GOOD NEWS: MC 94-year-old art student hones his craft

MIDLAND A few years ago, Midland College student Dave Swenson would wake up at 5 a.m., drive to the Allison Fine Arts Building on the MC main campus and check the temperature on the ceramics kilns. Sometimes he would even go back at midnight to shut everything down. Swenson did these tasks for the love of art. He was an unpaid assistant.
“Well I am handy,” Swenson said. “I live only a couple of blocks away, so it just worked out that I would fill in back then.”
Swenson started taking ceramics and watercolor classes in the 90s after he retired. He has kept up with watercolor ever since. He is now 94 years old.
“I always wanted to take art classes,” Swenson said. “I had the feeling I could paint, but I was always too busy with my job, moving around and raising a family. Now I wish I had started earlier. If you have a feeling or a desire to learn, go to MC and try an art class.”
An eager student, Swenson usually arrives early to class. He uses the extra time to make a pot of coffee for the whole class to share. It is no wonder Swenson was asked to be a substitute instructor at MC.
“I had fun teaching too,” Swenson said. “I enjoyed getting to know the students. When the regular teachers would come back the students would always say they wanted Dave back.”
Students are welcome to take Midland College’s art classes multiple times to hone their craft. This offering has allowed Swenson’s MC career to span decades. He says he has seen his work change over time.
“I got better at what I was doing,” Swenson said. “When I started out, I was completely an amateur. I am still an amateur, but I have gained a lot of knowledge. I believe my talent was always there, but with the help of MC instructors I just learned how to do it better.”
Swenson’s works revolve around nature.
“The outdoors always interested me,” Swenson said. “I was a forestry major and a forester so I worked in the wilderness. I was a bird enthusiast. I just loved being around animals and being outside. Now I try to bring nature to life in my art.”
One of his favorite watercolors is a painting he made of his stepson’s dog. Since Swenson works exclusively from photographs, the German Sheppard was captured in the mountains of Colorado. He is contently lying in the green grass with mountains and a blue sky behind him.
Ever the perfectionist, Swenson critiques himself.
“I wish I were faster. I would work almost a whole semester on one picture. My classmates always asked, ‘You still working on that?’ It is just the way I work. If I were quicker that speed would probably help my craft,” Swenson said.
When Swenson started making pottery he was in awe of the process.
“I would put the clay on the wheel and shape it up,” Swenson said. “The beginning stages are amazing, because it just works. The clay stays in shape and you are able to create something out of nothing.”
Swenson became skilled at carving designs into his pottery, which students and teachers did not normally do at MC. This method made all Swenson’s pieces stand out.
“People give me gracious feedback,” said Swenson. “A lot of people tell me, ‘I always look for your work in the student shows.’ It is nice to hear those compliments.”
Swenson is very complimentary to all the faculty and staff at MC.
“I would like to say my time at MC has been great,” Swenson said. “The instructors I have had over the years have all been wonderful. I have made a lot of really good friends. I really appreciate the college.”