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