Monday, January 2, 2017

Rose Parade 2017

As I am writing this I can hear the Good Year blimp flying overhead and the faint sound of bands in the distance. I live 2 and a half miles from the Rose Bowl and 2 miles from the starting point of the Tournament of Roses® Parade in Pasadena, California. People from all over the country have just witnessed the 2017 parade from the bleachers along Colorado Blvd or on T.V.

This year it was chilly and damp. The cold is great for keeping flowers fresh but a challenge for keeping my fingers warm and flexible for sketching. I had on three layers, scarf and gloves. The temps were in the 40’s. I admit that’s not cold as other parts of the country, but cold for me.

As usual Judy and I had to get permission to be on the floor of the float building site. Even through I’ve sketched the floats since 2001 I don’t want to take for granted the wonderful opportunity I have been given. Once inside the building you'd be surprised how noisy it gets. The P.A. system making announcements, power tools, blenders, scaffolding being move, Crew Chief's shouting directions…and tour groups walking by.
First thing I do is walked around the inside of the float building barn. People look like ants climbing all over the floats. They’re glueing on the flowers, seeds, and spices. Others are cutting apart straw flowers, sticking roses into vial with water, sweeping the floor, moving scaffolding... The energy in the building is magical! 

The challenge is finding a view that is exciting to sketch, unobstructed and not in the way. This isn’t easy!  There is so much going on. Once I found a good spot I had to constantly move, duck, lean, and dodge. And on top of all this everyone who walks by is interested in what I’m sketching. And I loved every minute.

I sketched The Lions Club International float,“Celebrating 100 Years of Service”. The organization does a tremendous amount of work to help people all over the world. I asked the volunteers working on the float to sigh my sketch. As it turned out many of the top district leader were on site and I had a photo opportunity with them, too. What fun!

I also sketched the Armenian Americans, “Field of Dreams”. I liked this float for it’s unique use of natural materials and strong images.  I sketched two exotic birds in a pomegranate tree on the very back of the float.  I love pomegranates for their symbolism and meaning in my life.  I only regret I couldn’t get a better view the figures riding the horse but there was no place to sketch and be out of the way. There’s always next year…


The parade was on January 2nd. I imagine a few are shaking their heads and wondering why the Tournament of Roses® parade didn't happen on New Year’s Day. In 1893 a “Never on Sunday” tradition was established. Any year New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday the parade would be moved to Monday. Why you ask? To avoid frightening horses that would be hitched outside churches and interfering with worship services along Colorado Blvd. So the events were moved to the next day, January 2. The tradition remains to this day.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Little Holly

Keeping with the holiday season...thought I'd share a negative painting I did for Christmas.  Hope you have a joyful holiday season wherever you are.
Merry Christmas,

Negative Painting: The technique is a unique approach of painting around an object to define it in a composition. When working in watercolor we have the challenge that other mediums do not. It's what we don’t paint that becomes the most important element. Think of yourself as a stone carver, chipping away, until only the most precious lights remain.

Basic Steps to Negative Painting
*Select 3 Paint Colors for Underpainting. The 3 colors I selected are Daniel Smith WatercolorsQuinacridone Gold, Scarlet Lake and Cobalt Teal Blue.  

*Drawing: Draw enough to get the general design on 140lb watercolor paper. Don’t over draw. Keep areas uncluttered to allow opportunities for additional shapes to be developed in the painting process.

*Underpainting with 3 Colors:  Wet entire paper with clean water. Charge juicy paint into the wet areas. Help paint mix by tilting the paper or with a spray bottle. Let thoroughly dry.

*Start glazing (transparent layer of paint over a passage of dry paint). Hard edges against subject and soften edges as you move out with water. 

*With each new glaze you’ll add new shapes and a darker value. 

*Pencil in new shapes between glazes...especially if you are getting lost.

*Build up dark areas slowly. Dry between each glaze.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Perfect Sketch Bag

Are you looking for the perfect sketch bag? I found it!

I'm an organized person by nature and the idea of having everything I need in an organized bag delights me to no end. I keep my sketch bag packed and when I get a chance to sketch I grab the bag and go. No need to worry about forgotten items. 

Over the years I have refined the set-up and it works for me. I use a “Rigger Canvas Bag” from Harbor Freight Tools. I've made a few alterations to the original bag.  I took out some stitching to open up the pockets on the sides, put cardboard inside on the bottom for added support and a shoulder strap. Now my pens, brushes, palette, sketchbooks…fit snuggly. You just can’t beat it! 

I have been carrying a sketch bag around for so long friends have nicknamed it the “Brenda Bag”. I use my Sketch Bag when I travel across the country and overseas. I simply take everything out, roll up the bag and put it in my carry on luggage. Yes, I carry my palette on the plane. I leave it open for a couple days so the paint will harden and put in a plastic bag. 

The sketch bag has become like a old friend. We have traveled across the U.S. countless times…to Prague, Germany, France, Tuscany…by car plane, train…

If you wish to learn more about my larger 10x11 sketchbook, read the "Perfect Sketchbook".

Would you like to know what I keep in the bag? Here's my Youtube video. Click on my Sketch Bag to view the video.

If you have a problem viewing the Youtube video paste this link in your browser. 

Happy Sketching!   

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Recharging My Creative Battery

How do you recharge your battery? For me, it usually involves being around creative and self motivated people. I enjoy playing off their creativity and it fills my creative tank. The time together I call a “playdate”. It’s important to keep play the central component.  It usually involves trying new tools (brushes, pens, paper, ink…) and new approach to seeing, drawing and painting.

So far I've had lots of opportunities to play.  I participated in "Plein Air Los Angeles”, I’m getting out twice a week to paint with others on location and I attended a workshop with Iain Stewart. It’s fun to be the student and around someone I admire. Iain was in need of “playtime”, too. Before the workshop was over I shared some new ideas and gave
him drawing tools to play with. It’s nice when we can help others recharge. The playtime has fueled new energy back in the STUDIO. I’m beginning to feel a spring in my step (and brush). My creative tank is getting fuller.

It’s been a busy 2016 with lots of travel and teaching. I enjoy getting to see new faces and sharing the joy of creativity. I cherish getting to meet so many wonderful, inspiring people. 

Before I start teaching workshops again in January I plan to use this precious time to rest, reconnect with friends, family AND recharge my creative battery. 

What is your favorite creative play?

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who do you think you are? What is it about those words that makes me feel defiant and dig in my heels? The only time I heard these words was when someone wanted me to feel small and insignificant. When I was a child I knew what I wanted to be, it was all so clear…an artist. Unfortunately I believed what a parental figure said…“That's much too hard! Find something else.”

Today I am living the dream I gave up as a child. God's plans are greater than what someone else thought of me.  At the age of 28 it took all my courage to go after my dreams. I started taking art classes at the city college. What would happen if I found out what she said was right? I would be crushed. The desire to be creative was stronger than my inner fears. I just wanted (needed) to be creative.  The more I painted and the harder I studied things began to change. Doors were opened and opportunities were offered. I simply stepped through those doors.

My boss (myself) is constantly pushing me to do more, more, more. I struggle for balance in my life with family, faith, time to recharge, play and grow in my art. As we know everything has its drawbacks…the bitter and the sweet. Recently I had to tell my boss to back off. Some doors that open I don’t have to walk through. I need to be purposeful. What does that mean? It means I am doing more things that enrich my life: building relationships, spending time with those I admire, visiting more museums, digging deeper in my own work…and traveling less to teach. I’m still teaching lots of workshops (13 next year) but I won’t be nearly as tired from constant time changes or losing so many days flying across the country.  Does this mean I want to stop teaching? No way! 

One of the greatest joys of being a painter, sketch artist and teacher is the people I have met along the way (especially women). My life has been changed by their kindness, love and encouragement. I’ve found my story isn’t that different from theirs. Each of us have obstacles to overcome. Life is about creating ourselves. We’re a work in progress till we take our last breath.  

Be the person you were intended to be... 
Who do you think you are?

Hugs, Brenda

P.S.Would you like to join me in a workshop next year? click Workshop

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rejection Isn't Failure

Rejection in the art world comes with its share of hurts. Is it because we pour ourselves out on the paper? Is it our desire for personal success, stature in the art world, approval of our peers, financial gain..? 

I've been rejected oddles of times times.The opinion of a select few matter...the others don't carry the same weight.  Does it still bet ya. The only difference is the sting only last for 3 seconds. It use to last a week or more. 

Don't let the opinion of others effect what you do. And stay away from people who discourage or belittle you. Get up, dust yourself off and get on with living and painting. Being creative makes us feel complete!

I don't know why, but something told me "you" needed to hear this.

Sending a big hug,

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Watercolor Workshops

My workshop schedule for 2017 is here. I have Studio (indoors) and Plein-Air (outdoors) workshops across the US and abroad. I've added more plein air sketching workshops with fun destinations: San Francisco, Costa Brava-Barcelona and Santa Fe!  I love to teach and my line up of workshops have something to tempt most everyone.

I've included websites and contact information for each workshop. If you need additional help I can be contact at SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com. 
The (dot) to avoid nasty scammers.

Happy Painting!

January 9-11, 2017 

Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA 
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

February 6-8, 2017
Sketching Techniques with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

March 16-18, 2017
Negative Painting
3-Day Workshop
Mid-Valley Arts League, Arcadia, CA
Contact: Ike 
(626) 332-7782

April 5-10, 2017
San Francisco & Sonoma
Plein Air Sketching
French Escapade
Contact: Jackie

May 15-22, 2017
May 23-30, 2017 New Date Added
Costa Brava & Barcelona Spain
7-Day Workshop
French Escapade

June 23-25, 2017
Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
San Diego Watercolor Society
Contact: Mary

July 10-12, 2017
Negative Painting with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
the STUDIO, South Pasadena, CA
Contact Brenda: SwensonsArt@gmail(dot)com

August 7-11, 2017
Illustrated Journal with Watercolor
5-Day Workshop
Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff 
Boone, NC
Workshop Details
Contact: Edwina
(800) 227-2788 ext. 1123 

September 15-17,  2017
Negative Painting with Watercolor
3-Day Workshop
California Watercolor Workshops
Folsom, CA
Contact: Barbara 916-698-9153
October 2-7, 2017
Sketching Santa Fe, NM
4-Day Plein Air Workshop
Flying Colors Art Workshops
Contact: Cris Weatherby