Good Life

Port Matilda artist draws inspiration from her surroundings

Local artist Lena Thynell started painting to relieve stress about 20 years ago. She now teaches at the Art Alliance and has an upcoming exhibit at Schlow Centre Region Library.
Local artist Lena Thynell started painting to relieve stress about 20 years ago. She now teaches at the Art Alliance and has an upcoming exhibit at Schlow Centre Region Library. Photo provided

In summer 2011, Lena Thynell moved from Sweden to the United States, where she now lives with her husband in Port Matilda. Thynell received her education in watercolor painting at Sweden’s Gerlesborg School of Fine Art, located north of Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast.

After a long career as a registered nurse, certified nurse midwife and department head in Sweden, watercolor became an important part of her life. She started to paint on location, “en plein air,” which she said gives her much joy and new inspiration.

An art instructor at the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania, Thynell has participated in juried and solo art shows in Sweden. She is on the Bellefonte Art Museum art registry, a juried member of the Gallery Shop in Lemont and a member of Farmland Preservation Artists of Central Pennsylvania.

Thynell has her own upcoming exhibition at Schlow Centre Region Library, Feb. 1-28. She will be showing 20 original watercolors from Centre County, painted from 2015-16. Several of them were painted outdoors, rain or shine.

Recently, Thynell talked about her artwork, what inspires her and how she fills her days in retirement.

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

A: The first thing I do in the morning is have breakfast, and I read the CDT newspaper. I also read two or three Swedish newspapers online.

Q: What is a normal workday for you?

A: A normal “workday” usually starts at about 8 a.m. I have my studio at home, and my goal is to paint almost every day. I usually paint 2-3 hours, and I’m finished by lunchtime. I am also the Gallery Shop Facebook administrator and Philadelphia Water Color Society Facebook administrator, and I spend some time to make if not daily but weekly updates. I usually take a brisk walk after lunch. Walking makes me feel good.

Q: What were your childhood ambitions?

A: My childhood ambitions had nothing to do with art. I guess I found my calling around my 20s. I became a registered nurse, a certified nurse midwife and, later on in life, department head at a hospital in Sweden. Art became a necessity some 20 years ago. I deeply needed something to relax from my stressful work — a hobby of some sort. My children were growing up and leaving home, and I found myself having more time on my hands. I had always been interested in watercolor painting and I decided to give it a try. I took classes at a very good art school in Sweden, mainly during the summertime when I was on vacation. Watercolor painting became something I did on weekends and on vacations.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I am a watercolor instructor at the Art Alliance, I sometimes have watercolor classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and I also have a watercolor class at Juniper Retirement Home in State College. I retired almost a year ago, and I keep myself busy painting, knitting and teaching watercolor. I feel very lucky to be able to fill my days with art.

Q: Who are your favorite artists and why?

A: Andrew Wyeth is one artist I admire. He was a watercolor painter. I like the subject matter, his colors and the way he creates mood in his paintings. Stanislaw Zoladz is a Polish native living in Sweden. He is a true watercolor master and a master at painting water. Lars Lerin is a Swedish watercolor artist. He has a fresh approach to the medium, and he’s a master in painting light.

Q: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

A: My inspiration comes from what surrounds me: the farmlands, old barns, sheds and buildings in Pennsylvania, the Swedish west coast, the ocean and the fisherman sheds and islands.

Q: What has been the proudest moment of your career and your life?

A: There have been several moments during my career and my life that I’m proud of, but I have to admit I was very happy when I became Signature Member of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Water Color societies.

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: I guess people would be surprised to know that I have delivered hundreds of babies.

Q: What are your personal and professional goals for the future?

A: My goal for the future is to become a better watercolor artist. The medium is challenging, and there is always something new to learn. I would like to get accepted into more international exhibitions and juried plein air events. To get my paintings accepted into the American Watercolor Society’s International Exhibition is a goal that seems unreachable, but I will keep on trying just for the fun of it.  

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