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