top of page

Thoughts On My Art: Guitar Art, Contemporary Abstract Art And Contemporary Swedish Folk Art

CHARLES CITY, Iowa - I will admit, I can be a bit sporadic in my focus when it comes to painting. I started out trying to be Max Beckmann, using oil paint and thick lines, then ventured into all sorts of areas and styles trying to find myself in the mix. Eventually I started a series of guitar paintings right around the time I was finishing up my first year of grad school.

The guitar art series allowed me to be a full time artist, dropping out of graduate school at the University of Northern Iowa to be in the studio as much as possible. I am thankful for that. But, after 140-150 guitar paintings, I got super burned out. I still play guitar, think about guitars, buy guitars I don't need... but I have largely moved on. I am thankful for what it did for me. I have paintings all over the US and a couple in the UK and I have shipped prints of this work all over the world. I also have been fortunate enough to interact with many of my favorite musicians and a few years ago I did a commission for Billy Bragg.

He wrote this:

"Karl Haglund not only captures the totemic power of the instruments that he paints, but the detail is so good that it looks like you could pick the damn thing up and play it." - Billy Bragg.

I put that quote on a poster of kitten gripping a tree limb - those "Hang In There" motivational posters. It hung in my studio for awhile.

My most recent work got started gradually for me. I slowly started to take things out of paintings and simplify the subjects. I started to think in terms of composition and color, more than familiar subjects. Abstraction. Like painting through a distorted lens or computer code. I have also spent a great deal of my efforts reading and looking at the work of others, trying to bring new information to the work. That led me to revisit another art form I had attempted in the past, Swedish Folk Art.

My mother was born and raised in Eskilstuna Sweden. She later went to art school in Leksand Sweden where she met my American dad. He was playing baseball with a very young Swedish baseball league. He actually threw the first no-hitter in the leagues history. Pretty cool? I think so. Anyway, my existence is a product of that union, so I am glad for both baseball and art.

Growing up, our home was filled with Swedish folk art and other things like Swedish pancakes. I think I was 10 years old before I ever tried an American pancake. I like the Swedish style better... make them for my kids all the time. Anyway... the art is what stands out to me.

I always watched my mom paint when she would let me. Loved her work then, love the work she did more recently as well. I also have many of my grandfathers paintings. He painted tiny postcard sized landscapes, often sending them off for free as birthday and holiday cards. His name was Axel and my son would be named the same if it were not for a certain 80's metal band.. Oh well..

Fast forward to 2017... the last few days of my mothers struggle with pancreatic cancer were very difficult, obviously. We talked a lot about a lot of things, but a lot about art. The last 2 days, I did all the talking.

I remember sitting in her hospital room, realizing she had spoken her last words, she was still alive, but I would never hear her voice again. I broke down.

She used to say my name in her accent. Instead of Karl it was more of Kawl. Usually drawn out like Kaaawl, because I had messed with her. I loved to mess with my mom. She would laugh, but also kind of get irritated. My friends used to make fun of the way she would yell at me, "Damn it, Kaaawwwl!"

Anyway, it was sad to know that was over. I stayed and talked to her, even though she could not respond... I talked to her about art and told her I would do more Swedish folk art, not really maybe even thinking I really would... but just wanting to say things to her that might be comforting. Her last day. I wanted her to know that her spirit would live on. I left her room around 9pm and got a call later that night that she had passed away.

It is difficult for me to write about this even now... but I wanted to explain my work. In a sense, it is a way to honor my mother, the unique culture she brought to our otherwise boring rural Midwest home.

Swedish folk art is comforting to me. And so.. I started painting some more.

My goal, however, is to not only honor the tradition of that craft, but to also attempt to bring new information into it. Trying to blend traditional Swedish folk art with a more contemporary approach, mark making etc.. Sometimes I accomplish that, sometimes not.

Regardless, it is important work to me. And I enjoy painting.

The work... unless they are marked SOLD, they are available either through me or through The Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids.

Thank you for reading!

Moms are the best.

Fuck cancer.

Best to you all,


Here are a few of these paintings (some Swedish, some not), I hope you dig them:

"Thoughts Like Wings: Root 1987"

Mixed Media on canvas.

48x48 inches.


"Root: In Relation To Pancakes etc.."

2018. 42x52 inches.

Mixed: Acrylic, marker, charcoal, oil pastel and news clippings on canvas.

"Root: In Relation To Object"

2018. 48x48 inches.

Mixed: Acrylic, Marker, Spray Paint. On canvas.

"Product: Ögan Täckt Stad"

2018. 40x56 inches.

Acrylic, marker, oil pastel, news clippings on canvas.

Contemporary art. mark making.

"Product: Ockupationsroten"

2018. 48x48 inches.

Acrylic, marker, news clippings on canvas

"I Fell In Love With The Apocalypse: Root In Relation To Place"

2018. 48x48 inches.

Acrylic and marker on canvas.

"Root: In Relation To Place"

48x48 inches. Acrylic, oil pastel, marker and pencil on canvas. Contemporary City Art. Abstract Painting.

Available at The Gilded Pear Gallery In Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

808 3rd Ave SE

Minneapolis: Root In Relation To Place


48x48 inches. Acrylic, marker, oil pastel and pencil on canvas.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square