"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, February 28, 2010

My Big Greek Sightseers!

Greece is the Word, well the Place.
The 6th Graders of Ogden School in La Grange, Illinois have picked Greece as the place for this Artist to find a Traveler. The ball is now in my court as I show the process that I go through to make a painting.

Athens - All photos are from the Travelers photo album.

Before we started this project I did a quick call out to all my contacts and Travelers to see if any of them had been to these ancient places. With in minutes I had 7 messages from friends and Travelers who had been to Greece, Egypt, India, China or Italy. Any of these places the students studies about would have been wonderful to learn about and paint.

Santorini- lots of Churches in Greece.

But Greece, I've been waiting for quite a while to paint here. What a nice pick of a place! This should be a fun trip.

"Greek Windows and Doors to my Soul", by Traveler Diane.

The Beginning: With Greece picked, my next step is to pick a Traveler for this project. I received quite a few messages from friends and travelers about Greece. All of them with great photo albums and willing to take part in this project. But one Travelers story stood out and made the pick an easier one.

Traveler Diane our Greek Traveler.

Meet Traveler Diane, I heard about Diane's trip to Greece through a friend. And after taking a peek at her photo album I knew she would be a good Traveler for this journey. But after hearing her story for the trip, I changed that to a great Traveler.


Traveler Diane's Story: I would love to be part of The Artist and The Traveler. And there is a story to tell. I finally went back to my birth place for my 50th birthday. I went for 15 days. I went to Athens, Crete, Mykonos, Santorini and Evia.
Young Diane

I was born in Greece, adopted and came to the US when I was 11 months old. I grew up in a Greek family as well. But the voyage home was a very poignant one. I even visited the orphanage I came from. Amazing. - More story to come.

The Start of the Painting. Just as the Traveler makes plans for their trip the Artist must make his. I need to know where I am going, have the right stuff for the trip, and a map to get there.
Traveler Diane's photo of Mykonos Harbor that I will work from for the painting.

Deciding on which photo of Traveler Diane's to work from is the starting point for the painting. I picked Mykonos Harbor because it said the most about Greece to me in one picture. It has it's rich fishing history, the architecture and landscape of Greece all in one spot.

This is the same photo, but I've moved in to a more interesting point in it. I used Photoshop and moved some things around and made the from boat larger.
Photoshop detail of how these pieces will go together in the painting.

Traveler Diane mention to me how the houses were stacked on top of one another and I wanted that more in the painting. The Sketches: Usually I only show one or two sketches. And for me the sketches are a way of sticking the design of the painting in my head. I use the photo as reference but I don't paint the photo I paint the inspiration from the photo.
Rough sketch
How the design is supposed to move the viewer's eye.

Only thing left to do is squeeze some paint out and turn up the music and get busy. In the next installment I will show the different stages the painting will go through. if any of the 6th grade of Ogden would like to take a shot at painting this too I will show it here. Just email it to me at www.theartistandthetraveler.org.

Until next time Adio!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sightseers

The Artist and Traveler Journey so Far.

Am I Smarter than a 6Th Grader? In this new adventure we are going to find out. Joining us on this next trip will be the 6Th Grade of Ogden Ave. Elementary School in La Grange Il.

Ogden Ave School

Each year the graduating class at Ogden leave the school a gift. A piece of art for the Schools walls. Ogden is one of the only schools in America to have it's own art gallery. In fact they are on their second one.

The first art gallery of Ogden's was called the Netty McKinnon Gallery which is now in it's own gallery at the Jr. High down the street. In that collection they have some pretty good artists - Edward Henry Potthast, John Henry Twatchman and John Singer Sargent among others.

Dr Cynthia Boudreau the Principal of Ogden, is a long time friend- both of my children have gone to Ogden school, in fact my son is in this graduating class. She believes in art, and that it can change the children's world and enhance it.

The Ogden 6Th Grade

In this next Artist and the Traveler project the 6Th Grade will be looking in to see how their painting is being made. So the Artist, will slow down the process he goes through to make a painting and share a little more about what he is doing and why.

-And if they make comments I will try and answer them. Am I smarter than a 6Th Grader, Hum?

The Set Up- The Ogden 6TH Grade will start us off. Using what they have learned in Social Studies this year, they will start this journey by telling the Artist where to seek a Traveler.

The Traveler will have either been to Egypt, India, China, Greece, or Italy. It will be the first time the Artist has been to any of these wonderful places and should be quite the adventure. I can't wait!

Join us on these adventure, and see what you and I can learn. If anyone who has traveled to one of these places and would like to take part contact the artist here or at www.theArtistandtheTraveler.org
I await the 6Th Grade decision on were to begin. Marco!!

Polo!! Greece is the word, I'm off to find a Traveler of Greece "αντίο για τώρα"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spring Time in Jolly Old London.

"Woman in Burgundy Coat"
By James Swanson / Traveler Lorra
24" x 18" Oil on wood panel

Watch the journey of this Painting.

"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."

In London, the land of Mary Poppins is where we find our new Traveler Lorra. She is an old friend of mine from the crazy ad world.

Traveler Lorra is always willing to help out a tree in need.

Lorra had made a nice career of coming up with great ideas to get people to buy things, like the Hamburger Helper Hand and new jingles for McDonald's.

When she decided her family came first, and chucked the ad world for her world. Poor Mr. Helping Hand.

Photos are from Lorra and Ben's Trip

Not long ago Lorra and her son Ben, were on Spring Break holiday in London, when they ventured into Chelsea Physic Garden near where they were staying.

Lorra, Ben and friend, with nice ride

Traveler Lorra's Story: Ben (my then 12 yr. old son) and I were on a spring break trip in London. We were excited to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden, founded in 1673, as the Apothecaries' Garden, with the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants. The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded by the Society of Apothecaries in order to promote the study of botany in relation to medicine, then known as the "physic" or healing arts.

As the second oldest botanic garden in England it still fulfills the traditional functions of scientific research and plant conservation and undertakes to educate and inform as well as to provide the amenity of a walled "secret" garden in the heart of London.

Its aims are:
* To demonstrate through its plantings and publications the range of species named or introduced to cultivation by a succession of distinguished curators;
* To pursue horticultural excellence, especially in the cultivation of rare and tender plants;
* To demonstrate to all who visit the many uses of plants and particularly the heritage of the plant world as our common medicine chest.

We'd also heard it has a great little cafe, supplied with delicious treats home made by local ladies. THAT part was true! We got there just after lunchtime and enjoyed tea in the warmth of early spring sunshine.Tangerine Dream Café

This is the photo of Lorra's that chose to work from.

I took the foto because, besides the pure visual enjoyableness of it for me, she sitting there captured the mood of the place, and matched how I felt about being in this very exotic place.

Traveler Painting: " Woman in the Burgundy Coat" I've know Lorra for years and no matter how tough the job was she could get it done. I was very flattered when Lorra said it would be an honor to be a part of this painting project. Wow honored, now the pressure is on, better get busy.

I chose the photo of the woman on the park bench to paint because I just loved that coat. Lorra has no idea who the lady is, she just took the shot and the woman was in it.

The sketch: I always start with the sketch to get familiar with the subject and work out the composition. I know there was a lot of garden in the scene, but what drew me in was the coat. I wanted to concentrate on that, and let the Garden go.

The Sketch on the wood panel. I rubbed a mixture of Raw Umber and Venetian Red and then pulled out the lighter areas with paper towel. I then drew in what was in my sketch.

I started the painting part with the coats dark shadows. Painting in the darks sets the structure for coat and the painting.

The Mid-tones for the coat. With the darks put in with strong big strokes, the next lighter burgundy colors slide in easily and mix nicely with the darks.

Painting in the lower part of the body. Working to block in the painting I started on the woman's legs. The purse was pretty simple to paint. It was a warm dark with reflections colors. Her shoes are a lighter version of the purse.

Skin Tones: The problem her is the woman is very light skinned and not much color. Her hair will need some warm colors not to burn out.

Working in the background. I decided early on that the background wasn't going to be the story, that the coat was so I muted out the colors and details.

Lots of redefining to do yet. Getting a likeness will be the hardest part.

Painters Tip: When painting a figure don't forget the depth. Just like painting a landscape, distance in a figure must be thought about. Things closer to you are warmer than parts farther back. So look for the warms and stronger contrast.

This is pretty close now just a few design things and color adjustments. Her leg stockings turned a little too orange, and the slats of the bench need to be broken up.

Done. I brought in some shadows make the woman pop out a little more.

Details from the Painting.

Framed and ready to go.

"Woman in Burgundy Coat"
By James Swanson / Traveler Lorra
24" x 18" Oil on wood panel

Just a spoon full of sugar helps this painting go down and is done. I kind of wanted to paint a full figure for this project for a while, I'm glad Traveler Lorra was there for the help. Thanks Lorra and Ben, and good luck with your enterprise Hard Working Women. With you behind it I know it's something special.

If you're a Traveler and have a story to share contact www.theartistandthetraveler.org and tell me what it is. I'm always up for a good story.

Until next time "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag."


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Iceland Cometh

"The Iceland Cometh"
By James Swanson / Traveler Matthew
14" x 18" Oil on Canvas

See the journey of this painting.

The Icemen Cometh, to Iceland! The Traveler story of four English Firemen's trip to Iceland for a walk.

Our new Traveler Matthew, and his crew took a little walk on the wild side on this trip.

Traveler Matthew from his web site.

Besides seeing the raw natural beauty of the county the Vikings named "Iceland" on foot, they also took in some other offerings of this land. But what else would you expect from four fire fighting men from the UK? Oh, Traveler Matthew says what sealed the deal for the Iceland trip was the documentary of his all time favorite bands Sigur Ros. They're from Iceland too take a look.

Blue Lagoon-geothermal heated waters

Traveler Matthews Story: I am an English fireman, I work part time on an English fire station in my local town and full time on an American airbase at an American fire dept, that's why the truck looks familiar to you.

Matthew's Firetruck

Quite a few of the guys I walk with are from work, Paul and Geordie who went to Iceland with me are also on my fire crew and Lee who went with us is a friend from my previous employment of I.T.
Photos are from Matthew's Iceland trip.

I guess what appealed to me about Iceland is the strange landscapes and how dramatic it is. The whole place is pretty much made of lava and ice, not too many places in the world like it and I haven't been to anywhere like it. It's only a 3 hr flight from London.

Five days in Iceland with Paul, Lee and Geordie. Waterfalls, national parks, glaciers, geysers, volcanoes, northern lights but unfortunately no Elves.

The Northern Lights at night.

Considering it was October, we fluked it with the weather. Hiking season in Iceland is usually June to September.

An Iceland Horse steak yum.

I'm pretty sure the steak was grilled, we had it in a restaurant that was right next to a horse racing track. We joked that the losing horse got eaten, it tasted fantastic!!
I didn't see anywhere else serving horse but we did spend our nights eating from cafes at not to frequent fuel stations.

The photo of Matthew's that I chose to work from.

Traveler Painting: "Iceland Cometh"
Finding Traveler Matthew as all luck. I happened to be looking at some links on a Travelers web page and I came across his story of being a fireman and the walks he's taken. A fireman taking walks? I had to probe farther. Beside taking some gorgeous landscape shots of his UK walks, Matthew also had a page for his Iceland trip with friends. The photos were pretty funny and the landscapes were the strangest things that I had seen so far on this journey. So I had to paint one.

The sketch on canvas to start. I rubbed a mixture of burnt sienna and raw umber into the canvas, and then pulled off some of the color with a paper towel.

Here are the colors on the palette that I will start the painting
with. Making some of the colors up for the painting before you start is a great way to keep color harmony.

Dark color from the palette are painted first. This gives the painting structure right away. Darks are usually painted in first also because when you get to painting the lighter colors they won't get muddied up so much and look cleaner.

Some Mid-tone colors are added.

Just add water. I'm trying to Block the whole canvas in quickly. Some of the brush strokes I will leave a lone and not touch them again.

Putting in the Sky. I wanted a little warmer sky to bring the mountains in the background into play more.

The Painting is now totally blocked- in. Now the work begins in adjusting the colors and redefining the drawing.

It's getting close, but somethings are jumping out at me. Some strokes are lining up and making a line in the painting and looks like it was smugged or something.

Artist's Tip: This Is a good one that I picked up from a fellow painter through another painter. When you get to the point that you don't know what your painting needs, take a picture of it. Bring the photo into Photoshop and you can play with things like color or adding things to the painting. It's a lot easier that way, than painting things in, and then taking them out because you didn't like how it effected the other parts of the painting.

Done, I was worried that the crazy lava crevasses would look real strange, so I decided in the beginning to paint them like I would a mountain or canyon.

Details form the painting

The Finished Painting

"The Iceland Cometh"
By James Swanson / Traveler Matthew
14" x 18" Oil on Canvas

I knew when I started this one it wasn't going to be easy, and I was right. I kind of bit off more than I could chew with this landscape, somewhat like Traveler Matthew did with the horse steak. A big thanks goes out to those four travelers to Iceland, I highly recommend taking a closer look at the trip and Matthew's site www.peakseekers.co.uk it's quite amazing and funny at the same time. And Matthew I look forward to seeing your next adventure in Nepal -"The Himalayas".

I'm always on the look out for new Travelers with a story. Contact me here or at www.theartistandthetraveler.org

Until the next time, Watch Your Top Knot!