Brenda Litman


Mentoring Philosophy

Mentoring two wonderful women this past cycle has been a great experience. We met, planned, and looked at work as each expanded her artistic voice and vision, and realized the goals she set for the mentorship.

In my forties I embarked on a “journey”, going back to school and earning my MFA in painting and drawing at the University of Minnesota. As a grad student, I taught studio classes in drawing, painting, and color. Since then, from 1998-2008 as adjunct faculty in the University’s Department of Art, I taught Concepts in Visual Arts, a multi-faceted class that included working with students as they completed hands-on assignments. Since June of 2008, I have had time in my studio to concentrate on my own work. I learned a great deal both in the University environment and working in my studio, developing and exhibiting work. I enjoy sharing what I have learned helping another person proceed in her development as an artist.

As a mentor, my first concern is to find out what the protégée’s goals are and where she is in her artistic journey. What experience has she had to this point? It’s important to discuss her work with her, finding out what her ideas are and if she is comfortable and knowledgeable in her use of media. Is she able to use color, value, and composition to help convey her content? What does she want to achieve during the two year mentorship? We need to work together to develop a plan for her to proceed from where she is now to where she hopes to be at the end of the mentorship. It should be an enjoyable and enriching process of personal growth embodied in the growth of her work.

In the beginning a few exercises, quick sketches or small value or color paintings might be helpful. Throughout the mentorship, we can also take advantage of opportunities presented by the galleries and museums in the Twin Cities to look at work that is relevant to her work or to gaining new ideas or insights.

We will discuss and critique her work at regularly scheduled meetings, looking at what works and what may need further thought, perhaps suggesting artists she might want to look at who are dealing with similar issues, also suggesting new things she might want to consider in her work. Seeing ones art through the filter of another viewer’s eyes and mind can give one valuable “food for thought” – I have certainly experienced that with my own work.

As the mentorship progresses, she’ll become more confident in her artistic voice and develop works for her culminating show in line with her goals as originally stated or as modified over time with new experiences. Only then will the mentorship be successful.

Artists Statement

An ode to nature, gesture and mark: Nature is a strong influence on my work, and many of my works are abstract reflections on the forces of nature which surround our journey through life. Nature communicates with us daily. Standing on the banks of the Mississippi or the rocky shores of Lake Superior, at one moment you may enjoy and be soothed by the glistening ripples. At another moment you may feel the raw force of the waves.

I’m also inspired by Japanese and Chinese calligraphy. The variations from carefully composed marks to the energetic scribbles in the wilder calligraphic modes communicate to me even though I lack knowledge of literal meaning. Recently I’ve focused attention on the calligraphic and on the symbolic stroke. My Calligraphic Note series references the calligraphic stroke, a unique expression of human nature.

In my A Journey, a Quest series the symbolic stroke references facets of nature. The sun on the left warms our journey and shines through a spiral of eternal human quest. The ever-present blue wave references the ocean, its power, mystery, and chameleon-like changes. In some images, there is a stroke on the right indicating an arch of opportunity, in some there is the blue sky of hope. In all, the combined strokes represent the natural world one travels through in life. I celebrate the power of mark and stroke to communicate. Nature and language-like symbols move together with the touch of the hand.

In my “Art Is . . .” series I celebrate both the calligraphic stroke and the handwritten word as natural means of human communication.

For me making art is also a journey of discovery. In my work I celebrate the intuitive, the tactile and explore the power of mark and gesture to communicate. My work is a journey of the spirit to places unknown. The journey into the unknown and the challenge of making sense of it fascinates me. I hope viewers looking at my works respond on an instinctive as well as rational level, take their own journey of imagination, and complete the works as they view them.


"A Journey, a Quest #1," Ink, watercolor, acrylic

"A Journey, a Quest #2," Ink, watercolor, acrylic

"A Journey, a Quest #3," Ink, watercolor, acrylic

"Art is . . ." #1, Ink, watercolor, acrylic

"Art is . . ." #4, Ink, watercolor, acrylic