Martin Swan RSMA


Martin Swan's main interest is in abstract painting. Even with marine subjects, it is the abstract qualities of boats, quaysides etc that attracts him the most - shapes, lines, angles and colours. More figuratively, Martin enjoys painting large panoramic seas and skies with boats as small incidental features. His early interest in landscapes is returning.


Formerly a watercolour artist, Matin now paints mostly in oils.

Some paintings are painted in situ. These direct, somewhat sketchy paintings are usually tidied up in the studio later on. But sometimes not.

Other, more studio bound paintings, begin with doodles, using drawings, colour sketches and photographs as source material. If the subject is historical, he uses other artists’ drawings and paintings (perhaps of similar boats), deckplans, old photographs, verbal descriptions, anything that gives him an idea of what the thing looked like. Marin also draw on my photographic archive of seas and skies.

With the doodles Martin tries out various compositions, looking for different ways to use the material. When he has got something he likes, Martin produces a half-size drawing, which finalises the composition and establishes correct proportions. This is copied full-size onto the canvas and painting begins.

My painting is a fairly direct and simple process. I block in the drawing with colour in a loose, sketchy way, eliminating the white of the canvas so I can better judge how the colours work against one another. When this is dry I go over it more carefully, adjusting colour if necessary, bringing the painting to a point of near completion. Finally there is touching up and highlighting.

Sometimes, I like to underpaint with opposite or complementary colours. When dry, I overpaint using a trowel to apply a layer of thick paint, but leaving gaps through which the underpainting shows. The effect is to heighten the colour and produce interesting textures. That, anyway, is the hope.

And if I like it, I sign it.


1951 Born on 14th April in Newport, Isle of Wight

1976-9 BA Hons Philosophy, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth

1980-1 Postgraduate Certificate in Biblical Studies PGCE, University College, Aberystwyth

2003 Elected as an associate member, Royal Society of Marine Artists

2005 Elected full member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists

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