Trevor Swanson comes from a family of artists. His great grandfather was a painter, and after it skipped a generation, both his father and uncle were professional painters as well. And while today Trevor is a renowned artist who works with oil on canvas, board and metal, he joined the tradition innocently enough by picking up a paint brush as a young boy.
Like a lot of children drawn to the arts, Trevor spent most of his youth casually drawing and doodling in notebooks. He recalls notes his teachers would send home to his mother complimenting his artistic prowess but gently reminding him to focus on his math homework.
“Art was something I have always done, so I took some classes in college and got straight Cs,” Trevor says. “It didn’t seem like it was fitting, so after that I started working on my own and taking lessons from my uncle and my father.”
Their instruction was simple and to the point: provide some guidance and then encourage him to figure it out on his own. So much of Trevor’s experience –– through trial and error and practice –– helped him build from the knowledge he grew up with. Over time he refined his skills and eventually created the style and ideas he was after.
These days Trevor paints in an old tradition which has been carried on for centuries. Like Rembrandt and Vermeer, Trevor favors the old Dutch masters style with a simple, earthy color palette. The theory is to make what you see in the simplest way possible in order to celebrate that imagery. For that, Trevor says artists need to have a good eye, talent and patience. Most of his works are done in four layers to truly capture and honor the depth and detail of his subject.
“It starts off really blocky and then that second layer is where you start really adding in the patterns and the details that really show up,” Trevor says. “That last stage, the beauty stage, is where it really becomes something. The details show up because the lights get really light and the shadows get really dark. The end result is where you celebrate that beauty.”
Trevor equates this process of painting to building a house. It has a foundation layer that captures general shapes, another layer that creates more definition and then the final two layers in which a painting is decorated, like a house would be, but with the special details that enhance its beauty.
For all the years Trevor has been painting, one thing has remained –– his love of nature.
“Nature is my main inspiration,” Trevor says. “I’ve always been told to follow your passion. To paint what you love means you’ll never work a day in your life.”
See more of Trevor’s story here: