Tuesday, November 29, 2016



When I began this piece, it was about loneliness and liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold")—about feeling alone and neither here nor there—hence my choice of a door, which is literally a threshold, and the brooding head of a raven. Liminality, which is an anthropological term, describes the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.” (Wikipedia) My subject, this raven-headed figure, exists purely within the threshold of this door, the structure of my painting. On one side, the raven stares back at us, clearly on the verge of stepping past the threshold. On the other side, the figure has shed the raven's head but grown a wing and—we are too late—is already passing the threshold, the face obscured.

We are, in a sense, never in “possession” of the figure depicted in this painting. When viewing a nude figure, especially one whose face is exposed, thereby revealing their identity, the audience may feel they are in a position of power or entitlement. I was once told by a fellow artist that paintings which depict a figure staring back at the viewer do not sell as well as paintings in which the figure does not meet the viewer's gaze. Again, I think this has to do with a voyeuristic power the viewer may enjoy. The raven-headed figure, however, evades us at every turn. On one side, the figure challenges us but remains anonymous. On the other side, we could have glimpsed the face, we might have been satisfied by gazing at the figure's buttocks, but we are spurned. The figure flees, and we are left wondering, “What was that?”


It eventually became clear that this piece is also about gender. As I publicly documented the progress of this piece via social media, I referred to it as the “Raven Queen”, and I encountered a handful of people who confessed that they did not know why I was calling the subject of my painting a “queen” because, to their eyes, my subject was male. I felt a mixture of indignation and puzzlement at this reaction because on one side of the piece the subject is clearly depicted with a female breast, albeit small, and because the subject is me. It is true that I am uncommonly muscular, with small breasts, but I was born female and I continue to identify as a woman. Yet because my viewers could not see my face, nor my genitalia, I was perceived as male. I pointed out to a few individuals that the male pectoral structure does not at all look like that of the Raven Queen's, and while she is well-defined, her muscular structure is not that of a man's. But I see these things because I have a trained eye, accustomed to the intricate variations found in the nude figure. You, the viewer, despite your best intentions, are relying on preconceived notions. I am sure that I am guilty of this as well in other contexts. We would all do well to acknowledge the fact that we are all the same, that we are all different, and that we may think we understand what we are seeing, but our gaze is often distracted and superficial. Learning to draw and paint, after all, is just learning to truly see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I am the raven queen, this foul head a heavy thing. Everyday I wait for a sign of the one with wings as black as mine.



This is my current work in progress; it's an oil painting...on a door! So, there's another painting on the other side! I've been updating my Instagram a fair amount, so you can follow its progress more regularly there.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I am that red, roiling thing.


Je suis la femme-fénix, tordue, épouvantée. Effrayante en sa splendeur, ses ailes enflammées, exténuées. Je n'ose pas, alors je m'envole...nulle part. Les murs m'entourent, il n'y a que des murs. Partout, partout, des murs sans portes, des portes sans toi. Toi, tu pars. Moi, je reste. C'est toujours comme ça. Ces ailes ne volent pas.

"Coup de foudre" - digital painting



I tried to make a GIF of the work process...let's see if this works.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Well, a great deal of things have happened, but alas, not that much art, at least in traditional mediums. I have been thoroughly absorbed in my pursuits as a trapeze artist, but you might start seeing more oil paintings from me as someone has most generously allowed me to take over a spare room as my painting studio. It's small, but way better (and healthier) than trying to do an oil painting in my bedroom, which is what I did for this little still life here (which I completed last fall):

"Le Foyer" - oil on panel, 5.5" x 5.5"
This was actually the first still life I had ever attempted, painted from life, and not from a photograph. I thought I would quickly grow bored, but in fact, it was fascinating to notice new minute details each day that I hadn't noticed the day before. Eventually, I had to call it quits (especially because I was painting in my bedroom), or else I would have worked on it forever.

Instead of oils, I have mostly been doing digital paintings, such as as these two below. The first is a digital painting study of cinematic screen capture...I find these are quite instructive to do and fun, too, especially if you're listening to the movie soundtrack at the same time!


"Bottom of the Lake" - digital

"Dreaming: walking on the bottom of the lake of yourself." ~Teju Cole
That last digital piece, "Bottom of the Lake" is perhaps another representation of the "femme-pieuvre", what I call a "muse", though I'm not sure it adheres to the traditional definition. I'm not a huge fan of writing about my art, but I've barely blogged at all, and I've been doing a lot of thinking...so, here goes.

This little piece I started last winter when I was staying out in Seattle. I think this was around the time I began to think about muses and what mine are.
"Femme-pieuvre" - oil on panel, 6" x 4"
I believe I contain (so to speak) three primary muses, three beasts in my personal mythos, conscious and subconscious. They coexist symbiotically, almost peacefully, although they do at times make war on each other (I am currently working on a digital piece about that...more later).

One of them is the "femme-pieuvre" as pictured above, or as pictured in this digital painting:

"Welcome Home" - digital

"It is all wrong. I am a stone, not a mermaid. A black, viscous stone: the sound of granite flowing shudders through my bones. My organs realign—stomach, intestines, spleen—like celestial bodies in the sky of my being."
The "femme-pieuvre" is the lover; the romantic, sensual, emotional woman-leviathan prone to love, to gloom, to lust. She is desire, she is dreams. She gives and takes. She yearns and craves. She caresses, she cradles, and yet she can just as easily strangle and smother.

Another is the "femme-phénix" as pictured here in this digital painting:

"La Femme-phénix" - digital

"Quand il a laissé tomber les clés, je les ai saisies. Je me suis envolée d'un bel éclatement de plumes et de feu." 


The femme-phénix is the artist; she is creative passion, solitary, prolific, intensely dedicated. She is more energy than entity. She is reason and purpose. She burns bridges remorselessly and flies like a flaming arrow.

The third (and possibly the oldest) primary muse is the femme-loup, as pictured here:

"It's Not a Phase" - oil on canvas, 66" x 32"

"I was a raw thing, tangled into the new growth, covered in fresh pink scars."
The femme-loup is the animal; she is instinct, she is silence. She is both stillness and quickness. Androgynous, wary, she is is only at home in the forest and never anywhere else. Too often she is eclipsed by the other muses.

There have been a few others besides these three, but they have come and gone, arriving at specific moments of my life and then taking their leave. The three I have thus far described have been around awhile now, they keep popping up in my art, and I can feel their presence in my life on a day-to-day basis...so, I think they're here to stay.

So, the question is...which muse will emerge here?


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hmm. I thought I wrote an update some time ago in the fall, but I guess imagined it. Anyway, what the hell have I been doing since last summer? Well, basically I now work as a trapeze artist. Here is my website. I decided to fully commit to this career last year, when I came back from Paris. I had always been a bit on the fence about it and wasted a lot of time pondering the possibility. Then I finally realized that if I didn't give it a shot, I would regret it for the rest of my life. One of the things that helped me reach this decision, silly as it may seem, was this comic.

So, I'm not doing very much art at the moment, and I miss it, but I know that when I'm ready, I will move forward into my next lifetime, and I will give my career as a painter every bit as much energy as I'm currently doing for trapeze.

That said, I still do a bit of art whenever I can. This past winter, I had the good fortune to share a studio for a month in Seattle with a brilliant oil painter, Morgan Sobel. This is the stunning, massive oil painting he was working on while I was there:

"Reborn", oil on canvas, 8' x 5'
It was wonderful to work around another painter, and I ended up doing six small paintings, three of which are finished:

"Aegis", oil on panel, 6" x 6"
"Gleed", oil on panel, 6" x 6"
"Panacea", oil on panel, 6" x 6"
Anyway, that's all for now...I will continue to sketch and scribble throughout my adventure as a trapeze artist. Be back later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wow, so it has been a busy few months. I got back from Paris mid-June (can't wait to go back) and spent the month of July as a studio assistant to Patrick Earl Hammie. This was a challenging but incredibly instructive experience that I would recommend to any artist at any level. Art is so highly personal, and every individual has a different way of working, so it can be both frustrating and difficult to come out of one's artistic shell, to break away from one's creative habits.

Prof. Hammie's Midwife



Professor Hammie is a figurative artist like myself, but he works incredibly large-scale and paints "like a sculptor", something that I've always admired, which is understanding and using paint as a three-dimensional medium applied to a two-dimensional surface. Although I also admire extreme realism, I crave the visual treat that is a painting painted "painterly" wherein the work appears realistic at a distance, but upon closer inspection, a lush, abstract topography is revealed.

In addition to learning (or at least attempting to learn) a new way to paint, just learning another painter's studio practices was incredibly helpful, such as choice of products, suppliers, organization of work and daily schedule, etc. And of course, I learned a great deal about the industry as well!

What is even more frustrating than re-learning to paint is not being able to paint! Between getting back from Paris, moving back to Chicago and launching my career in aerial arts, I have had practically no time to oil paint. As soon as I settle into a new apartment, I hope to fix that. In the meantime, I draw every now and then and have been working on some digital painting studies from screen captures.

Interestingly enough, I already feel like I've been able to apply some of what I learned from Professor Hammie because I find myself able to be much looser with these studies than I would have in the past!





Sunday, May 4, 2014

So, it has come to my attention that the About and Contact sections of my website are not working at the moment; I'm not sure what's up with that, but I'll try to get it fixed soon. In the meantime, my contact info can be found here:
camille [dot] swift [at] gmail [dot] com
Twitter 
Also, I might as well take the opportunity to explain why this blog is so quiet right now: I've been working in Paris since February! I am doing a digital painting at the moment, but 95% of my free time is spent in trapeze training. I went to a great art event last night, though, and was inspired to do this sketch:

"Sylvan Repose"