“Observing Observing (a white cup): Laura Swytak”


With each exhibition, we will post interviews with the participating artists along with a photo of said artists in their studios and images of their work. In the future, we will post videos of artist interviews.

“Observing Observing (a white cup)” opens September 12th and continues through October 31, 2015

Curated by Eric Elliott, Michael Howard & Norman Lundin. More than twenty artists (both gallery artists and not) accepted the invitation to submit work.

Reception for the artists, Sept. 12, 2 – 4 pm

Artist Interview #26: Laura Swytak


1. How did you respond to the idea of the white cup?

I love the idea for this show with everyone observing a white cup. White objects are interesting to paint as they are so influenced by their surroundings. I wanted to try doing white on white and see how closely I could get to just painting the light. I had this white cloth I wanted to use for a painting. It has a pattern woven into it that you can only see from a certain angle. The spoon came in later because I needed it to gauge the other colors/values.

2. Are you a full time artist, if not how do you support your art?


I file my taxes as an artist but don’t make a living off of my own work. My primary source of income is my wedding business. I have been painting wedding receptions and other special events for 10 years. I also teach drawing at two different community colleges right now, which is really fun.

3. When did you consider yourself an artist?

After undergrad, I remember trying to explain to my Grandma that what I was going to “do” was be a painter, which she found confusing. From the time I was 14 I felt a pretty strong pull towards wanting to make art, so for me it was something I was always serious about, but when you get into “considering yourself an artist” is such a grey zone.

4. What are your influences?

I get inspired by being home, watching the light shifts throughout the day, doing quick portraits of friends, and just being out and about looking at light, be it an underwater landscape or a lumber yard. As far as art/culture, the sincerity and tenderness of Spanish painting and the people of Spain have had a huge influence on me. Lopez Garcia, Ribera, Zuburan, Velazquez, Sorolla. I also love quick paintings that capture something as it exists in particular moment. Mark Karnes, Avigdor Ahrika, Edwin Dickinson, Fairfield Porter, Vuillard, Sargent. A quote from Dickinson that has stuck with me is “you should paint like you are jumping on a moving train”.

5. How big is your studio, what kind of lighting?

Right now I paint in my living room/office that is about 8′ x 11’. I often wander around my apartment to paint and so the lighting varies depending on where I’m working. My favorite light is in the bathroom, which isn’t very practical. There are lots of really amazing moments throughout the day with the light here. Hopefully this winter when work slows down I can block out some time to do my own work. The studio itself has west-facing windows so the morning is quite blue and the afternoon is sunny. Lately I’ve been doing little watercolors of the sun bouncing around in the studio in the afternoon.

6. What is a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you listen to music, radio or tv in your studio?

I like to draw a bit then look for something with interesting colors coming together, do some quick painting and see where it goes…mostly the goal being to get my painter brain turned on. If I get a decent amount of time to paint to the point where I’m in a rhythm, I’ll just jump into whatever particular painting I’m into at the moment. For my own work I will start without music and then see if a mood or a particular song comes into my head. If so, I usually listen to that music on repeat (sorry neighbors). For wedding paintings I like to listen to a good fiction book, podcasts, or wedding music if I’m struggling to get into the mood.

7. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?

Usual stuff. Oil on canvas, oil on panel, Graphite, or black watercolor. I’ll bounce around on quick stuff quite a bit, but once I settle into something I’ll do one, two max, projects at a time. Even if I have two paintings going I find myself thinking about one more than the other.

8. Do you have any special or unique tools, devices or process that you use in your art making?

I have this red film that I started using in grad school that I get at artists and craftsmen. I absolutely love it. Color makes sense to me, but translating color to value relationships is more difficult. The red film helps me to see where my color value relationships are weak.

9. What do you do outside the studio, aside from a job?

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I’ve gotten really into trail running in the last couple years. I spend Wednesday and Sunday mornings out on the trail, sometimes doing up to 23 miles if I’m training, which can be time consuming. I also love snorkeling and finding various kelp forests off the coast here. Both of these things have deepened my connection with Southern California. Since I moved back here in 2011, time with family has also become a much bigger part of my life.

"White Cup", 2015, oil on canvas, 16 x 20"

“White Cup”, 2015, oil on canvas, 16 x 20″