"Sour Milk Gill" Oil Painting by James Swanson

"Sour Milk Gill" Oil Painting by James Swanson
"Sour Milk Gill" From the award winning painting series.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Think Painting

"Venetian Canal Waters" 20x16 oil

This next painting is from my Italy trip last year that I painted for my oil painting class. 
Sketch from class 

One of the main things I stress in class is to know your subject and then forget it. What I work on before I paint sets up the painting starting with the thumbnail sketch.

Here I am making changes to the sketch to get the bridge and its reflection out of the middle of the painting. I did this by sliding in the left side of the sketch. Nothing of interest was on that side there anyways.

Next, I sketched in my sketch in oil on the canvas. Keeping the bridge out of the middle was my big concern from my sketch.
The few minutes I spend here can keep me from breaking a painting. With just a few composition fixes this sketch is ready for the canvas. 

Palette of colors: Titanium White, Cad Yellow light, Cad Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Venitian Red, Ulta Marine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Mixing my colors ahead of painting helps me really concentrate on the painting and not the color mixing.

Put in the darkest colors first starts to give the painting structure right away. These being very old buildings I like to apply my darks generously knowing that nothing needs to be tightened up for a while.
After the sketch is on the canvas I mixed up my palette of colors. Since this is a two class painting I just need to mix up the colors for the buildings on both sides. The sky and light water will be put in the next class.

Here is where I left the painting at the end of the first class. The boat was the last thing I put in for this class.

One thing to keep in mind when painting reflections is remembering what is being reflected. Sound simple but when you are working fast it's easy to forget that point. In this painting, the doorways and buildings reflected straight down. 
Detail from painting so far. Pretty simple one-point perspective in this painting. The hardest thing is making the correct brush angle for the doorways.

End of first class  

 The finishing touches of the painting.

Detail from painting
The reflections were running straight down. Painting them in as simple as possible is the trick. All the hard stuff was painted in the first class and all I had left to do for this one is making sense of the sky and water.

Detail from painting
For the sky, I was thinking, "Don't make it too light!" to myself. I wanted the buildings to blend into the sky so I thought about paint edges here, knowing that softer edges recede in space.
Getting depth in the water but keeping it fresh looking is always tricky and fun. Here I used contrasts in colors to create depth.The brighter oranges come forward as the darker greyer oranges recede in space.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Something Old, Something New

This has happen to me a few times over my career, I make a painting that quite a few collectors want, so I repaint a painting a second time or third time.

There's nothing wrong with doing this and in fact it's quite flattering. 

The thing is not to copy your old painting when you repaint, but enhance it. Try to add that missing sparkle or simplify an area, there is usually some spot I wish I had done different.  Most of the time I try to get the dimensions of the new painting to be different. That in its self can make a big change.

So that brings me to this next Traveler Painting. Meet Traveler Heather May. I've painted a couple of Heathers photos before for this project. You see she lives on this very special little island off the coast of Northern Michigan called Mackinac Island.

Heather May with my painting at Mackinac Islands Museums Art Gallery
It's a place that time forgot. There are no cars or motor vehicles allowed on the island. Everything during the summer needs to be moved by horses. And the fudge is fantastic.- May's Candy Shop  A fascinating place to visit.

Heather lives there year around and is able to take some pictures that only a year a-rounder would see. The winter painting that Heather is standing next to above was inspired by one of her photos. It sold at the opening of the Mackinac Island annual art contest exhibit.

I was contacted after the show by an art collector who saw it to see if I would repaint it, because his wife loved the painting but it was already sold.

So we worked out the details of the painting over a few emails and here is what we did. We decided to take my 12" x 16" painting and make it a 36" x 48"piece. And here is how I went about making it.

The initial start of the new painting. Rubbed some Venetian Red paint into the canvas and marked off the placement of everything. The translation to a bigger canvas took some figuring and some redesigning. Little things in the small painting ended up needing a bit more explaining in this large version. 
In up scaling the small painting to this new one found a few things that I had to do different. One I could only work one side of the painting at a time. Being so large my color palette  could only hold so much paint. So I planned out the sections to do and started with the trees on the right. Those being my darkest darks are aways a great place to start. The other thing about painting larger was the color itself. Defining my warms and cools colors took more studying. Everything stood out so much more. And the size of my brushes. Big brushes, big ideas.
The next section of the painting to tackle was the left side with the houses. Here again little details didn't transfer up nicely and took a bit to figure out. But I remembered painting it the first time and knew the fun things that were coming up to do. But at this point, I'm trying to block the beast in loosely.
OK, blocked in painting. I remembered the snow covered street tying everything together, so that's why I worked the painting like I did. If I had to stop somewhere I knew that would pull it together. There are lots of things to work out here yet, but I was feeling good about where this painting was going at this point
Details, details, details! The life of this painting is in the details. At this point things are resolving themselves pretty fast. the light posts are in, the details of the house windows are on there way, and the trees behind the houses are taking shape. The sky has now had some real attention and has been cleaned up.
This is it. "Winter on Market Street" 36" x 48" oil on linen
The last stages of this painting were in the snow covered street. Some of my nice strokes in the little painting were not working in this bigger size, so I had to work that part out and then I went back it and softened all the hard paint edges and that finished off all of the depth problems I had left.

So there you have it making a mountain out of a mole hill in painting. Thanks to Heather May again for her wonderful inspiring photos to work with and I hope you like the painting I sent you and to the art collector who challenged me have this big painting framed and ready by Christmas. I hope your wife is surprised.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fixing A Broken Painting

As a oil painter there are always problems you have to over come to make a good painting. Sometimes you either rushed things a bit or your materials weren't perfect or your knowledge just wasn't there yet. The after sight is what I was dealing with recently.

I usually don't go back a rework paintings very often, but I did on this one. 

The Salt Creek painting as it sat on a wall
And here's why I did

There was a lot of things that I liked about this painting when I finished it the first time. 

It was a bigger painting than I usually do.

I liked the composition, the light coming thru the tree, the water effects and the over all colors used was interesting in the painting. 

But what I later decided I didn't like and bothered the dickens out of me was the main tree and the grasses around it.  What was I thinking? And the foreground wasn't as interesting as I would like it to be, and the clouds need help also.

The tree area I would be targeting first a long with color changes
So I made up my mind to go back in and make some changes-

First I would start with the tree! If this painting was going to be any good that tree had to be interesting. So I took a photo of it and took it into Photoshop and played around with it and came up with a plan.

A Plan is the MOST important piece of re-working a painting! If you don't know what to fix you are playing not painting.

The Photoshopped in a tree that I felt would be more impactful to the scene.
 An older tree with a little more tilt to it.
This where I when to work and here is what it turned into.
"Salt Creek" By James Swanson
24 x 30 Oil
The purple mass of trees behind the main tree was something of a surprise, I didn't expect it to work out so well as it did. It added a whole new feel that I went with by bringing in that color into other places in the painting to move the eye around.

Now Salt Creek is ready to go back on the wall, this time with a fresh and stronger look.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Day #3 in A Dog Day Month

This is a very special and sad painting. It's a painting of my friend Gillian Bryce's Gidget.
I woke up on Friday morning with a painting in mind for day #3 and that lasted until i saw a post from Gillian telling of her pups death. I painted her 3 pups already for her last year and knew she must be really hurting. I started painting dogs and pets for people because of the death of 
my Amber last year.

With Gillian's heart in mind, I change some days around and painted her Gidget as Day #3. What a great little dog and friend she was.

Day # 3 Gidget
She the up to date paintings of this project here- Dog Day2