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Bob Swineheart: Editor by day, craftsman by night

Sep 26 2012

by Whitney Long

St. Simons Island resident Bob Swineheart is a busy man. As editor of Coastal Illustrated (www.coastalillustrated.com), a lifestyle publication about the Golden Isles, he gets to see and do a lot of cool things. He also gets to meet and interview many interesting people, including painters, sculptors and craftsman. This time, the tables were turned and we put Bob on the spot to ask him more about his hobby of taking old, reclaimed items and making them into art.

Give us a little background about yourself –

I’m a native of Indian and attended Indiana University for Commercial Art where I was a walk-on for the football team and played on the first Indiana team to ever win a bowl in football. I moved to Atlanta in 1983 and have lived in Georgia since then with the last 13 years being on St. Simons Island. While in Atlanta I met my future wife, Duane, who is from the tiny south Georgia town of Alapaha. Our daughter Savannah is almost 17.

Tell us more about your work…. what inspired you to begin using these materials others would normally discard as trash?

Since my wife’s parents passed away five years ago, we have taken care of the 400 acre farm they owned and her father, being a child of the depression, never threw anything away.

We wanted to clean up areas of the farm and what we didn’t sell off, I thought about recycling, especially the old barn wood and small metal pieces. I originally had plans to use it in building a house or furniture, but decided to go smaller scale and my crosses have come from the majority of it.

Having a good imagination or should I say seeing the treasure in the trash, I couldn’t stand to throw away some of this beautiful wood I was finding. There was oak, heart pine, and cypress that I starting running across when we were cleaning up the farm, some of it 60 years old. Several buildings were constructed entirely of wood- wall, floors and ceilings – and time was about to bring them down, so I tried to salvage what I could.

One of the buildings was a tobacco barn and it was full of “tobacco sticks” that are about four-foot long and vary in widths, mostly one-inch thick. They were strung with tobacco leaves and hung on the racks to the ceilings to dry. I had an idea to make crosses out of them, so I started making a few and the more people saw them the more requests I got to have some made.

I embellish each one a little differently. I use tin from old roofs, spike nails, barbwire and any objects I feel are interesting and can tell a tale. For example, I made one with some old spark plugs for a friend who has an auto business.

I always include three nails and barbwire as a representation of Christ the cross. Then from there the similarities end.

Were you always crafty and handy or is this something you found later in life?

I have always been interested and encouraged by others since I was young, when I first starting drawing for fun. It is a thrilling feeling to be complemented on your work, similar to the feeling of running out on a football field in front of thousands of screaming fans!

Through the years, I have been interested in 2D art, drawing and painting, and most recently as part of an art group on the island, Georgia Coastal Artists. Yet I think many artists get bored with what they produce. So I started spending more time in the workshop (garage) and less and less time at the easel.

Who is your favorite artist?

I have always dreamed of being a famous Impressionist painter. Unfortunately I was born a hundred years too late! I love Monet, Degas and Van Gogh so I think that group and time would have been incredible to see and be a participant.

When it comes to folk art, which my crosses and such probably fall under, I was really impressed with Georgia’s Howard Finster when he was so popular. People thought his work was child-like or silly, but it was serious to him and talked about his love of God in most of his pieces.

So I like to think by turning someone else’s trash into art is a respectable thing. Beautiful things can come from the discarded. That’s why I call my folk art, Second Chance Art.

How can your work be purchased?

I’ve placed my art in various places through the years but sell now though word of mouth or direct contact: 912-399-5741 or rpswinehart@hotmail.com .


To learn more about the above mentione Howard Finster, see The Southern Coterie contributor Emily Laborde’s post: http://southernc.wpengine.com/culture-paradise-garden

To learn about another phenomenal folk artist, Vollis Simpson, see Whitney’s post: http://southernc.wpengine.com/6502629:BlogPost:6521

And be sure to join The Southern Coterie group “Art in the South” to be in the loop about the southern arts scene! http://southernc.wpengine.com/group/art-in-the-south

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Whitney Long View More Blog Posts from this Author

Whitney Long is co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit. Mama x 4, wife x 1. Entrepreneur, thinker, doer, writer, researcher, believer. Enjoys working alongside creative entrepreneurs to build community while supporting established and upcoming brands. Hobbies include travel, reading, bike rides and clever craft cocktails.

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