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Q & A with Anna Swanson

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

We are so excited to have Anna Swanson host a Yoga and Abstract Cactus Workshop at my studio on January 18-19 from 9AM - 4PM each day! Anna will guide you through lessons and creative exercises with guided experimentation time for you to enjoy a relaxing weekend of abstract art and yoga!

Click here for more information.

Anna Swanson is an Austin based painter, elementary school art teacher, and mom. She received her BFA in fiber art & textiles and obtained her elementary art teacher certification.

What sparked your interest/passion in art and teaching?

I have always been interested in both. My interest in art  began first when I became interested in clothing and fashion when I was a child. I loved clothes and thought I wanted to be a clothing designer or make fabric. My mom used to buy and sell vintage clothing from our home, so I believe that is where my interest in clothing came from. I also loved art, My dad owned a restaurant on South Congress in the 70's, and when my sister and I used to go with him to work, we would visit his friends art studio that was above the restaurant. I remember loving going to the studio. He is still an artist in Austin, his name is Helmut Barnett.

I am the oldest of 5 siblings, teaching and being around kids comes natural to me. I am also a very curious and creative person, and love learning about everything so being an artist and a teacher allows that.

Are there any ideas that your students have taught you about art?

Yes! I learn about art from my students every day. I also learn more than just art. I learn how to be a better parent and person, they teach me patience, compassion, and to not take myself too seriously and to laugh at myself sometimes.

I love that when I have a plan for a project and I teach it to them, there is always something I learn from it because they see it different than I do. Whether it is still life, painting, collage, or anything, they have a perspective that we (adults) don't see. I also learn from their questions about artists I teach them about. They force me to think and explore more than I would ever do if I wasn't teaching.

My style of art and making art has changed since I began teaching only art because of my students. I am constantly reminding them that part of making art and creating is making mistakes and to keep going, and that we are all learning every day. I also learn so much about color from my students because they put colors together that I wouldn't see to do, and it looks beautiful. I am always so in love with their work. I love being an art teacher.

A majority of your work is abstract and pattern-like artwork. What kind of mindset are you in or inspiration do you need that helps you create abstract versus pattern-like artwork?

When I am working on an abstract painting, I am exploring color. I am trying new color combinations and placement but in a more free way. My mood is more free and playful but I have put in the work and thought process before beginning my abstract pieces. I think with those, I am just conveying that mood through my painting. When I first started out in the art world, I started with screen printing. I had a small screen printing business with a friend and we drew designs for pillowcases, duvet covers, tee shirts, and created handmade wedding invitations. We had to be very precise in our drawing and printing. I also recently took an illustration class,and one of the projects was to research scandinavian folk art (which I LOVE) and create patterns and product like designs from our illustrations. I love the patterns of birds, flowers, leaves, and animals in folk art. I had a sketchbook full of illustrations that I started creating into large paintings. I hope to have a series of those soon.

You’ve also begun to dive into portraits inspired by Frida Kahlo. What was it about Frida that inspired you to dive into this new art style?

Frida just represents so many things. Strength, beauty, being brave, nature, animals, sadness, overcoming hardships, the desert, love, ...I have always loved Frida Kahlo. I taught a Frida Kahlo lesson to my art students, and ended up doing one of my own, and the other portraits came from that first one. I look at her work for inspiration.

Have you noticed a change in your artwork since becoming a mom?

My artwork changed when I became a mom. I made my business name, Demi and Olive, after my daughter and started to create art that could go in her room or nurseries. I still make a lot of pieces that can go in nurseries, or kids rooms. People sometimes ask me how I have time to paint and make art while being a mom, etc. It's just part of who I am, and it's almost a full time job now. I created my studio so that it's also Demi's studio so that if I am painting, she can paint or create too.The studio is always evolving based on my projects and if she's working on something, and if I am teaching art classes in the studio.


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