Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2020 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 use without written consent. Brenda Swenson retains all rights to republication (printed and digital) and anything but personal viewing of artworks.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Negative Painting Demonstration, Matilija Poppies

The matilija poppy is frequently called the fried egg flower. One look and you can see why. The petals are bright white with intense yellow centers. They can grow to a height of 8 feet, with the flowers up to 6 inches across. The plant thrives where I live in California. In the wild, they are also known as "fire followers". Why? They often grow in areas that have been devastated by wildfires.

Negative painting requires focusing on the space between shapes. A photograph will not solve that problem. Photographs are a tool and inspiration but not to be relied on too heavily. The sooner I respond to what’s happening on the paper and quit looking at the photo the better off I am.

I start by drawing the Matilijia poppies with a 2B pencil on Arches 140lb cold press paper. I'm especially aware of the space and shapes between the flowers and leaves (negative space). I want shape and size variety. I draw enough to get the general shapes, but not too much. I intentionally leave areas understated so I'll have opportunities for negative shapes to develop in the painting process. 

I start with 3 colors in the underpainting. To determine which colors I make color swatches. The paints need to be the same consistency as whole milk, to encourage ample mixing on the paper. I'm looking for colors that relate to my subject (warm or cool dominances ) and have good mixing ability with each other. The 3 paint colors I selected are: Cobalt Teal Blue, Hansa Yellow Medium, Anthraquinoid Scarlet.
I can use semi-opaque colors in the underpainting but after the underpainting ALL paint colors need to be transparent. What is opaque and transparent? Learn here.

#3  UNDERPAINTING  (i.e., the first, thin transparent laying in of color(s) in a painting)
I tape my watercolor paper to a board. I wet the entire watercolor paper with clean water and introduce the 3 paint colors separately into the wet surface. I encourage the paint to mix by tilting or rocking the paper. I don’t overwork the surface with the brush. I leave a third of the paper untouched with paint. As it dries the paint will continue to move. I want light/whites to remain on the white petals. Let throughly dry.

#4 START GLAZING  (i.e., a transparent wash of color(s) laid over a dry, previously painted area)
I pull French Ultramarine and Quinacridone Gold into the mixing area of my palette. I let the paint mingle in the center but keep pure color towards the edge. The idea is to get rid of everything except the important lightest lights (white petals and a few leaves). I start in the upper left hand corner and work clockwise. I paint hard edges against the petals and soften as I pull away. I vary my colors slightly with a greener dominance on the bottom. Let throughly dry.

I pull out fresh paint into the center of my palette. The paint puddles can touch in the palette but a lot of mixing is still happening on the paper. I use Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Phthalo Blue (GS), French Ultramarine and Green Gold. I carve out shapes with hard edges against the petals. As I move across the lower section I want my colors to move from blues into deep greens. My favorite mix for deep greens is Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Phthalo Blue (GS). With each brush load I shift the green, slightly by adding in French Ultramarine or Green Gold. Let throughly dry.

At this stage I like to work the background and the flowers at the same time. I make another pass underneath the flowers to suggest additional leaves with the same mixture as before. I also paint a few positive leaves and buds above the flowers. The Matilijia centers are Permanent Yellow deep with a touch of Quinacridone Burnt Orange on the shadowed side. The shadows on the flower petals are light Cobalt Blue with a touch of Permanent Yellow Deep near the flower centers and Green Gold toward the edge of the petals.

To say these are difficult times is an understatement. Everything we know as the "norm" must be re-evaluated. 
In recent years the California landscape has been blackened by wildfires but today the landscape is healing and new growth is taking place. More color than I’ve seen in years. We are in a firestorm of a different kind (COVID-19). The matilija poppy is a good reminder that we will heal, thrive and bloom, again!

One thing I know is true…I am a creative person. The best days are when I sketch and paint. I feel happier, more positive and alive. Creative people are the lucky ones. We don’t need much…a little inspiration, paper, paint and brush.

Paper: Arches 140lbs Cold Press
Paint: Daniel Smith Watercolor
Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Anthraquinoid Scarlet, Permanent Yellow Deep,Quinacridone Gold, Hansa Yellow Medium, Green Gold, Cobalt Teal Blue,Cobalt Blue, French Untramarine, Phthalo Blue (GS)

Be creative, positive, helpful…and well,

© Copyright 2020 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 use without written consent. Brenda Swenson retains all rights to republication (printed and digital) and anything but personal viewing of artworks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Do Nothing...?

I miss everyone. My family, my friends and plein air buddies. Especially the creative banter we shared, the energy that bubbles up from being side by side painting, expressing views, joking, group critiques… Social media can fill a void but it’s emotionally short lasting.
I miss the art community, teaching and art friends. I was geared up and ready to roll. My workshop schedule was in full swing (years in planning). Eleven workshops across the US and overseas. Art projects in the works: videos, articles, exhibitions…now canceled. Shows I judged…canceled. The abrupt halt...knocked the wind out of me

My emotions fluctuate between feeling energetic and wanting to crawl back in bed. I’m not alone here. Don’t take me wrong…I’m grateful to be healthy, and have food in the fridge and (so far) my family is healthy, too. I live in California and we are told to “Shelter in Place”. Authorities say the best thing we can do to help is… DO NOTHING. I get the message STAY HOME and it will help to slow down the spread of COVID-19. 
I can be of more use than...DO NOTHING
Some people are sewing masks, calling people at home (shut-in, friends and family). What can I offer of my gifts? What can I do? And then it came to me! Letter writing. I'm not talking about emails. I'm talking about good old-fashioned snail mail. Everyone love something in the mailbox. Something to look forward to. Every morning while I sip my coffee I can write three people. Just simple notes to say hi and I'm thinking of them: Friends, family, elderly, shut-ins… Words are not my strength but art is. What is a better use of my gift than sharing it through a note of friendship and compassion? I’m using my home printer to print copies of my sketches. I’ll include a short letter along side my sketch to say hi and let them know I’m thinking of them. 
More than ever people feel isolated and lonely.  What can YOU do to make a difference? If you have an idea please share.
Stay well my friends,

Monday, March 16, 2020

Productive and Creative Amidst Chaos

We know these are uncertain times with COVID-19, but I’m optimistic and hopeful. I won’t let fear get the best of me. Most of the country is practicing social distancing, self isolation or self quarantine (the new catch phrases of 2020). Events like these bring out the best or worst in people. 

When was the last time you were given the unexpected gift of time? Yes, that’s how I look at it. If you’re healthy be GRATEFUL. How are you going to use this time? When was the last time you: read a book, chat with friends on the phone, wrote a letter to a dear friend or spend time enjoying lunch in your backyard? When I get tired of all this rest and relaxation I can always get to work around the house: clean out closets, go through old files, organize photo files on the computer, clean kitchen drawers…the list is endless.

Let’s be honest…I’d rather paint and be creative! I have stacks of sketchbooks I need to photograph and document. In fact the sketches you see in this post are from my trip to Maui one week ago. I planned on writing a different kind of post but the world has changed in a very short time. The sketchbook you see  is the Stillman & Birn, Beta, soft cover, stitch bound. When closed its 8.5 x 5.5 inch and opens to 8.5x11 inch. 

As I started to photograph these sketches I realized it was a good opportunity to share how I photograph my artwork. Years ago I made a set-up to photograph my sketchbook. It’s easy to make.

Natural softer light in the morning is the best for photographing watercolors. I usually set up in the back yard or on my front porch at 9am. I use push pins to hold the sketchbook open. Avoid having shadows in the valley of a sketchbook or shadows from curled edges. Turn sketchbook towards the sun (not angled towards the sun). The most important thing is to be straight on to the sketchbook and not keystoned (keystoned is when parallel objects shot from above or below will appear to converge). Make sure the edges of the sketchbook look perfectly straight when viewed on the camera screen. 

Example: A  Keystoned                                                     Example:  B Correct

There's a lot of expensive lighting equipment and bulbs but I prefer natural light. I have a flat bed scanner but I’ve never liked how my images looked when scanned. The colors are flat and miss the gentle shifts in color. I’m sharing what has worked for me. Some people may differ in opinion…that’s okay. I’ve used this process to photograph art for two of my books, countless other books, magazine articles and major art exhibitions. It works for me.

This may surprise you but I use my cell phone camera... iPhone XS Max. I love the big screen, easy ability to make adjustments before and after I've taken the picture. Sometimes I use a cellphone tripod  but not always. Inexpensive cellphone tripod adaptors are easy to find on the internet (if you want one). 

How will you look back at these days of self isolation and self quarantine what will it look like? Wringing your hands in fear or will you use your time wisely as a healthy, productive, creative person. The choice is yours...Who will you be? 

Stay well my friends,

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Extra Time Doesn't Exist

Every day has 24 hours. Time always runs out at the end of the day. We’re never going to have EXTRA time. It doesn't exist!  Laundry will need folding, dishes washed, yard work, grocery shopping… Trust me these things will be there tomorrow.

Some days family comes first...I know this all too well. Sorrow and loss has visited our family many times. What I’m talking about is moments in the day we waste. What do you mindlessly give your time to? Is it scrolling through social media, sleeping in, shopping… ?

I’m as guilty as the next person.I was better at finding reasons why I wasn't living my dream 
then putting energy into making it happen. So what was the problem? Simply put…ME! It’s easier to make excuses than taking responsibility and making it happen. The honest-to-goodness truth is I had to change my thinking. I didn’t value my time. I’m not alone here…its common thinking among women to see what we do for others as more valuable than ourselves. What we fail to see is creativity is the core of who we are.

It all sound so easy but where do you begin? 5 minutes is a start! Start small and enjoy the little jewels you create. Keep your expectations realistic. Don't expect to do a masterpiece if you only have 20 minutes. Sketchbooks are a great place to build confidence. 

I made a short video to help show what I mean. See 3 separate examples of what can be achieved with limited time and supplies. With a bird as my inspiration I show design, shadow and color. Each sketch is on a different surface. 

Click on image to see the video or visit this link 

We make the choices of how we spend our time…PERIOD. What are you waiting for? Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverb 13:12

If you'd like to learn from me in person please visit my Workshop Schedule for 2020. I know this isn't possible for many people to attend workshops. My blog and YouTube channel is especially for you. 

Happy Sketching!

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,