Annie Swarm Guldberg

Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

  • Art › painting

Expressionist oil painter working from beautiful Iowa. Working graphic designer, mother, and big hearted human that loves art.

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Studio Organization Tips and Creativity Boosters

August 1, 2020, 2:11 pm

How to make sure your space (small or large) is ready for you when you are.

I’ve been lucky enough to have an art space to call my own since May of 2012. At that time, my husband and took a leap and rented a studio in a co-op and rearranged our schedule for me to go there on a weekly basis. Before then, I had a variety of setups in our home, ranging from a tiny 2 x 2 coffee table to a whole spare room. I encourage you to make a dedicated creative space- in other words- if you have to keep clearing everything up off the kitchen table to eat dinner, the setup can be a barrier to your creativity. If it IS and MUST BE the kitchen table- how about a cart where you things are stored efficiently next to the table. Making setup and cleanup as easy as possible. Whatever the space you have or can carve out, these tips will help you make the most of your creative time and space.


Keep it Cleaned up

Nothing kills creativity faster than having a bunch of “chores” to do in your studio before you can create. We’ve all been there- you have an idea, ready to start making- but your space is cluttered, nothing is put away, you can’t find your materials, and on and on. Every night (I usually work in the evening/night) after I am done working, I spend 5-10 minutes cleaning everything up and putting things back in their place. Brushes cleaned, rags hung up, trash in the trash can and so on. Seems rudimentary, but if you can’t even find a space to set your sketch book down, it’s going to be hard to get to work! Speaking from experience- if I get lost in cleaning up, I tend to lose steam on my creative idea.


Keep your materials out where you can see them

I find it really helps spark ideas if I can see my materials. Now, this follows the first tip, because while I think you should have them out, I think they should be organized to be visually pleasing and also clear of the spot where you need to sit and work. For example: keep your brushes and paints in a container or cart where they are visible and easy to access. If you don’t have a lot of floor space, use storage that is clear plastic so you can see through them. I keep my canvases stacked safely where I can easily see what I have and their sizes. Keep your pencils and sketch book at the ready, and prioritize materials you use the most by making them the easiest to access. Having to move things around to get to what you want can kill that precious creative energy, not to mention waste time. It doesn’t have to be expensive- hit up the thrift store because let’s be honest, most of the stuff is going to get paint on it anyways, right? Most of my organizational materials and studio furniture is free or repurposed- I like the look of the wooden old boxes for storage, and I love things with wheels on them! Paint carts are my friend, and I can move them to where I need them at the moment. (The carts pictured- I think they are both from Ikea, but I have seen similar ones at Target and Michael’s.)


Make your space as functional as you can

Think of a carpenter’s workshop, where all the tools are hung nicely, ready to be grabbed. Take some time to look at each area of your space, and consider what you use it for most often. If you can, hang tools specific to that task around where you can grab them quickly and easily (and just as easily put them back when you’re done). This will make your time in your space more efficient because you won’t be looking for tools, and you won’t have to spend time dealing with clutter.


Make it comfortable and fill it with things that inspire you

Do you have to slump over your table because your chair is the wrong height? Is you space just too hot or too cold? Does it feel sterilized and controlled, or warm and welcoming? Consider these questions, and make adjustments- even slight adjustments can really make a difference. Add a rug to protect the floor and make it feel more welcoming, find a new stool that doesn’t hurt your back, move your table so the fan can blow on you without blowing your materials around, and so on. Then, add some inspiration: photos, ideas, images, notes, whatever inspires you.



The goal is to feel like you’re able to be transported- if even for a short time. Easy to jump in, get to work with inspiration and materials at your fingertips.


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Painting Explantion:  The Mountain Pass

February 6, 2019, 9:21 am
The Mountain Pass by Annie Swarm Guldberg
Original Photography by Wayco Beckman

This painting is called The Mountain Pass and is inspired by the always stellar photogrpahy of my friend Wayco Beckman.   I have been inspired by Wayco's photography over and over again through the years, so much so that we are planning a joint show of his photos and my paintings this summer.  

For this painting, I focused in on the line of the road shown in the photo.  In the photo, the sky is cloudy and the top of the mountain is covered with clouds.  This inspired me to swirl the sky in subdued (for me) colors, and to emphasize the line of the road by keeping the shapes in the foreground. 


I called it The Mountain Pass because the road/line seems perhaps a bit treacherous, but probably necessary to follow anyways.  Like most things in life that are difficult, the accomplishment is usually worth the challenge or the experience gained along the way. 

Thanks Carl! The show will be for the month of June at Iowa Weslayan University's Gallery in Mt. Pleasant Iowa. Not sure of the opening date yet.
Posted By: OilPainterAnnie
623 days 9 hrs 28 mins 38 secs ago
Hi Annie! Nice piece and excellent video. Thanks for sharing. The joint show is a great idea. Any info on dates or location yet?
Posted By: carl
623 days 12 hrs 38 mins 38 secs ago
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Annie Swarm Guldberg: Community Arts Organizer

September 30, 2018, 11:02 am

At a show this summer at Southeastern Community College in Burlington, IA, I had the oppotunity to do a gallery talk for the students and other attendees.  The gallery director introduced me as "Annie Swarm Guldberg, Community Arts Organizer and artist".  This stopped me for a second, but as he mentioned some of my community involvement, I realized that I might actually like that, not as a title, but as a personal mission statement. 


I've written before about the warm art welcome i've received since moving to Southern Iowa, but one of the things i've also noticed is that there is so much room (and need) in communities, large or small,  for people who are energetic, willing and driven to contribute to the extras in a community, in order to improve the quality of life for all.  Art shows, art lessons, and the down and dirty of being in my studio working is necessary,  but the sharing of  the LOVE of art, and how it can be used as a tool of change has become just as important to me as my creating time.  

I've been involved on a local arts board since January, and through that I was able to attend a statewide arts summit- which was 100% about how to use art as a tool in your community.  It was so energizing to be around and network with hundreds of people across the state who are passionate about the arts.  Sharing experiences, brainstorming ideas, and sharing successes (and failures) of what has worked in communities in Iowa and throughout the United States.  The rush of ideas it gave me was overwhelming in the best of ways, and I was able to bring that back to my community. 


The main points I took away, and are now at the heart of my "Community Arts Organizer" mission:

- Connect art with a need in the communty

- Arts create a lasting sense of belong and "home", which is extremely important in a smaller town in order to draw new residents, as well as retain current residents, especially the young adults.

- There are so many needs and opportunities to make change, but what is needed is people who are willing to put in the time and work for the betterment of their community

These are the 3 that best summerize the direction i'm taking now.  In addition to doing my own art and prepping and applying for shows and personal opportunties (which is also important for my community, that I remain an active and practicing artist), I can be a part of the reason why people love living here, and why I and my family love living here too.  


If you follow my facebook page, you will see the start of a simple yet rather large community undertaking I am organzing with the help of the arts board I serve on.  There is a summer sack lunch program for kids in our county that would be receiving free school lunch during the school year, but during the summer don't have access to a healthy lunch (or any lunch).  This program serves approximately 170 kids, June-August, and is run through a local charity. All the surrounding churches take turns packing the lunches.  With the help of many clubs, organizations, schools, churches, artists, families, and who ever else wants to help, we are adding art to all of the bags the lunches are packed in: 8,000 in total!  The reponse we've gotten has been so awesome- it is easy for every kind of group to get behind this project, and it's easy and fun too.  We've received donations for the bags and markers, and gotten started already.  We still have a long way to go- but already I can see how involving all these groups in this program is adding to that sense of home and belonging, as well as pride in our community.  

I'm taking my new "title" and wearing it on my sleeve and on my heart- helping feels good, does good- and it's very addicting.  Plus, I'm using my favorite tool, ART, as a tool for positive change in my community.  

If you are interested, please "like" our commity arts board facebook page, Mount Pleasant Arts IMPACT, to see our progress on the bags.  If you have a group that would like to color a couple hundred, email me and I"ll mail you some bags!  

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Living the Art Life in Full Force

June 25, 2018, 4:02 pm
My chair that I painted for the community chair event/auction
Face painting at the community band concert
My art lessons flyer
Created during an art lesson: color mixing
Coloring page created for community chair painting event
2 of my coloring pages for my next coloring book
One of my latest 3-D pieces
Watercolors: a spring and summer favorite of mine
Splatter art by one of my students
Part of my show currently up at Southeastern Community College
My two awesome students

Hello supporters and friends- 

Looks like it's time for an update!  We've just had our 1 year anniversary of living in Iowa, and life and the art life is as busy as ever.  I've been so busy with it all, but i'm actually enjoying every minute.  I've mentioned before the warm welcome we received in the smaller town we moved to, both as young professionals, but also as an artists.  There are many opportunities and many many art supporters/art lovers, and-- I would say-- less people actively pursuing art as a profession.  I've added a few things to my repertoire, as well as adding shows to my schedule for the year.  So here's a little of what I have going on right now:

Shows:  I currently have a solo show up at Southeastern Community College in Burlington, IA.  They have such a nice set up there, and I will be giving a gallery talk to visitors and students on June 28th.  Preparing to fill a whole gallery by myself always brings a little extra nuttiness, but I got it accomplished and even had it all ready a few days before the due date.   With my thick oils, I always have to have my show plans done a couple months ahead so my work can be dry enough.  So then there's always photographing, varnishing, wiring and other back end tasks to do right before the show.  Not to mention actually packing it up and delivering it which is always nerve wracking for me!    

I have 3 more upcoming shows this year yet: Colors of Summer: July 20th at Iowa Wesleyan College, Dreamlands at The Burlington Art Center for the month of August, and then wrapping up the year as the featured artists at the Ft. Madison Area Arts Association for the month of November.  All the dates/locations can be found on the events page of my site if you're interested in making a trip to attend!  (That's another update, I've been making sure to maintain an events page on my site and keep it extra current!)

Community Arts: I've been honored to be on a arts board here in my town, and have been so pleased at the community reception for artists and art in the area. I've also been busy meeting with and networking with the area artists.  My role on the board has been the artist to reach the other artists- making sure we find artists for events, as well as speak on the artists needs/perspective.  It's been very enjoyable, and lots of chances to help and improve the community and local art scene.

Art lessons:   Now here's been a surprise!  I had 2 parents contact me several months ago, and i've had the opportunity to really get my feet wet teaching private art lessons.  I have 2 students currently, ages 10 and 12.  They both started off a little shy, but the art is in them full force and we are having so much fun together.  I've had at least 6 other people contact me, and are in different stages of scheduling.  There are a lot of homeschool families in my town too, so i've been reaching out to their networking groups to try to gain more students.  One other thing i've learned: scheduling for families on the go is so hard!

Twitch: I've been working on a 100 page coloring book project, with plans to self publish it on Amazon in 2019.  You can sign in and chat with me while I live stream my project- it's super fun! My Twitch Channel is here.  And on that note, I put my 12 page coloring book up on Amazon as a test, and it's going fine!  I've already gotten one royalty check from it!  


So, in a nutshell, the art life is booming.  I'm enjoying it.  I'm feeling a little "too busy" at times, but with your support and my family i'm able to keep it all going.  I feel that i'm really busy enough with art to make a full-time job of it, but I need to do just a bit more hustling and get a bit more regular work (like lessons) to be able to make that final jump.  (I'm still also working about 20 hours a week as a graphic designer.  They are super flexible with my schedule which works out great!).  Thank you all as always for your generous support.  Though I may not update as often as I should, I think of you all every day with gratefullness for your continued support!

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Review and thoughts from the film Loving Vincent

January 20, 2018, 12:04 pm

I had the ((long awaited)) pleasure of watching this incredible film last night. And yes, I’m saying film instead of movie-- it deserves it, trust me! The film is an experience to say the least, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. For anyone who is an artist, dabbles in art at all, loves art or knows and artist, or loves the work of Vincent Van Gogh, this is a must see. I’m going to break it down into a few key points as to why you should carve out 95 mins of you life to learn and experience VVG’s art and life as never before, and it couldn’t be a more interesting ((and true!)) story.


As an artist: I’ve always deeply loved Vincent Van Gogh’s work, and it is definitely one of the main points of inspiration that lead me to becoming an artist myself. Having started creating work at age 28, and dying at age 37, Van Gogh was intensely prolific but only sold 1 painting during his lifetime. The burden of his fervent, creative mind as well as a dysfunctional childhood and young-adulthood were the cornerstones to his tragic story. He is now hailed as a founding father of modern art, and it pains me that he never saw his art make the impact that it made and is still making. After watching this film, which is animated using hand painted oil paintings, my mind was burning with inspiration, and everywhere I looked I saw the potential of a scene to paint. I can only imagine this is what it was like to walk around as Vincent on a daily basis, nearly consumed by vision, and constantly trying to not be incapacitated by it.


As an art lover/supporter of artists: The film is beautifully animated, and each second is a treat for your eyes. They incorporate 120 of VVG’s actual paintings, and the characters in the film are subjects from his work. The story is woven together from his actual letters to friends and family to tell the story of his life and death. You will gain a deeper appreciation for art, painting, and  that screw loose that most artists have-- and must have-- in order to be driven to create. The people around him who saw his potential supported and loved him for who he was, which he desperately needed.


As a parent: It is heartbreaking to learn about the disappointment VVG felt he was to his family. As he passed through failure after failure career wise, the depiction of the need he had for pleasing his parents nearly had me in tears. It was the support of his brother that even enabled him to create art (and get mental help) but in the end the guilt of the burden he was to his brother was too much to bear. This strikes me very much- that the feeling of “my parents don’t like me” can be so deeply damaging to a child and carry through into every aspect of life. This will make me hug my children more, encourage them in their interests and talents, and love (and like) them for the people they are, not the people I think they should be.


As a person with a fervent mind: I experience what I call “fervent mind”- in which the creative ideas and passions are coming easily and quickly, and i’m very driven to be in my studio creating. During these times, regular life is a bit difficult to keep up with, but i’m lucky enough to be able to go back and forth between my responsibilities and my artwork without becoming incapacitated. I can only imagine what it is like to have your fervent mind running at all times- and you can see in the film what difficulty VVG had making connections with people and having relationships. It’s a reminder to me to take care of myself and my mind, and to seek help through counseling or more when the cracks in my mind become chasms that I can’t cross on my own. I wonder what he would have been able to accomplish had he been able to receive modern treatment for depression or bi-polar disorder. Also a reminder that those that deal with mental illness on any level still have plenty to offer our world, and they may be a genius struggling under the weight of their gifts.


I think that’s my complete thoughts, though this film will continue to swirl in my thoughts and in my eyes for a long time to come. My final tip is to watch the film at a time of day when you are wide awake- you won’t want to doze off during this one or you’ll miss details in the conversations and dialog that will leave you confused. Pick a time when you’re free from distraction and have the energy to stay awake and watch!


Most of all, enjoy the beauty of the work in the film and the interesting and true story of an amazing and inspirational artist.

Wow! What an amazing film. We watched it last night in awe. The movie’s site at says the artists painted 65,000 frames for the 853 shots in the film. Mind boggling! And did you see that you can buy some of the original paintings from the filmmakers? And prints, too. Thanks for the great, in-depth review.
Posted By: carl
993 days 11 hrs 41 mins 38 secs ago
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It's All Related- Chromatic Obsession

January 19, 2018, 11:27 am
My son's play food
Crochet time is a great time to think about painting
More of this to come. For sure.
That sky!
My little helper stole this to be a blankie for his bear.
Learning a new stitch pattern
my pens i love to stare at
Dark Side of the Moon

I've been fairly obsessed with the chromatic spectrum lately.  I don't know exactly when it started, but it's taken on a full fledged mental obsession- I even see these colors and images when I close my eyes at night.  When this is happening to me, it is usually a great time of creativity and growth.  I absolutely love the new ideas this brings on, however the fervent mind it brings can be a bit much for me and my family ha ha!  Things tend to get a little disorganized and things like cooking dinner and other adulting tasks must take a ((way)) back seat to my strong creative urges.  The times like this are to be cherished though- as it cannot usually be brought on "manually", rather, I must keep practicing, painting, experimenting and exploring until- BING POP WOW- fervent, obsessive creative mind is here for a visit- however long it may last. It's also good that it doesn't last forever, or I might not be a very good mother, spouse, employee etc.  Ha ha!  My husband can see it coming a mile a way, and just says, "Shine on you crazy diamond" and sends me out to the studio to work. (And yes I know that's a Pink Floyd song- speaking of rainbows and spectrums... yes yes I know, wrong album)  In my art journey, i've seen time and time again that one idea leads to another, to another to another.  It's all related!


Please enjoy these images that have contributed to this current chromatic obsession.  

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Warmly Welcomed and Settled In

November 27, 2017, 11:24 pm
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Painting Explanation: Powers of Recall

February 22, 2017, 9:06 am
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My Toddler Could Make that!

January 31, 2017, 3:01 pm
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Flooded: Painting Explanation/ Meaning

December 29, 2016, 8:55 am
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New studio- finally!!!

October 25, 2016, 10:35 am
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It Takes a Village to Raise an Artist

September 4, 2016, 12:04 pm
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Let's share a VENTI size cup of ART!

May 6, 2016, 11:25 am

Welcome to my Scratchbang support site! Scratchbang is a ultra cool site that helps connect artists of all kinds to awesome supporters.  When you sign up to support an artist, it goes through your Paypal account- so it's easy, and secure. Then your support comes straight to me to use for rent, supplies, or applying for art shows. 


I am **4** supporters away from reaching my goal of 10!  Supporters at ANY amount (even $1 a month!) get to choose  a FREE PAINTING from this fabulous list!  In addition to that nice warm feeling you will get inside your heart from supporting an artist, you will also receive access to my subscriber only posts.  These are sort of secretive posts- as I've started posting painting explenations.  I've only recently been brave enough to share this background information with the public!  Also, first looks at sales, and even some giveaways!  And you get your name in lights at the top of my Facebook page!


To give you an idea of what your support means to me, here is a few way that even small amounts add up to great support:

$1/month= $12/year= 3 new paint brushes!

$1/month from 10 people= $120/year= a month's rent for my studio!

$2/month= $24/year= a nice roomy and blank canvas to create a new painting on!

$5/month= $60/year= 3 or 4 tubes of yummy delicious oil paints!

All of this great support- and all for less than your Starbucks habit- yes I know about it!


So- wouldn't it be fun to enjoy a cup of coffee together?  I would love that- because I love people and I love to talk- but guess what?  I don't drink coffee!  Not ever!  Not even one sip!  (It's one of my life-stances.  It's ridiculous, i know, but we can discuss that later.)  So instead of coffee, let's share a cup of art together!  


Small amounts add up to big support for this artist!  And it is SO appreciated.  


Your grateful friend,

Oil Painter Annie 






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Painting explanation: House of Mystery and Hope

May 1, 2016, 10:00 pm
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Beautiful Abandon

February 24, 2016, 11:10 am
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Preparing for my first solo show!

February 13, 2016, 11:29 am
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Past, Present, Future

January 3, 2016, 10:11 am
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Dream job (???) here I come!

January 3, 2016, 10:20 am
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6 more supporters- help me reach my goal!

October 4, 2015, 11:13 am

I have been amazed at all the ways supporters are out there.  From people who visit me at my studio, likes/comments/shares on social media, painting purchases, and even the guy at work who brings me rocks for free for my Rock Monsters!  There are so many people out there helping me to make my art and studio possible! 

My goal with Scratchbang is to get 10 supporters- and I need 6 more to reach my goal!  I am giving away a free painting (!!!!!) to my first 10 supporters, so it is a great time to sign up.  Once I reach my goal, I will be doing a giveaway for supporters only!  If you are a supporter, please share with all your friends.  Post a picture with your free art!  If you're not a supporter yet- today is the day!  Oh, and to peruse the selection of free paintings you can choose from- click here!


Support of any and all types is so sincerely appreciated!!!!!!!!


~ Oil Painter Annie ~

This is such a generous offer! Thanks for showing us around your studio during Art Crawl night... What a great space!
Posted By: carl
1844 days 3 hrs 19 mins 38 secs ago
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Rock Monster Giveaway!!!!!

August 22, 2015, 9:33 am

Hello all!  Lots of good art ideas kicking around today as I head to the studio.  Sometimes I am so filled with ideas I can barely see straight!  It's a good problem to have- except maybe when i'm at work and need to focus.  So grateful for my Saturdays at my studio.  If I didn't have that each week- the ideas would either completely eat my brain- or die and go away forever! 

This week I will be working on more Rock Monsters.  These are really fun to create- I look at each rock and let the face become formed by the shape of the rock- so each one is different.  I will also attempt a new time lapse video of the process- just because I think those videos are just so much fun.

More fun news- once I meet my goal of 10 supporters here on Scratch Bang, I will give away a Rock Monster to a lucky supporter!  So, if you are already a supporter, share this page to help me reach my goal!  If you are not already a supporter, sign up!  You get a FREE PAINTING if you are one of my first 10 supporters!  Support at any level is greatly appreciated!

Thanks, as always, for your support!


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New video!

July 25, 2015, 11:44 pm

I am experimenting with making time lapses of my paintings in progress- here is my first one.  I learned a lot- will do more in the future!

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Free painting for my first 10 subscribers!!

July 23, 2015, 9:39 pm

In order to celebrate my new and exciting opportunity to be a part of Scratchbang, and to really get this party started right- I am offering my first 10 subscribers on Scratchbang a FREE PAINTING!!!! Wow!!!! Support at any amount will get you your pick from this fine list of paintings. (Or, if you don't see one that trips your trigger right away, you can have a $30 voucher off any of my paintings that are currently available!)


Besides a free painting now- what other benefits will be in store for supporters?  Well, i'm so glad you asked!  I am going to be posting monthly Scratchbang exclusive content (it will only be here!!!) featuring a monthly deal on art- a sale...a giveaway...a free painting!  Trust me- if you are a fan, you are going to want to stick around!


Your support at any amount means so much to me!  Thank you in advance.  Let's get this party started!