Monday, July 27, 2015

The Perils & Pleasures of Plein Air Painting

Without a doubt painting on location has its advantages, obstacles and amusing experiences. Plein air painters must have an adventurous and flexible spirit. 

It appears I am a weed whacker magnet along with other gardener tools (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and chain saws). Countless times I've  painting to suddenly find myself surrounded by more gardeners and machines than you'd believe. I usually stick it out until they move on. Who would have thought that while visiting Stone Henge I would share the solitary location with a man armed with a weed whacker, but he found me! Most of the time I’ll wait out the noise and debris but sometimes it’s not worth the dirt in my eyes and art supplies.

Sometimes an unexpected surprise comes your way. Judy Schroeder and I were on a sketching trip to central California. We stopped in the small town of Los Olivos for a quick sketch. The morning was very brisk. We were bundled up and sketching away. Suddenly I spotted a man walking very quickly towards us. This isn’t always a good thing. As it turned out he was a chef. He was delighted to see us sketching his

restaurant. He went back inside and proceeded to bring us two hot mugs of fresh tomato bisque soup. It was delicious! When we finished he welcomed us inside, gave us two new mugs with his restaurants logo and offered us a show at his restaurant. 

I spent a couple weeks in Prague sketching many of the historic sites. In the  

enter of town is the clock tower. The best view was directly in front of a gelato shop. There was only enough room for the shops tables on the narrow sidewalk. I ordered a small gelato and set up to sketch from the comfortable view of the table. Within a few minutes a large delivery truck pulled up in front of me and completely blocked my view. Instead of waiting for him to move I stood up and walked a few feet to my left. When I looked back my gelato was GONE! The shop keeper saw the look of surprise on my face and brought me another gelato. Not only did I ended up with a sketch but two serving of gelato. Sometimes we must suffering for our art (wink).


Animals always add a little entertainment. I’ve had dogs drink my paint water and try to eat my paint. A cat snatched my sketchbook strap and took off in a dash up the block only to return fifteen minutes later looking for something else to take. 
While painting in the Arroyo a bluejay became obsessed with me. He spent a good twenty minutes dive bombing and screeching from an overhead tree. Eventually I figured out what he was after… my paintbrush. I held out my arm and he landed on it. He proceeded to explore the shiny metal portion of the brush. Once satisfied he took off not to be seen or heard again.

No matter the obstacles I face along the way...I love Plein Air!  I'd rather be out in the elements surrounded by the noise, dust, people, animals...than inside. I love the comforts of my STUDIO but it can never replace the joy and energy I get from being out in the world, En Plein Air!

I'm in a show at the Brea Gallery, Into the Light: Plein Air invitational. August
1st - September 13th. If you're interested in seeing the works of 14 plein air artist please visit the link for details. Into the Light

Next Summer I'll be teaching two plein air workshops in Provence, France. June 11-18 and June 19-26, 2016. If either date interest you...visit my website's Workshop Page.

Happy Painting!
Brenda

Friday, July 17, 2015

Provence in June

Would you like to join me for a week of sketching with watercolor in Provence, France? I have two workshop in 2016. June 11-18 & June 19-26. The space is limited to 10 students per workshop. 

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

Website for French Escapades
Painting locations and trip details Painting in Provence
Contact is Jackie at contact@frenchescapade.com

If you have questions please let me know.

Happy Painting!
Brenda



Monday, July 6, 2015

Life is Full

What a summer it has been...and its only just begun! 

June started with a family reunion. My husband's family gathered at the Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri. We played on the boat, cruised the lake, miniature golf, took walks, and I sketched. A highlight of the trip was meeting up with Cathy Johnson. What a joy to meet this woman in person and sketch together.

Next came a sketching road trip up the Northern California Coast. We traveled along the historic Highway 1 and 101. My sketching buddy Judy joined me for a full week of driving, sight seeing, sketching, sketching, sketching... We stopped in many little towns and sights along the way: San Rafael, Valley Ford, Fort Ross, Mendocino, Jenner,
Fort Bragg, Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse, Ferndale...and final destination Trinidad. The highlight of the trip was meeting up with my son Thomas and his lovely lady Lisa. He is a commercial fisherman bringing home fresh salmon, lingcod, halibut... It took some scheduling to pull him off the water but we had a wonderful evening together. I even had a chance to sketch his beautiful little boat, the Sangria.

Last week I joined a group of fellow painters for three days of painting en plein air. We met in Beaumont, California. The location was beautiful in every sense of the word. Lavender fields stretched for acres all around the grounds. The lovely scent of lavender being harvested was heavenly. Yes, the weather was hot, hot, HOT! The first day reached 99 degrees in the shade but  plenty of water and a nice breeze made it more than comfortable. 
Last weekend we celebrated 4th of July the old fashion way. I enjoyed being with family, watching a small town parade, lunch with together and watched fireworks exploding in the sky long into the evening.

After a year that has been heavy with sorrow I feel like a bird stretching my wings and taking flight again. The gray veil of sadness has lifted and I feel the joy and warmth of summer around me. The joy of creating art restores my spirit in a way nothing else can. I am so grateful for this life I live, the family I have, and fellow artists and students who enrich my world. Thank you!

This week I drop off paintings at the Brea Gallery for the "Into the Light, Plein Air Invitational", next week I teach a Negative Painting workshop at my STUDIO, next I teach a workshop at Cheap Joe's, ... the final workshop of the year is October 26-28, Stained Paper Collage with Watercolor.  ~Life is full

Happy Painting!
Brenda

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Set-Up a Watercolor Travel Palette



The warmer days of Summer are here! We are heading outside to travel,  sketch and paint. 

Not a lot of information is available on how to
set up a watercolor palette... so I figured I'd share my thoughts, technique and paint choices. 


The palette I am shown is a Heritage Folding Palette with 18 wells. It is one of the nicest travel palettes I have seen in a while and a great price. The lid has a soft plastic seal, which keeps the palette from leaking and keeps your colors from drying out quickly. It comes with a removable clear plastic tray. I don't use the tray since the palette has an ample mixing area. 

(1) Before I use a palette I give it a light scrubbing with a mild abrasive such as baking soda or soft scrub. This takes the slick surface off the mixing area and removes any residues from the manufacturing. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off the palette…you don’t want this in your paint.


(3) Thumb indentation
(2) I fill the 18 wells with my favorite selection of paint. Don’t put tiny dabs of paint in the wells. FILL the wells! Tiny dabs of paint will eventually just fall out. Hold the tube over the deep end of the well then come back towards the shallow end while squeezing the tube.

(3) Let the palette sit open for a day or two (longer in damp climates). When the paint had set up and is no longer sticky I wet my thumb and push down in the center of each well. What this does is create an indentation for the water. When I get ready to paint I lightly mist the paint wells and I am ready to go.

Paint mixes and mingles on palette
Here you can see how nicely the paint mixes and mingles because the palette was prepared with a mild abrasive.

Air Travel 
I travel a lot to teach and paint. I never want to arrive and find my art supplies have gone else where without me! I ALWAYS take my palette in my carry on luggage along with my brushes. I don't bring paint tubes but instead fill my palette with fresh paint a few days before and let air dry so the paint becomes more solid. When I arrive at my destination I mist the paint with fresh water, put a small sponge inside and close overnight. The next day the paint are fresh and juicy again.  I haven't had a problem with airport security, yet.

Paint Color Choices
Here you can see how I lay out my paint. Some of the paint locations may not make sense to you but it does to me. All of my paints are Daniel Smith Artist Watercolors. Occasionally I will switch Italian Burnt Sienna for Transparent Red Oxide.

Next to the paint name you'll notice numbers beginning with "P". These numbers refer to the Index Code Name. Example: Nickel Azo Yellow PY150. The number refers to the pigment used to make the paint, not the order reference number.

Now...get out and sketch!

Brenda

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Texture and Watercolor

If texture is what you’re after (which I am) you're gonna love DANIEL SMITH PrimaTek paints! PrimaTek Watercolors mix beautifully with other paints on your palette and bring excitement to the surface of a painting. They are heavier in body and settle into the valleys of your paper leaving behind wonderful granulation and texture. The pigments were carefully selected to give you a wide range of colors and textures you'll find nowhere else. When mixed with other colors the possibilities are endless.

The PrimaTeks:
  • Rhodonite Genuine, 5ml
  • Jadeite Genuine, 5ml
  • Amethyst Genuine, 5ml
  • Mayan Blue Genuine, 5ml
  • Hematite Genuine, 5ml
  • Piemontite Genuine, 5ml


Pomegranate Demo, By Brenda Swenson
Demonstration includes colors in the Essentials Watercolor Set.

Step 1:
I start with a drawing done with a 2B pencil on Arches 140lb cold press paper. I draw very simply for placement and proportions.

Step 2:
Paint the big shape first. On my palette I make three puddles of paint, New Gamboge, Piemontite Genuine and Rhodonite Genuine. I paint both pomegranates at once with New Gamboge. While the paint is still very wet I add Piemontite Genuine to the shadowed (left) side of the right pomegranate and to the underside of the other. Before the passage has lost its shine I add Rhodonite Genuine to the top of the right pomegranate. Timing is important when working back into a wet area. Once the shine is gone...don't touch, let dry! I begin painting the seeds…

Step 3:
The seeds are painted wet into wet using Rhodonite Genuine as the base color and touches of Amethyst Genuine for the darker seeds. The membrane section is a light value of New Gamboge and Piemontite Genuine.

Step 4:
Cast shadows are often overlooked in paintings and lack excitement. When I paint cast shadows I like to see reflected light and colors in the shadows. I start by painting the overall shadow shape mid-value of French Ultramarine. Before this paint looses it shine I add a small amount of New Gamboge and Rhodonite Genuine to add life and interest.

Step 5:
Next I focus on the form shadows. The form shadows are on the left side and underneath. On my palette I make two puddles of paint, Piemontite Genuine and Rhodonite Genuine. The form shadow is a darker value of the original color. Careful attention needs to be given to the edges. I lay down the paint but before it has a chance to dry or loose its shine I use a damp brush to soften and fade out the paint. I then add the cast shadow on the top.

Step 6:
In the final stage I have fun playing with the background. The sedimentary nature of the PrimaTek paints makes exciting things happen! On my palette I make two big puddles: Mayan Blue Genuine and Jadeite Genuine. I start by painting with Mayan Blue Genuine and immediately add Jadeite Genuine. Before the paint has a chance to set up I drop in a little Rhodonite Genuine. The addition of this color relates to the pomegranates and adds a touch of warmth to a cool area. Now I use a spray bottle to push the paint around. Why do I do this? It's fun to move and mix pigment without overworking the surface with a paint brush. I tilt the paper so I can control the spray and flow of water. I keep a towel near to wipe up the excess water.
I hope this demo has inspired you to explore PrimaTek paints. The addition of new pigments can add texture and excitement to your paintings. 

If your interested in trying these paints by Daniel Smith here's a link... CLICK HERE

Happy Painting!
Brenda 
NWWS, SDWS, WW
www.SwensonsArt.net

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!

Brenda

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!
Brenda
NWWS, SDWS, WW
www.SwensonsArt.net