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Artist of the Year 2010

John Swan

The competition that artist John Swan seeks out doesn’t require a panel of judges. Although he has won prestigious prizes such as the Ducks Unlimited International Artist of the Year Award in 1987, and Atlantic Salmon Federation Artist of the Year in 1991, 1999, and 2004, Swan has entered his work in few judged exhibitions. He prefers contests on streams or sea as an avid fly fisherman.

About twenty years ago, one of his fly fishing scenes landed on the cover of Gray’s Sporting Journal, catapulting him to national recognition as a sporting artist. Since then, Swan’s work has appeared regularly in publications such as The Atlantic Salmon Journal, Esquire Sportsman, Sporting Classics, and Wildlife Art. He has also illustrated numerous books including Joseph Bate’s classic Atlantic Salmon Fishing and Thomas McGuane’s anthology Live Water.

Now widely considered one of America’s more important and successful living artists, Swan is equally adept in both watercolors and oils. His paintings bring to life fishing and hunting trips to places as far afield as the bonefishing mecca of the Bahamas to Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula, also a favorite sporting haunt of renowned impressionist Frank W. Benson (1862-1951). “I paint wherever I can fish,” he admits. The result is spectacularly immediate works set in some of the world’s most beautiful and pristine destinations.

Based on firsthand experience, and often-created en plein air, Swan’s paintings are imbued with freshness: the energy of a tarpon struggling against the line or the quietude of a hunter’s early dawn preparations. Swan’s close observations of nature are executed with fluid brushwork and a palette of highly contrasting lights and darks.

Passionate about preserving the natural world, Swan’s works have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation. This enthusiasm for nature serves to enhance his oeuvre. From scenes of idyllic Bahamian beach days to autumnal north woods canoeing, capturing a sense of place is integral to Swan’s paintings.