Cowgirl Up! | Carol Swinney

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

Valley of the Rio Grande, oil, 24 x 24.

Unlike most plein-air painters, Carol Swinney wields a knife instead of a brush. “I am a 100-percent-palette-knife painter,” Swinney says. Hence, it comes as no surprise that she is known for her uniquely textured takes on western terrain, whether she is capturing Wyoming’s Grand Tetons or the Colorado Rockies. Swinney says a knife allows her to blend rich colors and display an amazing level of depth in the works. She often compares her creative process with the paint to sculpting.

For VALLEY OF THE RIO GRANDE, her painting in the Cowgirl Up show, Swinney stood on a cliff in White Rock, NM, a scenic spot overlooking the Rio Grande River where it snakes through the sprawling valley below. “I have hiked all the way down to the river from the top of the cliff and then put my finger in the water,” Swinney says. “And I have done a lot of plein-air studies from that rim.”

The artist, who divides her time between Wyoming and Arizona, says when it comes to western themes, horses and cowboys are not her subject matter of choice because, for as long as she can remember, she has been drawn to the majesty of the western terrain—specifically its mountain ranges. “I was raised in Wyoming near the Casper Mountains,” Swinney says. “To me, the mountains are the West. They signify the West and all that our ancestors had to endure.”

Swinney is a member of an array of impressive organizations, such as the California Art Club, Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, and Oil Painters of America. This is her fifth year participating in Cowgirl Up. “I think the show has one of the best groups of women artists who are painting western subject matter today,” she says. “I’m very proud to be a part of it.” Swinney is represented by Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; Scottsdale Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Gallery 822, Santa Fe, NM; Southwest Gallery, Dallas, TX; and Pitzer’s Fine Arts, Wimberley, TX;

Featured in March 2012.