Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…