Monday, July 30, 2012

The Eastern Sierras

Sometimes, you just need to pack up the dog, some food and hiking boots and drive the VW camper van up to cooler climes. You drive until the air outside the car window comes in cool, and then you turn towards the mountains. You find a nice place to camp, and then hike up to the closest lake you can find. (Dogs must be cooled off.)
Aren't ya comin?

This is the part where Pono remembers how to swim.

We spent a few nights camping with friends where there was enough green to quench dehydrated desert eyes. Wildflowers lined the roadside, and a longing for our former home in Colorado was awakened. We remembered what it feels like to hike up a mountain at altitude with a pack. (pant, pant) We ate food grilled on a campfire. We lounged in chairs, filling nostrils with the scent of pine. Yes, it was a good time. It could have been longer, but then isn't that the nature of a getaway? I think so.

We're back.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A feather?

One of the challenges I posed myself this year was that I would make a concerted effort to DRAW MORE. In my humble world of art-making, drawing is at the center of everything else. So it makes sense that this would become a bigger part of my art practice, does it not?

Recently, I have grown tired of some of my usual drawing materials, so I decided to draw with the tip of a feather. Yes, i did.

I really love that I have less control over the line, and even less control over how the ink comes off of the feather tip. I think there will be more.

Then, when I was ready for something new, I tried ink and brush, which I have done before, but not for a long time.

A shot of the cool storm cloud from the past weekend.

The desert truly is a place of beauty and wonder.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Winner!

This is going to be a quick post, but I wanted to let you know that I had M help me with my drawing, and we have a winner!!! Cynthia Schelzig - congratulations!!! I am not sure I have your address, Cynthia, so if you don't mind sending me a quick email, I will send your new copy of The War of Art. Hooray! Thank you to everyone who entered. I know there will be more giveaways here, so don't despair if your name wasn't chosen. I love all of you who read and comment. This blog would not exist without you.

I also want to thank you for your feedback about my blog. You have encouraged me to continue.

We had rain today! Just a bit, but even a little hail was mixed in there. I didn't know hail happened in the desert. It does. Who knew?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

It is important to stretch oneself, and so I have been pushing myself to experiment with more neutral colors. This was in part inspired by my blogger friend, Robyn. I think I have a ways to go, but for me to not use color is REALLY hard! A few more of the studies I have been working on using neutral colors: (these are so much better in person. As always.)
"Sketch #2." Acrylic and ink on paper, 9 x 12 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

"Sketch #3." Acrylic, ink and copic marker on paper, 9 x 12 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson.  (okay, so I did put a bit of color in this one, but not that much, I swear!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Dreaded Question

I was delivering a painting to a gallery on Maui the first time it happened to me. I was standing there, holding my painting, waiting for the gallery owner to get off the phone. A man walked in. He saw the painting, and I could tell by the look on his face that he liked it. He asked me if I was the artist and I said yes. AND THEN HE ASKED THE DREADED QUESTION. The question feared by all painters. "How long did it take you to paint that?" Since it was the first time I had ever been asked that question, I was completely unprepared.  I am pretty sure my mouth dropped open and stayed that way for a minute or two. "Uhhhmmm,...well, I don't really know." Was my reluctant answer. Did he want me to build value in the painting and tell him it took months? Did he expect me to produce a time sheet of hours logged on that one specific painting? Or did he want me to say it took only a few hours, proving my mastery? I am pretty sure the desired answer is different depending on who asks the question.
This is the painting I was delivering the day of the QUESTION.

"How long did it take you to paint that?" Let me tell you something my friends. That is a loaded question. And one that is virtually impossible to answer. I am an artist. I work for myself and I work at home. That means I don't clock in. I don't arrive at a certain time, have a set period of time for lunch and coffee breaks, and then leave at five. Now those of you with jobs where you have a set schedule probably think that I have it easy. You think I am lucky. (well, yes, I am lucky.) But what you may not realize is that I don't always get paid for a full day's worth of work. Sometimes I don't get paid for a week of work, or even a month of work. Some artists work for YEARS without selling anything. Artists only get paid if we manage to paint something that someone can't live without.

I may paint for 8 hours or 10, go in to the kitchen to make food, and go back into the studio to paint while dinner is cooking. I may put pajamas on, brush my teeth and discover there's more I have to do to this one part of the painting before I go to bed and end up working for another two or three hours. Sometimes, I have been known to clean up from a day of work, go out for dinner with friends, come home, visit a painting, and end up working on it late into the night. I have even been known to photograph my work in progress to print out and study when I am not in the studio. If I am painting and things aren't going well, sometimes I go outside and stare at the ground or watch ants before I am able to resume working. I will employ anything and everything I can to help me find a resolution.

So when I figure out how long one painting took, do I include all the other paintings I painted before it? Because they are the reason that painting looks the way it looks. Do I count the time I spent staring at the painting, trying to figure out what was wrong with it? Do I count the hours I spent looking at other artist's work, going to school and studying art? Those hours are part of what went into that painting. Do I include the hours spent drawing and sketching in preparation for painting? Or maybe I am to set a stopwatch, start painting, and stop it every time I stop to squeeze out another color, wash my brush, scratch the dog behind the ear....????? I don't think so.

I have now learned to dodge the dreaded question with evasive answers like "I am lucky enough not to have to keep track of my time." Or "I work on more than one painting at a time, so it's really hard to say." And sometimes I do say "I have been painting for fifteen years, so this painting took fifteen years and a week to paint." An answer for the unanswerable question.

Here are some studies I have been working on lately:
"Free." 8 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches. Acrylic, collage and ink on paper.  ©2012 Karine Swenson

"Sketch #1" Acrylic and marker on paper. 12 x 9 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

And please don't ask me how long they took. Thanks.

I will announce the winner for my drawing tomorrow, stay tuned!

Monday, July 9, 2012


I have been posting on this blog for the better part of six years. SIX YEARS. Recently, I have been wondering if I should continue. Is my writing stale? Has the world of blogging been replaced by facebook and twitter? Maybe our short attention spans and busy, busy lives are no longer in need of blogs. Are my reasons for posting on this blog good enough for me to keep going? What are my reasons for keeping this blog? I have been asking myself these questions over and over again. I have no answers just yet. I will keep asking these questions, and until I find what I am looking for, I will keep on writing and posting, albeit sporadically. If you read my blog and enjoy it, maybe you can help me out. What do you like? what do you want to see more of? less of? What keeps you coming back? What might keep you away?

One thing I know for certain: when I tell myself "I must blog more regularly", I find that I don't want to do it at all. If it isn't fun and I don't have a real reason to post, I won't post. That seems fair. If it means my readership suffers, well then so be it. I find that with each passing year, my willingness to conform to what others think I should do seems to be fading. Perhaps even disappearing altogether. I still hope to be able to listen to constructive criticism and benefit from it. I want to know what people think! I want to know what you think! Can I get advice and still follow my own path? I think so.

Last week, I received an unexpected package in the mail. When I rushed home to open it, this is what I found inside:

WOW!!! Copies of The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield! Now is that a cool package to receive or what?!? (Thanks Callie!) I picked up the new book, Turning Pro, immediately and began reading. Apparently, Steve Pressfield and Shawn Coyne have teamed up and started a new publishing house called Black Irish. To quote Shawn Coyne in the forward of Turning Pro: "We intend to publish steak-and-potato kind of books whose aim is to inspire, encourage, and fortify those artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes whose ambition is not to stand on the sidelines, waiting for permission from others, but to take their destiny in their own fists -- to pursue their heart's calling and make it work." I love that. Those are the kinds of books I love! Best of luck to Misters Pressfield and Coyne with this new venture.

Now, I love my copy of The War of Art. It lives in my studio and is often required reading when I am struggling. But I don't need two copies. I would rather another artist/writer/musician/dancer/human being find the same enlightenment I have from it. And so, in honor of six years of blogging, a new exciting publishing house and my recent birthday, I have decided it is time for a giveaway. Leave your comments here, or email me. Feedback about my blogging is welcome and encouraged but not required. I will enter your name in a drawing for this brand new copy of The War of Art, from Black Irish publishing!

I will apologize in advance for the confusing and irritating mystery code required for comment leaving by blogger. Every time I think I am going to change that setting, I get a spam comment. I am reluctant to turn my blog into a platform for another evil spammer. Please bear with the imperfections, and leave a comment. Or email me:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3rd

New paintings.
(Untitled, at the moment) Oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches. ©2012 K. Swenson

(Also untitled) Oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches. ©2012 K. Swenson

Happy almost fourth of July!
I leave you with a photo that my facebook friends have already seen, but I have yet to post it here. And it's good enough to share twice.

This is a leopard lizard with a whiptail lizard in its mouth. Crazy desert stuff!