Portugal 2017 – Évora!

24/09/2017

Last Sunday, a tired bunch of artists arrived in beautiful Évora, a walled city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Our hotel, with it’s backdrop of a Roman aqueduct and it’s inviting pool, was a welcome sight. Many of us explored the town for the afternoon before gathering for our Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

We met in our studio on Monday morning for some orientation and a demonstration. There are a lot of white buildings with colourful decorative features in Portugal. I hoped to prepare the students for our first few days.

Following the demo, we headed up to the area of town near the cathedral. There were lots of painting subjects and it wasn’t hard to find shady spots.

A few of us climbed to the top of the cathedral later in the day and were rewarded with splendid views.

Eventually, we all met back at the hotel for our first critique of the trip.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Monday Critique c

Three mini-buses with three charming and efficient drivers (Bruno, José and Ricardo) picked us up on Tuesday morning and we headed to the nearby hilltop village of Évoramonte. Upon arrival, we gathered in front of the old gate and took in the wraparound view. I gave a tour of the village, which was inside the old walls, with a castle towering over everything. Take your time and enjoy the photos from Évoramonte. I’ll see you at critique time.

As you’ve seen, it was a special day on top of the world. Our mini-buses were ready to go and we had our critique back at the hotel.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

We painted in the Jardim Publico in Évora on Wednesday. I went ahead early to pick a shady spot for my demonstration so my easel would be ready to go when the group arrived. I painted a rather complicated subject as quickly as I could manage (about 40 minutes). My goal was to help the students simplify the things they were seeing, foliage in particular.

It was a lovely and peaceful day in the park. I think (hope) the demonstration helped some of the newer students with their grasp of foliage.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Redondo! The same drivers picked us up on Thursday morning. Redondo is a fairly large town and, like Évoramonte, has a village within the old castle walls at the very top of the hill. It was another spectacular painting site.

Quite a few of us visited the local potter. His work was very quaint, reminiscent of the work of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis.

The students have been producing a lot of work. The critique is always a great way to wrap up the day.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Our time in Évora has come to an end. Next stop, Tavira! Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grand Manan Island 2017 – Final Two Days!

11/08/2017

Dark Harbour was our destination on Thursday; towering cliffs, rustic camps and multi-coloured dories. Many artists struggle with the odd angles and nuances when drawing a dory. I set up my easel and gave an optional demonstration, showing the steps I take when drawing a dory. Drawing anything, actually. It’s a matter of careful measuring and checking angles.

When the tide comes in at Dark Harbour, there can be very little room on the beach for stools and easels. Also, the dory you’re painting may suddenly be required for dulsing, the gathering of a nutritious seaweed, and off it goes! Even my subject, this grey dory named Ophelia, was hauled onto the back of a pickup and taken away. Fortunately, I’d long finished my demo by then.

Some of our painters seem to dress to match their vehicles and others coordinate quite well with the dory next to them.

It was another special day. Not only does everyone enjoy painting at Dark Harbour but our local friends allow us the use of their world class outhouse! True Grand Manan hospitality. Another day, another critique back at our studio.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Friday was our last day of painting together! It came too quickly. We had another great painting spot to visit; Woodward’s Cove.

I arrived early and got set up ahead of time for a sustained demonstration. As you’ve seen, I don’t do complete paintings very often as demonstrations. For one thing, they take a chunk of time out of the morning and everyone is itching to get to work. The main reason is that I use demos to make teaching points. They are lessons and not performances followed by an opportunity to purchase. However, I believe it’s important for students to see my process from start to finish at some point during the week and Friday morning was that time.

One of the things I addressed was colour. I urge the students to be less literal with colour and to select colours that work together in the painting. Colour can be used to create a mood or even a temperature. Note that the background trees in my demo are not green! The shed is not a dull neutral grey. There’s nothing inherently wrong with greens, greys and browns but they are often used thoughtlessly and contribute nothing special to the painting.

Woodward’s Cove is a big area with a wide range of subject matter. ‘En plein air’ painting always has challenges but painting on Grand Manan Island has a few rather unique ones. As we painted on Friday, the tide gradually dropped. By the end of the day, the harbour was completely drained of water. Note to self: paint the water in early!

While in Woodward’s Cove, make sure you stop by Shore Things. Driftwood art, colourful fishing floats and other island souvenirs are available. If you have questions about the island, Wayne can answer them.

It was time for one more trip to our studio for a critique. Have a look at the work from Friday and then scroll down for more news about our week.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Our workshop wasn’t quite over. After critique, everyone headed back to their lodgings to freshen up for our Farewell Dinner at the Marathon Inn. Steak or lobster? Dinner was excellent and a lot of fun. Following dinner, we enjoyed our Final Critique. Each student brought three of their works and presented and spoke about them one at a time. It’s a very rewarding way to sum up our week together.

I’d like to thank all of the 2017 participants for helping to make our workshop a success. And thank you, dear reader, for following, commenting and liking! Next year’s dates for Grand Manan will be posted on this blog soon. Why don’t you join us? It’s a spectacular place and the company is excellent. Now, there’s one more photo to see. Allow me to present the Class of 2017!

 

Grand Manan Island 2017 – First Three Days!

08/08/2017

Last week, a group of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painters gathered on lovely Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. We met on Sunday evening and shared a delicious Welcome Dinner at the historic Marathon Inn. The next morning, we met at our studio for a demonstration. I talked about water, which seemed appropriate as we’re on an island and surrounded by the wet stuff. Water has many moods. I tried to offer some ideas to help the students tackle it’s many challenges.

Following the demonstration, we went over to North Head harbour; just a short hop. We all stay in North Head so it’s nice to be close to home on the first day. Several of the students settled into the shady spot in front of Kirk’s shed.

North Head Harbour is very busy with fishing as well as related activities such as rockweed gathering and the care and feeding of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Nearby, Pettes’ Cove attracted a few eyes. It offers a splendid view of the famous Swallowtail lighthouse.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Little did we know at the time but our entire week would give us brilliant weather. The studio is a welcome retreat at the end of the day and we assembled for our first critique of the week.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

On Tuesday morning, we met at Seal Cove. Seal Cove features the traditional herring smokesheds and abounds with character. I set up my easel and did a demonstration. I talked about developing a watercolour with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process.

The students spread out in search of subjects and shade. It didn’t take long to settle in.

A few painters brought their shade with them.

Others sought it out.

A few soaked up the sunshine even though I don’t recommend painting in the sun. It dries up your paper and palette too quickly and bleaches out your darks so the painting can become overworked. Still, a happy artist is a good thing…

Eventually, it was time to return to the studio for our critique. As the week goes by, you may notice different styles in our daily exhibitions. I don’t teach ‘my way or the highway’ workshops. As best I can, I encourage each artist to find their personal voice.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

You guessed it! More sunshine on Wednesday. While at Seal Cove on Tuesday, I’d done a small watercolour with the intention of adding penwork to it for our Wednesday morning demonstration. I did it at the studio before heading to Fisherman’s Haven Lane, which is home to Ingall’s Head Cottages. Many thanks to Wendy, the proprietor, for allowing us to park on her property.

We got to work right away. This is a lovely and quiet spot, a bit off the beaten track. The locals are always interested in our creative efforts.

Finding shade became an art form of it’s own.

Critique time! Is it already Wednesday? Thanks for following along with our exploits. Stay tuned for my report from Thursday and Friday of last week.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Paintings at Propeller Gallery – It’s a Wrap!

03/07/2017

My exhibition of recent paintings at Propeller Gallery in Toronto ended yesterday. Thanks go to Nathan and everyone else at Propeller who made things easy. An artist feels support in many ways. Not everyone, of course, is able to make a purchase. Artists understand that but really appreciate a good turnout. My thanks go to all of you who attended the opening reception or visited the show at another time. It was Canada Day weekend and I know it took a special effort from many of you.

I received compliments from many of you and every word is valued. I was particularly pleased to receive the very positive feedback from my creative peers. Those words are priceless.

I’ve added a few installation shots to this post. If you’d like to read my artist statement and view all of the work from the exhibition, click here or on the Propeller page under the Pages menu in the sidebar on the right.

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – Last Two Days!

28/06/2017

Click on our First Three Days if you somehow missed the last post. Day four of Plein Air Toronto 2017 was Thursday of last week and the weather, which had been tricky all week, took a turn for the worst. I made arrangements for us to sketch in pen and ink all day long and without any concerns about rain. The catch was that our plein air artists were going indoors for the day. We met in the morning at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to historic and contemporary ceramic art.

It’s a beautiful museum but it’s difficult to gather the entire group at once for a demonstration or critique. I handed out a prepared sheet showing basic pen techniques in the morning. Later, I gathered a small group of pen and ink novices and sketched a Pre-Columbian figure as I discussed my thoughts.

It was a great day and don’t forget the excellent restaurant when you visit the Gardiner. Friday was yet another challenging weather day. However, I don’t have almost thirty years of experience for nothing. We met at University College on the lovely downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

The College has a large interior courtyard surrounded, on two sides, by wide colonnades. We were high and dry and had plenty of subject matter through the arches. Even the arches themselves attracted the eye of our artists.

I brought in some examples of pen and watercolour studies, done on the U of T campus, to get the morning started. As the group worked, I began a watercolour of my own for a change. Several of the new students expressed interest in my approach and process. I began with a sketch to resolve a composition and then drew it up on a sheet of watercolour paper.

  

I wasn’t able to finish the piece by the end of the day as I had teaching responsibilities. I pulled it together later in my studio.

Enough about me! Let’s have a look at our day at University College.

Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. The skies cleared just enough and we gathered one more time. What a great group! I thank them all for their cheerful participation and also thank you for following, commenting and liking the posts. Plein Air Toronto will be back next year. Now, for a look at the work from Friday.

University College
Critique a

University College
Critique b

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – First Three Days!

26/06/2017

One week ago, the 2017 Plein Air Toronto participants gathered at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end. We introduced ourselves and I gave a demonstration that considered several common elements of the urban landscape we’d be painting for the next five days. We also discussed colour; green, in particular.

Following our meeting, we headed down to the Sunnyside Pavilion which is on the beach of Lake Ontario.

The Pavilion is a lovely place to sketch and paint, inside and out.

We put in a good day’s work and met inside the Pavilion for our first critique of the week. Click on an image for a larger version.

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique a

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique b

We met onsite at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday morning. It was a blustery day with a few showers but there was ample overhead shelter for us. This urban farm is bordered by a park on one side and a historic cemetery and chapel on the other. There’s lots of great subject matter to choose from including the charming cafe across the street.

I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time. My subject was the cafe and my painting was a value study in cool greys. I discussed my process and the importance of developing an eye for value.

Colour can be added to a study like this by gently ‘glazing’ washes over the appropriate areas. The grey washes should be completely dry before proceeding.

The group wandered around a bit to find their spots and then settled in. I kept a few of the newer folks back to talk about basic drawing and the use of a measuring stick to assist with perspective and proportion. I’ve developed a Drawing Checklist over the years and it can be very useful.

The little bit of rain didn’t deter us. It was a very productive day and we found a private and quiet spot for our critique.

Riverdale Farm
Critique a

Riverdale Farm
Critique b

Wednesday promised to be a day of sunshine and we chose historic Spadina House as our location. We met in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma for my demonstration. I used an approach I call shape-reading, direct painting without any preliminary pencil drawing. Challenging but fun and very instructive. As I painted, I chatted about my thoughts and decisions.

We made the most of our sunny weather and gorgeous painting site.

It was a beautiful day and the paintings were equally lovely. Stay tuned for our final two days of Plein Air Toronto 2017. Coming soon!

Spadina House
Critique a

Spadina House
Critique b

 

 

RECENT PAINTINGS by Barry Coombs at Propeller Gallery

24/06/2017

You are cordially invited to a solo exhibition of recent paintings by BARRY COOMBS in the North Gallery of PROPELLER GALLERY. The exhibition will run from June 28 – July 2, 2017.

The Opening Reception will take place on Thursday, June 29 from 6:30 – 9pm.

The exhibition will be open from Wednesday to Saturday from 12 – 6pm and on Sunday from 12 – 5pm.

PROPELLER GALLERY
30 Abell Street (near Queen West and Gladstone) in Toronto, Ontario M6J 0A9
416-504-7142 / propellerctr.com

Introduction to Drawing Cats at DVSA!

11/06/2017

Two weeks ago, I led a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and our medium was pen with watercolour. Last Thursday, I was back and it was time to draw cats!

All of our cat drawings were done from photo reference. I began the day with a look at the skeleton of a cat followed by some tips on drawing the creatures. We usually complete two drawings and start a third over the course of a day.

Our first challenge on Thursday was a calico. I drew the cat with pencil and followed that with some initial pen work.

The next stop was to establish the colours with watercolour. The washes were perfectly dry before I went back in with more pen.

Our next subject was a portrait of a Himalayan kitten. Again, I started with the pencil drawing but this time I applied the watercolour before the pen.

Once dry, it was time to add the pen. The relationship and balance between the amount of pen and watercolour can be unique to each drawing. The pen work in this drawing is much more restrained than in that of the calico. If I was somehow able to eliminate the watercolour, would there be enough penwork to describe the kitten? Maybe not, but they work together effectively.

I presented a much more playful approach to our final drawing of a sleeping tabby. Pencil first before using the pen in a linear manner. Line variety and weight is the key here.

I tried to maintain the playful feel with a non-literal approach to colour. Washes of Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone (basically, a cool green and a cool red) were allowed to run into each other. Not all of the students completed this drawing before we ran out of time but they enjoyed the different process.

I won’t be back at DVSA until next fall but I’ve got an exciting lineup of pen and ink and watercolour workshops on the calendar. It’s been an enjoyable spring term with a great bunch of enthusiastic and talented students. Have a peek at their drawings of cats.

Drawing Cats-Critique a

Drawing Cats-Critique b

Introduction to Drawing Dogs at DVSA

29/05/2017

Last Thursday, it was another day of pen and watercolour at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and we really had no choice but to work from photographs. I provided the photo reference. I also issued a printed handout showing the skeleton of a dog. My intention was not to be too scientific or absolutely anatomically perfect but it definitely helped us understand the basic structure underneath all of that cuddly fur.

I started each exercise by demonstrating on an 18 x 24″ pad of cartridge paper at an easel. Using coloured markers, I presented an approach to capturing the proportions and dynamics of the subject. Dog Number One was a Golden Retriever.

Following the discussion, I switched to watercolour paper and drew the dog in pencil. My next step was with pen. I paid attention to the direction of my pen strokes in order to convey a feeling of fur.

It was time for watercolour! I wet the entire dog with water. While nice and wet, I added the orange/gold wash and let it run a bit. Note that some areas, particularly the legs, are whiter than the rest of the dog. It took a while for the wash to dry but eventually it did. I then worked back in with the pen, adding more definition to the head. I left it at this point but could have done more penwork throughout the body.

Dog Number Two was a West Highland Terrier. I started out on the easel again. I considered light and shadow for this exercise as I wanted to preserve the white of the paper for the lightest areas on the dog.

This time we painted first, wet onto the dry paper. Using a neutral grey, I tried to establish the light and shadow as well as a shaggy feel. A bit of colour was added to the ears and some other spots.

Once again, stroke direction was important with the pen.

We didn’t have much time left for Dog Number Three but I wanted to do a portrait and this Beagle puppy was perfect. After drawing it with pencil, I added the colour washes. The lightest colour was first and the darkest last.

I did some quick pen work and left it unfinished. The students didn’t have time to do this exercise but some wanted to try it at home.

We were dog-tired at the end of a long day of learning. There was a good energy in the room as we looked at the drawings.

Drawing Dogs –
Critique a

Drawing Dogs –
Critique b

I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, June 8, for the last workshop in the series. Guess what we’ll be drawing? That’s right; cats! Join us.

 

 

Intro to Pen with Wash and Watercolour at DVSA!

15/05/2017

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Thursday. Our workshop was an Introduction to Pen with Wash and Watercolour and we completed three drawings and some studies over the course of the day. We started off with a relatively simple subject; a jalapeño pepper.

The first step was to position the pepper in profile. Next, we drew it in pencil. Following the pencil, we hatched and cross-hatched with our pens. The green wash was next and we left some paper white for highlights. A cool grey wash was added to the cast shadow area. Once the washes had dried, we worked back in with pen.

Before we began our next drawing, we did a few studies of curving volumes and considered how they would receive light from above. After those studies, I pulled out my surprise. Dog chews!

Am I crazy? The students may have thought so at first but they really enjoyed studying these interesting forms. Using our studies as reference, we drew the chews in pencil and then added a brown wash to indicate the areas of core shadow. The penwork was our last step and we tried to follow the forms with our strokes. Also, note the upper edges of the chew. There is no hard outline! Gaps have been left to allow light to flow into the object from the surrounding paper.

Our final subject was quite different and we varied our approach with it. Pencil first and the colour washes second. Pen was used for shadow and to define the various planes.

 

Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day and that’s a good thing. Learning and concentrating can be very tiring. Still, we had time for a look at the work. My next workshop at DVSA is drawing dogs with pen and watercolour and takes place on Thursday, May 25. Care to join us?

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique a

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique b