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)frenchescapade.com

Happy Painting!
Brenda



Friday, July 8, 2016

Life Began at the End of My Comfort Zone

I love these moments when I am awe struck with how my life has turned out. This wasn't my plan (not that I had one) and yet somehow it was “the plan”. My life is a far cry from where it was. Every morning when I get up I am filled with gratitude. I realize my life could've easily gone in a different direction.

I left home at 16. I went to summer school and night school so I could  graduate high school early. In the afternoons I worked in a coffee shop.  I had no interest in college. In my
16 years old
early 20’s I was divorced, a single mom and worked at a grocery store. During the day I was a checker and two nights a week I worked the graveyard shift, stocking shelves. Most weeks I was sleep deprived and exhausted. Life wasn't easy…but I was grateful to have a job that paid my bills, a roof over our heads, food and health insurance.

….and then my world got turned upside down. The store I was working at was set to go out on strike. I knew I couldn't outlast it. There is no way I could survive and support my children without a steady income. I was so afraid. Then early one morning I got a call. It was my Dad. I had to make some hard choices. I made decisions that changed my life. Was I scared? You bet ya! 

I moved from Ventura to Pasadena, started a new job and began a new life. I found out…Life began at the end of my comfort zone. I met the man of my life, Mike. Within five months we were married. Two years later I rediscovered my love of art.  I took all the art classes I could at Pasadena Community College, joined art associations, attended watercolor workshops, painted, painted, painted, entered shows, took awards…and requests to teach started coming in. Within a short time I had two books on watercolor published. 

Painting in Provence

I teach in ways I wish others would've taught me. I teach with my head, heart and hands. I think creative people learn differently. We see and interpret information differently, which means we also absorb information different too. Coming from the school of hard knocks I teach with a lot of compassion. It comes from being there: feeling vulnerable, inadequate, under educated…I realize we all come from different places in life and we bring that to the classroom. I walk into every workshop feeling entrusted and blessed with the opportunity. 

Here’s a little peek into my two workshops last month in Provence. 
If the videos don't load click on the link to Week #1 or Week #2 below

What's up next? Spain 2017!


Brenda

Week #1                                                               Week #2
  




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Holding Close and Letting Go


Letting go is hard…especially when you don’t want to. Trying to hang on to a dream
Holding my Dad's hand
(or someone) is like holding onto a rope that was slipping through my hands. The tighter I held on, the deeper the rope cut into my flesh…until holding on was more painful than letting go.
 

If you’ve followed my blog you’ve likely recall a difficult time for our family. Within 9 months my Step-Dad and Dad both died and my son was diagnosed with cancer. 

At the time my son was diagnosed he and his lovely wife had two children, a 15 month old son and a 3 month old little girl. I learned so much about faith, strength and love by watching my daughter-in-love. Heidi is amazing, full of love, grace, faith and beauty. I learned how strong my son was, too. We did what we could to help out through different forms of support (time, money, prayer…) and love. I could not accepted cancer might take his life…he was only 31. Three years later he is still in remission. 

A few months ago my son accepted a job in Tennessee. Within three weeks they were gone…my heart broke. There is very little we have any control over…actually nothing. Letting go is hard…especially when you don’t want to. 

Time has a way of taking away the sting. Art has always been where I go to heal. Part of the healing process was painting the three children (yes they had another child). Studying their faces was meditative and healing. Painting is my way of honoring, loving and burning their images in my mind.  The day after I finished painting Joshua I had something happen. His portrait looked so warm and alive but when I touched the paper it was cold. I was startled because he was alive and present when I was painting him…I expected the image to be warm like his skin. It made me cry. 
Caleb

The process of painting the children was healing. I grew in the process. Anything that stops growing begins to die and I'm still growing which means I am alive.
We’re learning how to stay connected in different ways. But it’s not the same as reading stories, trains rides, trips to the zoo, hugs, marshmallows…


Looking forward to seeing Heidi and the kids this summer!

Happy painting!
Brenda

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fear of Failure

It's easy to fall into a creative rut. It happens when you do the same thing over and over, and over, and over…  Any form of repetition (subject matter, technique, color…) can be the kiss of death to creativity. If you're worried about painting a “winner” every time you’ll quit If you quit stretching you’ll quit growing. Life is too short not to get a few stretch marks! 

If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small but without the risk there is no challenge, without a challenge you become bored, and your work lacks excitement. Before too long you’ll lose interest in your own work because….YOU ARE BORED! If you find yourself in a rut, GET OUT! The fastest way to pull yourself out of a rut is shake things up! This week do something that  #!*!#+ scares you. Do it for you. Find out what you're capable of. Push the limits of your ability. Did you know adrenaline heightens your senses?

Does working through fear come easy for me…nope! I know more about fear than I’d like to admit. Unfortunately, I let fear rob me of my life for too many years…it paralyzed me! It robbed me of my potential personally and creatively. It’s okay to be afraid but don’t let the fear control you…DO IT ANYWAY! 

Try something this week that takes you out of your comfort zone. Here a few suggestions: 
Drawing Tools: pencil, bamboo pen, soluble ink, waterproof ink, markers
Brushes:  Flat, LARGE round
Technique: watercolor, collage, pen & ink
Surfaces: tinted paper, Japanese paper, slick paper, rough paper
Size: Do something BIG, miniature
Subject: landscape, nudes, old trucks, portraits, street scenes
View: from above (birds view), from below (worms view)
Atmosphere: sunny, foggy, rainy
Lighting: soft or sharp, warm or cool
Plein Air: Working outdoors


Recently I challenged myself. I wanted to see if I could do a pen and ink with watercolor on a larger scale, 22x30. I knew my ink lines had to be bigger. How was I going to do it? I started looking around and decided my largest Bamboo pens were perfect. I liked the width and slight irregularity of the lines would add to the sketchy feeling. No pre-drawing with pencil. It was wonderfully freeing to let the ink lines wiggle, blob and splatter ink. I wasn't out to create perfection I was having fun...and it wasn't so scary after all. 


used Noodler’s Ink, Polar Brown (waterproof), Bockingford watercolor paper 22x30, 140lbs cold press and Daniel Smith Watercolor.

 I wanted the finished piece to feel "sketchy". I resisted the temptation to refine things too much.  I wanted the look of a large sketch. Which brings up a good question...what exactly is a sketch? Is it the size? The approach? The materials used? I don't have a good answer. I love to play and push the boundaries of ink and watercolor and that's all that matters to me. I'll let others worry about definitions and I'll keep sketching and painting.

Happy Painting!
Brenda


Man of Volterra, Italy

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over!


Last weekend I participated in an Plein Air event in San Dimas. The artists had three hours to complete a painting, frame it, get it to the gallery, and be judged. No stress here (wink).

One of the reasons for plein air events is to introduce collectors to your work, interact with artists and be entertainment for the show. I love to see and catch up with old friends, students and collectors. 

To be honest painting and talking don't happily coexist in my brain. At a certain point I need to shut off chatter and give my entire focus to what I'm doing. One gentleman didn't seem to understand and continued to have a rapid list of questions that had nothing to do with the painting before me. I was running out of time! After I while I put down my brush, turned around and said " I can either talk or paint, not both".  He had a look of surprise. Hopefully he wasn't to offended as he walked away.

When I teach workshops it something entirely different. I am talking about everything that's happening before me…the scene, drawing, light & shadows, moisture of the paper, edges, color combinations and so much more. But every painting has a stage when you must be quiet and devote your entire attention to it.


After three hours I signed the painting, put it in a frame and got it to the gallery. When the event was over the artists collected their paintings. 

This morning I pulled the painting out to have a second look. The shadows didn't have enough contrast. So I popped the painting out of the frame and went back to work.  Now I'm happy.

It's our final touches (brush strokes, lines, dashes of color...) that separates our work from someone else's. You could say it's our signature marks or look.  Glad I had a chance to rework the painting. As they say... "It ain't over until it's over".

Happy Painting!
Brenda

Monday, April 18, 2016

Festival of Arts this Weekend!

Festival of Arts: California Images & History
April 22-24, 2016
 San Dimas, California 
One of the great things about this show is the artists will be there all weekend to chat, meet with collectors, talk shop with fellow artists... I’ll be there starting with the reception Friday night through Sunday afternoon. I’ll be participating in the plein air event Saturday morning, 9:00 to noon. I'll be stationed somewhere not to far from the gallery. I’ll have the finished painting framed and at the show that afternoon.
I have 10 paintings in the gallery. Many of the paintings I'm showing for the first time. As a bonus I also have a few "plein air" paintings from my adventures in and around the San Gabriel Valley, Santa Barbara, desert…and of course an old truck or two.

I’ll attached the show card with all the important details. You may also wish to visit the WEBSITE 
Hope to see you!
Brenda

Monday, April 4, 2016

En Plein Air

Spring is here and getting outside is at the top of my list. Nothing compares to painting from life! Today I'm going to share my experience with you.
I’ve sketched and painted on location for many years. I delight in knowing the light, weather or other conditions can change at a moments notice.  This creates a sense of urgency I don’t get in the studio. I also enjoy being immersed in what’s happening around me (hearing chatter from a nearby restaurant, smells in the air, feeling the temperature on my skin, interacting with fellow artists, students and onlookers). I’m aware not all painters share my passion for working outdoors. I wasn’t always comfortable either, but over time my skills improved and so did my comfort level. Now it’s my favorite way to work. 

Over the years I’ve learned many lessons. When I arrive on location the first thing I do is walk around for 5 to 15 minutes.  This is when I get a “sense” of  place. Until I explore, I don’t know what options are available. When I find something that really excites me (such as the light, shadows, color, or a particular view) I’ve found my subject.  Next I need to ask myself, how much time is available? It’s important to have realistic expectations. How much time does it take to do a quick sketch compared to a finished watercolor? How much time do I have before the light changes or I need to leave? If I have realistic expectations, I can very likely complete what I start.  Otherwise, I will become frustrated and feel my skills are lacking, when in fact, I didn’t allow enough time.

It’s important to note the position of the sun, and how it will move and change the scene over a period of a couple of hours.  If the subject will be in complete shadows shortly, it might not be a good choice. My favorite time of day to work on location is in the morning between 8:30am and 11:30am.  The shadows are interesting and the


Be careful not to let the sun directly hit your paper. It’s alarming how many people allow this!
Not only does direct sunlight make it difficult to judge values and color the light reflects into your eyes.  It doesn’t take long to burn your corneas, and repeated exposure can cause serious eye problems. So, before you setup, make sure to position yourself in the shade, or turn your body so the light doesn’t directly hit your paper.

I belong to a group of painters called, Thursday’s En Plein Air. We meet once a week at locations in and around the Pasadena area, with further excursions in the summer. This group is important to me for many reasons. I enjoy the fellowship of the other painters. Too much time alone in a studio isn’t healthy. It’s enriching to see how each person approaches the location differently.

I’ve always had a painting partner and suggest others do the same. I do not encourage anyone to
work alone en plein air, especially women.  When painting we become oblivious to traffic, loose dogs, sprinklers, unscrupulous people...  An extra set of eyes is always advised.  And of course it’s more fun to share the experience. If you are alone I suggest you sit in a safe place such as a street cafĂ©.

I consider my plein air watercolors complete as they are.  Sometimes a piece will inspire me to explore the subject further. When this happens I’ll refer to the original plein air piece for color, reflective light and shadows. It’s almost impossible to achieve the same freshness of a piece painted on location so I will intentionally change the design enough to bring something new to it. I might use a location photo for additional information, if needed. In my studio I prefer using my larger Pike palette. I like the large flat surface for mixing washes. My brushes vary in size and materials (rounds and flats). I prefer Arches 140lbs. cold press. I work on loose sheets clipped to a board and stretch if necessary when finished.


Plein Air Supplies
I have a neck and shoulder problem so I keep my equipment light and portable as possible. I enjoy the freedom of being able to move to new sketching spots easily. I would rather create multiple smaller watercolor sketches that express the feeling of a place than come away with a larger half finished painting. I carry all my painting supplies in my Sketch-Bag called a Rigger Bag. Found at Harbor Freight Tools. A light weight chair called Roll-a-Chair. I rarely use an easel and never an umbrella.

Palette:  I have a couple different palettes for working outside: Heritage Palette & Palette Box by Craig Young


Paint: My paints are Daniel Smith Watercolors unless noted differently. I may add or subtract colors.
Hansa Yellow Medium
Raw Sienna (Winsor Newton)
Quinacridone Gold
Permanent Yellow Deep
Anthraquinoid Scarlet
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Quinacridone Rose
Ultramarine Violet
French Ultramarine
Phthalo Blue GS
Cobalt Blue
Manganese Blue Hue
Cobalt Teal Blue
Phthalo Turquoise
Green Gold
Phthalo Green (BS)
Quinicradone Sienna
Transparent Red Oxide or 
Burnt Sienna (Winsor Newton)
Lunar Black

Brushes: Rounds: assorted sizes 6 to14. 
                Flats: Da Vinci Series 5080 size 20mm, and ¼ inch flat stiff brush for lifting.

Watercolor Sketchbooks: I make my sketchbooks with Bockingford 140lbs watercolor paper and Canson pastel paper (tan, creme, and grey tones). Learn more here I also use the Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks (Beta series).

Pencils & Erasers: 2B or 4B pencil. Knead able or white eraser. 

Miscellaneous Items:  Clips, paper towels for clean up, water bottle and container, small spray bottle, sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and camera. 

Happy Painting!
Brenda