"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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“Strange Smoking Man ”

"Strange Smoking Man"
By James Swanson/ Traveler Greg
24"x 18" Oil on Linen

Watch the Journey of this Painting.

Ever get the feeling that something is out of place?

Traveler Greg's randomness
Happens all the time with me, but usually all it means id it's time to clean up the studio.

My New Traveler Greg is a Texan transplanted to Chicago. Greg is a senior art director for a advertising agency and a good friend of mine.

. Greg and his wood.

When I told Greg about my idea of Traveling the World in Paintings Greg said "cool" that means- he liked it. Then I asked him about some photos he posted and about one photo that jumped out at me. It wasn't because it was beautiful or anything just really out of place I thought. Greg laughs, and goes into this long story of how he took the photo.

Taos New Mexico

Traveler Greg's Tale: August, three summers ago, we took a spontaneous drive up from Aledo, TX, through Carlsbad, NM and up toward Taos for a little hiking and cooler air. On the last leg of the trip, we dropped down from the mountains and stopped into Taos for a couple days.

I generally take tons of pictures, mostly of food, and things we want to remember. That afternoon was spent walking the side streets, checking out the local architecture when we walked by a patio and almost missed this guy.

He was just sitting, staring into the distance, having a smoke. So stoic...and strange. Almost like a wax figure. We stopped just past the opening to his patio, so I quickly peeked back around with my camera and snapped a picture.

Greg's photo titled Strange smoking man.

I’d say ten seconds had passed since I first saw the man and he remained in the same pose in that span of time. That’s it. Never talked to the guy. No reason to. Seemed he was content being a part of the Taos scenery being dressed the way he was, so I didn’t feel the need to ask permission for the shot. Had I done so it wouldn’t have been the same.

We returned to our little motel—the next picture in the sequence was our room’s door with a Post-it note taped to it from the owner: “Dog deposit due! $50.”

They had the biggest cottonwood tree I’ve ever seen in their parking lot.

"The Smoker" by Paul Cezanne
Artist's Note: When I saw Greg's photo it reminded me of a old painting I once saw by Paul Cezanne "the Smoker" and I wanted to paint from it. There was something timeless about it and charming, so here I go again. This is how I went about painting Greg's travel picture.

Strange Smoking
Man painting: Painting a portrait is kind of different for me, I like painting landscapes with water and beautiful skies. Portraits, are a lot tougher to do but are rewarding in a lot of ways- I use my brushes differently, paint colors on my palette and the color combinations are different. Paint edges the soft edge and the hard edge are not as easy to pick out as a landscapes.

The Sketch: as always starting with a sketch to figure out the composition for the piece. I decided to lean the man back a little and have him flow diagonally in the painting. I also want to concentrate on him no the background as much.

Here I'm using a linen canvas that comes with a clear coat acrylic on it. I like seeing the raw linen showing threw so I going to leave a lot of it showing.

I'm putting in my
darks first and then my lightest light color. I then started working the blues into the painting.

With the shirt blocked in it's time for some skin tones. Next I worked on the hat and vest. The vest was so interesting in the photo so I wanted to hit that hard and make it
pop with the least strokes possible.

Time to put the pipe in. In the photo the man was smoking a cigarette, I dislike cigarettes so I changed it to a pipe- artistic license. After the pipe it was time to tackle that background. I didn't want that flowery background to over power this man, so I just put in a feeling of background colors.

A couple of fixes to his hat brim and I'm there. I thought I was done with this painting, but the hand holding the pipe bugged me, so I had to take another look at that.


Done and framed.

"Strange Smoking Man"
By James Swanson/ Traveler Greg
24"x 18" Oil on Linen

This was my first portrait that I've done in a while and I knew it was going to be great fun to do. Greg went out of his way for this shot and I felt I should do the same. Greg said that this trip to Taos NM was one of his family's favorite vacations and the way Greg lit up telling me the story I'm sure it was, thanks Greg for your time and travels.

Thanks for stopping in I'm heading North of the border for my next Traveler meeting. Also check out the new web site for this blog www.theartistandthetraveler.org

Monday, July 20, 2009

The End of The Hunt.

"End of the Hunt"
By James Swanson & Traveler Jim A.
18"x 16"Oil on Linen

See the Journey of this Painting.

A New Traveler- Jim A: I was having breakfast at a diner one morning with Traveler Jim A. when he said he had some great hunting trip photos for me. I'm not a hunter. I fish a little, and like the great outdoors, but I don't hunt.

But Jim A. is a friend of mine so I had to take a look.

Jim took me through his photo albums and let me take what I wanted. I've been working with digital images for years so working from these old photos is kind of a throw back and a challenge again.

Laying in wait.
The Jim A's Story: Jim has a tradition. Every year in the late fall he goes bird hunting in North Dakota just 75 miles South of Canada. I call it bird hunting because what they hunt is whatever bird is there at the time, duck, goose, or pheasant.

In this photo we see Ed, who has been coming to this spots for years with Jim A's dad. On this trip they came to hunt geese, but an early snow drove off their prey. So they ended up pheasant hunting instead. Ed is coming up one of these coolies-this is what they call the hills there- after a long day of hunting with his catch. It is also his birthday, a happy hunter.

Ed on his Birthday Oct.25

Traveler Jim A's Painting: I wasn't going to paint this shot when Jim gave it to me I just thought it might be nice in a blog for color. Well, I was dong some cleaning in the studio, moving some things around, trying to get more room and I came across some old painting of mine.

I picked it up for a laugh, it was pretty bad painting, but the linen canvas was still tight and square. Me being the frugal artist that I am thought I could paint over this, why not? So I sanded it a little to knock off the old paint ridges and rubbed some oil paint over it to start.

After this sketch to warm up and to look deeper into this old photo, I've decided to move Ed over out of the center and give him the feeling of the end of the hunting day. I'll use the coolies to lead the viewer into the painting and back to the horizon.

Since I'm kind of doing an experiment here painting over an old canvas I didn't want to waste a great Traveler image on it. So I picked out Eds picture to try.

Negative painting, background was painted first

It looks like a pretty simple image so to challenge my self I decided to try something a watercolor artist friend does sometimes, negative painting. Painting the shapes around something to define the thing it self. OK let’s go.

Having the background blocked in it's time to start on Ed.
Painting Tip: Painting can be like Noah's Arc- use brushes in pairs when you’re painting-one for light paint colors and a same size one for dark paint colors. This makes painting cleaner, clearer, and you won't pollute the paint puddles too much. Just wipe off your brushes and keep going.

The Painting is getting there, just a few color and brush stroke adjustments.

The background needed some depth and I want the horizon line to soften up a bit.
Details from painting

Finished painting

"End of the Hunt"

By James Swanson & Traveler Jim A.
18"x 16"Oil on Linen

Well that was different and fun. As an artist we have to challenge ourselves. They don't have to be extreme or permanent changes just some experimenting. I don't know if I'll do some more negative painting again for a while, but I did give it a shot. Thanks to Jim A and his hunting pals for the hunt and the tales. Thanks for looking in as its time to move my easel on down the road and see what else there is to paint in this world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blue Cactus Mountain

"Blue Cactus Mountain" By James Swanson & Traveler Tom/Lauren "10"x 20" Oil on Linen

The close-up journey of this painting take a look.

I just flew in from Amsterdam and boy are my... OK, everyone who knows me, knows I have a bad sense of humor.

Traveler Tom Pic

This painting series comes to you from the support of my friends- the Travelers. And I, the Artist, Jim Swanson paint from my studio in Chicago with their stories and travel pictures to guide me, trying to connect the dots of this world with paintings.

The Travelers are different people I know or have just met-pretty much anyone can be a Traveling friend of mine. Just have a nice trip and a good story to share and I will share the journey in paint.

This is Tom

A new Traveler sent me some pictures from the desert in Arizona. Traveler Tom was in Tucson AZ. for a wedding, and had time in between picking people up at the airport and bridal fittings to snap off some shots for me.

Traveler Tom also took the time to call me as he was talking the shots to ask what kind of images I was looking for? He said," it was high noon out there and not much to shot." I told him," the best time of day to take pictures was either in the morning or evening."

Tom's postcard

Tip: Whether your taking pictures and painting Plein Air, the light over head in the afternoon doesn't cast nice shadows, the lighting in the morning and evening is warmer and casts long shadows. And temperature wise in the summer or desert a little cooler to work.

I also said to think about close-ups. If nothing jumps out at you from one vantage point, change it. Look at it in a different way. This is a good way to get out of creative ruts. Change your view, and other things will open up a
nd you'll see things in a different light.

The sucker Tom bought for me.

Well, good old Traveler Tom has come through for me. I received a CD filled with some nice cactus shots, mountains, and desert. And look I also got a sucker with a scorpion in it. Now that's the kind of Traveler I'm talking about! It also looks like Tom had a good time on his vacation.

Tom's pic to use.

And I picked out this shot to start my desert trek. I liked the blue mountains against the desert tan. I had a few questions about this shot and Tom was more than helpful in his answers. In fact he tried to get a close up of this cactus for me but the cactus already was taken. Bees had made a few homes in this old cactus and Tom couldn't get close enough-chicken- to get a closer look with the bees hovering around. No pain no gain Tom!

Tom and Lauren

By the way the wedding he was at wasn't his, but it did put some ideas into his head. I am happy to announce that Traveler Tom, is now Travelers Tom and Lauren, and are going to their own wedding sometime next year. Congrats Tom and Lauren, and thank you for your images and keep them coming.

Traveler Tom & Lauren Painting: The CD I received from this couples trip was full of good shots. Shots you don't see here in Chicago, lots of cactus and mountain shots. I decided to start off small here in the desert to get a feeling for the place. I plan on tackling a bigger painting from the CD later on.

The Sketch- A quick sketch to get my self into the picture and to start breaking the scene down into a design for the painting. I already had a canvas in mind when I started sketching. A 10"x 20" horizontal canvas that I stretched recently.

Artist Tip: Know the shape of your canvas when you do your sketch. It doesn't do you any good to design a piece to a long horizontal canvas and then paint it on a square. Design to what you have.

The Palette- I'm going to be working with a triad of colors for this painting of yellow, blue , and orange.

The Sketch on canvas- I rubbed the canvas with a small amount of paint and then went back with a paper towel and pulled out the lighter areas. I then drew from my sketch this scene.

Half way blocked in- I usually start painting with my darkest dark but this time I wanted to put the mountains in first because everything is going to work off it. Then I put in my darkest dark.

The painting blocked in-
All the colors are there on the canvas, now it's time to make adjustments and fill in some more blanks.

The painting is getting there. I have a few common sized frames in the studio for for putting on wet paintings when I'm working on them. It cleans them up and gives me a fresh look at the painting and to see where it needs work.

Revising- I didn't like where the mountains came across the painting, it was cutting the design in three equal sizes. I looked at lifting the mountains on the right side, but that echoed the tumbleweeds around the cactus. So I lifted them up a little and on the lift side of the mountains i took them all the way off. Much better.

Real close. I'm pretty much done. I'll make a few more tweaks of color and it will be there.
Details from the painting.
Done. And Framed.

" Blue Cactus Mountain "
By James Swanson / Traveler Tom & Lauren
10"x20" Oil on Linen
This first little foray into the desert turned out fine, no rattlesnake bites or any sand blowing on my painting.

There are defiantly more paintings to be done here. I'll try and get to one soon, but for now I'm moving on I hear the sound of dogs barking and the hunt is on!
Thanks, Tom & Lauren and congrats again, I better get an invite to the big shindig! I'm off to North Dakota to meet a new Traveler Jim A. See everyone on down the road. If you want to take part in this art project send me a line or go to the artist and the traveler web site and sign in. There is a lot of this world to paint still!