Brenda Swenson workshop

This is how much I was looking forward to this workshop… I registered in early December 2015, 9 months early!  For the past 3 days I’ve been in Brenda Swenson’s “Sketching Techniques with Watercolor”. I’ve followed her blog for quite a while and I especially like her journaling sketches.

It was an excellent experience.  Brenda is such a good instructor.  She has the knack of giving gentle but very helpful feedback.  She comments on both what works in a sketch and also has very constructive comments for how to make it even better.

We started each day with contour drawings, choosing items from a large supply of objects brought in by the participants.  My contributions were my dad’s hammer and pliers, a large yellow duck, a lightsaber hilt, a decorated hat, robot dog, and a large Starship Enterprise model.

She showed us about leaving open edges in a contour drawing and then blending colors between objects.

Some quotes:
“Sketching is a ‘Happy Meal’.  Studio painting is Thanksgiving dinner”.
“The mind can only absorb as much as the behind can endure”.

We practiced putting frames around out sketches: square, portrait, landscape and panorama.

When she does location sketching, she is not bound by what is exactly in front of her.  She composes her scene from elements taken from the entire view.  We practiced this using photos.  Across the bottom I rough sketched the elements I would use.  Then we did three small sketches, putting those elements in different compositions.

Tuesday afternoon we worked on vignettes.  It is a small, unfinished watercolor sketch that is simply defined: postcard sized; does not extend into any corners; design should touch the sides at least once; cruciform composition.  I did two from my own photos:

On Wednesday we received feedback on our sketches using elements and on the vignettes.

Then we moved on to “What if”, trying 3 drawing tools we don’t normally use. I tried water soluble pencil, pen with cross hatching and watercolor with no ink drawing.  I liked the water soluble pencil sketch the best.

She shared some of her sketchbooks and journals. Art falsities that pertain to working in an illustrated journal:  “Art has to be ‘nice’ or ‘good’.”  We can use our journals to work out life’s trials and troubles.  “Art has to be for sale to be of value”.  It is valuable, even if only to ourselves.

It is always wonderful to see the originals.  Much of her journaling work is done in a Stillman and Birn Beta.  She also makes her own spiral bound sketch books using Bockingford 140# cold press watercolor paper from Cheap Joe’s. Brenda thinks it is nearly as good as Arches at 1/3 less the cost of Arches 140lb.

I did these sketches scanned here on Arches watercolor paper.  In the past I have not liked using it. Now I do!  So I bought a sheet to tear up for my disc bound sketchbook.  I think my way of working in watercolor has changed over time so now I like good watercolor paper.

On the final afternoon, we worked on what she called a sketch collage.  I had brought in several scenes from Fort Nisqually which I composed into a collage.

Thus ended an intense and wonderful 3 days!

OH! And Daniel Smith now stocks Platinum Carbon Black ink!!  I no longer have to mail order it.

About redharparts

Born in Michigan. Attended undergrad and graduate universities there. I've lived in England, Germany, Southern California and now Washington (state). I'm a retired Medical Social Worker with a past specialty in Oncology. I've enjoyed exploring historical re-creation through the SCA. I costume in several fandoms. Lately I've returned to Art and have taken up Urban Sketching, a version of en plein air painting.
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9 Responses to Brenda Swenson workshop

  1. I love the lessons and myths that were unturned. What a wonderful experience and happy you shared it with us. Thanks!

  2. Missy Walsh-Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I took Brenda’s negative painting workshop. It was great. I wished I could have taken this one too! I hope see will return to DS next year!

  3. I follow Brenda too, so it is nice to hear a bit about how she does the workshop. You have some nice results!!

  4. Thank you for a wonderful review of the workshop. It’s nice to learn new techniques and have fun a long the way.
    Your a wonderful writer and you blog is filled with lots of good content, too!
    Happy Sketching!

  5. Pingback: Journaling Workshop | Red Harp Arts

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