Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hahnemühle Watercolor Paper Review

I was contacted by Hahnemühle USA and asked if I would try their watercolor papers and share a review with my followers. Carol Boss sent me a nice assortment of papers to try. 

I’ve been on the road a lot this summer…teaching workshops from California to North Carolina. Between  workshops I’ve been busy putting this paper to the test. 

The scene Volterra Roof Tops (left) was done on the Cézanne, block, 140lb hot press.

Sample Tests on Cézanne Block, 140lbs Hot Press and Rough
Hahnemühle has numerous watercolor papers but I’m going to focus on one…Cézanne. The paper comes in many forms: blocks and sheets. Paper surfaces: Hot press, Matt, and Rough.  I’ve put time and thought into this review. I’ve tried to boil it down to the most important stuff… what I look for in watercolor paper: usability, surface strength, consistency in sizing & forgiveness. I need a paper that can handle a lot of water, glazing and scrubbing.

In this first demonstration of the leaves I only used two colors, Payne's Gray and New Gamboge. Using two colors I can focus more on the paper surface and what was happening. I was happy with how the paper handled and moved on to a full color Negative painting of Pomegranates.  If you are unfamiliar with the term Negative Painting please see this post.

The bottom line is…Do I like the paper and will I use it?  The answer is yes. I found the paper to be very reliable, responsive and fun to work on. The Cézanne held up to everything I toss at it.

I’ve posted a video companion to go with this review. I share additional paintings done on the Cézanne hot press, matt and rough. I show detailed images of the paper's surface and talk about what I like and dislikes… Like why do they call the paper Matt? It’s looks and feels like cold press to me. 

I’ve posted the video here. If you have trouble viewing please click this link.

The paper is newly available in USA. The watercolor blocks are available but the full sheets aren’t available just yet. If you want to try the paper I need you to do your research (please don’t ask me to find it for you). I was told the paper is available at Hyatt’s Graphic Supply & DaVinci Artist Supply  For additional help you can contact the company directly at www.Hahnemü 

Hope you've found this post fun and helpful. I love to explore paper, paint, pens... and share the information with you.

Happy Painting!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sketches and Memories of Barcelona and Costa Brava

I’ve been home from Spain/Catalonia almost two months. Where has the time gone! Before anymore time slips by I want to share my trip, thoughts and sketches with you. 

My trip was broken into 3 phases: playtime in Barcelona, Workshop #1 May 15-22, Workshop #2 May 22-29.

May 10th my journey began. After a long flight I arrived in Barcelona. Cris, a fellow sketcher and dear friend flew in from Portugal at the same time. We got our luggage (always relieved when it arrives) and headed to the hotel. Once checked in we took off walking around the city of Barcelona. I was beyond tired but the joy of being in this magnificent city kicked in (along with caffeine) and we explored the city for a few hours. One of the first shops I visited was a pen shop…no surprise here! 

Cris and I had 4 full days in Barcelona. We walked our little legs off visiting many of Antoni Gaudí’s beautiful buildings, Park Güell, museums, parks, shops…and sketching along the way.  One day we walked more than 8 miles. Our final day in Barcelona was Mother’s Day. Moments likes these remind me how far I am from home and those I love. Cris and I celebrated each other as women & mom’s by going out to dinner at a fun tapas restaurant. A couple calls and text from home warmed my heart.

Overview of the  two workshops:
I was joined by 10 woman and Jackie Grandchamps. Jackie is the owner French Escapade. This was my 5th workshop with her. She’s absolutely amazing! Everything runs smooth and seamless. From Barcelona the group was taken to Costa Brava. Within a couple hours everyone was checked into their rooms. Jackie took us on a walking tour of the small village, pointed out points of interest, restaurants, shops… welcome dinner in a beautiful restaurant with a view of the beautiful small village and the sea. I’ve never seen a prettier sea.

Each day we started with a tasty breakfast and by 9:15 we were headed out for a day of sketching and exploring. All the locations were varied and beyond beautiful. Everything was close…so no long rides in a van. Each day I did a demo. Afterwards I walked around and checked on the group to see how everyone was doing. By 4:00 we were back at the hotel. We had a couple hours to relax, shop, swim, sketch…before dinner. Oh my gosh…dinners were amazing!!!! Not only was the food varied, fresh and tasty it was sooooo pretty. 

Between sketching and painting we had opportunities to know each better through play, shopping, conversations, hikes, giggles…and being downright silly!  I have wonderful memories from the time spent in the company of these intelligent, witty, talent women.

After 19 days it was time for this gal to head on home. Trying to get everything back inside my suitcases (and a few treasures) is always a challenge. I arrived home just before midnight on May 29th. I was greeted by the man I love and a big hug. It’s always good to come home.

During the trip I did 28 sketches…some ink, watercolor and pencil. Here’s my “Sketchbook Tour of Spain/Catalonia” click on the video. If you have a problem getting it to play click on this link: Sketchbook Video

If you’d like to join me at one of my workshops in the U.S. or if you’d like to join me in Tuscany next year check out my Workshop Schedule here. 

Happy Sketching! 

I have 100's of photos but I'll leave you with a few of these smiling faces.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Modified Watercolor Palette

I’ve always liked to take things apart (disassemble). When I was a kid... if I really liked something I took it apart. Why? I wanted to know how it was made. And yes I always put things back together. I have continued my fascination with how things are made into adulthood. But now I usually take things apart to see how I can make it better.

I’ve modified most of my art supplies: Sketch-Bag, sketchbooks, brush holders, pen holder, a few easels…and lots of palettes.

I get lots of questions about my sketching palette because it looks
different... Yes, I've modified it too. It’s the Heritage made by Alvin (it goes by other names too). It’s a great palette but lacked an area to make larger puddles for washes.

Trays:  3 inch Triangle Bead Trays, plastic (easily found on internet search)
Glue: Gorilla Glue or Epoxy 
Sandpaper: Fine Tooth/Grit

Clean the inside of the palette surface and allow to dry.
Use a fine grit sand paper on the bottom of the trays for better adhesion. 
Use a small amount of glue on the trays and put into place. 
Leave palette open over night to dry.

Step-by-Step VideoModified Watercolor Palette. If video doesn't play click this link: Video

And what would a palette be without paint? Here's my Dot Card of paint choices. I use Daniel Smith Watercolors. In my sketch palette you'll notice I've added Green Gold and eliminated Phthalo Blue (GS). These colors are on my studio palette which has more wells. Wish I could send everyone a Dot Card but I only have enough to cover workshops...sorry. 

Daniel Smith Watercolors 

Green Gold (not seen on card)
Hansa Yellow Medium
Raw Sienna Light
Quinacridone Gold
Permanent Yellow Deep
Anthraquinoid Scarlet
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Quinacridone Rose
Imperial Purple
French Ultramarine
Phthalo Blue GS
Cobalt Blue
Manganese Blue Hue
Cobalt Teal Blue
Phthalo Turquoise
Green Gold
Phthalo Green (BS)
Quinicradone Burnt Orange
Transparent Red Oxide
Lunar Black

Paint Tube Organizer. I always travel with this! It's the easiest way to quickly find tubes of paint and to organize colors. It's so handy! 

Happy Painting!


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Continual Line Contour

I've been using "continual line contour" drawing for so long I've forgotten when I learned how. I can tell you it has changed the way I see, draw and paint. I've learned more about observing edges, measuring, overlapping and page placement than any other approach. 
In my workshops (sketching, illustrated journal or plein air workshop) I start by demonstrating and teaching this technique. At first students might feel hesitant. But by the end of the workshop I have won them over.  

I keep a collection of props on hand and I ask students to bring props to the workshop too. The more variety the better: jars, kettles, paint tubes, brushes, mugs, wooden and metal tools, artificial flowers, vegetables. 
During the workshop I use a timer so the drawings don't become too involved or precious.  It’s funny how the mind acts when you use a timer…absolute and complete focus! We start by drawing: 1 object in 3 minutes, 2 objects in 6 minutes, 3 objects in 10 minutes. All drawing is done from life (no photos). Once we get comfortable with drawing we begin painting.

Here's a workshop demo:

During the drawing keep your pen on the paper as long as possible. Yes, I said PEN! This exercise will teach you to slow down, look longer and be more certain of shapes, size and edges. There will be a certain amount of distortion to the drawing but I consider this part of the charm.  Continual Line Contour is a good exercise no matter how long you've been drawing. 

Here's a short video I made showing, "Continual Line Contour". I usually work from life but in the video I use a photo so my view would be the same as the viewers. If the video doesn't play click on the link:

"Art like life, is knowing where to draw the line".  Happy Sketching!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What is the Purpose of Art?

Life is busy with workshops, travel, judging shows, writing and painting. Let's not forget those things that need our daily care: exercise, laundry, grocery shopping, appointments…  When I get time for myself I need something that will recharge my creative battery and feed my weary soul…sketching.

Sketching is a very broad term and I’m often asked, “What exactly is a sketch?” A sketch is anything I do in my sketchbook. Some people will disagree…that’s okay. Let’s face it the world is full of rules, laws, guidelines, restrictions, constrains… What I do in my sketchbooks is not defined or dictated by any one but me (big smile). What happens in my sketchbook is my playground, my challenges, my success, my failures…my business. 

My sketchbook is a safe place to go when I want or need to recharge, create, stretch, grow, play, explore and sometimes pour out my heart.  Within the pages I don’t ask for anyones approval or acceptance. Everyone needs a safe place to call our own. A place where we don’t seek or need anyone's approval or acceptance. 

You will learn more about me by looking through one of my sketchbooks than seeing an entire show of my work. Why is that? My paintings are me at my best (dressed up, make-up and on my best behavior). My sketchbooks are a true picture of me (in my play clothes, being silly, exploring my world, hurting…as a friend would see me). 

I take my sketchbooks everywhere I go. You can find me sketching at a cafe, in a garden, airport, sketching with friends…or a hospital.  People passing by like to comment. Most of the time they say, “nice sketch”, “wish I was talented” or “are you an artist?” But I’ve also heard, "What a shame it's in a sketchbook you could have sold it”. Why is it that so many people do not see the value of something unless they can attach a dollar amount to it?

Take a tour inside a recent sketchbook. Click on the video below or click on this link

The sketchbook in the video is one I made. To learn more see: The Perfect Sketchbook

My favorite manufactured brand is the Stillman & Birn, Beta. My video review:

I leave you with this question...

What is the purpose of art if it does not feed the soul of the one who created it? 

  Happy Sketching! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't Carpet Your Rut #2

Any form of repetition can be a rut: technique, subject matter, perspective, lighting or paint colors.  The quote, “Don’t carpet your rut”, reminds me not to get too comfortable doing the same thing. Painter’s can get in a rut because we want a successful outcome every time. Anything that’s repetitive is playing it safe. If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small. 

If you find yourself in a creative rut…start climbing out! I begin by thinking, What if? How many ways can I sketch or paint a subject differently? The answer is countless.

The more effort and imagination I put into exploring a new approach the better the experience will be. The object can be quite simple.  The images don't need to be very big, 4x6 or 5x7 inches will do. I sketch the subject numerous times mixing drawing and painting techniques. This is a great way to explore new ideas by investing a small amount of time.

Pens: Bamboo Reed, Fountain, Disposable, Ballpoint…
Ink: waterproof , soluble, colored…
Drawing Tools: Pencil, Charcoal, Markers, Brush…
Papers: Watercolor (cold or hot press, rough) pastel paper, Japanese papers…
Paint Colors: Regular Palette, Triads, Tonal, Warm or Cool… 
Painting Techniques: wet-into-wet, flat or graduated washes, glazing…

The examples are numbered in order completed. Each drawing took less than 3 minutes and were painted in 10 minutes or less. For me it is important to keep the exercises quick and fun.

#1 Drawn with a bamboo reed pen dipped in liquid watercolors. Painted with regular palette of Daniel Smith Watercolors.

#2 Drawn with a fountain pen dipped in sepia waterproof ink. Value study with sepia pencil and painted with Lunar Black.

#3 Drawn with pencil. Painted with regular palette and Payne’s Blue Gray. The new Payne’s Blue Gray mixed beautifully to create rich glowing darks in the background.

#4 Drawn with a fountain pen with blue waterproof ink. Painted with the 8 new colors from Daniel Smith.  I love putting these new colors to work!

Now it’s your turn. Once you start, you’ll see endless possibilities. I’m sure you can add a few of your favorites to the list! See more examples here.

Happy Sketching! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Toxicity in the Art World

Toxicity in the art's not what you might think.
Original painting by Brenda Swenson
It all started in early January when I received two separate messages on Facebook.  Delilah and Suzanne notified me that one of my paintings was on the cover of a national arts supply catalog. It was obvious to them someone had copied my painting. I am so thankful that these women cared enough to message me. I owe them a debt of gratitude! 

I sent an email to the company. What came next was weeks of countless emails and phone calls. The company was rightly concerned because they were in the middle of a copyright infringement…a bad legal situation. The company wanted to write me a check…I declined. It wasn’t about the money…it’s about protecting what is my property. Instead I asked if they’d give a gift certificate to my local elementary school, for the art program. They gave a generous gift. I also outlined what I expected from the company.

*My artwork to be removed from their website and e-publications.
*An apology from the student
*An apology from the instructor
*Implement an artwork/photo release form for all future competitions. All artwork and source material must be original. No copies.
*A written notice stating that the artwork was a copy of an original painting by Brenda Swenson and copied without permission. 

The company has complied with my requests…but it’s too late to retrieve the catalogs that were mailed. I don’t wish to damage the company with negative publicity. They’ve made serious efforts to correct the matter immediately and put new guidelines in place to avoid something like this happening again.

Copy of my painting "CAL 46". Cover on left. Feature on right.

As you can see I blocked out the company information. I also blocked out the teacher’s and student’s full name and school. The teacher and I had a chance to talk and she was genuinely sorry for what happened. She was not aware that the artwork was a copy.

I’ve included the catalog cover (left) and feature (right). The student, Cassie talks about her inspiration. She stole my words, too! She had no idea how much of me went into my painting, “CAL 46”. I own the truck in the painting, the vintage license plate is in my studio, the painting earned me signature status in a watercolor society, featured in my book and much more. She entered a copy of my painting in a competition and happily accepted national publicity… an award… for my work. She has not apologized.

This is where it gets tough. Why? Because I have to look at myself. I’ve allowed her thoughtless actions to interfere with my life. Being angry has cost me too much: time, energy and emotions. To remain angry is toxic. I have two choices. I can be in control of my feelings or remain bitter towards the young woman. To remain bitter or angry is toxic. I’m ready to move on…not because of her… but because of me.

Happy Painting!

Please don’t tell me how to watermark or reduce my artwork so people will have a harder time stealing. If you do you're missing the point.  Please read my post on Ethics and Art and

***Update 2/14/2017*** Letter of apology arrived
I am so ready to put this matter behind me and move on. I can only hope the event opened people's eyes to how painful and upsetting it can be for everyone involved. I'm sure it was a painful lesson for the young woman, too.
I hope this post helped bring a greater understanding to teachers, students, schools, art supply companies and publications. Painters/Artists do have ownership rights to what we create. If you do NOT have the artists NOT download it, copy, save to computer... do NOT print, copy, sell or show work that is NOT yours. 

Enough said.