"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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Good Friend is Hard to Find, But Not This Time!

"The Falls"
By James Swanson
20"x 16" oil
Traveler Tom Bussler, CA
Here's how the paining was made.

One of the first new friends I made when I got my first job in Advertising was an Artist's Rep by the name of Tom Bussler. 
Traveler Tom Bussler
Tom was from Minnesota and us Great White Northerners (OK I'm from Wisconsin, but close enough) had somethings in common. But the main thing was we both liked beer. Go figure.
A while ago Tom moved out to California for work and some girl reasons. We now catch up every now and then on FB. 
Last summer Tom took a trip to Yosemite Nation Park. And I thought that his photo album of his trip was really well done and felt I could get sort of a feeling for this place in a painting. So here we go a walk to the falls with Traveler Tom Bussler.
Trail Map

Toms Trip Story: Started about 6:30AM from Camp 4(red) and walked 2.5 miles to Housekeeping-(green) where I caught a shuttle to the trailhead(blue). Hike began there up the Mist trail to Little Yosemite Valley then Half Dome(black). Back down to Nevada Falls and took the 
John Muir Trail(pink) back to trailhead- about 18 miles on the trail. A mile up the trail is the bridge below Vernal Falls (in background). Ragin' water and a bit cool this early.

Vernal Falls (317 ft drop). Mist trail runs along the side and up above. Named mist for a reason.
Stairs to right of Vernal Falls just to the right. Stairs and more stairs.....
Above Vernal Falls....
Tom's photo of Vernal Falls from the misty trail  inspired the painting.
Traveler Painting "The Falls": This is how I went about taking on this painting. Tom's Trip to Yosemite was quite inspiring. The reason I chose this photo to work from is the subduded color and the misty feeling it has.
Here are the Steps to "The Falls"
The start of the Painting. I like to get rid of all the white canvas  and rub in a good ground cover

A palette full of colors. I try and keep the number of tube to a minimum.
Here I have mixed up some of the basic colors for the painting. As the painting progresses  these colors will be combined to make lots more colors. This is the best way I've found for making colors harmony in a painting.

The real painting begins. The dark colors are painted in first. Warm darks are in the front and the cooler darks are painted in for the mid-ground. This helps create structure and depth for the painting right away.

Next I painted in the sky and started painting the farthest back background working my way forward. I worked that way because, I needed sky and the mountain to be close in value and this is a good way to judge them without a lot of other colors effecting them.

Here the painting is all Blocked-in. Pretty simple stuff, big brush and big strokes. Getting a painting blocked-in is one of my first goals in painting. Now I can go and start making adjustments and work towards the finishing strokes.

First round of details and adjustments have been made. Most of the work was in the water and rocks. The water fall is where I started and worked forward from there, getting a little sharper and defined the closer I came.
OK, it's done. There was a lot of things that I never had to change in this painting. The trees and the mountains were pretty much right. The main thing that I changed was the sky. It felt flat and didn't seem to go anywhere.

Framed and Ready to Go!

"The Falls"
By James Swanson
20"x 16" oil
Traveler Tom Bussler, CA

Many Thanks goes out to my old friend Tom Bussler for his long hike on this trip. Tom has a company called Hi Road productions,  that does a lot of work in advertising and TV, check it out when you get a chance! I have a few other paintings on the easel from this one. 
But that is another story :))

If you have a interesting place that you have been and would like to share it, send it on to me here or to www.theartistandthetraveler.org
So until next time Happy Trails!


  1. Mr. Swanson, you are a master. and, Mr. Bussler, you are an inspiration, to many!

  2. Wonderful Jim.... great story of your process and relationship to my journey. Love the painting. Thanks for sharing. Tom

  3. Beautiful, beautiful artistry and Inspiring Idea into Reality...


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.