"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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 1 of Portland Painting

Day 1 of Portland journey Painting

The start of a painting is a lot like the start of a trip. You have a real good idea of where you are going and how to get there, but there are detours along the way. With this first painting the detour was right at the beginning, when the Traveler's story was way different than the painting idea. With that I decided to stay a little longer in Portland.

Portland is such a beautiful place I heard it's hard to even stop painting there. When you travel 20 min. in any direction, you have totally different sites to take in. You have an Ocean with its rocky coast to the west. You have mountains over there and big giant forests over here. And that's not even counting Portland's own beauty. The Japanese Gardens are supposed to be a wonderful place to take in. So I'm staying a little longer here. And that will give other Travelers in this journey more time to pack.

Remember to be a Traveler in this project, just become friends with the Artist, have a great story to share, and some type of small souvenir like a postcard or used lift ticket to contribute to the blog and painting. Making new friends and learning about new places is what this project is about. Like I always say, "Come find me, I'll be painting somewhere." and join in the adventure to cover the world in paintings.

The Artist's Notes
: When I received Jerry's story, I felt that what I was going to paint of his journey didn't go with his story. I've illustrated for many a year for books and in advertising and know they need to mesh a little more. So as the Artist, I called for a detour. His story was about how hard it was to get there for a guy in a wheel chair and his dog. And not just any dog a full grew St. Bernard. Jerry's a tough guy, and I'm sure his trip was a lot rougher than he lets on. But that being said lets get to the painting.

The better you know your subject the less you have too known about it. I'm starting this painting on a 20" x 24" linen canvas that has a clear acrylic coat on the surface in my studio. I have the story information from the Traveler; I have a few images to work with and a post card from Portland. Thank you Jerry.

In this first day of site seeing I want to map out what I do. First is the design of the painting. Without a good design the painting will not make it far, a good composition can make a painting great. I like to familiarize myself with the subject or "interview it" as an old art buddy told me. This is where I try and break the painting apart to its simplest forms. With the basic composition in mind I can design the image. (See image below)

With the design figured out, it's time to get busy. First I lay out my colors on the palette. The palette is an old heavy glass mirror. It's real easy to move colors around on and makes for easy clean ups with a razor blade. It's also a real good size, not too big and not too small, so I don't waste a lot of paint. (See image below)

Before I mix up my paint I transfer my sketch loosely to the canvas. I'll rub in a little paint on the canvas with the brush and then use a paper towel to smear it around. Then I'll try and pull out the high lights from the wet paint. And then draw in the sketch. (See image below)

With the sketch on the canvas it's time to mix up the colors for the painting. I work mixing up my colors on the palette like I paint-from dark to light. I'll start with my dark colors first and then work towards my lights-which is the sky in this painting. The sky is almost always the lightest light. I'll try and mix up most of the colors I'm going to need for the painting in small piles of paint.

I look for harmony in the colors on my palette before I put them on the canvas. If a color jumps out too much it's usually wrong, but not always it does depend on what you're painting. Remember sometimes the rules of art are meant to be bent or broken. Funny I've always have found that saying strange, that " Art has rules to go by, and then turning around and telling you it’s OK too bend and break them. Maybe they are more like Guidelines.

OK, finally paint on Canvas. Music is on, and I'm off. I'll lay in the dark colors first to get the structure of the painting down. I put my dark colors in thin and lights colors thick. I work with a large brush to block in the painting quickly. Think big brush, big strokes, and big ideas. By the end of the block in the painting should really be taking form. (See image below)

With painting blocked in and a little break to get a fresh eye, I'll start to refine the painting. Working on the focus and depth. A lot of color shifting and design changes will have too be done. With that accomplished the lighten the studio is gone, and day 1 of the first Traveler painting is over. Time to clean the palette and brushes.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

From Beloit, WI to Portland, OR

The first Traveler in this painting journey is Jerry from Portland. Jerry's wife Jackie was starting a new job that required them to move from Beloit, WI to Portland Oregon. Jackie had gone on ahead while Jerry stayed behind to sell the house. After the sale, Jerry would then drive with their St Bernard, Winnie, to their new home on the west coast. An adventure in and of itself but made more exciting when you’re in a wheel chair.

The Traveler story:
Jerry's From Beloit, WI to Portland, OR

"When I mapped out the road trip from Beloit to Portland it was going to take 30 hours behind the wheel. Considering I am in a wheelchair and I am taking my St. Bernard, Winnie, with me it sure seemed like a road trip from Hell. Winnie had never been for more than a half hour car ride so looking at 30 hours was kind of frightening for me. But it was better than flying her out and driving by myself. I wanted to have my van when I got there since the movers were not going to be there for a week or more. So we figured it would be 3 days before I arrived in Portland.

I spent a week before the trip getting everything I would load into the van together so that we were ready to roll when the movers drove off. So Tuesday at 2 p.m. our adventure began. I had mapped out the trip and decided to take I-90 most of the way which was a good move looking back. It turned out to be a beautiful drive. Winnie turned out to be a real “road dog”. We would drive till I needed gas or she needed to relieve herself. I had brought a long leash that I would use so that I didn’t have to get out of the van when she needed to go potty. I just pulled over and let the ramp down and she did her business and we were back on the road. She soiled every state we went thru. She is pretty proud of that fact.

So we left at 2 p.m. and drove thru Minnesota, South Dakota, and part of Montana before I finally pulled over at a rest stop at 4 a.m. to get some shut-eye. During the night, as I drove, I had noticed what looked like low lying clouds. When I woke up at 6:30 a.m. I saw that they were actually snow-covered mountains and when I looked around the scenery was unbelievable. When I was a kid the scenery all seemed to look the same and I never really noticed it. But since I’ve grownup and seen lots of different places, it is the first thing I notice about a place, that is why I love Portland so much.

View Larger Map

After seeing what I was driving into it gave me a big boost and I couldn’t wait to see what was coming up after each turn or hill that we came up to. Wisconsin is Beautiful but it is really flat compared to the m
ountains and valleys we were driving thru on this trip. Montana was beautiful but it was also the longest part of the drive. Once we got thru Montana and Idaho by 3 or 4 p.m. I knew we could make it the rest of the way without stopping for the night. So we took I-90 to Spokane, Washington, then we took I-84 to take us to Portland. Once I-84 got us across the Columbia River to Oregon the ride got even better.

It was like scenes from a National Geographic movie and it just got better the farther we went down 84. As we head west toward Portland we are following the river and you can see Mount Hood thru most of it. At one point in the drive the road looks like it is going right into the mountain and Mount Hood takes up the whole windshield. It was just an awesome site and I wish I had a camera handy at that moment. This whole area is called the Columbia Gorge and it is the best part of the whole trip. On the right side you have the Columbia River and the state of Washington and on the left you have the mountains and cliffs of the Gorge. Every once in a while you could see waterfalls pouring out of the cliffs. There is a huge waterfall called Multnomah Falls that has a special exit near Portland and you can see the falls from the interstate. It’s one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

We arrived at our new home in Portland at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, so a 3-day road trip took Winnie and me a day and a half. I didn’t need a bunch of coffee or caffeine to keep me awake. The scenery alone did that. I look forward to making the drive again some day, I'll make sure to have a camera ready at all times for that one.

"Artist's Notes:" When Jerry sent me his photos my jaw dropped. I was and am, so jealous because of where he lives. From what he been telling me, the only problem with Portland is they don't know how to drive when it snows. But hey, not many places do. He also says that the town is beautiful and is surrounded in even more natural beauty. For me coming from a place were they call us Flat landers and to see those mountainous landscapes was really inspiring.

This first painting I'm starting is of a mountainous highway scene in tribute to Jerry and his St Bernards trip. The 1st Traveler painting will be of medium size 20"x 24" on linen canvas. Here is my rough sketch of the painting. These kind of sketches or usually for my eyes only , but since we are friends you can take a look. I will post my progress on this painting along with my comments so you can see what's been happening with it. I already now how it's going to turn out in my head, so watch here and see it unfold. Thanks again little Bro.