Saturday, January 30, 2016

Workshops 2016

I have many workshops across the United States and two in France, this year. I feel privileged so many people what to paint and learn from me. 
Below is my workshop schedule. Some workshops have a waiting list but many others have room...for you! 
If you have questions about a specific please contact the workshop organizer directly for space availability.
Happy Painting!

February 16-19, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, Three Artists Workshops, Greenville, SC,  Website: Contact: (Waiting list)

March 15 & 16, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, Coachella Valley Watercolor Society, CA Website: Contact: Diane (760) 485-6798 (Waiting list)

April 11-13, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, Lake Regions Watercolor Guild, Northern Il
Contact: Mary Cunningham (847) 395-3409 (847) 772-349 (Waiting list)

May 12-14, 2016, Plein Air Sketching Workshop: Pasadena & Beyond, Pasadena, CA
Contact Brenda:

June 3-5, 2016, The Illustrated Journal, Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, CA (Waiting list)
Website: Contact: 

June 11-18, 2016,  Provence En Plein Air, St Remy, France (1 spot open)
June 19-26, 2016, Provence En Plein Air, St Remy, France (1 spot open)

July 18-20, 2016, Sketching Techniques with Watercolor, the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA 
Contact Brenda: (1 spot open)

August 1-3, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials, Seattle, WA

August 6,  2016, Free Public Demonstration, Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials, Seattle, WA

August 8-10, 2016, Sketching Techniques with Watercolor, Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials, Seattle, WA Workshop Details  Contact:

September 19-21, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA 
Contact Brenda: (1 spot open) 

October 3-5, 2016, Negative Painting with Watercolor, Schroeder Studio, Orange, CA 
Contact Judy:  

Click on the image below to relarge and read the workshop description.

Friday, January 22, 2016


I use vignettes all the time when I want to work quickly. No time to waste just the important stuff. It requires I only go for the messing around with unnecessary stuff. 

So what exactly is a "Vignette"? The way I was taught is: The vignette is a small, unfinished watercolor that is simply defined.

Here are some guidelines: 

(1) The sketch is small, postcard size 5x7, 6x9 inches.

(2) Sketch does not extend into any of the corners. 

(3) The design should touch the sides at least once but need not touch all 4 sides. 

(4) The composition is the cruciform. 

What is a Cruciform? A cruciform is created when dominate vertical and horizontal shapes intersect. Where these shapes converge it is an ideal place for establishing your center of interest. The intersection is off center both vertically and horizontally. Care should be taken not to have the intersection in the dead center of the paper. The corners are simplified creating negative space.

Here's an example. The photo shows how I eliminate what's not important and simplify the scene. 

Happy Sketching!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sketching Rose Parade Floats 2016

Rose Parade 2016 has 44 floats this year. Each one is completely covered with flowers, seeds, plants, bark... Most of the floats are build in Pasadena or near by cities.

It's been a long tradition for me to sketch at the Rose Parade Float Barns in Pasadena. It's my way to record the end of a year and the start of a new one. Some people love to glue flowers on the floats and they travel from all over the country to do so. Not me!!! I'd rather sketch. The biggest dilemma is getting permission to being on the float building floor. Once inside it's tricky to finding a float I can see without getting in the way. It's always a challenge to sketch through the scaffolding, workers, volunteers, camera crews... 

This year it was really chilly with temps in the 30's. Southern California does get cold...okay not as cold as other parts of the country but cold for for me! You'd be surprised how noisy it gets in the barn, too. Crew chief's shouting, P.A. system, power tools, blenders, scaffolding being moved... But it does smell good.
"Along for the Ride" by State Farm

I like the tile of this float, Along for the Ride". Isn't that what life is all about? So...climb on board, enjoy all the sites and experiences along the way. Wherever you go and whatever you do make 2016 a great year!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ethics and Art

Ethics (or lack of it) in the Art World.

This subject is harder for me, than it is for you. (Why do I feel like the parent when I say these words?) You often read my posts because you look to me for trust worthy advice and education. I feel a responsibility to teach. For some people this lesson will be easy for others it will not.

Here’s the question: Is it okay to sign and/or sell artwork that was done in a class, workshop, or online? Is a copy of an instructors work okay to sign and call your own? 

There’s no way to sugar coat it and for some it’s a hard pill to swallow. Surprisingly many people do not understand what they're doing is wrong.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement comes into the discussion when someone signs or sells artwork as their own. Signing artwork says, this is my original idea, concept and artwork. I've heard students quote what they think are “magic formulas” to get around copyright and plagiarism laws. They think if they change a small percentage of an image (5% or 10%,  crop a photo…) it gives them the right to call it their own. In my mind they're entering into a dark area. Why?  Someone who wants to bend or manipulate laws to benefit their status or bank account tells me something about their character, not good.

Create artwork you can proudly call your own. For that reason, don’t use photos or references material you don’t have permission to use and reproduce. I've seen well known artist stripped of awards, honors and paintings taken out of international shows. All of this for using photos without permission or worse plagiarizing (copying) another person’s artwork. It's a huge black mark on their reputation, personally and professionally.

Images of my paintings, sketches and photos on my blog, Facebook, magazines, books, on-line courses and DVD’s are for educational and demonstration purposes, only. The information was provided as a teaching tool to study and learn from but don't sign, enter in shows or sell. I’ve seen copies of my paintings in art shows, Facebook, Instagram, cards…. and others have simply taken my artwork and removed my name.  

It should go without saying, but here I go. Please do not use my teaching material as your own. If you are a teacher be one! Build your own curriculum on experience and knowledge. Support your lessons with images, text and demonstrations. You’ll be a better teacher and respected by your peers.

Some will want to debate the subject…I don’t. It all boils down to something pretty simple and I stand firm. When I was two years old I was taught, Don’t take something that doesn’t belong to me. Pretty simple stuff, huh?

My next post will be something more hard lessons. Let's start the New Year with good choices and great art!


P.S. Please don’t tell me how to watermark or reduce my artwork so people will have a harder time stealing. If you do you're missing the point of this post.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Poinsettia: Negative Painting Demonstration

Reference Photo 
Cameras are a wonderful tool but it's important to remember photographs are simply a springboard. I don’t rely too heavily on them. The sooner I respond to what’s happening on the paper and quit looking at the photo the better off I’ll be…especially with the technique of negative painting.

I start by drawing the poinsettias with a 2B pencil on Arches 140lb cold press paper. I'm especially aware of the space and shapes between the flowers and leaves (negative space). I want shape and size variety. I draw enough to get the general shapes, but not too much. I intentionally leave areas understated so I'll have opportunities for negative shapes to develop in the painting process. 
I use transparent paint to build up glazes. I limit my underpainting to 3 colors. To determine which 3 colors I will use I make numerous color swatches. The paints need to be the same consistency (whole milk) to encourage ample 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 I call my Mother Colors: New Gamboge (NG), Quinacridone Rose (QR), and Phthalo Blue GS (PB GS).

I wet the watercolor paper with clean water and introduce the 3 paint colors separately into the wet surface. I paint at an angle to encourage mixing as the paint moves. I don’t overwork the surface with a paint brush but encourage the paint to mix and mingle on the paper. I leave a third of the paper untouched with paint. As it dries the paint will continue to move and hopefully a small amount of light/whites will remain. Let throughly dry naturally (without a hair dryer).
I continue with my Mother Colors (original 3 colors) and I pull French Ultramarine into the mixing area of my palette. When I bring a new color into the mix it touches one of the original Mother Colors. Why? Having a new color touch one of the original 3 colors creates harmony in the glazing process. When I begin glazing I'll paint over some of the poinsettia petals, leaves and background at the same time. I start in the upper left hand corner and work clockwise. I paint hard edges against the petals I want to save and soften as I pull away. As I work clockwise around the main poinsettia I vary my colors slightly with the Mother Colors and French Ultramarine. Let throughly dry.

Periodically I wipe off my palette especially if the mixing area has become a neutralized mixture. Mud, neutrals or grays are wonderful and every painter should know how to mix them. But know when you want them and how these grays work to make other colors more lively.

I pull out fresh paint into the center of my palette. I have the Mother Colors (NG, QR, PB), French Ultramarine and the new addition of Hansa Yellow Light. Starting on the left side directly below the poinsettia and working counter clockwise. I use a mixture of French Ultramarine & Quinacridone Rose. I carve out shapes with hard edges against the petals. As I move across the lower section I want my colors to move from purples into the greens. With each brush load I slightly shift the green. Below the center poinsettia is a cooler green and pushes towards the blues. As I move across the lower section (left to right) I carve out more petal shapes. Above the far right poinsettia the greens are much warmer and have more Hansa Yellow Light. The small negative shapes in the center of each flower is a dark mixture of French Ultramarine & Quinacridone Rose. Let throughly dry.

As the poinsettia turns from the light I have a variety of shadows. Form shadows have soft edges and cast shadows have hard edges. The shadows on the petals are a darker value of Quinacridone Rose with a touch of French Ultramarine as it turns from the light. When I need to soften the edge of a form shadow I use clean water on the edge before the paint has a chance to dry. The leaves beneath the center poinsettia is the darkest passage of negative painting. I use a mixture of Phthalo Blue GS & New Gamboge, before the paint has a chance to loose its shine I drop a little Quinacridone Rose into the passage. The unexpected warmth brings life to the dark greens. A few touches of color in the center of the poinsettia and it’s finished.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short demonstration. I used the "Essential Set" of watercolors by Daniel Smith. The set consists of six tubes of paints. Each pigment was carefully selected to give you a wide range of colors. A warm and cool: red, blue and yellow. The colors are VERY transparent (exception of Hansa Yellow Light which is semi-transparent). I don't use opaque colors in negative painting.

Monday, November 30, 2015

California Christmas

Friends and family have grown accustom to my truck themed holiday cards. You could say it has become a tradition. 
My fascination with old trucks goes back to my youth. My husband Mike encouraged my interests and we purchased our first truck, a 1952 Chevy. It started innocently enough but quickly consumed our thoughts and most weekends. We currently have four classic trucks, two beautifully restored (52 & 58), and two waiting their turn (41 & 46). 
It’s a good thing Mike is a master mechanic!

Here’s a short video about the first truck we purchased and how it changed the direction of my artwork, the video is titled, Finding my Creative Voice.

STEP 1             STEP 2             STEP 3             STEP 4

A foreshortened view requires attention to proportions. It’s important to note cameras distort images. I don’t feel bound to any photo and feel free to make changes. Contour drawing is a good approach to draw the overall shape without getting pulled into the details. I added the license plate to redirect the eye out of the corner and a string of lights to complete the holiday look.

On my palette I make a large puddle of Jadeite Genuine. I paint the big shapes first. I begin at the top of the truck and work my way towards the fender. I vary the saturation of paint for more or less value and texture. Before the paint has a chance to dry I drop in a small amount of Rhodonite Genuine for the area that will have an undertone of rust.

The truck cab and weathered chrome are painted next. On my palette I make two puddles of paint: Mayan Blue Genuine and Hematite Genuine. The Mayan Blue is the base color and I drop Hematite into the wet passage as it’s drying. For the license plate I use a dark value of Hematite and drop Mayan Blue into the wet area.
You’ll notice the granulating effects of PrimaTek paints is more apparent when you apply heavier pigment. If you are hesitant of getting dark to quick you can build in glazes. Either way you’ll achieve the granulating effects.

At this stage the truck looks flat and lacks a 2-dimensional quality. I call this the “adolescence of a painting”. It’s no longer new and full of hope or complete and mature. Its that awkward stage in the middle that all paintings go through.

To give a more dimensional look I use glazes to sculpt the different planes of the truck. On the side of the hood and on the fender below the headlight are form shadows. In these areas I use a darker glaze of Jadeite. This darker value brings the fender forward. For the headlight I do an underpainting of Mayan Blue and a touch of Rhodonite. The turn signal is Rhodonite.

Inside the truck grill I have my darkest darks. I want the darks to have life so I stay away from browns. I use a rich mixture of Mayan Blue and Amethyst Genuine.

I like contrast in my paintings: hot & cold, light & dark, hard & soft, old & new… In the final stage I paint the cast shadows. The edges of cast shadows are hard compared to earlier form shadows which are soft. The largest shadow is from the headlight and goes all the way across the grill. The turn signal and hood also have cast shadows. The shadows are painted with the same color beneath, Jadeite on the truck and Mayan Blue across the grill. The PrimaTek paints created a wonderful feeling of weathered paint and metal. Just what I wanted!

Now, I want the feeling of clear bright light. The Essential Set has six transparent colors. A warm and cool: red, blue and yellow. The range of colors and mixing possibilities are endless. The string of Christmas lights adds warmth and life to a predominately cool painting. I paint each light bulb with one of the Essential colors. I also glaze directly behind the bulb with a lighter glaze of the same color. When the paint drys I use a stiff brush to lift a little paint off the bulb. I finish off by adding JOYFUL to the license plate and adding details to the large headlight.

Happy Holidays!

I enjoy painting and sketching with Daniel Smith watercolors. When I receive new paints I enjoy sharing them with you. It's fun to explore and try new things. The nice thing about these two sets PrimaTek & the Essentials is they are sold in the smaller 5ml tubes. Which means you can try something new without breaking the bank!

  • Watercolor Paper: Arches 140lb Cold Press
  • Pen: Pitt Faber-Castell, Brown Medium tip (waterproof)
  • Watercolors: PrimaTek Set and The Essentials Set

  • If you are unfamiliar with PrimaTek paints are made from natural minerals. The pigments are heavier in body and settle into the valley of your paper leaving behind exciting granulation and textural qualities. The PrimaTek Set was carefully selected to give you a range of interesting textures and colors. The pigments mix with other paints on your palette and bring excitement to the surface of a painting.
    Transparent and Clear

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Sketches of France

    Remembering the beauty of France...the history, art, sites, people, food and so much more! Let us focus on the beauty of a country and all it holds.  

    Video is a selection of watercolor sketches I did while traveling and teaching in France. If the video doesn't play you can view it by clicking this link.