Black history month profile Eugene Swain
By Stephanie Johns
Fred Perriman, president and co-founder of the Morgan County African American Museum, came to this newspaper with the idea of choosing four members of the community to be spotlighted during Black History Month in February.
This one spotlights artist Eugene Swain. A native of Morgan County, Swain is the son of Princella Swain and the late Charlie Swain.
He and his wife, Glenda, have been married “forever,” which is about 30 years, he said. Swain plays lead guitar at Plainview Baptist Church.
When asked when he started with his artwork, Swain said he was “very young” when he started. He mentioned having a crayon in his hand and that it would have been earlier than age eight.
A 1980 graduate of Morgan County High School, Swain said he took art classes in high school and was accepted into the Art Institute of Atlanta but did not attend. He noted that he had a family then and could not do both at the same time.
He estimated that he has created “thousands” of pieces of art but said he has not kept count. Oils and acrylics are his media of choice.
“I got my first oil set and got better results with it than with water colors,” he said.
He explained that oils do not dry as quickly as water colors do so he can work with them. Acrylic dries quicker than oils so if he has a lot to do he said he will use acrylics.
For example, for an art show one week away, Swain will use acrylics. For an art show one month away, he may use oils. Then again, he said, he may use mixed media.
It really depends on the amount of time he has.
A 5-by-7-inch or a 8-by-10-inch painting will take between 45 minutes and an hour for him to paint. Bigger paintings, such as those 16-by-20-inch and larger, take three or four days to complete.
Swain said he tries to paint every other day so that he stays motivated.
“Once you stop it’s hard to get back into it,” he said.
As to his favorite art subjects, Swain said he does a lot of rural scenes.
He noted that his art has been all over the United States and part of England. He said that his work is in some stores and museums and that he also participates in craft shows.
In Morgan County his work can be seen in Creative Mark, the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, and the African American Museum.
The art he is painting now is for a show at the museum, he said.
He receives commissions to create art mostly by word of mouth, though. Once he accepts a commission he uses photographs – ones he takes or ones that are sent to him – to base his work on.
Printed in the February 21 edition.