Behind the Canvas: An interview with artist, Adam Swanson


In honor of the 41st annual running, Grandma’s Marathon commissioned Duluth artist, Adam Swanson, to design a commemorative print. The print highlights the natural beauty of the North Shore and features two women running along the shoreline of Lake Superior, on a bright, wavy day.

We took some time to do a Q & A with Adam to learn more about the painting.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your work. 

Adam: My work addresses the future, fragility of the human presence, perseverance of nature and underlying threads of danger woven through societies. There is a deep relationship between art and science. The more we learn about our surroundings, where we came from and who we are, the more likely we will thrive in a universe of endless possibilities.

Art and the natural environment are two things I am passionate about. Art and an active life outdoors can give our lives meaning and guidance while creating local pride and a healthy community.

After 10 years of travel and a few stints in Antarctica, I have called northern MN home since 2009. I paint full-time in a log home in the woods, am married and a father of two. More of my work can be seen on my website and Facebook page.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the creative process for this piece?

Adam: The most challenging part of the creative process for this piece was focusing on simple symbols which would make a person think of the area without including the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge or a lighthouse. After looking through the history of Grandma’s Marathon posters, this was a challenge I set for myself. I wanted to capture the feeling of running along a charging, active Lake Superior.

Q: How long did the painting take you to create?

Adam: This painting took about 4 weeks to create. Of course, this isn’t 4 weeks of 10 hour days, 5 days a week. There was the day I visited the Grandma’s Marathon offices to check out past posters. The few days I spent researching imagery, sketching ideas and checking in with Shane [executive director]. I spent a few weeks on the final painting. I’m the kind of painter who has a few projects going at once. This one sat on my easel, hanging on the wall, lying on the floor constantly on my mind, a few strokes here and there. Full days of attention now and again. Back and forth, that kind of thing. Lastly, one day varnishing, taking a nice photo, wiring and framing, etc.

Q: Do you have a favorite Grandma’s Marathon memory?

Adam: My favorite memory was Grandma’s Marathon 2009, just months after I moved back to Duluth. I walked down to the race to watch two of my best friends run. It was such a bright, lively day and I was inspired by the camaraderie. I have never run in a marathon but have taken part in some 10K runs since. I have watched the marathon a number of times and love that the entire town transforms for the event.

Q: Any other information you would like to share?

This painting is inspired by Kathrine Switzer who fought off race officials to become the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon in 1967. While I was making this painting she crossed the finish line again 50 years later at the age of 70.

More of Adam Swanson’s work can be seen here.

The Grandmas Marathon 41st anniversary print will be available at the Essentia Heath Fitness Expo June 15-16 at the Advantage Emblem expo booth as well as the Merchandise Tent on June 17 near the finish line.

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