People always ask "Where do you get your inspiration from?'.  I think its true that myself along with many other artists find inspiration in different ways on different days.  For me, inspiration rarely comes when I wake up in the morning and more often than not it will only show up when I put myself to work and get engaged.  Picasso said "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working".  This is more often the case with me.  
This is not to say that I am an uninspired artist, it just means that if you wait for inspiration, it may not come and you will have "writer's block" so to speak... indefinately.  It is in the act of painting that inspiration comes, and once it comes it takes over everything... sometimes to the point where you loose track of time and your environment.  
Some artist's say they have a muse ... which I personally will never be able to understand.  I work alone, the way I like it.

Nathan Oliveira
Nathan Oliveira

You're sitting there with your muse and your muse is telling you something and you’re following it, and you end up the next day looking at it and thinking "what the hell was the muse saying to me?"
-Nathan Oliveira

What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.
-Eugene Delacroix


Hermanas II

I just realized that I hadn't done a post about Hermanas II being finished. About 7 years ago I finished a painting that I worked on periodically for almost a year. I called it Hermanas. It depicts 4 women, three with veils, all facing the opposite direction of the viewer. It was 7 feet by 5 feet. I sold the piece and have always wanted to do it again in a more compelling way.

Hermanas by Ryan Swallow - Acrylic on Canvas 84"x60"

The result was Hermanas II which I finished a few weeks ago...

Hermanas II by Ryan Swallow - Acrylic on Canvas 72"x60"


Walk Away!

I've noticed something over the years while looking at incredibly bad art... People don't know when to put down the brush and stop. There is a place for overworked surfaces, but when it succeeds it is generally intentional. What I'm talking about is a piece where the frustration or ineptitude causes someone to work and rework a section or an entire piece until it turns into a pile of shit. Generally speaking, none of said paintings would have EVER been good, but on occasion you'll see pieces with hints of brilliance that could have been good if the artist had simply put down the brush and walked away.
In large paintings you can really observe this illness. One section worked to death and other sections with little or no effort to bring all parts into a whole. You will see artists quite often step back... I myself sometimes spend almost equal time stepping back and observing as I do time with the brush. This is an important part of the process and one that allows you to mold what you have done into the vision of the future. The ability to know when to walk away is one that all great artists must have.
-Ryan Swallow

"A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places."
- Paul Gardner
Gerhard Richter - Lesende Reader 1994

"I can't always reach the image in my mind.. almost never, in fact... so that the abstract image I create is not quite there, but it gets to the point where I can leave it."
-Gerhard Richter
"Reader" Oil on Canvas by Gerhard Richter


Creativity and Madness

I highly recommend a book called "Creativity & Madness: Psychological Studies of Art & Artists".  You can find it used online for 20 bucks or new at the author's website for $25. I read it years ago and recently picked it up again. The most interestingly self-relevent subject matter discussed is regarding "mirroring" and/or the Oedipal complex in which the artist sees the parent as an artist and feels the need to repeat and surpass the parent's ability in order to win their favor... even after the parent's death.  Vincent van Gogh's mother sketched flowers, Jackson Pollack's mother was a weaver and quilt maker and encouraged art in the house, Frida Kahlo's father was a professional photographer, Picasso's father an artist.Detail of Willy by Ryan Swallow
I grew up watching my father paint landscapes, farmland, buildings and swallow birds.  My early attempts at drawing were average to horrible.  It wasn't until I was 18 and taking my first drawing class in college that I knew I could draw.  
After I put this book down I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own life, my decisions and how I had been impacted by my father's passion for painting.  I'll leave it at that for now, but there is certainly a connection there that I believe is less genetic and more an observed admiration that transforms a person into an artist.
-Ryan Swallow

Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds confer on certain objects and aspects of life. Psychologically speaking, to discover something mysterious in objects is a symptom of cerebral abnormality related to certain kinds of insanity. I believe, however, that such abnormal moments can be found in everyone, and it is all the more fortunate when they occur in individuals with creative talent or with clairvoyant powers. Art is the fatal net which catches these strange moments on the wing like mysterious butterflies, fleeing the innocence and distraction of common men. 
-Giorgio de Chirico

Diana by Augustus Saint-GaudensA great artist… must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted. This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tension is the source of artistic energy.  

What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.  
-Augustus Saint-Gaudens

There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line. 
-Oscar Levant

The fine arts once divorcing themselves from truth are quite certain to fall mad, if they do not die.  
-Thomas Carlyle, Latter Day Pamphlets, no. 8

Art will remain the most astonishing activity of mankind born out of struggle between wisdom and madness, between dream and reality in our mind. 
-Magdalena Abakanowicz

Art should astonish, transmute, transfix. One must work at the tissue between truth and paranoia. 
-Brett Whiteley
For me, painting is a way to forget life. It is a cry in the night, a strangled laugh.
-Georges Rouault

I paint in order not to cry.
- Paul Klee 

The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad.
-Salvador Dali


Why talk about ART?

The first shows I had were at my own little studio/gallery in Portland, Oregon called Trixhaus Gallery. With each new show, I became increasingly withdrawn and ended up at the favorite place of gallery junkies - the free wine bar. The reason for this was the unrelenting jabber about the paintings, their meaning, and the endless opines on likes and dislikes. I'll never forget my first big show. There were critics, photographers, artists, rich people and just about every other kind of typical gallery-goer. Within the first hour, I had someone trash my work right next to me, not knowing who I was. I have pretty thick skin these days, but back then my ego was fairly fragile. The first time I read Francis Bacon's quote "If you can talk about it, why paint it?", I thought: "This should be posted in every gallery and museum in the world". The most wonderful and powerful thing about art is that it speaks to us without words, that paintings are the words of the artist and that that connection meets somewhere between the viewer and the painting. Of course paintings leave unanswered questions, but isn't that what makes us want to look at them every day and possess them? Most great artists are dead and weren't fully appreciated in their lifetime... the appreciation came after anyone could ask any questions. So I'll leave it to you to decide, but for me, let the art and not the artist speak to you.
-Ryan Swallow

It's always hopeless talking about painting - one never does anything but talk around it - because, if you could explain you painting, you would be explaining you instincts.
-Francis Bacon

Art is made to disturb. Science reassures. There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain.
-Georges Braque

An artist cannot talk about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.

-Jean Cocteau

It is a mistake for a sculptor or a painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work.
-Henry Moore

One of the best things about paintings is their silence - which prompts reflection and random reverie.
-Mark Stevens

Edward Hopper - Eleven AMIf I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.
-Edward Hopper

As far as I am concerned, a painting speaks for itself. What is the use of giving explanations, when all is said and done? A painter has only one language.
-Pablo Picasso

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for.
-Georgia O'Keeffe

Art is made to disturb. Science reassures. There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain. 
-Georges Braque


Thoughts on Mortality

The more I produce, the less I am certain. On the road along which the artist walks, night falls ever more densely. Finally, he dies blind. -Albert Camus

Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty. -Edgar Degas

Soon I'll be old and I've done precious little in this world for lack of time. I am always afraid I'll become senile before I've finished what I've undertaken. -Paul Gauguin

You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind. -Timothy Leary

Jean-Michel BasquiatDying young is the easy way out. It's much harder to keep your edge and keep it going. -Robert Longo on Jean-Michel Basquiat

It's a shock for me to go through and see all those years of painting my life, which is very personal for me. It's a very difficult thing for an artist to look back at his work. -Andrew Wyeth