Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes!

April 2013

To my fellow artist and friends,

 It’s been exactly a year since my son Daniel had his final treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma...an update is in order. 
When I think back over those many months of treatment and the emotional journey I am glad to look forward! During the difficult months we were lifted up by your kind words, emails, phone calls and prayers. Today the doctors say Daniel is in remission…Praise God! They won’t use the word “cured” until he is free from cancer for five years. When Daniel finished chemo he was ready to move forward and never look back. Much to his dismay that is not the life of someone who’s had cancer.  He still has side effects from the chemo, doctor appointments, tests, more tests, scans… At times this depresses him. 

April 2014
Daniel is enjoying being out of school, working hard as a mechanical engineer, buying their first home and all the responsibilities of home ownership. 

Heidi is very busy with Joshua and Nevaeh, working at home, church, Mom's Club, teaching the kids... She's one of the most natural parents I’ve ever known (I could of learned a lot from her when I was raising my boys). The big news around their home is...they are expecting another child!

Life has its highs and lows and we are not immune from fear, pain and sorrow.  But, I feel grateful beyond words for blessings in life. 

Do not squander time...it's what life is made of.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Little Slice of Heaven

I stumbled upon the Arlington Gardens a few years ago by accident. I was running errands in my car 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 what I found was an Artistic Eden!

For the last three years I eagerly await for spring to arrive at the gardens. Once I see a hint of color I might visit three 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 and beauty. God is the most magnificent artist! I flittered about the garden like a butterfly go from one flower to the next. 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. Their website is filled with great information about water wise gardening,  history of the gardens, botanical information...their website:   www.arlingtongardeninpasadena.org

Below is information taken directly from their home page.

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 successfulwaterwise 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 with low to moderate watering, and features California natives, cactus and succulents, 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.

Arlington Garden is a sustainable land use. Arlington Garden contains walls, paths, an amphitheater,and sculpture, all made from over 20 tons of reclaimed concrete.  At least 20 growing trees in the Garden have come from seed, and our annual wildflower display is entirely from seeds produced from last year’s wildflowers. Our orange grove produces hundreds of pounds of oranges, which are made into marmalade that supports the Garden’s care and maintenance. In 2009, Arlington Garden used 17% of the water used at Singer Park, a neighborhood park of the same size just two blocks away. More recently, in July, 2011, Arlington Garden used less water per acre than every other park in Pasadena save one, Washington Park, and the usage was nearly identical.

Happy Painting and Gardening!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Watercolor Collage

Stained Paper Collage with Watercolor
April 4, 5 & 6, 2014 (Fri-Sun), 9am-4pm, $310, Members $280
Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 West Crestridge Road, 

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Website: www.pvartcenter.org,  E-mail: info@pvartcenter.org
Phone: 310-541-2479

View the making of this collage  below.
Designed to take you in new directions with watercolor, you’ll strengthen your current knowledge of color and design while discovering new techniques to build stronger paintings. Use vibrant pieces of stained Japanese papers to simplify a scene and develop stronger imagery. Each day you’ll construct a collaged surface, paint back into it with watercolor and create exciting results. Come with an open mind to explore a new and exciting way of seeing and working! Enjoy daily demonstrations and critiques. All Skill Levels

If you have trouble viewing video click here VIDEO
Faculty box click on Brenda Swenson
Class Code BS-1

Saturday, March 1, 2014

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Supplies)

Nothing makes my heart go a flutter more than visiting art supply store in the towns and countries I visit. I love the smell of oil paints, the texture of different papers and the excitement of trying a new brush, pen or paint. I've been hooked since I was a kid. When I was all of 8 years old I'd save my allowance in hopes of going to town with my mom. If I was lucky she would take me to the art supply store. I still have the colored pencils I bought.

I also know some of my favorite sketching experiences have been with nothing more than a small sketchbook and a pen. My most memorable sketch was on the back of a 9x11 envelope drawn with a ball point pen while sitting at the end of a hospital corridor. What I am trying to say is... the experience is what's important. Whether you have meager art supplies or an entire studio filled with supplies, your art supplies aren't going to dictate the type of experience you have…You are!


Here’s my small watercolor sketch kit. It’s small enough to carry in my purse or on my morning walks.

Sketchbook: Stillman & Birn, Beta Series 5.5 x 8.5 Hardbound LINK

Palette: Winsor & Newton Cotman Box. I removed the student grade paint pans and fill with my tube colors. LINK  
List of  paint colors:
When I list two brands it means I use either brand of paint.

Water Dish: Sea to Summit.  I love these light weight collapsible containers. The size shown is the, X Shot. LINK 

Waterbrush: Niji size large LINK 

Pen: Lamy Fountain Pen,  Nib size is your choice. I am currently using the 1.1mm. The nice thing about this pen is you can easily change nibs for very little money. LINK  
Ink for Pen: Noodler's Ink Lexington Gray LINK

Brush: Two options here. da Vinci Travel Brush, Size 8. LINK 
Less expensive brush option: LINK 

Pencil: Any inexpensive mechanical pencil

Misc: Clips to hold sketchbook open. Paper towel for clean up. All my supplies (minus sketchbook) fit into a small clear bag.

Sketching on an airplane!

No more excuses...get out and make some art. 

Happy Sketching! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Negative Painting with Watercolor

Last summer I filmed my newest DVD, Negative Painting with Watercolor. Many hours of thought, planning...went into preparing before filming day. I'm a nut when it comes to presenting solid and informative teaching material. We have gone through two edits and the final version is complete! We hope to have it available in Spring 2014. I am so happy with the final DVD and I hope you'll like it too. 

I showed up for filming at 9:00am. The team and I went over lighting, camera angles, chapter outlines... And then it was time for me to do my thing, teach. Many hours later this little engine began to run out of steam...in serious need of a jump start I hunted down a cup of coffee and a candy bar. A little sugar and caffeine to the rescue! This is far from my regular diet (mid-day coffee YES, sugar no). Within minutes I was fired up and ready to go. Admittedly...kinda scary looking when both kicked in (grin).
In the meantime...as I wait for the DVD to be available I made a short video of negative painting. This isn't part of the DVD just something fun to share. 
If you have difficulty opening the video paste this link into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k62KuWhWkaU

Happy Painting!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sketchbook Skool

Have you heard?!!
The new online school is the brain child of Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. The website was just launched and registration has opened. The first semester begins April 4th. and the second semester early summer. 6-week semester, 6 teachers. 

In the past I've been asked to teach an online class...I said no. I didn't feel the time was right. Then the day came when Danny asked me. This is the most exciting thing I've seen come around in a long, long time. How could I resist being a part of Sketchbook Skool! 
I have agree to be on the Fakulty. I'll be one of the six teachers in the second semester, this summer!
I imagine you have lots of questions and the website has all the answer along with a really great video. The online course is different from anything you've seen before! Check it out...Sketchbook Skool.

Happy Sketching!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Don't Give Up!

Thursday mornings I meet with a group of painters on location. Recently the location did nothing for me. The morning was brutally cold (yes it does get cold in California), the sky was gray and the trees were brown. The fact that I had a sore throat dulled my enthusiasm, too. I tried to be positive and stick it out. We'll it comes as no surprise my sketch bombed! I felt defeated. When I got to feeling better I took another look at the sketch. My first impression was correct...it was awful.

I knew the sketch wasn't worth saving but I didn't want to see it every time I opened my book either. Tearing pages out isn't an option for many reasons. For one it's admitting defeat, two it's an opportunity to learn something, third I'm stubborn. I dislike the idea that a piece of paper got the best of me (grin).

Don't walk away when something doesn't go your way...be a problem solver. When you have nothing to lose great things can happen. I decided to try something I hadn't done before. Using clips to hold the sketchbook (Stillman & Birn,Beta) open I used a flat soft brush and water to wash off the
image and let dry completely. In a small dish I mixed white gesso with burnt sienna watercolor. With a flat brush I painted the surface leaving white paper exposed at the edges. Now I had a nicely tinted page waiting for the perfect subject to present itself.

Recently I was sketching at Travel Town, a train museum in Griffith Park. A little locomotive named "Charlie Atkins, #1" caught my eye.  Painting on a gessoed surface is different than watercolor paper.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out but in no time I was happily painting away.

What was a defeat in my eyes is now a success. Why is that?...Because I didn’t give up, I tried something new, and I learned something.

Don't give up...Be a problem solver!

Happy Painting!