Monday, January 14, 2019

Ink Testing

Ink Swatches to Test
I have sketched with ink for years. About 10 years ago I switched over to fountain pens because of the varied sizes of pens in my hands and the multitude of nibs available. I like the variety of lines that can be created with nibs of different widths and materials. I’ve enjoyed using fine, extra fine, medium, broad, italic, flex, music nib and more. But let’s save this topic for another day. 

When it comes to ink color I like anything but…black. The brands and colors I like come in bottles. I like light grey, brown and sepia tones. I have a few water soluble inks but I mostly use waterproof ink. 

I’ve read discussions on Facebook about different inks and how they react to sunlight, archival quality and whether they’re waterproof, semi waterproof or water soluble. As you know…If you ask a question on a public forum you'll get many opinions but not necessarily the correct answer. I did a little reseach on my own and found it challenging to find the information. I was searching for the lightfast and archival qualities of the inks.  

Lightfast: Not prone to discolor or fade when exposed to light.

Archival: pH neutral and acid free.

Materials Needed
I decided to do my own tests.
To start with, I made swatches of ink on 4"x 2" inch cards of 140lbs cold press (not) watercolor paper. When dry I covered half the swatch with another piece of watercolor paper. I put the swatches in a plastic sleeve and taped against a window for 30 days. These tests were done during the summer, 2018.

I made a short video showing the results of my tests. One of my favorites didn't pass the test...but I was pleasantly surprised by many others. Hope you find this information helpful. To be clear Lightfast: not prone to discolor or fade when exposed to light. Archival: Is pH neutral and acid-free. 

One of my favorite waterproof inks (water resistant) is the De Atramentis, Document ink. They have a wide assortment of colors that can be mixed.The De Atramentis Document Ink can be found at Goulet I like mixing the Brown and Red and then lighten a little with the De Atramentis Document Solution. Perfect sepia color!

To see all the results check out this short video by clicking on the image below or following this link:  Ink Testing Video

Happy Sketching!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Full Speed Ahead

November is looking like a blur and December is full speed ahead!

Last month I was feeling low. The holidays are an emotional time of year for me (I’m not alone here). I was missing people in my family who have moved away or died in the last few years. With Thanksgiving a week away and I managed to pinched nerve in my lower back, break a crown and chipped another tooth. 

The California wildfires were raging in numerous communities. The suffering and loss was especially heart breaking. I felt helpless to make a difference. That’s when I was blessed with an idea. Have a “Fire Relief Sale”. It was an answer to my prayers. Quickly my sadness was replaced with joy... because I could do something for someone else! I could use my art to raise money. I had a new focus...not on me but on others.  I was feeling like myself again. 

Thank you for helping me make a difference to the victims of the California Wildfires. Within 30 hours I sold 25 paintings and countless calendars. I donated 100% of the profits to the American Red Cross and Animal Shelters (directly serving the areas effected). 

I have been deeply touched by the cards and letter that accompanied the checks. So many lovely messages, stories, well wishes and words of kindness. Thank you!

My back is almost normal again and I've been able to return to activities I enjoy without pain. I had another dentist appointment this morning. Almost good as new!

From my little family to yours…
Merry Christmas - Happy Hanukkah -  Season’s Greetings!
Brenda and Mike


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

FIRE relief SALE

I'm a native Californian. I love this state and the people in it. I live 5 miles from where I was born and I know where I’ll be buried. In a small cemetery near my grandparents. I am
deeply connected to this place I call home. Californians have suffered a lot lately…so much loss, pain and suffering. Numerous wildfires consumed and destroyed homes, streets and communities. People lost more than property…they lost loved ones: family, friends and pets. The number of people still unaccounted for is staggering. I can’t imagine how horrible their death was. The Camp Fire—the deadliest fire in California history. As of today (11-20) The Camp fire has charred 151,373 acres, 373 more acres than the last count announced Monday night. It stood at 70 percent containment, according to Cal Fire, and at least 16,838 buildings, 12,637 of them homes, were lost in the blaze.The Woolsey fire in Santa Monica has left behind a path of destruction, too.

I’ve felt overwhelmed and powerless. The bombardment of news became too much to watch. How can I help? What can I do? I am not trained or emotionally equipped. My heart is heavy.  In the quiet hours I’ve prayed for the victims, the survivors, the first responders, the volunteers…  What can I do? And then the answer came. I can sell my artwork and donate100% of the profits to the American Red Cross California Wildfires Response and Animal Shelter/Rescues (directly serving the areas effected). The money can help those who are trained and able to help the most. The thought I could use my artwork to help others is an answer to my prayer. I’m going to call it my FIRE Relief SALE.


To purchase a painting EMAIL ME directly with the painting #number (upper right corner).
I’ll reply with confirmation, purchase and shipping details. You have 7 business days for your check to arrive (no charge cards). I’ll send the painting right away. The price you pay includes taxes and shipping. Artwork does not include a mat or frame the dimensions are rounded off to the nearest inch. 

I have a limited number of Calendars for 2019 (sold out)Inside 12, 8x10 full color reproductions of my paintings. I will donate 100% of profits at $35.00 each (includes taxes and postage). 

If you'd like to help by purchasing a painting let me know by December 5th. Shipping of paintings and calendars is limited to the United States.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you,

Update: 11/24
My heart is overflowing with thanks and gratitude. Every painting and calendar has been sold! You've done more than help the fire victims you've helped me. How? I've struggled with the question does my artwork make a difference in the world? The answer was…YES!  I was able to use the labor of my heart and hands (my paintings) to help others. Thanks you for making this possible!

With deep gratitude,

Here's all the paintings that went to good homes!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Lifetime of Observation

To understand the effects of light you'll need a lifetime of observation. Don't be daunted by the last sentence. Be excited that you have discovery ahead of you! 

Look for the presence of light and how it affects a subject. What most people don’t know…Shadows are where the most exciting color possibilities can be found...not gray! Light is what reveals form, color and texture. It can transform ordinary into something exciting! 
Look at the shadows. What color do you see? I see green, red and blue. NO GREY!
Do the shadows have hard or soft edges? Where?
(1) Cast shadows
Cast shadows have a distinct hard edge. Cast shadows will suggest the shape of the object that cast it. The further a cast shadow is from the source, the more it is effected by light. As a result a cast shadow will become warmer, and the edges softer and paler.

What COLOR do you see in the shadow?
(2) Form shadows
Form shadows have a softer, less defined edge. Because a form shadow is turning from the light source. Form shadows are delicate in appearance and important in making a subject appear three dimensional. The form shadow is lighter in value than the cast shadow.

(3) Reflective color in shadows.
The illuminated area near an object reflects (bounces) light into the shadows which carries color with it. This is called reflected light.

You’ll often hear the term Light Theory when talking about light. It simply means supposed to happen or possible…it’s not an exact science. It’s helpful to actually see the effects of light happening. Let me show you what I saw while painting outdoors recently.

Working en plein air (outdoors) has taught me a lot about light, color, edges...and working quickly to get the essence. I don't record every detail and leave a lot out. The large shadow across the pumpkin was edited out (yes, I can do that).
Would you like to paint with me in 2019? I have lots of workshops across the US and abroad. Be sure to check my workshop schedule for a complete listing: WORKSHOPS

Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, October 15, 2018

Sketchbook Tour of Tuscany

I arrived in Florence four days before my workshop. I used the time to get over jet lag, explore, sketch, sightsee and shop. My favorite way to discover a city is on foot....walking. I like to sketch, sit in cafe with a cappuccino, shop in enjoy gelato. It's easy for me to walk all day and not feel tired. I'm often surprised to see how far I've walked by the end of the day. Six to eight miles is the average.  I enjoy finding unexpected views when I wander.  I want to FEEL the smell, hear, see and absorb everything. 

I left my sketchbag in the hotel room to travel lighter. It's easy to tuck in small spaces and go unnoticed when only sketching with a pen and the sketchbook. Florence was surprisingly hot and humid. The idea of sketching inside a church or museum was appealing.  Especially during the hottest time of the day. Inside was cool with lots of places to sit.
The amazing French Escapade 
Guides and Owners
Three days later I met up with the people in my first workshop and my tour guides. The workshop was hosted by French Escapade. We traveled by van to our home location. We drove in a long road with the vineyard on one side and an olive grove on the other. The air was filled with fresh smells and it was beautiful! Gone was the hustle and bustle of the city.
We sketched hill towns, small villages,  Tuscan countryside and historic cities. Each day was rich with history, beauty and culture. The evenings were filled with good food, lively conversations, shared stories and lots of laughter. It was fun to watch friendships develop.  I had an interesting mix of women from different countries: Norway, England, Australia, Guatemala, Canada and the US.

To see my finished sketches and hear my thoughts behind the images click on the video here.

There's nothing like an extended time to focus on nothing but creativity! No house cleaning, grocery shopping, appointments, yard work, bills to pay, errands or cooking. When my only concern is sketching and teaching my mind is free to reach deeper areas of creativity.

The first time I visited Italy I didn't sketch at all. I know that's hard to believe! But that was many years ago. I was traveling with 5 family members. No matter how well intending people are, it's no fun to sketch when people are waiting for you to get done. Since that first trip I have taught eight workshops in Tuscany, three in France, one in Spain and next year Belgium. Not bad for bad for a small-town girl!

Next year I have workshops all across the US and two in Belgium. To see my schedule and workshop locations please visit: Workshops 2019

Happy Sketching! Brenda

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fountain Pens: The Beginning

I have been sketching for 20+ years. Drawing with pen requires I spend more time looking and observing. When I put the pen to paper I do it with a greater sense of awareness. I spend more time looking at my subject. Since I can’t erase I slow down and pay more attention to how I’m holding the pen, the pressure, the speed, the ink flow… All of these things mean I’m more involved with the experience. I draw slower and with a greater awareness. 

About 7 years ago I wanted a pen that would do more than simply get the job done. I’d grown tired of cheap pens and wanted something that was enjoyable to hold, look at and responsive to my touch when sketching. I started exploring fountain pens. Little did I know how big the fountain pen world was...I was lost! So many new terms, filling mechanisms, ink, nibs… That's when I stumbled upon Goulet Pens. At last I was able to make sense of all the terms, option, nibs, inks... The company is amazing, website is great, technical support, videos, how to, tips and great prices!

At his point I’ve got to say, I love sketching with fountain pens BUT I'm hesitant to recommend specific brands when asked. It's difficult to know a person's skill level, if they’re hard on things, personal style, price range…and nib size. Goulet Pens are some of the best folks I know for: information, tutorials, videos...and purchasing pens.

If you're new to the pen world or even if you've been around for a while I think you'll find this video very helpful, I did! Fountain Pen Nib Size Overview 

My first fountain pen was a LAMY Safari. At $30.00 these pens are great starter pens and won’t break the bank. You can even buy replaceable nibs. Last time I looked LAMY replaceable nibs were $15.00. You use ink cartridges or bottled ink. You’ll need the cartridge adapter for bottled ink. It's a good pen to learn with and you’ll also learn how to care for a fountain pen. Yes…fountain pens require care. 
My next fountain pen was a step up. The Pilot Falcon (previously known as the Namiki Falcon) is an iconic pen. It’s most famous for its 14k gold soft nib, which provides line variation with your writing/sketching pressure. The pen is wonderfully responsive and gives line width variation. 

Sketch of my LAMY Safari and Pilot Falcon
When (and if) you decide to move up in the fountain pen world you’ll want to view this video. Top 5 Entry-Level Gold Nib Pens

And then I was in Italy…Florence to be exact.
I was scheduled to teach two workshops in Lucca. Before the workshop I spent a fews days in Florence sketching and painting. I was staying at a hotel just walk across the Ponti Vecchio on the right hand side at the first street. My room over looked a sign that said, PINART. Now 
seriously, did you think I would pass without going in? Once inside, I met Federico Pineder, the shopkeeper. He was friendly, knowledgeable and let me try a few many pens. If you’re ever in Florence be sure to visit PINART

Did I buy a pen that day? Of course...a beautiful Visconti, Rembrandt, pearl white. And that's the beginning of another story...

Happy Sketching!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Art Theft

I feel an apology coming on… but I didn't do anything wrong. 

The last two weeks have been miserable. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to reclaim my artwork. Most people know better than download or print images off websites, blogs, Facebook… But some people do it knowing they’ll never get caught and others do it for personal gain. Whatever the reasons are and whether or not someone gets caught…wrong is wrong! 
In the last two weeks I've had 9 images stolen off my blog. And these are the ones I know about! 

A website stole 7 images from my blog. The website said: “Elegant Negative Paintings by Brenda Swenson”. They offered free downloads of my art. What people didn’t know is this..they would be downloading more than a free painting. They would be downloading a virus! I was horrified! After a lot of work and filing countless reports for copyright violations the 7 paintings were removed.

Two weeks ago I was emailed by a so called teacher in Long Beach, CA named Moira. She was going to teach her students my approach to negative painting… She thought I'd be flattered she had printed my artwork to share with her students. What? I asked, why she printed my artwork? She has a copyright posted on her website. She obviously doesn’t want people taking her artwork. Why is it okay for her to download and print mine? She was pissed off that I questioned her. The conversation went downhill after that.

She had never met me in person, attended a demo, a workshop, watched my DVD, read one of my books. And she was going to teach my technique? Really?????  She attached a photo of her prep-demo. She was using Cadmium Red Light, Sap Green, Lamp Black, Raw Sienna and Ultramarine. She had no idea what she was doing. Why would I want her to associate my name with something that she was doing all wrong?

My blog has always been a teaching tool. A way to share knowledge, experience, tools, techniques…and life experiences.  It’s my connection to a bigger community of artists’, students and friends. I love the conversations I have with you and the opportunity to share the gift of creativity. Just because I shared this information “FREELY” doesn't mean anybody has the right to take it from the site! My lessons and my artwork are to remain on my blog. Not to be downloaded and/or printed. I thought having my signature on my artwork and/or having my copyright posted at the top of my blog would deter people. I was wrong….

I have never wanted to put a watermark over my artwork. (1) a watermark looked like I was paranoid and (2) I don't like the look of a watermark over art. Unfortunately this will change.

It’s NOT OK to download images or print images from my blog, website, Facebook, Instagram…period. If I have offended any of my followers I am sorry. If the tone of my post or my language seems harsh please know I’ve been through a lot of angst in the last couple weeks. It makes me very sad…