heART struck-when the artist's work and your heart connect


Fresh Snow on Pine from Blackwell Forest Preserve

I spent a LOT of time with friends and Blackwell Forest Preserve when I was younger. For me and my friends, it was a place to get away from it all and I am happy to see that my Dad recognized this too. Here is what he wrote about this piece.

I awoke one winter Saturday morning in 2005 to discover a think wet blanket of snow had fallen during the night. My wife and I grabbed breakfast and our cameras and went for a drive to capture the magic before it melted away. One stop was Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois, near where we live. At one point this scene “begged” us to stop . The light was somewhat diffused but the sun still cast shadows on the snow. This pine was on the crest of a hill overlooking a nearly frozen lake. Only the edges remained open water. On the island of ice in the lake, the area geese had settled down for a nap in the safety of their isolation and the warmth of the sun.

What especially grabbed my attention were the almost abstract patterns of snow clumps on the branches contrasted with the deep dark green areas hidden underneath. I also loved the softness of these snow clumps against the wonderful linear patterns of the dead branches around the base of the trunk. There we could see the shapes of the snow made by the driving wind. It struck me as a very peaceful and quiet, yet ephemeral moment. The work of the sun would transform this scene quickly by melting away the wonderful snow patterns. Then, almost missed, we spotted the owl, hidding deep within the darkness of the inner tree, watching us watching him. Magic!

The painting is done in transparent watercolors so the snow white areas are simply unpainted paper, as is traditional in watercolors. The paper is 15″ by 20″ Arches 140# cold pressed 100% cotton rag, the best available.


Oak Creek Mud Cracks and Rocks

My parents loved Sedona, AZ. It seems like most of my Dad’s artwork was featuring images from Sedona. This piece was no exception.

Here is another watercolor painting done from images I saw while walking along Oak Creek near Sedona Arizona. This particular scene greeted me late one afternoon as the light slanted deeply across the scene. I was near the famous Red Rock Crossing area west of Sedona. Fortunately, I had my camera and was able to freeze the wonderful moment.

Most of the red rocks in the area cliffs are sandstones, but the very top edge of the canyon is capped with black and sometimes gray hardened lava. That leads to some very odd arrangements down in the creek bottoms. The red sandstone erodes quickly to sand and silt, but the hard basalt weathers to amazing rounded, pitted boulders and cobbles. In this specific case, it looked to me as if the rocks were being ‘born’ from within the red mud. In fact, I am sure that the mud covered most of the rocks when wet, and that as the mud dried and contracted, the cracks formed and the mud shrank and settled around the rocks, creating the little “volcano” shapes around each rock.

Then, as nature always does, in the midst of the dried and lifeless scene, a tiny plant found just enough moisture to grow foliage and bloom.

The painting is done in transparent watercolors on 15″ by 20″ Arches 140# cold pressed rag paper.

Late Light in Oak Creek Canyon

I know my Dad was on this never ending search for how to create the perfect water with paint. This example does justice for sure.

Although it is somewhat an exaggeration, this scene came from an experience I had walking along Oak Creek, at Arroyo Robles Resort, in Sedona Arizona. This is one of my all time favorite places and I try to return there every year that I can. I know exactly what Zane Grey meant when he titled the book he wrote near here, “Call of the Canyon”. It calls me too, to come “home”.

At this particular time, the late afternoon light barely made it diagonally down between the two walls of the canyon and spilled across a small section of Oak Creek as I watched. It lasted just two or three minutes and was at it’s most intense for only about one minute.

I did take several reference photos, but none did this scene justice. Only by working with the images in my mind could I even come close to the amazement of the scene. What a gift to see it and to try to share!

The painting is a transparent watercolor, done on Arches 140# cold pressed 100% cotton rag paper, and sized about 13″ by 16″.

Lilies White

I love this painting which came from his images at North Side Park in Wheaton, IL.

This painting began as a demonstration for a watercolor course I taught in fall 2007. It was built from reference photos, almost like a photo collage, taken at the Churchill Forest Preserves near where I live. However, to enrich the image and composition, I added elements from Northside Park in Wheaton, and from my photo collection of flowers. The last mentioned was added last as I finally figured out the title for this painting.

The work is a very emotional reaction to the morning scene, soft light not yet too high in the sky, and the glory of God’s creation. It seemed to me that His whole creation was singing His praises. That’s when it finally came to me. “This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning bright, the lilies white, declare their Maker’s praise.” This painting is my, “Amen”.

Artistically, this was a very challenging painting.

• First, I wanted the intense but small color contrast of the red orange flower parts to vibrate against the overall green of the painting.

• Second, I wanted the solid hardness of the rocks to contrast the softer, textured areas of foliage.

• Third, I wanted a strong sense of balance and “rightness” in the design, but to avoid a “dead center” feeling, I shifted slightly those elements that made sense to change, to create a bit more dynamic placement for them. I wanted a still, quite, yet full of life image.

• Finally, while I wanted the strong warm and cool colors to work back into the distance and from the right to the left, I had to be sure to repeat these colors in many objects to ensure a feeling of unity and harmony in the painting. I am very pleased with the results!

The painting is 15″ X 30″ and is painted on Arches 300# cold pressed cotton rag paper.

Fall Reflections

The description of this “Fall Reflections” water color painting was written by my Dad who created all the artwork you see on this website.

“Fall Reflections” was done as a demonstration watercolor painting. What I especially like about it are the intense color contrast of the deep blue greens in the evergreens and the golden oranges in the deciduous trees. The shadows draw your eyes to the focus area, but you also wander around the corner, following the stream as it heads back behind that area. Where does it go?

It’s like many places I have been and wanted to stay indefinitely, absorbing all that’s there to see, so I can remember the place, the smells, the colors and my feelings.

Waterlemon Cay St. John US Virgin Islands

I was always so jealous for my mom and dad’s ability to take these awesome vacations while in retirement, they deserved it and i was happy for them. Now that is over as my dad is gone. This artwork is from a beach vacation they took together in 2007.

In 2007, Barry, his wife and two of our friends went on a dream vacation to St. John’s Island in the US Virgin Islands. A major purpose for the trip was to see the incredible national park there which includes about 2/3rds of the island and bays surrounding it. We rented snorkle gear for the week and spent lots of time exploring the amazing crystal clear blue-green waters, coral, fish, octopus, rays, and other aquatic life. However, Barry doesn’t like to snorkle quite as much as his wife and friends.

When we went to explore Waterlemon Bay and it’s Cay (little island), Barry brought his portable watercolors and a pad of watercolor paper. This painting took about 2.5 hours on-site and another hour back where we stayed, for a total of about 3.5 hours to complete. Neighbors wanted to buy it, but we couldn’t agree on a price.

The painting is done in transparent watercolors on 140# Arches cold pressed paper which measures 14″ by 20″.

Memorizing the Moment 2

All the artwork on this website is by my Dad, Barry Sweeny – a 32 year Wheaton, IL resident who recently passed away March 6th of this year. My Dad was not in pain when he died (at Central DuPage Hosp from chemo complications) and we were literally surrounding him holding hands, hugging and in tears as he took his last breaths. He was an art teacher for 22 years and a professional artist with awards and exhibits to boot. This my Father’s artwork which he loved to plan, create, exhibit and explain to others. Read more about my Dad Barry Sweeny.

This website is dedicated to my Dad Barry’s love for creating artwork – combining creativity and finding the connection to nature within us all through this artwork he called that “HeART Struck” or “HeArt Longing”-when the artist’s work and your heart connect!

This idea was defined in both of his “Memorizing the Moment” watercolors.

Here is what my Dad wrote about this piece.

Read the rest of this page »

Golden Glow Afternoon

Here is one of the first water color paintings my dad did which he asked me to critique.

Although assembled from scenes at two places on Oak Creek near Sedona Arizona, this painting is still a true representation of many places along this wonderful river. Specifically, the lighting was experienced late one afternoon as the sun reached the top edges of the canyon in which Oak Creek runs. Things that were not in the direct sun light were dark, creating an almost moody feeling. Yet, those things still lit by the sun were aglow with a beautiful golden light so typical of late Sedona days.

The composition design process was interesting for me in that I tried to emphasize the drop in the water level as the creek backed up behind the rocks. To reinforce that feeling, I exaggerated the rock pile at the far bank, and I designed the far bank and trees on it to reflect the same curved drop in height.

While the tree trunks and rocks are carefully rendered, the grass, flowers, and water are much more expressive. In the water, this captures the dancing and flowing feeling the creek gives a viewer. I love this kind of scene so much, in part for the strong feelings I had when there, watching the light change minute by minute. I am sure I will paint other versions of this scene in the future.

This is a transparent watercolor painting done on 100% cotton rag Strathmore Gemini 300# cold pressed paper. It is 13″ by 19″.

Affirmation of Faith

My good friend Mike wanted to buy this painting from my Dad but never followed through with the transaction. This huge painting was done in the late 1960’s and has sat on the wall in my mom and dad’s home in Wheaton for a long time. Here’s what my dad wrote about this piece.

This is an acrylic painting, sized 36″ by 48″ and it’s painted on gessoed hardboard.

It was painted in the studio, and based on a previous drawing Barry had done from sketches made while on vacation along the rocky coast of Maine.

While sitting in the sand just below these rocks, Barry suddenly had a moment of “wonder”, wondering how long those rocks had been piled there, AND how long they would stay there. It caused him to realize what a leap of faith we often unconsciously make, that what we see in nature will remain there, the same, unchanged for another age or two.

While painting this picture, Barry added two elements to add to this mystery, maybe even adding a bit of a spiritual overtone to the title.

1. The first addition to the scene was the use of “pure” white to symbolically suggest a visual and spiritual contrast to the darks used in the next step. This was achieved by “washing out” most of the details in the front of the rocks to emphasize their “pure” almost abstracted shapes. What was left was the pure white used to suggest the glare of the sun on the rocks and to “explain” the almost abstracted shadow shapes beneath the rocks.

In the original scene, the area of the lowest and largest rocks was a place where the rocks were partially covered with sand. In the painting, these too lost detail and became pure white, implying, rather than fully defining their shapes.

2. The second addition was the heavy, dense black area above the rocks. This is not just evocative of a stormy, frightening sky, but also is symbolic of how evil seems so often to ‘hold the upper hand’ in our current world.

Artistically, the black and the white areas are both empty, yet suggestive of other things. The painting is an “affirmation of faith” that the positions of good and evil will someday be reversed. Good will ultimatly triumph over evil and the apparent and short term “supremacy” of evil will be replaced by the permanant purity and victory of God.

East Cliffs Sedona Arizona

Here is what my Dad wrote about this piece which he painted in his bathroom and still is on the wall in my Mom’s home in Wheaton, IL.

This is a wall mural painted in Barry’s home and is about six feet wide and two feet high. It is painted in acrylics.

The mural is based on the view Barry has often seen facing north and east from his timeshare condo in west Sedona Arizona.

The vistas in the Sedona area are astounding, vast, and inspiring, hence the need for a larger scale painting. The centuries of rock strata are laid exposed like pages in a closed book that is viewed on edge. Like a book, these “pages” reveal an amazing story of an age old process. There are black and gray lava layers which “cap” the cliffs. Below these are thousands of feet of sandstones that range from deposits in marine environments to deposits of desert sand dunes that were cross-bedded from being blown by the wind. Of course, the weathered and eroded shapes are evocative, dramatic, and tell of millions of years of changes and varied natural forces at work.

What a challenge to capture all this in a painting! Barry is sure that this will be the first of a series of paintings, since that process will be needed to fairly represent the feelings the Sedona area invoke in him. It is truly a “heart longing” experience.


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