Tom Swimm Eclectic Painter
The paintings of Tom Swimm are exquisite renditions of water and light, of boats and fishing villages, inspired by his travels to picturesque spots in places like Italy, Greece and the Caribbean. An eclectic, mostly self-taught painter, he draws artistic ideas and techniques from a lifetime of looking at and reading about art. He has shown his artwork for years at galleries in Laguna Beach and in this city's annual Festival of Arts
Tom Swimm, also a writer, has published five art instruction books and has had plays produced in California, Nevada and Washington State. He puts words together as a poet might, painting pictures, settings and moods with his sentences. He has generously written an essay for us, describing his art - that is uniquely his own, that fits into no other category than artwork by Tom Swimm.
"The focus of my work and the source of my inspiration," he writes, "have always been the emotional feeling that comes from experiencing what I sometimes refer to as the visual drama of light. Reflections in water, the play of light on glass and fabric, or the heightened contrast of light and shadow on a village street will always spark my creative desire to capture a mood or a moment. These are my favorite subjects to paint and translating them onto canvas is the discipline of my artistic process.
"Since early childhood, I have known that painting would be my life and was fortunate to have received the encouragement and mentoring that has been so instrumental in my success. With no formal training, I managed to find my way as a 'working' artist from early beginnings as a graphic designer and illustrator to my current life as a southern California artist with national art gallery representation and a list of collectors from around the world.
"Growing up on the east coast and living in close proximity to New York City allowed me the opportunities to experience the art of many great masters up close and personal," Tom Swimm explains. "This is how I taught myself - by visiting museums and art galleries, reading books about my favorite artists, and by experimenting with various mediums and techniques. I found that by looking closely at brushstrokes and color relationships, many artists' techniques became obvious in ways that I could apply to my own development. Seeing the paintings by van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet and Hopper in person influenced me to strive to capture mood and emotion in my work, which is a goal that continues with each and every painting that I begin.
"I am a studio painter and always have been. Some artists prefer working directly from life or on location and I have a great appreciation for the plein air painters, but I actually find more freedom in the studio environment.
"When I travel, I sketch and take photos from every new place that I explore. I visit the same location at various times of the day to experience the changing light and how it affects a scene. Early morning can evoke a mood of solitude or serenity, while late afternoon can convey a feeling that is just the opposite. This is why light is such an important aspect of my work - there are fleeting moments when color, light and shadow are all at a coinciding pinnacle that can be a source of breathtaking inspiration for me. This is what I seek in all that I see and paint.
"Using my photos for reference, I will literally transport myself to the scene while working in my studio," Tom Swimm explains. "I play music of all genres while I paint and allow myself to get lost in the process. For me, painting is instinctive - color mixing, applying paint, and the brushstroke techniques - these are all things that have always come naturally to me. I understand the science and theory behind them all, but very little of that is applied in my working methods. It is another reason why the journey of painting is so joyful and rewarding.
"My painting technique and style have evolved through trial and error, by experimenting with various pigments and mediums, and by applying some classic techniques that were learned from reading. I would describe my technique as a three-step process with the painting becoming brighter and more realistic with each step. I first 'block in' the darkest shapes and values, then develop the details in the mid range colors, and finally capture the essence of the mood I am looking for by applying the final highlights with the lightest colors and values. As the painting progresses, the underpainting from the previous step adds color and texture that enables me to create a sense of depth and realism that contributes to the overall effect."
"Over the years, my trademark has become paintings of small boats and fishing villages. I have always been drawn to the sea, and places like Italy, Greece and the Caribbean have been a constant source of inspiration throughout my career. Colorful fishing boats and the reflections they convey upon the water always seem to beckon me. They seem to each have their own personality and story and I love to bring this to life on canvas. Water has always been the most enjoyable thing for me to paint."
Tom's primary medium is oil. He prefers the richness of the pigments and the fact that the colors always stay true when they dry. He also likes working in "wet in wet." He has worked with charcoal, pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic and pastels, but his "true love" is oil.
Tom Swimm concludes: "I am fortunate to know so many contemporary artists and to count them as friends. Most of them have often expressed to me that painting is a journey, it is something you never really 'learn.' Finishing a painting is not the destination for any of us. In fact it is sometimes very difficult to know exactly when a painting is finished! No matter what the medium, being an artist means to be constantly growing and evolving, to learn from every painting and life experience. There is a truth that can only come from the heart, and as long as I follow this, the path is always more beautiful than I can imagine."
Tom Swimm's painting,"Morning Comes To Rockport" at the top of this page is of a town on the east coast. He says, "East coast architecture is very unique and is a favorite subject to paint." About "Portofino Dream," he says, "Italy has always been very inspiring and the town of Portofino is a particular favorite. I've been there quite a few times." Of "Red Reflections," he explains, "This was a small boat in Mykonos Harbor in the Greek islands. The light and color of the reflections are very inspiring!"
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