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Known as the “the Dean of Desert Artists,” Swinnerton came to the desert not by choice. He was a Californian, and attended the San Francisco Art Association Art School where he studied under William Keith and Emil Carlsen along with classmate Maynard Dixon.
His skills were noticed by a young William Randolph Hearst who brought Swinnerton to New York to work for his newspaper syndicate. He penned two comic strips, "Little Jimmy," and "Little Tiger." But, in 1903 at age twenty-eight, he contracted tuberculosis, and for health reasons relocated to California, this time to the desert community of Colton.
From 1903 onward, he was a painter of the desert. At first, his renditions were not accepted. Critics expected the vast wastelands of the Sahara, but Swinnerton persisted. He explored the Southwest throughout New Mexico, Arizona (nine years before it became the 48th state), Utah, and California. His favored subjects included the Grand Canyon and portraits of American Indians. He even had a comic strip of Indian children called "Canyon Kiddies" which was published in Good Housekeeping Magazine.
Decades after Swinnerton drew "Little Jimmy" and the "Canyon Kiddies," these strips were made into animated cartoons. In 1936, "Little Jimmy" was a guest star in Max Fleischer's "Betty Boop." In the 1940's, Warner Brothers Looney Toons featured the "Canyon Kiddies" in an animated cartoon entitled Mighty Hunters. More at Swinner (http://www.bodegabayheritagegallery.com/Swinnerton_Jimmy_.htm)
“I don’t use many colors,” Jimmy volunteers. “Two blues, one green, blue black, several reds—I’m finding all the time that it’s how you use them, not the number involved. Light is superimposed on darkness. You can notice that as the day grows long. There are so many parts to a landscape that attention must be paid to all of them. The clouds should float, instead of looking like rocks. The sky should be air, not blue paint…” - Jimmy Swinnerton, from Painters of the Desert by Ed Ainsworth