In the Studio with Anna Swanson of Demi and Olive

by Leah O'Neill on October 18, 2018 in Lifestyle, Living Texas, Austin, Art,

As an interior decorator it is so important to me to be able to source unique and whimsical art for my clients. I especially love when I can find talented local artists to use in my clients’ homes. Interestingly, Instagram has been an incredible resource for discovering local creatives.

Anna Swanson of Demi and Olive is one of my favorite Instagram discoveries and —even better for me—we both reside in Austin, Texas!

Anna is an artist but also a stylist at heart. When she’s not teaching an art class, she spends much of her time in her studio creating abstracts and cactus landscapes inspired by her travels to Mexico, Colorado and West Texas.  Her aesthetic resonates with me as I share her love of pattern and color and, having grown up in Arizona, her love of the desert landscape.

Imagine then, how excited I was when Anna agreed to come over, style her art with me, and let me ask her all about herself.

Anna Swanson putting the finishing touches on a painting during the West Austin Studio Tour. Photo Eli Halpin

What do you want to convey to your audience through your artwork?

I love creating art pieces that invoke a peaceful, harmonious, colorful, happy and calming feeling…I use colors and patterns in my artwork that make me feel happy. Years ago, the artist teaching a class I was taking had on the front of her business card, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” I try to keep my work playful, fun—and imperfect.

A stunning large-scale painting using Anna’s signature pops of color sits over the desk in her studio.
Art and photography Anna Swanson

Tell me about your path to becoming an artist?

It was not a straight shot. I always loved art, design and fashion but I never thought I’d become an artist. The moments I consider turning points include living in New Orleans for a year during college, where I decided to study art and get my BFA in Studio Art/Textiles.

I discovered my love for painting later, when I was asked to do a large painting of geranium flowers for a local restaurant. I started to get a lot commissions after that and believe it was one of the experiences that led me to where I am today.

I later studied education and became a teacher as my full-time career. I am so inspired by children’s artwork. It was a blessing that I was able to teach and also do my own art—even though it was very challenging to do both and have a young child.

As my art career started to grow, I knew I needed to find a balance. Now I am able to teach art part time and work in my studio part time. I love where I am, although it took me years and years to get here.

I love this vignette we set up using three of Anna’s pieces over a cabinet in the hall bath. Art Anna Swanson. Styling and photography Leah O’Neill of Bête Abode Interior Design

What are some of the most inspiring things happening for artists currently?

Artists are able to get their work out on many platforms and work with so many different creative people like bloggers, interior designers, stylists, photographers etc. I love that artists and creatives are able to connect on so many levels and show their work to a large audience.

I am so inspired by all of the design trends and mixes of styles: bohemian with modern art, abstract art, mid-century mixed with handmade…My paintings are created with that same inspiration.

This amazing piece by Anna was commissioned by a client and is composed of 36 individual pieces. She incorporated pastels, pops of color and interesting lines in the artwork. Photo Anna Swanson

How do you overcome creative roadblocks?

I step away from my studio for a few days. I have to clean up my space, reorganize, go out in nature, look through inspiring magazines and books, and just be outside of my space for a while. It always helps me come back ready to begin new projects.

I put together a gallery wall using three of Anna’s pieces and a few rattan mirrors. Art Anna Swanson. Styling and photography Leah O’Neill of Bête Abode Interiors

What is the one thing you do every day that you feel has contributed most to your success?

Eating healthy, getting rest, and walking or doing yoga every day contributes to my success as an artist.

I love the way Anna uses color in her signature cactus landscapes. When people think of the desert they tend to think of brown, dull colors. But the desert is full of color and Anna shows this in her art. Art Anna Swanson. Styling and photography Leah O’Neill of Bête Abode Interiors

I adore the playful and carefree vibes exuded by Anna’s art. Both her art and her words are simple reminders that having fun and embracing imperfection are things we should always do in our daily lives, because life isn’t as fun without its quirks.


Cover art by Anna Swanson

Leah O’Neill is an interior decorator and jewelry designer living in Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter, dogs, and horse. She writes a design blog and runs an online décor and jewelry shop called Bête Abode