Emerging Artists | Guenevere Schwien

Lighting the way

Guenevere Schwien, Desmo Details, oil, 24 x 32.

Guenevere Schwien, Desmo Details, oil, 24 x 32.

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

On first glance, it might seem like an incongruous assortment, but Guenevere Schwien’s hyperrealist still-life paintings of sleek motorcycles, tempting sweets, sunlit tulips, and holiday lights share a universally irresistible theme: “It’s fun,” she says. “To me, everything I paint is exciting and delightful with bright colors.”

The artist’s first love—motorcycles—dates back to her college commutes to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco on her 1988 Honda Hawk. Café racers, sporty Ducatis, and classic Japanese bikes all became favorite motifs on her canvases, but the alla prima method she practiced in school simply couldn’t do justice to their angular lines and distinctive features. Schwien found that photo-realism, on the other hand, could. “It became a natural style when I sat down to paint,” she says. “Photography is huge today. We look at hundreds and thousands of images each day. Taking the time to paint one by hand is something special. It’s a lost art.”

Almost from the start, her motorcycle paintings attracted fans, yet Schwien felt that her intended message—one of positivity and empowerment—was missed by most viewers. “You feel like a superhero on a motorcycle,” she says, “but if you don’t ride, you might not relate to that.”

For the past 10 years, the artist has been painting full time in Portland, OR, where she has continued pursuing colorful, upbeat subject matter in her work, from sugary indulgences and shimmering foil bows to the regional tulips that bloom in abundance every April. Just recently, Schwien discovered an ideal form of self-expression in a set of tangled holiday lights, and they’ve become a personal metaphor for her journey as an artist. “The lights represent that struggle—the positivity and hope,” she says, “and the wires represent the things that might hold you back and get in the way.”

Her newfound inspiration propelled Schwien into a series of oils that depict white twinkling lights in varied compositions, and two have already garnered top awards, including the grand prize in the American Women Artists Spring Online Showcase. “With my lights, I can make a statement, have an expression, and achieve movement and color,” she says. “I’ve finally found an expression that really fits.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Carmel Art Association, Carmel, CA, and www.gueneveres.com.

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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