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! 
Brenda

Monday, February 13, 2017

Toxicity in the Art World

Toxicity in the art world...it'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!
Brenda

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 permission...do NOT download it, copy, save to computer... do NOT print, copy, sell or show work that is NOT yours. 


Enough said.
~Brenda





Monday, February 6, 2017

Habits for Success

Every once in a while I read something that goes to my heart and stays with me a long time. When I came across quotes by John Di Lemme I was struck with how his words hit home.

Habits for Success
by John Di Lemme
"I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed--you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men, and, alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin--it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am a habit!"



I've wondered if my constant desire to sketch and record my world is obsessive? I've sketched on planes, trains, and automobiles. I sketch in churches, courtrooms, hospitals, grocery stores, laundry rooms, kitchens and hotel rooms. I've sketched from roof tops and mountain tops, from scaffolding and street corners. I sketch to celebrate joyful births and painful deaths.  I sketch my dinner, coffee, dessert... 
I think I have a habit.  Looks like I had it right after all!  

Happy Sketching!
Brenda

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!
Brenda

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,
Brenda

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.


Enjoy!


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. https://youtu.be/iKsme0wedDk 

Happy Sketching!   
Brenda


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!
Brenda