(Watercolor by Linda Swindle)
Animals — domestic or wild — have always inspired watercolorist Linda Swindle. In her hands, a photo of a plain brown donkey with sleepy eyes is transformed into a tawny beauty staring you down for a handful of grain. A California quail you spy for an instant as it skitters away becomes a motionless bundle of feathers, one leg raised, appraising danger with a keen eye. A dusky moose photographed amid heavy brush is transformed into a purple-antlered beast wary of your approach. Swindle’s paintings of animals and other subjects are showcased in September at Red Chair Gallery.
Swindle definitely finds delight in painting her creatures and hopes to pass it on to viewers. “I just want my art to bring joy to people,” she says. “If it’s fun for me when I’m creating it, I hope it’s that way for other people.”
Livestock have been part of Swindle’s life since childhood. She grew up on a farm outside of Albany, Oregon, and raised her family on a 40-acre ranch in Powell Butte, where she and her husband still live. They used to run about 100 head of cattle on their property and raise hay, but have cut back in retirement. Still, her lifelong experience with animals has given her a wonderful sense of the way they move and their expressions. Now she takes a lot of photos of animals to work from (some favorites are donkeys and llamas) and peruses free photographs on websites to get ideas for her paintings.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swindle found more time to experiment with her painting technique. Watercolor is a difficult medium to control, she explains. “If you paint with a lot of water, you have less control because it spreads.” But now she tries to just “let it happen” because she wants to create more transparency. “There is a balancing act between control and spontaneity with watercolor that I find intriguing,” she notes. “The fluidity of watercolor appeals to me and I appreciate the challenge it presents.”
A downside of the pandemic has been a hiatus in her teaching schedule. Swindle has been an art teacher of both children and adults for more than two decades but that came to a grinding halt due to COVID-19 restrictions. She has not taught in over a year. This fall, however, she will teach a class on painting on silk at the Red Trillium Gallery in Troutdale, Oregon. She hopes to resume teaching watercolor painting at her home within a few months.
Besides being a longtime artist at Red Chair Gallery, Swindle also exhibits her work at The Gallery of Ten Oaks in McMinnville, Oregon.