Last week, I visited the London Brush and Palette Club in London, Ontario. I led a three day workshop and our theme was ‘Create a Cubist Watercolour’. This is a workshop that requires imagination, an open mind and a sense of humor. The twenty participating LB&PC members didn’t disappoint. They were very enthusiastic and positive and you’ll see it here in the work they did.
Bob Sivak and Ron Mabee are Co-Workshop Conveners.
Bob Sivak (L), Me and Ron Mabee (R)
Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. We drew a sheet of fruit shapes, from memory, in our sketchbooks. The next step was to make a composition. The goal was to make it non-traditional and the shapes were supposed to be very distinct and strongly delineated, as in a colouring book.
These are the four steps of my demonstration. First, the drawing. Second, a middle tone wash that covers everything but some randomly selected shapes that are left as paper white. Third, a darker middle tone wash. Finally, some darks.
This exercise helped distance us from traditional realism and made us aware of the importance of a strong pattern in our paintings.
I divided the participants into four groups named after the four key Cubist artists; the Picassos, the Braques, the Grises and the Legers. Let’s have a look at their value studies.
Interesting, aren’t they? These were done on quarter sheets (11 x 15″) of watercolour paper. I recommended absorbent papers. I used Curry’s 200 lb., CP for all of my demos.
Our next project was in full colour and the theme was ‘wine and cheese’. The new Cubists were allowed to use colours of their own choice. The compositions were simplified to about two dozen shapes. These were also done on quarter sheets. Resist materials were allowed. I used some wax in my demonstration.
This exercise took us until the middle of Thursday, our second day. The new Cubists did a great job. We don’t always allow ourselves to let loose with colour when we paint. As you can see, the new Cubists didn’t hold back.
Our final project was a ‘Cubist’ watercolour on a half sheet (15 x 22″) of paper. We spent time on thumbnail compositions in our sketchbooks. Colour was discussed. I suggested that the new Cubists use two groups of complimentary colours. One group could be green and red, for example, and would cover the most shapes in the painting. The second group might be blue and orange or purple and yellow. The second group would cover less area.
We also used whites and off-whites, neutral greys and, at the very end, black. Various resist materials such as wax, masking fluid and salt were employed. Collage became a part of these watercolours, as well. Check out the wine labels.
Our workshop concluded at the start of a long holiday weekend. It’s a Canadian tradition to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria on the third weekend of May. Some of the new Cubists had to leave early due to their holiday plans but we still had lots of watercolour paintings to enjoy. I dissolved the Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger groups and we looked at the work four at a time.
I worked on a half sheet, too. We all followed the same basic steps but there was plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation. The new Cubists of London, Ontario outdid themselves. They were willing to take risks and venture into unknown territory. Their cheerful and vibrant watercolours were a treat to look at by the end of the day on Friday. I’d like to thank the London Brush and Palette Club for inviting me to lead their annual three day workshop. It was a lot of fun.
‘Cubist’ Still Life
by Barry Coombs