Emerging Artists | Christine Swann

Everyone has a story

Christine Swann, Strands, pastel, 20 x 24.

Christine Swann, Strands, pastel, 20 x 24.

This story was featured in the May 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Sunlit hair, bare feet, and wrinkles on a wise face. These are only a few of the things that draw Christine Swann to the easel to capture the human spirit on canvas. Last year Swann’s evocative portrait of her son, Braeden, won a top award at the Portrait Society of America’s annual competition. The painting, titled COLD, is a quintessential example of Swann’s gift for suggesting a narrative and creating something more than just a pretty picture. COLD depicts her son wrapped in a towel, standing in the bathtub. The viewer senses that the young boy’s whole body is shivering. “It wasn’t just that he was cold from a bath,” Swann says, “but how stoic he came across to me, as if he had to ‘man up.’ I built the entire image to support Braeden’s demeanor—the colors and the gaze.”

For Swann, everyone has a story, and the narrative is the driving force behind the images she eventually paints. The Pennyslvania-based figurative artist says the storyline may not always be clear to the viewer, but it is always clear in her mind. A former graphic designer and illustrator, Swann says the figure has always been her first choice as subject matter because the genre is challenging, complex, and difficult to execute well. The long stretch of time it takes to complete a portrait to her satisfaction is never dull. “I will spend hours creating a little kid’s nose but get bored quickly with painting a tree,” she says. “With a tree, I will just say, ‘Oh, that’s close enough.’”

Swann is the first to admit that she finds it tough to paint “cute portraits.” And although she relishes painting children, as an artist she finds that the younger subjects often don’t provide as many interesting things to paint. “Older people are so much fun to paint—they have more ‘stuff’ to translate, like wrinkles,” she says. “But everyone has a story. There is a narrative, an unspoken thing in my paintings that I am always trying to bring out.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff

James Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA.

Featured in the May 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art May 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

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