"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.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Matt's Church

"Matt's Church"
By James Swanson and Traveler Ginger
24"x 12" Oil on Linen

See the Journey of this painting.

Amsterdam! Pretty much anything goes here, but it also has to stay here. My new Traveler Ginger had an exciting time here not to long ago, and she was kind enough to share her story with me and now I with you.

Ginger's story: While most visitors try to smuggle something out of Amsterdam, Jeff and I smuggled something into the land of cobblestoners: his brother Matthew, in my carry-on suitcase.

Matt's Ashes

Matt who looked a lot like the loud bearded guy in the OxiClean commercials now fit comfortably in a teeny “I dream of Jeannie” bottle. Matt’s partying lifestyle brought about his death in Door County, Wisconsin the fall of 2007, smashing into a tree on his way home from a bar. It sucked back then and still does now. We decided to bring some of Matt’s ashes to Amsterdam to rest for eternity. And we knew just the spot. A church in the heart of the Red Light District.

The church itself is not much to look at but has a view that would send most straight to a confessional. Directly across the church doors is the glowing light of legal prostitution windows, featuring two scantily dressed ladies with the missile size hooters.

This is the picture Ginger sent me.

The windows are adjacent to Stones CafĂ©, a favorite hangout of English speaking visitors. While this coffee shop no longer sells bud (and not as in weiser), a sign inside Stone’s reads “bring your gear and smoke it here.” I am sure Matt will enjoy the fumes.

Ginger's Painting: When Ginger sent me this photo and told me her story I was more than willing to take a shot at painting it. I don't remember ever doing a painting with no foliage or water in it. It was going to be challenging to say the least.
The Sketch: I did more sketching on this painting than any painting in a long time. I looked at it as a horizontal, square and ended up going with a vertical. Very vertical. I felt the extreme vertical format kind of went with Gingers adventure. I also decided design wise to go with a tunnel composition, for the light at the end of the tunnel feel.

Painting palette with paint mixed.

The start of the painting: Working out the perspective was the hardest part of putting the painting design on the 24"x 12" canvas. Besides squishing the church between the buildings I moved the eye level up a little so you would be looking down on the church.

The Block-in: This went pretty smooth. I'm painting on a 24"x12" gessoed linen canvas. The linen canvas I chose had a rough texture, because it's what I paint most of my landscapes on.

End of the First day: Well I think that went OK, it's a start. I'm just use to painting trees and hills and such, but this was fun. It's coming together, but there is lots to do.
Painter Tip: One of the best tips that I've got in my painting career is how to take care of my brushes. In my Art school years, cleaning my brushes with mineral spirits and putting them away was enough. Now I know better, keeping your tools in shape makes for an cleaner and easier job. After I clean my brushes I put them between a folded piece of cardboard and clip them down with a folder binder clip and let dry over night. The next morning the brushes are ready to go, with the nicest edge on a brush that you can have. That tip came from the painter Richard Schmid.

Almost there.
I decided to put in the sign that was in Gingers photo. I felt it needed one more red design element and also something to keep the viewers eye from going off the top of the painting. The lighting of the painting is also warmed up. I didn't want this painting to be gloomy so I changed that too.

Details of the finished painting

The Finished Painting.
"Matt's Church"24"x 12"Oil on Linen
This painting ended up being all about contrasts in the end. Dark vs. light, one life style vs. another, and the location it self, I tried to take all that and squish it into this painting for Ginger. I thought harder on this painting than I have with any other painting in a long while. Maybe it was all buildings and perspective, or the meaning of the photo to Ginger and her husband Jeff that got to me. Any way, I hope this painting does the trick for you two, I'm off to the desert now to talk to my next Traveler, meet you all on down the road.

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Have a good travel story and some fun and interesting pictures and we can get started on a painting journey.E mail me here with
name, place, and a few pics of the spot,and I'll get back to you.