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Six of the Best, Part 25: Kevin Swallow

Part 25 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (previous interviews: 123456789101112, 13, 14151617181920212223, 24). Kevin Swallow is a Chicago painter and printmaker who works in several subjects at once, mainly depicting the urban landscape (I have to confess that I own one of his screenprints). If you are in Chicago on March 22nd, you can see Kevin's work at an open studio event in the Cornelia Arts Building, on Chicago's north side.

"Golden Lights," oil on canvas, 30" x 24", 2013

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Kevin Swallow: I spend most of my time painting. For a long time I used acrylics and recently started using oils. I also work in photography and mixed media/screen prints.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Kevin Swallow: I typically work on a few things at once which are usually part of a series. This allows me to create more harmony between each piece through color and form. I’m currently working on four different abstract paintings in oil. There are references to figures, maps, and aerial landscapes which connects these paintings to some of my other work. I’m also experimenting with a new color palette which has been fun.

"Strapped," oil on panel, 18" x 24", 2013

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Kevin Swallow: I often use abstracts as a bridge when developing a new series of work. This process sometimes helps me develop a new color palette or concept. These particular abstract pieces have been freeing because I didn’t do any pre-planning or sketches for them. I’m been adding layers, drawing with oil bars, scraping and adding textures. The painting process has been more intuitive where I react to the shapes and textures -- often rotating the canvas to allow something new to emerge. Some of the surprises have been that references to figures and animals started appearing. I also recently finished some pieces using a new format; where I broke up the canvas into three sections. The idea was to combine my various subject matter -- cityscapes, rooftop water tanks, abstracts -- into one piece. I did a couple that focused on city imagery and a couple that featured cameras, but all of them had abstract sections which lead me to the paintings I’m currently working on.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Kevin Swallow: Music has always fueled my work and creative process -- whether it’s the stories in the lyrics or just the feel of the music itself. I also get a lot of ideas for paintings by shooting photos. I travel often and am always inspired by the different shapes, colors, materials, and styles used in architecture. Or, if I’m just looking for some inspiration, a long bike ride along the lake or walking around the city clears my head and gets me in the mood to paint.

"Transitions,", oil on canvas, 24" x 36", 2013

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Kevin Swallow: I used to draw all the time as a kid and still have some of that art. One piece that stands out for me is a large portrait painting on canvas I made when I was about 9 or 10 years old. The art teacher hung it in the school hallway with a engraved plaque that had my name and grade on it. Unfortunately, I never got to keep it and don’t know whatever happened to it. That was over 30 years ago so I’m sure it’s long gone.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Kevin Swallow: I enjoy creating art for myself – I feel that I need to. If I go a week or more without creating anything, I feel off. Finding more and different ways to have others enjoy my art is also one of my goals. It’s always gratifying when someone I don’t know wants to buy an artwork of mine and live with it in their home or office. I also get a lot of satisfaction from exploring my ideas and feel a sense of accomplishment from finishing a piece or series of work.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

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