“Life in general is my muse,” said locally renowned artist Michael Swann. Like many artists, Swann leaves his subject matter open-ended. “I would never want to pigeonhole my art,” he said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Events throughout Swann’s personal life have greatly contributed to what has become the driving force behind his paintings. “Over the last few years, my work has been based on human relationships,” he said.
Swann often includes weapons in the hands of the figures in his oil paintings. “The hammers and knives represent tools used to build or destroy human relationships,” he said. “These tools actually represent relationships, which you’re either building or destroying.” Swann strongly believes in the practice of daily discipline of creating art. “If nothing is particularly moving me, I’ll work on a self-portrait, or anything where I’m simply creating art,” he said. “Any skill is developed by the practice of doing it over and over.” Still, Swann leads a balanced life of work and rest. “I do have days where I take breaks and rest, which is so important,” he said. Swann’s need for variety has rendered him an exceptionally versatile artist. His work includes oil paintings, portraits, linocuts, etchings, and commissioned paintings. “Routine is good,” he says, “but in my opinion, it needs to be broken up.”
Swann does not believe that good art is based strictly on technical ability or craft. “I’ve got a fair amount of technical ability,” he said, “but I think the ideas that propel my art are equally or more important… I always say, ‘I wish my brain would catch up to my hands.’” Swann earns the majority of his living from pinstriping motorcycles and creating portraits. “I do a lot of things with paint,” he said. Swann recently began selling some of his work from his website, www. michaelswann.net. Swann markets himself largely through word-of mouth, a little advertising, and by attending motorcycle meets. “I do a lot of traveling on weekends to motorcycle rallies,” he said, “which allows me time to work on my own art during the week.”
Swann, 48, discovered his true passion for painting as a student at Birmingham-Southern College. Prior to college, he had largely focused on drawings. “I’ve been an artist as long as I can remember,” he said. He received encouragement and praise from his college art instructors. “I was generally not an exceptional student,” Swann said. “I was average and did well in my art classes, but all the other classes were a struggle.”
Swann sees himself as a perpetual student where his art is concerned. He is constantly learning from his self-perceived mistakes, and believes that the more he works on his art, the better he will become as an artist. “Art is a lifetime endeavor,” he said. “I’ll never stop. I mean, I can’t stop. I’d be miserable if I couldn’t do my art.”
Michael Swann’s next art exhibit will be at Rojo on May 10, from 6-10 p.m. He is co-exhibiting with artist Victor McCay. The opening will feature collaborative artwork by Swann and McCay, as well as individual pieces.