James Swanson is an artist from Chicago who has been working on a project with friends and strangers from around the world. His friends (both new and old) do the traveling and James paints and blogs about their travels. So far he’s met a lot of different people: teachers from Portland, people who travel and live in RVs and UK Hillwalkers, to name but a few.
MD: Tell us about your work.
JS: I’ve been working on a series of paintings called “Painting from Afar – the Artist and the Travelers’ Journeys.” I’m trying to travel the world in paint with the help and the travel experiences of friends, new and old.
The friends are normal Travelers from all over the world, that as the Artist, I have somehow met through this project. The Travelers share their stories and pictures with me and I share the journey with brush on canvas with them. It’s a journey with many twists and turns.
I’ve met some wonderful and crazy people so far that I would have never met were it not for this idea. Like a couple who live in an RV and drive around the country fly fishing, or hill walkers in England who need to see what’s over the next ridge, or a bird watcher in .
It is a collaborative effort between the Artist and the Traveler to make the art. Each Traveler, story, and painting is blogged about from start to finish, with the blog staying with the painting to tell its story. I have been able to make some really nice pieces so far and have many pieces to paint, but I’m always on the look out for new Traveling friends, so come join me in this adventure.
MD: What is your background? How did you get involved with art?
JS: I started out my Art career as an Illustrator out of college, painting covers and ads for magazines, and was very successful at it, winning advertising and design awards for my work. I always joked that my art portfolio has traveled around the world, while I sat in my studio. That’s part of how I came up with this concept.
The others parts were a mix mesh of needs wants and wishes that this concept answered for me. 1 – I’m not a very good traveler myself, but I love history and research. 2 – I live in and for a landscape painter, winter is a tough time to paint. And also being the Prairie State doesn’t really help when things are pretty much flat to look at. 3 – I wanted more out of my paintings. I wanted them to have a real story and not just be a pretty landscape painting or portrait. I also wanted each painting to have its own unique idea but still be tied to the other paintings in the series.
I’m just starting to send out feelers about this concept to galleries for shows, but the last art show I was in I won the Best of Show prize with one of the travel paintings.
MD: Is any of your work political?
JS: With my art I’m trying to pull things and people together, so I do try and stay away from political issues. But that being said, one of my paintings did have something to do about endangered wetlands in California. I just didn’t know it at the time when I met the Traveler for the painting. Turned out to be one of my favorite paintings so far in the series.
MD: What are you currently reading/ listening to?
JS: Current books I’m reading besides the art books that I read over and over again such as “Oil Painting, the workshop Experience” by Ted Goerschner, would be The Saxon Tales series by Bernard Cornwell, Dirty Job by Christopher Moore and Death of a Maid by . I listen to a lot of things when I work. When I start a painting I like to listen to classical music for the rhythm. But when I get down to finishing a painting I listen to books on tape; murder mysteries are always good.
MD: Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels?
JS: Danger Girl by J. Scot Campbell. One of the best-drawn comics that I’ve ever seen.
MD: Favorite visual artists?
JS: NC Wyeth, Colley Whisson and Jim Dine.
MD: Favorite movies?
JS: The Commitments.
MD: If someone were to come to your town/ city to visit, what places/ bars/ parks/ events etc should they be sure to check out?
JS: If you are coming to Chicago you must check out the museums and “the Bean” in . And one of the best burgers in town can be had right there at Cafe in the park.