Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who do you think you are? What is it about those words that makes me feel defiant and dig in my heels? The only time I heard these words was when someone wanted me to feel small and insignificant. When I was a child I knew what I wanted to be, it was all so clear…an artist. Unfortunately I believed what a parental figure said…“That's much too hard! Find something else.”

Today I am living the dream I gave up as a child. God's plans are greater than what someone else thought of me.  At the age of 28 it took all my courage to go after my dreams. I started taking art classes at the city college. What would happen if I found out what she said was right? I would be crushed. The desire to be creative was stronger than my inner fears. I just wanted (needed) to be creative.  The more I painted and the harder I studied things began to change. Doors were opened and opportunities were offered. I simply stepped through those doors.

My boss (myself) is constantly pushing me to do more, more, more. I struggle for balance in my life with family, faith, time to recharge, play and grow in my art. As we know everything has its drawbacks…the bitter and the sweet. Recently I had to tell my boss to back off. Some doors that open I don’t have to walk through. I need to be purposeful. What does that mean? It means I am doing more things that enrich my life: building relationships, spending time with those I admire, visiting more museums, digging deeper in my own work…and traveling less to teach. I’m still teaching lots of workshops (13 next year) but I won’t be nearly as tired from constant time changes or losing so many days flying across the country.  Does this mean I want to stop teaching? No way! 

One of the greatest joys of being a painter, sketch artist and teacher is the people I have met along the way (especially women). My life has been changed by their kindness, love and encouragement. I’ve found my story isn’t that different from theirs. Each of us have obstacles to overcome. Life is about creating ourselves. We’re a work in progress till we take our last breath.  

Be the person you were intended to be... 
Who do you think you are?

Hugs, Brenda

P.S.Would you like to join me in a workshop next year? click Workshop

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rejection Isn't Failure

Rejection in the art world comes with its share of hurts. Is it because we pour ourselves out on the paper? Is it our desire for personal success, stature in the art world, approval of our peers, financial gain..? 

I've been rejected oddles of times times.The opinion of a select few matter...the others don't carry the same weight.  Does it still bet ya. The only difference is the sting only last for 3 seconds. It use to last a week or more. 

Don't let the opinion of others effect what you do. And stay away from people who discourage or belittle you. Get up, dust yourself off and get on with living and painting. Being creative makes us feel complete!

I don't know why, but something told me "you" needed to hear this.

Sending a big hug,

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Watercolor Workshops

My workshop schedule for 2017 is here. I have Studio (indoors) and Plein-Air (outdoors) workshops across the US and abroad. I've added more plein air sketching workshops with fun destinations: San Francisco, Costa Brava-Barcelona and Santa Fe!  I love to teach and my line up of workshops have something to tempt most everyone.

I've included websites and contact information for each workshop. If you need additional help I can be contact at SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com. 
The (dot) to avoid nasty scammers.

Happy Painting!

January 9-11, 2017 

Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA 
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

February 6-8, 2017
Sketching Techniques with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

March 16-18, 2017
Negative Painting
3-Day Workshop
Mid-Valley Arts League, Arcadia, CA
Contact: Ike 
(626) 332-7782

April 5-10, 2017
San Francisco & Sonoma
Plein Air Sketching
French Escapade
Contact: Jackie

May 15-22, 2017
May 23-30, 2017 New Date Added
Costa Brava & Barcelona Spain
7-Day Workshop
French Escapade

June 23-25, 2017
Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
San Diego Watercolor Society
Contact: Mary

July 10-12, 2017
Negative Painting with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

August 7-11, 2017
Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
5-Day Workshop
Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff 
Boone, NC
Workshop Details
Contact: Edwina
(800) 227-2788 ext. 1123 

September 15-17,  2017
Negative Painting with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
California Watercolor Workshops
Folsom, CA
Contact: Barbara 916-698-9153
October 2-7, 2017
Sketching Santa Fe, NM
4-Day Plein Air Workshop
Flying Colors Art Workshops
Contact: Cris Weatherby 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sketchbooks: Size, Paper, Cover & Binding

I'm often asked about my sketchbooks. Do people ask because I'm a teacher, someone they trust or because they like my artwork?  Why do I prefer one brand or kind over another? I've tried a lot of different books in the last 25 years. It all comes down to paper, size, quality, cover and binding. Time is the greatest teacher in learning what fits my needs. What feels comfortable to each of us differs greatly. I've come to my sketchbook choices over time through experience (trial and error). Today I generally use two different kinds of sketchbooks.

Sketchbook #1: A 10x11 inch sketchbook I make and assorted papers (140 lb watercolor and pastel papers) and spiral bound. To learn more read this Here. I like having an assortment of papers that I can select from in one book. I have a tendency to take my sketches to a more completed stage than many people. Why?  Simply put...I stop when I feel like it. I enjoy being on location and responding to the moment.  Good quality materials (papers) allow me to work wetter and longer and not worry if a paper will start to buckle or fail me. Rarely do I write (journal) in these books 

Sketchbook #2: Manufactured sketchbooks. Stillman & Birn are my favorite store bought brand.  I like these books for many reasons: paper, size, quality, cover, binding and the people who stand behind the company. Stillman & Birn has a sketchbook to fit everyone's need: six types of papers, numerous sizes, stitch bound and spiral bound, hardbound and soft-back covers. What more could a person want? I have countless sketchbooks filled with travels, coffee shops, plein air sketches and personal life experience are held within the covers of these books. I refer to these books as my illustrated journals.  My favorite size: 8.5 x 5.5 inch. Paper surface: I'd narrow it down to the Beta, Delta and Zeta. All are heavy weight and handle lots of paint and water. 

Here's a sketchbook tour inside my Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks.
If you don't see the video you can paste this link in your browser:

Happy Sketching!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What if...?

“Don't carpet your rut". The quote reminds me not to get too comfortable by doing the same thing over and over. Any form of repetition can be a rut: technique, subject matter, view point, perspective, lighting, materials... Artists can get in a rut because we want a successful outcome every time. Anything that seems  repetitive is playing it safe. If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small. If you find yourself in a rut start climbing out!

I start by thinking, “What if?” How many ways can I sketch a subject but say it differently? The answer is countless times.

 enjoy exploring new ways of expressing myself with watercolor, drawing techniques and tools. Instead of always relying on the same technique I sketch the same subject in different ways. This is a great way to explore new mediums by investing a small amount of time (not a full sheet watercolor). I’ve found many of my favorite ways of sketching and painting when I am playing and exploring, “What if?”

A few examples of ways to explore using one subject. I encourage you to find something to draw/paint. Get out your supplies and see how ways you sketch the subject in a new way.  The drawings don't need to be very big (3x5 or 4x6). 

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES: pen, pencil, marker, bamboo watercolor, ink, contour, crosshatch, wet into wet, dry brush…

#1 Pencil & watercolor: Drawn with pencil. Painted with watercolor

#2 Ink & Watercolor: Drawn with waterproof pen (Faber-Castell, Pitt). Painted with watercolor. 

#3 Watercolor Marker & Watercolor: Marker was slightly water-soluable. Painted with watercolor.

#4 Pencil & Watercolor: Drawn with pencil. Value study with Payne’s Gray watercolor.

I’ve done at least four more variations and I’ve got more ideas to explore. I've only scratched the surface.

Once you begin you’ll start to see sketching as an opportunity to explore. I'm curious to hear how many sketches you can come up with. I’m sure you can add a few of your favorites to the list! 

Happy Sketching! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sketchbook Skool

Hey everyone,
Exciting news: Many of you have asked when my session "Seeing" would be repeated in Sketchbook Skool. Well it's back!!! 

I’m one of the teachers in Seeing, an upcoming Sketchbook Skool klassYes, that’s “klass,” with a k, because Sketchbook Skool is no ordinary online art skool. Sketchbook Skool’s mission is “art for all”—they believe everyone is, and can be, creative. All people need are teachers to show them how fun it can be to develop a creative habit. That’s where I come in!
Starting August 5, Sketchbook Skool’s Seeing klass will begin online. For each of the six weeks of the kourse, you’ll get a new teacher (including me!) showing you how to take your creativity to the next level. You’ll also join the Sketchbook Skool community of creative people just like us from all over the world. There are fun, informative lessons, great assignments, and places to post your creations! To check out Seeing and meet the teachers, click here.
There’s still time to sign up for this great kourse. Join me and Sketchbook Skool and sign up!

If you have any questions about the Klass or need technical help please contact Morgan at "Sketchbook Skool Headquarters": morgan(at)

Happy Sketching!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Plein Air Sketching in Costa Brava and Barcelona

I spent most of June in Provence with French Escapade teaching two workshops. I had the most amazing experience working with Jackie Grandchamps and her two assistants Marie and Natalia. Never before have I experienced such a high level of attention to detail. Everything was handled beautifully and seamlessly from the moment I arrived: Locations, Accommodations, Transportation, Food....You name it and it was perfect. I was beginning to think Jackie had control over the weather, too! 
Here's a peek into the two workshops:

When Jackie asked if I could squeeze a workshop into my busy schedule for next year I said...YES!

Would you like to join me for a week of sketching, sight seeing, laughter and fun in Costa Brava and Barcelona? The dates are May 15-22, 2017. Workshop is limited to 10 participants. 

If you're interested please follow the links below. These are the same links as in the brochure below.

Website for French Escapade
Painting locations and trip details Sketching Spain
Contact Jackie at: contact(at)

Happy Painting!