Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2019, Brenda Swenson retains copyrights to all artwork. All images on this site are property of Brenda Swenson and may not be used in any way for commercial, financial or personal without prior written consent. All Rights Reserved for republication (printed and digital) and anything but personal viewing of artworks on this site.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday Cookies

I’m more creative with a sketchbook than a cookbook. I feed off the creative energy, fresh smells and laughter. I admire people who can create culinary magic out of simple ingredients. In the same way, I enjoy how artists can create magic with simple tools.

While visiting with family, my sister-in law was making sugar cookies. Suzy was mixing dough and rolling out cookies and I was sketching her baking ingredients. It was fun to be near the activity and the smells. When it came time to decorate the cookies I put away my art supplies and got busy... I like to decorate! 

Sketchbook Cookies
What's the difference between the Deluxe Sugar Cookies and my sketchbook cookies? My cookies are fat free, gluten free, guilt free...but unfortunately tasteless. 

Sketchbook Cookie Recipe:
1 Waterproof Pen
1 Sketchbook, 8x10 Stillman & Birn, Nova
1 White Faber-Castell Pitt Pen
1 Small Travel Palette 
Assorted Travel Brushes

Instruction: Mix with a generous amounts of creativity. Serve with a with a dash of color and pinch of humor. 

Deluxe Sugar Cookie & Icing

The real Sugar Cookies are long gone but the memory of that day lives on in my sketchbook. A day filled with of laughter, baking, sketching, conversation and sweet smell of cookies in the air.
3 Sister-In Laws. Suzy, Kim & Brenda

As we move into the holiday season I wish you peace, love and a life filled with creativity.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Don't Blend In

Last weekend I visited three exhibits: the National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West and California Art Club. I was humbled and awe struck. It left me thinking, how can I stand out in a world where skill and originality is unparalleled to another time in history?

The next day I drove to Ventura to visit family. I traveled along the old 118 through Moorpark. I’ve driven this road hundreds of times.The drive takes a little longer but I enjoy the view. I like seeing what crops are growing in the field, produce stands and flowers.  I was treated to large fields of bright orange marigolds. It’s stunning to see a field of bright orange. To my surprise in the middle of the field was a single sunflower standing alone…it took my breathe away.

It got me thinking. There’s lots of clones and copy cats in the art world. Our job is to be the best at showing the world who we are. So how do I stand out in a field? 
*Focus on my own work
*Build skills
*Be myself
*Paint what I know
*Find subjects that make my heart sing... share that with the world. 
and Don't Blend In!

Happy Painting!

© Copyright 2019, Brenda Swenson retains copyrights to all artwork. All images on this site are property of Brenda Swenson and may not be used in any way for commercial, financial or personal without prior written consent. All Rights Reserved for republication (printed, digital or painted) and anything but personal viewing of artworks on this site.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

No Slowing Down...Yet

New Website
I just finished teaching my 15th workshop of the year at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in Boone, NC. That's me standing on the far left. The guy standing next to me is the one and only Cheap Joe. I had 25 wonderful folks filled with creativity and laughter!  Next year I'm cutting back to 11 workshops.  I'll be teaching 1 workshop in California, 2 in France and the remaining 8 will be across the US. I don't want people to think I'm cutting back because I don't enjoy teaching... because I love what I do! I just want to sleep in my own bed a little more.  My workshop schedule for 2020 is posted on my website.  Sounds like all the workshops already have sign ups. 

Talking about my website... it's a good time to let you know I have a beautiful band spanking new website! All new images, layout, special pages, supply lists...and so much more! I built the website myself and I'll be able to maintain it and make changes easily. Check it out here WEBSITE

 During the summer I was contacted by Kelly Kane (senior editor) at Plein Air Magazine. We've worked together before when she was a senior editor at Watercolor Artists Magazine. She asked if I'd be interested in writing a piece for the "Elements" section. After a few emails we settled on one of my favorite subjects, reflective light and color in shadows. 
Plein Air Magazine Oct/Nov Issue
As a bonus I was able to integrate the technique of negative painting in the demo. I'm very happy with how the article came out. I hope you'll check it out, online, book store or newsstand. As an extra enticement you can see the complete demo here in this weeks email newsletter of American Watercolor Weekly (devision of Plein Air Magazine)

It been a busy year and there's no time to slow down...yet! 
Happy painting,

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Looks Like Home

It's the only home I've known since Mike and I married, almost 35 years ago. 
She was built in 1904. Mike has done an incredible amount of work to restore and beautify her through all those years. Kitchen remodel, bathroom remodels, carpeting, landscaped, decking, painted inside and out (numerous times), stained glass windows... 
But there was one last project that needed to be done. Last Spring Mike decided it was time to remove the old asbestos siding.  He tried to warn me how big the project would be. I thought I was prepared...I wasn't!  It all started in June when I was away teaching, in Belgium. A specialized team came in and removed the old siding. By the time I got home my beautiful old lady looked neglected, tired and abused. 

What came next was an endless amount of work! A new skin of siding and shingles covered the house, wood window trim, patch work, sanding, scraping, power washing, rock walls, chimney repair, painting, painting, painting...

Last week the work shifted off the house to repairs around it. When the asbestos siding was removed a section of  decking had to be pulled up along with landscaping removed. Now the deck is being replaced, replanting and potting is almost complete. This week they are working on painting the carport and garage.

After 15+ weeks / work 6 days a week / 9+ hours a day... our home is finished! The "Centennial Heritage Home" plaque was returned to its place on home. I am overjoyed, relieved and grateful all at the same time.

Peace and beauty has returned to our 'kingdom". From the top window Boone keeps watch over his domain. He likes his new home, too!


.... During the construction my art life continued as usual and I have lots of  artsy news to share (in my next post). I can share my brand new website! I'm really proud of it. All new images, lay-out and content. Hope you'll take a peek!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Still My Soul

I wrote this 11 days ago as I was sitting on a large rock in the Arroyo. An hour earlier I had reached a breaking point. Stress over took my body... I had to get away! I needed to decompress FAST. I was overwhelmed from noise, tension and sadness. I didn't want to lash out and say something I would regret.

Our 1904 home has always been a place of quiet and solitude...except for the last twelve weeks. We are nearing the completion of a major home improvement project. In June it all began. While I was in Belgium. My husband had the old (asbestos) siding professionally removed. The new siding is on, wood trim has been sanded and as of 2 days ago the painting finally began. Constant construction six days a week, from 7:30am till 6:00pm.

I knew the constant noise would be a problem for me, especially when it came time to write. I bought noise canceling headphones, wrote notes to myself, dictated on my phone... But in the end I would need to be on my home office computer. I needed to see multiple images at once and reference prior writing (taking my desk top computer to the STUDIO was not an option). I had two magazine articles to complete, workshop to prep for, show to enter, family needing time... When I sat down to write I heard ladders being put in placed against the wall, just 5 feet from my desk. When the power sanders began it sounded like an orchestra of jackhammers. A new form of torture!


The problem wasn't the guys working. Mike, Rudolfo and Hector are some of the hardest working, respectable, conscientious people I know. So where does the fault lie? It's no ones fault. This world is a stressful place for you and for me. We are constantly dealing with deadlines, world and national crisis, health issues, job and family stress.

How do you handle stress? Is it healthy OR destructive? 
Some feel justified to use hateful words and actions when stressed.  I walk until I can find peace in my soul, clear my head, burn off steam and get a grasp on my feeling (anger, sorry, stress...).  Usually a 4 mile walk does the trick but it can take many, many more. Thankfully I live in a area where I can walk for miles. Along the Arroyo I can find majestic oak trees, eucalyptus, birds, beautiful craftsman homes and watch heavenly light filter through the trees.  These sights restore my soul and I'm ready to turn around and walk home.

"I’m am weary, I know not why. At these moments I walk further and listen to my heart. Into the Arroyo I go...I seek the sights, sounds and smells that restore my soul. I cannot fix cruelty of mankind, ease suffering or turn back the clock. I can only move forward. I walk until my soul is stilled and I’m strengthened for another day...I walk into the Arroyo." 
I wish you peace,

Friday, July 19, 2019

Sketches and Memories of Belgium

In early June I traveled to Belgium. I was scheduled to teach two workshops with French Escapade…but first a little playtime! Two friends joined me in Brussels, Phyllis from California and Cris from Brazil. Our days in Brussels was lovely. Each day we ventured out to sight see and sketch. It rained a little but usually in early morning or during the night. The days were cool and pleasant. I was prepared for cooler weather and usually wore a light down jacket, scarf and sketching gloves. We had a wonderful time taking in the sights. We stayed at the ibis Hotel in Brussels. It was centrally located and a easy walk to the cathedrals, museums and sights.
It came time for my workshops. We met up with Jackie Grandchamps and Valerie Sals, the owners of French Escapade and our guides. After a 90 minute drive we arrived at our destination, our home away from home. We were 20 minutes from the historic center of Brugge (or Bruges). After 4 days in a busy city I was delighted to be in the country side with it’s green pastures, sheep, cattle, horses, chicken and one noisy peacock! What is a peacock doing in Belgium?

The day we visited the windmill in Damme everything was perfect. The day saw bright and sunny but not too hot. I had a cool breeze on my back and the windmill blades were rotating against the blue sky with large billowing clouds. I'm always on the look-out for interesting shadows. Imagine my delight when I saw the blade of the windmill wrapping the tower. It begged to be painted!

Belgium is very green and with that comes wet weather. I came prepared with a lightweight raincoat, umbrella and rain boots. Little did I know how quickly things would change. By the end of the week 

Europe was in the grips of a heatwave. The hot air came from the Sahara. Belgium, Germany and France were hit hard with severe heat warnings…ugh. I had plenty of clothes for cold rainy days but very little for the sweltering heat. 
Time to buy new hats!

I created a YouTube video titled, Sketchbook Tour: Belgium. Sketches of Brussels, Damme, Brugge, De Haan... Inside you'll see the lessons I taught and my commentary. At the end I show the supplies I used (sketchbooks, palette, paint, pens, ink...).If you have a problem viewing the video on my blog click here to see it on my YouTube Channel. VIDEO HERE

Since I've been home I did this small piece called “The Lace Maker of Brugge”. I enjoyed watching this woman sitting in her doorway making bobbin lace. In the upper left-hand corner you can see the lace I purchased from her. It took her more than 15 hours! She is obviously an older woman but her hands were young, pretty and agile.
I will carry memories of Belgium in my heart.  So many people worked to make this workshop special: French Escapade and our  hosts at the hotel...especially Monique! A BIG thank you to my students for sharing my love of travel and sketching on location.

Happy Sketching!

First Workshop Group June 12-19

Second Workshop Group June 19-26

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mixing Believable Greens

One color that gets a lot of people in trouble is green. Tube green to be exact. Any tube of green by itself isn’t believable. Every tree, shrub or flowering plant is going to shift in greens from warm to cool, pure to grayed…and so on. A landscape is going to shift in greens too. Warmer yellow-greens in the foreground and cooler blue-greens as you go back. 

How do you make believable greens? One word…PRACTICE. It’s not that hard. I recommend you start by keeping a book for color mixing only. I call these my color bibles. I’ve built many  reference books over the years. Combinations I refer to again and again. Greens, triads…and so on.

Mixing paint on the paper (not on the palette) will give you the most interesting greens. Why? You’ll have more variations. I’m sharing greens I made using the current colors on my palette. All of the colors listed below are Daniel Smith Watercolors with the exception of Burnt Sienna which is Winsor Newton. I’ve label all the paint swatches with abbreviations. If you're not familiar with color index code, don't worry. The first letter P means pigment, the next letter is pigment color family (R=red, B=blue…and so on) and the final number is the number issued by the ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials).
Mixing paint on dry paper

Abbreviation (HYM), Paint Name (Hansa Yellow Medium), Color Index Code (PY97)

HYM=Hansa Yellow Medium, PY97
RSL=Raw Sienna Light, PY42
PYD=Permanent Yellow Deep, PY110
GG=Green Gold, PY 150, PY 3, PG 36
QG=Quinacridone Gold, PO 48 PY, 150
MBH=Manganese Blue Hue PB15
FU=French Ultramarine, PB29
PT=Phthalo Turquoise, PB15:3, PG36
BS=Burnt Sienna, PR101
LB=Lunar Black, PBk11

Last week images were taken from my blog without 
permission.  Watermarks © have become an 
unpleasant necessity.

How many green combinations can you identify in my sketch? Some greens are very yellow and other are more blue, grayed... 

Hint: If a green area goes dull add a touch of Quinacridone Rose or Magenta when the pigment is still damp to liven it up.
Happy Painting!