unexpected visit from one of our tenacious desert creatures.

A few photos of animals in Germany: (these are nearly all domesticated animals.)

This is a "lion's head rabbit." I have never seen anything like it before. So fat, compared to our little desert cottontails.

These rabbits were pets, and they actually had ROLLS, they were so fat.

What animals most inspire you?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Getting back into the studio after such a long time away has been as painful as pulling out a tooth (by the roots!) No, I don't think I am exaggerating. Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours just drawing in my sketchbook, and FINALLY, it felt like I could touch a canvas with paint. (This was after a failed attempt the previous two days.) I am heading back in there now. I always expect this kind of struggle after being away,  but it never gets any easier. I hope to have something new to show you by the weekend.

I love ya, dear readers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ocean Walk

I returned from San Diego yesterday. I had a great time at Art of Framing, sharing my art work with new people and making new friends during the Art Around Adams artwalk on Saturday. I want to offer up a great big thank you to all those who came out to see my new work, and to Blythe Goodwin at Art of Framing for letting me hang paintings all over the walls of her shop! THANKS!

I even managed to squeeze in a bit of ocean time.

Maybe now I will get a chance to recover from my jet lag.