Monday, 8 August 2011

I've moved---to wordpress

I have added a couple new posts to my wordpress blog.  I plan to continue that account, and discontinue this one.  I have found I prefer the wordpress format--so for those of you kind enough to follow me here--please feel free to check out my continued blog over there.  Also, there is an email option, if you would like to receive word of my new posts via email.  Thanks very much to the few of you who have read my blog here.  I truly appreciate it.

Monday, 1 August 2011

england IV

England IV, digital manipulation 2011
England IV, digital manipulation, 2011
For this piece I used three main images, two original photos (the pigeon and a quiet street scene) and a stock image of a British telephone box.  My photos were taken during a visit to the city of Bath with my parents.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to share such a stunning city with them.

Several layers of filters have been used on the background and the phone box.  I have adjusted the layers’ transparency and selectively erased areas closer to the foreground with a distressed eraser brush.  This made details of the red from previous layers below more visible.  I added another layer containing only the drawn portion of bird diagrams from a stock image over the background image.  These created a nice unity with the foreground pigeon and its grey color.  I have also used a couple filters on the pigeon photo, including the basic artistic cutout filter, which simplified the bird form.  The moon was taken from a stock illustration and creates a dreamy atmosphere within the piece.

Brushes used include handwritten text (upper right), branches (lower left), trees (upper left), cracked design elements (edges), organic spiraling lines (left), as well as a very subtle yellow wallpaper style brush (top).  I had each brush on a different layer.  This allowed me to hide each element and determine if the piece was growing too chaotic or if the elements appropriately added to the aesthetic of the work.  Not all design elements I play with throughout the development of my digital work end up visible in the final images.
Bath, 2011
Bath, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011
Pigeon, 2011
Pigeon, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011
British phone booth, stock image: Liquid Library
British phone booth, stock image: Liquid Library
Brid heads diagram, stock image: Liquid Library
Bird heads diagram, stock image: Liquid Library
Sad moon, stock image: Liquid Library
Sad moon, stock image: Liquid Library

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


The Waiting, photo manipulation 2011

I have an addiction to photographing the abandoned building I find all around this beautiful island.  I am completely drawn to them, despite the insects, mold, and scratchy plant life that inevitably await me within and around these structures.  Because of this recent obsession, I have an abundance of photos of these vacant homes.  Some homes have had parts of their roofs collapsed from the 1980s earthquake, and debris covers the floor; some are already mostly dilapidated and overgrown with plant life.  Others have rooms which have remained moderately intact, framed photos still adorning the water stained walls, furniture sets and empty cabinets covered with layers of dust, mold and often damaged my insects.  These are the rooms that most intrigue me.  Forgotten books, papers and monochrome family photos littering shelves, reminds me other humans once lived here.  Those people had their own passions, struggles and memories. 

What he wrote... photo manipulation, 2011
In reality, I don’t think any of these places are haunted.  However, the concept of these places having been deeply personal spaces, now quietly deserted causes me to contemplate the unique histories of these rooms.  This contemplation combined with the appealing aesthetic of antique photos and early photographic attempts to provide evidence of ghosts is the inspiration for my most recent Haunted series of digital photo manipulations.

Who's the Fairest? photo manipulation, 2011
In these works, I used my own original photos from abandoned buildings and homes to set the scene for each piece. I then found an appropriate black and white antique image that seemed to best fit the setting.  The images I used were from a Dover clip art publication, Great Photographs from Daguerre to the Great Depression.  This helps me to avoid any copyright infringement issues. 

Sepia photo filters (or a layer of black and white), rendering fibers and adjusting curves on different versions of the same background image was the main way I altered the original photo to create an aged aesthetic.  Once I had these varying layers, I would erase portions of the each (and/or adjust opacity), removing the top layers allowed the lower layers to become subtly visible adding a depth to the background.

It's Raining, It's Pouring... photo manipulation, 2011
The ghosting effects were created with a free photoshop dreamy filter plugin, downloaded from  Through the use of several layers, varying opacity, and erasing different areas on the figure, I achieved this eerie ghostly effect.

Friday, 22 July 2011

nature reclaims itself

Janela Verde, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011

As I mentioned before, Terceira has many abandoned and desolate structures.  These contemporary ruins fascinate me.  I admire how nature seems to have an unlimited ability to reclaims itself.  
Grown Among Broken Glass, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011
Once these structures are neglected, the paint peels away; dust and dirt accumulate and cracks form in the concrete allowing roots take hold.  Foliage growth is now uninhibited by humans, ivy begins to adhere to the walls and roof tiles begin to disintegrate under plant growth.  I find a very comforting beauty in all this.  I love this reassurance that nature persists far past our ability to contain it and our environmentally destructive tendencies.  Walking past these overgrown buildings causes a tranquil feeling within me, leaving me momentary at peace.  

Doorways I, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011

Overgrown, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011
It's not the earth that's in trouble, it's the people who live on it.  Earth will be here long after we've all gone...--the streets

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Page Phases: Every Six Seconds

Image 1:  
I have used blue and white acrylic paints with a hint of violet iridescent powder.  The paint was initially mixed on the right page with a 1” wide flat brush and then moved about the pages with a palette knife.  The powder creates a rich shimmery color, but a little goes a long way.  It can be difficult to control if you are only looking for a very limited use.  For this I had the powder under the paper, when I wet the paper with paint the color was allows to soak through.  I then let the paint dry.

Image 1 
Image 2:  
With the paper dampened, I brushed a very small amount of the violet powder, mixed with only a brush of orange iridescent powder; this made the color warmer.  I allowed the water and paper to move the color, which created the more subtle gradations from color to white space—and again, I let everything dry.  If I were to glue on papers or additional images, they would soak up this color.  That may be an effect you are looking for; it is an effect I sometime utilize.  However, for these pages, I wanted to keep the colors contained in the background.

Image 2
Image 3: 
I used matte medium to attach the angel image on the left and the white floral paper.  This paper is nice because when moistened by adhesive the white becomes translucent.  This creates a stronger contrast with the pink of the floral pattern, as well as allowing the background elements to be partially seen through the paper.  I also added more acrylic paint with a hint of black ink and painted the water up onto the image to make the waves the foreground.

Image 3
Final Image:
These are the completed pages.  I attached the text, buildings in the background, the chair, faces, the profile of the woman, and brown patterned paper.  To finish the pages, I drew with permanent black India ink markers, accentuating details and adding to the buildings and streets.

Every Six Seconds, 6"x6" visual journal pages, 2011

Sunday, 17 July 2011

visually unwritten

At Home, 2011, 6"x6" visual journal pages

I kept written journals a couple times throughout my childhood, but I never really enjoyed the process.  I loved the concept but hated the reality.  I liked the idea of a book just for me, keeping my feelings and memories.  However, everything I wrote felt trivial.  I disliked the transparent vulnerability of my point of view completely exposed.  Granted, as a twelve-year-old girl, I didn’t have too many incriminating thoughts or meaningful life revelations.  When reading back through my journals, I could only focus on the atrocious misspellings, grammatical errors and naive misconceptions of the world around me.  I also had a relatively strange irrational fear of dying suddenly, leaving my errors permanently documented in my absence.  (Apparently the fear of death didn’t worry me as much as being defined by my terrible spelling?)  Regardless, I realized then, I didn’t want my words to be the means by which people perceived me.

Blue Pillars, 2011, 6"x6" visual journal pages

I love visual journaling because it allows me the freedom to play with concepts, try new techniques and capture moments.  To me, each set of pages is captivating, holding within it a mischievous idea, a passing thought, a recollection or concept created in a subtle enigmatic manner.  While the pages hold a meaning to me, I am very comfortable with sharing my pages and journals with others.  People have their own associations with imagery and personal histories with memories and passions.  Our minds interpret art in our own individual contexts and thus viewers are left with their own impressions from each page.  I love that.
Lost in Thought, 2010, 6"x6" visual journal pages
For these pages, I have used 6”x6” sheets from a spiral bound sketchbook.  This size is small enough to work with efficiently, while also large enough to hold text, patterns, paper and images without appearing cluttered.  I prefer to unbind my pages and work on them in sets.  I put aside the spiral binding, front and back covers to allow me to reassemble the journal upon completion.  I use matte medium and matte gel as my adhesives.  Matte gel is perfect for thicker materials (photos and cardstock) as well as small three-dimensional objects (scrabble pieces, small mosaic tiles, mirrors, shells, etc).  Matte medium is ideal for adhering paper and other light materials.  

I speak because I can, to anyone I trust enough to listen.-Laura Marling

Thursday, 14 July 2011

abandoned virgins

Remains, photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011

The sky is cloudy and grey, a light rain seems to turn motionless in the air creating a fine mist.  My mother and I walk across a small concrete bridge over the shallow remains of a riverbed.  The water is now a gently flowing creek, with only a couple ducks resting in the muddy patches which would have once been covered by a much more impressive flow of water.  We walk up the few stairs to a small stone porch overgrown with ivy, weeds and flowers.  I peer through a broken glass window of the locked front door.  The scent of stale air mixed with mold is noticeable as my eyes adjust to the dim light inside the abandoned house.  The room is bare.  The walls are empty.  The only objects remaining from the previous owners’ abrupt departure are several framed images of the Virgin Mary covered with years of dust and faded from water damage.  The scene is haunting.  These beautiful works, all depicting variations of the same subject, in ornate antique frames are now hidden away from the world having been arbitrarily left in the corner of this vacant room.  It feels the Marys were intentionally left behind, as if the owners had abandoned her as they must have felt she had abandoned them as their home was destroyed, half washed away by the flooded river years before, ripped apart at the foundation…

Hanging Derelict, photo manipulation, 2011
Terceira has a seemingly endless amount of abandoned buildings, and I adore them.  An earthquake struck the island near Angra de Heroismo in 1980.  I assume many of the damaged structure were simply left behind in the quake’s aftermath.  However, I know a few (like the aforementioned home) were destroyed by other means, such a flood, fire, or simply left deserted.  Some owners only live on the island seasonally, or return every few years.  Occasionally, their homes fall into disrepair and are abandoned.  

Morning Glory, photo manipulation, 2011
I love to explore these derelict remains; they inspire and satisfy a childlike curiosity within me.  I frequently wander through these vacant buildings that have fallen into disrepair, left for nature (and vandals) to take their course.  I feel like I am walking through an old photograph, as if everything should be in black and white.  As I do when looking through antique photos, I can’t help but wonder about the lives once touched by these places.  At one time, these structures were new, a home for a family, or a place of business.  Each place has its own long forgotten histories of human interactions; how can that not inspire curiosity?

Monday, 11 July 2011

defined by gender

Female roles, gender socialization, cultural expectations and concepts of femininity have a continual affect on my artistic imagery.  I have taken a moment to explain in more details this influence as it applies to specific works.  Please bare in mind, these are simply my thoughts and emotions portrayed in these pieces, however–I highly encourage (and prefer) people viewing my work to create their own interpretations of what my work means to them.  This allows them the freedom to identify with each piece on their own terms based on their own ideologies and experiences—ultimately that is the result I strive for with me work.

Figure 2.61 Inferiority, 24"x24" mixed media pages on canvas, 2009
Figure 2.61 Inferiority (detail image)

Figure 2.61 Inferiority (detail image)

Figure 2.61: Inferiority In this piece I am playing with female expectations, images of idealized roles and appearances of women. Historical artistic references have been included, such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino Velazquez’s Las Meninas and Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife.  These recognizable female forms I have combined with geisha images and other female figures to further exemplify the various levels of culture expectations set upon women throughout various cultures and eras.  I find it fascinating that women are still held to unachievable expectations of being constantly beautiful, subservient, interesting, sensual and enigmatic. As women we are inevitable socialized to adhere to certain social expectations—the sex kitten, loving mother, intelligent career woman, generous wife.  Inevitably, we are all bound to fall terribly short of such expectations—leaving our gender with subtle or perhaps blatant feelings of inferiority whether put upon each of us by both men and women, our families, cultural media, society, religion or simply from ourselves.

Figure 5.67: Unachievable Expectations, 16.5"x12" visual journal pages mounted on wood 2009
Figure 5.67: Unachievable Expectations This piece provokes a similar sentiment through a different aesthetic form.  The text is based on various derogatory (or passively aggressive) statements I have heard women say regarding other women.  Sadly I think we are all guilty of such statements—even if just in our minds. In contrast to the underlying negative connotation of the text I have montaged female legs.  I find legs can be infinitely feminine, in spite of that; they are not as blatantly sexual as breasts.  Ideally formed legs have a gorgeous aesthetic as well as an underlying sensuality, without the cliché and hype of breasts.

Figure 6.7: Intentional Instability, 6.5"x12" visual journal pages mounted on wood 2009

Figure 6.7: Intentional Instability (detail image)

Figure 6.7: Intentional Instability Stilettos have the same sort of implications of femininity and sexuality as legs, while also maintaining a bizarre duality.  Stilettos are an everyday object like zippers, handbags or cell phones.  Yet as almost any women (and some men) know wearing a striking pair of heels can make you feel gorgeous, powerful, and sexy.  Most men would agree in the appeal of heels.  However, it is suggested that stilettos have a subconscious appeal to men as they also make women appear more frail and fragile since they are not as stable as they would be in sensible footwear.  It is a fascinating dichotomy that something can make a woman powerful, yet frail at the same time.  With the imagery of stilettos I have also included dominos, to continue to play with the unstable concept implied by the footwear.  The skulls in the background subtlety allude to the some of the darker implications of our gender.

God help you if you are an ugly girl; of course, too pretty is also your doom, because everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room. -Ani DiFranco

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

england II

England II, 2011, digital photo manipulation

I am very blessed to have been able to travel a great deal during my relatively young life.   I have studied abroad in the United Kingdom as well as having lived in England for four years.  During that time abroad, I have visited several European countries including Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany and France.  I love photography and make every effort to capture memories of intriguing passing moments or striking places, architecture and landscapes.  I believe photos encapsulate more than simply what is captured within the image; photos also convey the moment I stopped to take the photo, who I was with, and how I felt. 
The artist in me is always inclined to push my creative limits.  Thus, I have begun work on this series of digitally manipulated imagery capturing memories of my travel.  These pieces include a mix of my own photography, stock images, scanned items, simple filters and Photoshop brushes.  All pieces have been created in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
For each visual element added to within a piece (with the exception of brush layers), I have generally three or four layers of that specific element.  This allows me to play with a variety of filters and color combinations, as well as changing opacity.  This ability to change the aesthetics of each component in the image allows me to create my ideal unique look.
For each visual element added to within a piece (with the exception of brush layers), I have generally three or four layers of that specific element.  This allows me to play with a variety of filters and color combinations, as well as changing opacity.  This ability to change the aesthetics of each component in the image allows me to create my ideal unique look.
Lacock, England 
photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2010
This piece started with an original photo of a Tudor style building in the small eighteenth century village of Lacock, outside Bath.  I love the old Tudor architectural style, it will always remind me of our little English home.  Behind this layer, I placed an original close-up image of a bird on cobblestone.  I erased the sky in the upper portion of Tudor building photo, allowing the bird to be seen in the final image.
bird on cobblestone 
photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2011
I chose the color scheme from simple elements of color that already existed in the initial photos I intended to use.  These consisted primarily of the yellow from the daffodil flowers, the brown of the wood and the teal color of the door.  The daffodils in the foreground are also an original photo taken when I was at school in Oxford, I selected the yellow portion and used a brush tool similar to the look of antique wallpaper for the subtle design in the petals.
daffodils photo/copyright: Carly Swenson 2005
The etching of Queen Victoria and the teapot are both stock images.  I have used a simple conte crayon filter with burlap and an additional layer yellow layer to add a more artistic drawn feeling to the portrait.  Photoshop brush additions include the tree and bird silhouettes, as well as the rough distressed frame.  These additions helped to accentuate the color scheme of the piece, while also adding visual interest to the composition as a whole.

Queen Victoria, stock image: liquid library
Teapot, stock image: liquid library

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

liberated sketchbook

I had never really kept a sketchbook until a couple years ago.  I had always wanted to, but I had always felt the constant need for sketchbook images to be something, to look finished, neat, clean and well done—I couldn’t allow the aesthetic of failed ideas, mistakes, or simply my poorly created images.  
We regularly act in blatant disregard of future generations. 12.5"x9.5" 2008
In 2008, while visiting the lovely Lylee Heart in Minneapolis, on one of my few trips back to the states while I was living in England–she and I decided to help creatively encourage and inspire each other by sharing a traveling sketchbook.  In this sketchbook, we would artistically play and then send it back and forth to one another.  For the first time, I allowed myself the freedom to really sketch, play with ideas, and ultimately, the freedom to make mistakes.  Finally, with this new liberated creativity in sketching I was able to truly develop image concepts, keep notes of song lyrics, thoughts, quotes, and reference images.

Societal hierarchy is inevitable. 12.5"x9.5" 2008
In all honesty, Lylee and I only exchanged the sketch journal twice. While our project itself wasn’t necessarily a huge success, the process of inspiring me, and helping to develop my work very much was.  From initial drawings I developed in this sketchbook, I developed several concepts into final images.  I created a series of twelve 12.5"x9.5" subtlety surreal watercolor collage works.

Monday, 4 July 2011

delightful addiction

Self portrait in my studio, 2011

While in collage, I attended a one-day Visual Journaling workshop presented by professor and very talented artist, Terry Garrett. I found myself completely enveloped in the art form.  I was addicted.  In retrospect, this concept seems so simple and obvious.  I suppose in one way or another, I have been keeping track of thoughts and ideas in imagery for years.  But now, visual journaling had a name, and I had a new artistic passion.  After college graduation, my obsession died down temporarily, only to be reignited a few years later.

figure 7.7: disheveled, 2009 16.5"x12" visual journal pages mounted on wood

In 2009, I created a series of 25 sets of 16.5in x 12in pages mounted on wood with routered edges matching the perforations in each page.  That year, I also created a number of other smaller series of visual journal pages, mounted in a similar manner onto solid woodblocks.  
Everybody slept here, 2010, 6"x6" visual journal pages
In October 2010, after viewing my work, a friend recommended a number of art and crafting magazines focusing on mixed media.  These included Cloth, Paper, Scissors, Somerset Art Journaling and Somerset Studio.  She lent me a copy and I found myself completely captivating.  Turning through the pages, I once again found myself once utterly inspired.  My passion for visual journaling had once again been renewed.  I began to create set after set of 6in x 6in pages.  
My creative addiction is now back in full force.   I find visual journaling to be delightfully therapeutic, an opportunity to play creatively and try new techniques and mediums.

And I need to get strong. And if memory serves. I'm addicted to words and they're useless. -–Motion City Soundtrack

Sunday, 3 July 2011

another art blog

I have joined the land of blogging.  I know I am now a part of the unfathomable mass of those who blog.  I feel it is somewhat arrogant of me to assume I should have any thoughts so monumental and meaningful, I feel inclined to share them with distant friends and family as well as a potentially infinite number of strangers.  Therefore, I have asked myself what it is I am ultimately hoping to achieve in the creation of my own Naked Carly Art blog.

What do I hope to achieve?
As a human, I find forcing myself to sit and write makes my thoughts and ambitions become far more succinct.  Sharing these words provides a reason to write. As people, I think we all have an innate desire to connect with others; we want to be known—to be understood.

As an artist, I want to share my work, artistic process, conceptual development and simply what makes me a part of my work.  I hope viewers will gain a better understanding of my imagery as well as me as a human (Although, I suppose that is the primary goal of any blogging artist).  I would also like to network with other artists.  I believe we are all constantly learning and improving; we should allow ourselves to be pushed creatively.  Other artists motivate and inspire me to try new techniques, develop my style and push past my artistic comfort level.  I hope this can possibly be a venue to inspire others. 

Let me be known, 6"x6" visual journal pages

Saturday, 2 July 2011

naked art

I know some people, like my lovely grandmother, will be slightly taken aback by the word naked in association with me and my imagery.  In turn, others may be disappointed by the distinct lack of blatant sexualized nudity.  However, I am under the impression that those people may have been searching for an entirely different sort of naked than is found here, and in that case (for entirely different reasons than those my grandmother) they also probably aren’t too interested in my life and work as an artist.
photo/copyright: Andi Sappy 2009
model/photo-mainpulation/art: Carly Swenson
I consider my work to be an intricate part of who I am.  My ideals, thoughts, convictions, emotions, experiences, insecurities and visual style manifest themselves in my work and define me as a human.  I find this beautiful and comforting, despite leaving a part of me completely vulnerable, open to acceptance, appreciation, dismissal or failure.  Therefore, my work is conceptually naked, an honest and intricate part of who I am.
Art is why I get up in the morning, but my definition ends there. You know, it doesn't seem fair, that I am living for something I can't even define.--Ani DiFranco