Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Don't Carpet Your Rut

"Don't carpet your rut". The quote reminds me not to get to comfortable doing the same thing over and over.

How many ways can I represent a subject but say it differently? The answer...endless.

I enjoy exploring new ways of expressing myself with
different techniques, tools and materials. Instead of always relying on the same technique I sketch the same subject but different ways. Tools are many: pen, pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylic… Techniques are many: contour (blind and continual line too), crosshatch, stipple... I am sure you can add to the lists!

The California poppy is a flower that’s recognizable not only for its bright orange color but also for its shape. Here is a fun example of numerous ways to explore techniques using one subject.

I encourage you to find something to draw/paint. Get out your supplies and see how ways you can show the subject in a new way. I've only scratched the surface. The drawings don't need to be very big (3x5 or 4x6).

I'm curious to hear how many sketches you can come up with. Trust me you'll begin to see the world with new eyes.

Happy Sketching!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hollyhocks Painting Demonstration

Recently I've had the opportunity to work on a couple projects with Daniel Smith Artists' Materials. Their paints have been a mainstay in my palette for years. 

For this demonstration of the "Hollyhock" I worked with a set called the "Essentials". The new set has six 5ml transparent watercolors. The pigments were carefully selected to give you a wide range of colors and values. When mixed together the colors you can create are endless! 

Hansa Yellow Light, 5ml
New Gamboge, 5ml
Quinacridone Rose, 5ml
Pyrrol Scarlet, 5ml
Phthalo Blue GS, 5ml
French Ultramarine, 5ml

Hollyhocks, By Brenda Swenson

Step #1 Drawing
Step 1: Drawing
I start by drawing with a 2B pencil on Arches 140lb cold press paper. I am especially aware of the space and shapes between the flowers, stem and leaves (negative space). I want shape and size variety. I draw enough to get the general shapes, but don't over draw. I want to leave opportunities for shapes to develop in the painting process. 

Step #2

Step 2: Selecting Colors 
I use transparent paint to build up glazes. To determine which 3 colors I will use for the underpainting I make numerous color swatches. The paint needs to be the same consistency to encourage good mixing on the paper. I'm looking for interesting combinations (how they mix when wet, range of colors, range of values and do they relate to my subject). The 3 paint colors I selected are Daniel Smith: Hansa Yellow Light (HYM), Quinacridone Rose (QR), and Phthalo Blue GS.

Step #3

Step 3: Underpainting
I wet the entire paper with clean water and introduce the 3 paint colors separately onto the wet surface. I paint at an angle to encourage mixing as the paint moves. I don’t over work the surface with a paint brush but encourage the paint to mix on the paper. Let completely dry.

Step #4 Glazing

Step 4: Start Glazing
I continue with my Mother Colors (original 3 colors) but I also pull out French Ultramarine and New Gamboge. When I bring a new color to the mix it always touches one of the Mother Colors. I start at the top working my way down the paper with a mixture of French Ultramarine and New Gamboge. Painting hard edges against the flowers to carve out the big shapes. As I move down the page I push the colors towards green with Phthalo Blue GS. Let completely dry.

Step #5 Shadow

Step 5: Shadows
I begin to define the flowers with a mixture of Quinacridone Rose and Pyrrol Scarlet. The surface is completely dry. As the form turns towards the light I have a variety of edges. Form shadows have soft edges and cast shadows have hard edges. I soften the form shadow edges with clean water. Let completely dry.

Step #6 Final
Step 6: Negative Painting and Final Details 
In the final stage I paint the darkest darks, smallest shapes and add final details. I focus on carving around the shapes (negative painting) to suggest the stem and leaves. On my palette I make two puddles of Phthalo Blue GS and Hansa Yellow Light. I allow these two puddles to mingle slightly. I don't let the colors over mix. Each brush load will have a slight shift in color. I also drop a little Quinacridone Rose into the darkest area of green below the largest flower. The unexpected warmth livens up the area.

I finish by adding final details. I start with the center of the largest flower using Phthalo Blue GS and while still wet I add a touch of New Gamboge. Next I paint the darkest shadows on the flower petals. I make a reddish purple mixture with French Ultramarine and Quinacridone Rose. The greatest saturation of color will be in the darkest shadows.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short demonstration. If you were unfamiliar with these paint colors hopefully I’ve opened your eyes to their wonderful transparency, richness and mixing ability!
You can see them here: The Essentials

Happy Painting!

Monday, April 20, 2015

California Images & History, this weekend!

Lots of fun events this weekend, April 24, 25 & 26.  I'm one of 33 invited artists participating in the 39th Annual Festival of Arts. The kick off is Friday night with a Premier Gallery Opening & Reception. 

Saturday is the Plein Air Event. Artists in the festival will be painting En Plein Air. You're invited to come watch the painters (free) and stick around for the live auction afterwards. Sunday is a Quick Draw & Auction, Art Seminar... 
Did I mention all of this is free with the exception of Friday & Saturday night reception & dinner! And of course unless you decide to take home a painting (or two, wink). 

If you'd like to know more please contact the Festival of Arts at:  Phone (909) 599-5374

I'll be at the Festival all weekend. 
Hope to see you,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gone From My Sight

My dad is gone from my sight but forever in my heart. 

During his final months I was able to pour out my love and gratitude on him...this was nothing new. He always knew I loved and adored him. Thankfully we lived close to each other. In the final months I often sat at his feet or beside his bed. I needed to understand what was happening to him and his body...as if knowing would allow me to help him along the way. I learned a lot about dying...it's a road to be walked alone. I found two books very helpful. "Gone From My Sight" by Barbara Karnes and "Final Gifts" by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. 
My dad taught me to appreciate art. He dabbled in oils for a few years and later on became a serious art collector. He showed me through example that art was something of value to appreciate and enjoy. He knew what art meant to me and he was proud of my achievements. He loved to hear my stories about art shows, workshops, plein air painting, and travels. He would beam with joy.

My Dad lived a good life and he’s lived it his way. He retired in his early 50’s. Had more adventures than most people dream of. He was generous and we enjoyed many adventures with him. We’ve flown in his hot air balloons, sailed in his boats, backpacked and hiked the High Sierras, rode horses & motorcycles, snow skied & snowmobiled, mountain biked, travel to distant lands…and we shared more cookies and ice cream than you’d ever imagine. He had a sweet tooth!

Recently I was given a picture of my dad. I put our childhood pictures

together and noticed something. Seeing a little bit of me in his face brings me comfort. It reminds me that from the beginning he has been alive in me and that he isn't completely gone. A piece of him lives on, in me. Not only through his likeness but in my love of art, the outdoors, hiking...and cookies!

Even in my sadness I feel blessed.

Dear Friends, Your emails and messages have been overwhelming. Thank you for all the kind words, understanding and comfort. My grief is lessened in knowing I am not alone. Thank you my friends.
Hugs, Brenda

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring Has Arrived

I stumbled upon the Arlington Gardens a few years ago.  I was running errands when out of nowhere I caught a burst of color. I pulled my car over to explore the site...Since 1961, the 3 acre lot was vacant. The site was slated to be been a staging area for the construction of the 710 Freeway. Over time the land became overrun with weeds, dirt, trash and dead trees. On that day  I found an Artistic Eden!

I eagerly await for spring to arrive at the gardens. Once I see a hint of colorI might visit numerous times a week. After church on Sunday Mike and I pick up lunch and have a little picnic. I am here to tell you...SPRING has arrived at the Arlington Gardens! On my morning walk I went to the gardens. I was expecting a little splash of spring colors but what I saw overwhelmed my senses with color, smells and beauty. God is the most magnificent gardener!  I couldn't drink in enough of the lovely scents and colors.

I highly recommend you visit the Arlington Gardens if you live in the Pasadena area. It's easy to find. It's on Arlington between Orange Grove and Pasadena Ave. 

Below is information t from their home page.www.arlingtongardeninpasadena.org  


Arlington Garden is open every day of the year for visiting at no charge. Individuals, families, students, artists, photographers visit Arlington Garden daily for education and enjoyment. The Garden’s layout and moveable furniture invite people to come in and stay rather than be quickly ushered in and out.

Arlington Garden is a demonstration of successful water wise gardening in Pasadena’s Mediterranean climate. Pasadena needs plant life that does well in our wet winters, hot, dry summers, and temperate falls and springs, to demonstrate how beautiful and effective a garden in harmony with our climate can be. Arlington Garden is home to
350 trees and thousands of Mediterranean climate plants that do well  low to moderate watering, and features California natives, cactus and   South African and Australian natives, irrigated by low flow devices that use less than half the water demanded by traditional parks.Arlington Garden is a place to find serenity in an urban setting. Arlington Garden has brought the serenity of nature to the City. A classical seven circuit labyrinth, a raised urbanite poppy set in the middle of the meadow, paths winding through trees and plants, and benches set throughout the Garden allow one to stroll or sit and experience some peace and quiet.

Happy Painting, Gardening 
and Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sapori di Toscana with Karolina

 Have you ever dreamed of taking cooking lessons, in Tuscany? My favorite chef, Karolina is teaching a cooking course this September! Some of the FINEST meals I've ever eaten have come from her kitchen. In my workshops my students were treated to cooking lessons with Karolina...I can tell you the experience was a highlight..not only for the students but for me!

One of Karolina’s culinary secrets is her enthusiasm, her natural talent for ingredients and combinations, and her joy in sharing her recipesand techniques with Abbondanza Toscana guests. She polished her innate skills with training in Italy and France, and has delighted Abbondanza Toscana guests for the past six years with her mastery of Tuscan cuisine showcasing the freshness and flavors of local ingredients. You’ll cook side-by-side with Karolina and join her in the Abbondanza Toscana gardens in search of seasonal greens and vegetables, or some of the many herbs that define Tuscan cooking. 

Dates: September 12 - 19, 2015



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Negative Painting with Watercolor

Negative painting is one of the most exciting approaches to watercolor I know! The technique is a unique approach of painting around an object to define it in a composition. When working in watercolor we have the challenge that other mediums do not. It's what we don’t paint that becomes the most important element. Think of yourself as a stone carver, chipping away, until only the most precious lights remains.

There are many techniques to saving the “lights” of the paper. I have experimented with masking fluids and tapes to save the “lights” but found the end result was either harsh or cutout looking. I preserve the “lights” of the paper from the very beginning... by painting around them.

Opaque & Transparent Paints: It is best to avoid opaque paints (such as cadmiums & gouache) for negative painting. Opaque are fine for accent marks at the end but not for glazing. The technique requires numerous glazes which will become muddy with opaque paints. To determine if your paints are opaque or transparent do a simple test. With a permanent marker draw a bold line across a piece of watercolor paper. With paint the consistency of cream paints over the line. If the line is obscured at all it is opaque.  

3 paint colors

Step #1, Line Drawing: When I draw for a negative painting I am especially mindful of the space and shapes between the roses and leaves (negative space). I want to have shape and size variety.  I draw enough to get the general shapes. It is important not to over draw. Allow opportunities for additional shapes to be developed in the painting process.

Underpainting: To determine which 3 colors I will use for the underpainting I make numerous color swatches. The swatches will contain a red, blue, and yellow. The colors do not need to be true primaries. When I mix the colors it is important to have the paint be the same consistence to encourage good mixing on the paper. I am looking for colors that have the underlying feeling of the subject matter. The 3 colors I selected are Daniel Smith: Quinacridone Gold (QG), Cobalt Blue (CB), and Quinacridone Rose (QR). In the photo you'll see these colors on the bottom left.

Step #2: I wet the entire paper with clean water and introduce the 3 paint colors separately onto the wet paper (Quinacridone Gold (QG), Cobalt Blue (CB), and Quinacridone Rose (QR).  I paint at an angle to encourage mixing as the paint runs down the paper. I don’t over work the surface with a paint brush but encourage the paint to mix on the paper.  Let thoroughly dry.

Reference Photo
Step #3: Start glazing. I will add additional paint colors but I will use the 3 original colors through out the painting process. I consider these my “mother colors”. I paint hard edges against the rose and some of the leaves, and soften edges with water as I move out from the subject. This is what I call the “adolescence of a painting”, because it looks and feels awkward. Let thoroughly dry.

Step #4: With each glaze I create new negative shapes and darker values. I sometimes soften edges with a light spray of water while the paint is wet.  Let thoroughly dry.

Step #5: In the final stage I paint the darkest darks and smallest shapes. I use a rich deep green made with  Daniel Smith Phthalo Turquoise and Italian Burnt Sienna. While the green mixture of paint is still wet on the paper I drop a small amount of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. The addition of this red livens up the greens. You can see an example of this underneath the left rose.  I am selective to place my darkest darks near my lights to intensify the focal area. I finish with a few details. 

Hope you find this bit of information helpful and I've inspire you to try your hand (brush) at negative painting!

Happy Painting!