Pen and Ink – Natural Forms at DVSA


I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art today to teach the second in a series of four one-day workshops. Last week, I taught Pen and Ink Basics and most of the students were back today to explore natural forms with their pens.

We follow a step by step approach to our drawing exercises. Today, I brought in objects for the students to draw. Our first challenge was a garlic. I discussed the process on an 18 x 24″ pad at an easel. We then gathered around a table where I presented a smaller pen demonstration in steps.

Drawing lesson by Barry Coombs

Our second drawing subject was a seashell. I have quite a collection so each student had their own shell. Once again, I explained our approach at the easel, touching on key elements such as light and shadow and proportion.

Drawing lesson by Barry Coombs

We concentrated mainly on hatching and cross-hatching today. Stroke direction and edge were discussed. In general, we work from light to dark so the dark ‘stripes’ on the shell were one of the last things I did.

Pen and Ink demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

What a hard-working bunch! After completing two drawings, and with only half an hour left in the class, I gave them each a walnut. I didn’t do a demonstration but asked them to think about all of the ideas we’d considered thus far. Have a look at a selection of the day’s drawings.

I’ll be back next Thursday to teach Introduction to Pen with Wash and Watercolour. I think the class is full but sometimes there are cancellations so, if you’re interested, contact DVSA.

Pen and Ink-Natural Forms Critique

Pen and Ink-Natural Forms Critique

Pen and Ink Basics at Dundas Valley School of Art


Last Thursday, I taught a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art in Dundas, Ontario. It was called Pen and Ink Basics and it’s the first in a series of four this spring.

I cover a lot of material when I teach pen and ink. We started off with a discussion of our materials and a repertoire of fundamental pen techniques; hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line weight/variety. The material list was not lengthy. I always use drawing pens for these classes. No muss, no fuss, no spilled ink.

Materials-Pen and Ink Basics

We did three step-by-step exercises and the students worked from my models. I presented the goals of the exercise on an 18 x 24″ sheet at an easel so it was easy for everyone to see. The group gathers around a table for the actual pen and ink demonstrations which are done on much smaller sheets of paper.

Drawing lesson by Barry Coombs

Drawing lesson by Barry Coombs

After discussing the basic techniques, we drew a cone using a version of cross-hatching called ‘parquet’. I’ve always enjoyed teaching drawing and the students didn’t just develop their newfound skills with the pen. I also presented, and emphasized, ideas about the traditional use of light and shadow and threw in a few thoughts about two-point perspective, as well.

Pen and Ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Two more drawings were completed after our cone exercise. A box-like cubic form evolved into a building and we combined a spherical  form with a cone, ending up with a pear. As mentioned, these exercises are done one step at a time. It may seem like a formulaic approach and, to a degree, it is. However, the completed drawings give the students a sense of satisfaction and confidence. The lessons learned can be applied to their own work and are particularly appropriate for those who keep sketchbooks.

Pen and Ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was a long day and I was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of the group. They did a lot of drawing and processed a great deal of information. At the end of the day, I asked each student to choose one of their sheets for our critique.

This Thursday, May 19, I’ll be teaching the second workshop in the series; Pen and Ink: Natural Forms. There may be a spot of two left for you! If interested, contact the DVSA.

Pen and Ink Basics Critique

Pen and Ink Basics Critique



Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – May 10



This is another view of the still-life from our Sustained Saturday class last weekend. It was no less challenging for the Tuesday students. I stuck to the same ideas presented on Saturday with my demonstration.

The patterns on the wooden objects can be tricky. I followed a ‘big to small’ and ‘light to dark’ process. The vase on the left was painted first. Once dry, I added the leaf shapes of the pattern, glazing right over the first wash. The thin dark veins were added last.

The studies on the right showed my approach to drawing these irregular shapes. Can you see the parallel lines in the upper study? They help me establish the perspective of the object.

Watercolour study by Barry Coombs  Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I think the students always do well but I guess I’m biased. Still, they’re working from direct observation and completing these watercolours in a little over two hours. The average size of the work is 12 x 16″.

That’s it for our short spring term at Arts on Adrian in Toronto. I’d like to thank all of the students for their enthusiasm and support. Thanks for following, commenting and liking.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique


Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – May 7



Spring is finally here! It’s almost time for painting ‘en plein air’ and yesterday was the final studio Sustained Saturday class of  the season. It’s been a very long time since I included these wooden objects, with their interesting patterns, in a still-life. They went well with the citrus fruit and gave the arrangement a tropical quality.

I discussed a few different elements with my demonstration, including drawing the oddly-shaped wooden dishes. All of those colour swatches had a purpose, as well. Each group of five vertical swatches shows the main colours of the still-life. The horizontal bars of colour are ideas for creating a harmonious background colour. Which one would you choose?

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

The students were intrigued by the patterns on the wooden vessels. They spent a lot of time on them and used both positive and negative approaches to solve this interesting painting problem. So, what colours did they choose for their backgrounds? Have a look!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

ArtWorks 2016 – OCADU Alumni Juried Exhibition

HARVEST by Barry Coombs

by Barry Coombs

ArtWorks 2016 is a bi-annual OCADU (Ontario College of Art and Design University) alumni juried exhibition. The exhibition is hosted by the Dignam Gallery of the Women’s Art Association of Canada. The twenty nine artists selected represent six decades of graduates and a beautiful catalogue has been produced to record the event.

The three jurors selected a strong and varied group of work and I’m pleased that HARVEST, my acrylic on canvas (18 x 24″), was accepted. I graduated from Fine Arts in 1981.

See dates, times and address for ArtWorks 2016 below.


Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – April 19



The Tuesday students work from the same still-life as the Saturday group. Here’s another view of the pile of fishing floats. On Saturday, I used a flat angled brush for the demonstration and I used it again yesterday. Also, my preliminary pencil drawing was limited to broad strokes which established the most basic shapes of the objects. A viewer could not recognize an object from the pencil drawing as it was not carefully refined or descriptive. It was just a few strokes to give a starting point to the brush and the brush did the rest. I focused on individual objects on Tuesday for the demonstration.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

The three-hour Tuesday classes are half the length of those on Saturday. In spite of that, the students created some strong work and several completed sheets of studies in addition to a sustained piece. During a class, I hear a lot of deep sighs and muttering. You’d think the paintings were all disasters but, as you can see, the results are quite impressive.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – April 16



On Saturday, I wanted to demonstrate with a flat angled brush and discuss the relationship between drawing and painting. I also wanted to encourage the students to get a little bit out of their comfort zone. With that in mind, I suggested they stand up to paint (most of them sit, as a rule) and try to work more quickly even if meant taking a few risks.

What better still-life than my collection of fishing floats! These floats have seen it all. They’re rough and weather-beaten. The forms are fairly simple; cylinders and cones and spheres. At a glance, the still-life probably looks challenging but these factors actually make them somewhat forgiving.


I don’t usually do a whole painting for a demonstration. This demo is on an 11 x 15″ (quarter sheet) of Curry’s 200 lb., cold press paper. It’s an absorbent paper. I used my pencil to ‘place’ the basic shapes rather than draw them carefully. I didn’t want to use my brush to just fill in between the pencil lines. This approach allowed my brush to have a strong impact on the look of the painting.

I painted for just under 30 minutes and discussed the steps and my thoughts as I worked. As mentioned, I used a 1″ flat angled brush and I stood while I painted. It’s not a major work of art but it got some ideas across and the students responded with enthusiasm.

The watercolour painters completed at least two pieces on Saturday. Everyone followed my lead and, at the end of the day, felt that they’d benefited from the experience. The look and feel of your watercolour paintings will never change if you always follow the exact same process and use the same tools in the same way. Once in a while, it’s important to leave your comfort zone if you want to develop your work in a new direction or even add new elements to your painting.


Sustained Saturday Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – April 5



Here’s another look at our edible still life from Saturday. The table was set for the Tuesday students and they made a meal of it. My demonstrations for the afternoon and evening classes were virtually identical to that of Saturday. I tried to complete them as quickly as possible because the Tuesday classes are three hours in duration and not six hours as they are on Saturday. The students are always starved for painting time.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

They did very well on Tuesday despite less cooking time. Let them know what you think with a comment.

My next Sustained Saturday class is on April 16 and there are two Tuesday classes on April 19. There’s a spot available for you so contact me if you’d like to join a friendly and creative group in a bright and spacious studio.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – April 3



…of cabbages and things! It was nice to be back at the Arts on Adrian studio yesterday. I must have been hungry when I set up the still life and, by the end of the day, the students had done some delicious paintings.

As you can see on my demonstration sheet, I painted a few studies of some of the vegetables. I also discussed cool and warm whites as white had a large role in our subject. You can barely see the whites on the left side of my sheet.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students showed a real appetite for the subject matter. The challenge of the whites was met with success and everyone had fun looking at each other’s treatment of the cabbage. We relished some lovely watercolour paintings when we sat down for our critique.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

SPRUCE LANE FARM, BRONTE – new acrylic on canvas

Spruce Lane Farm, Bronte by Barry Coombs acrylic on canvas 24 x 30"

acrylic on canvas
24 x 30″

I’ve added SPRUCE LANE FARM, BRONTE to the Acrylics gallery on my website. This acrylic on canvas is based on a farm located at Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Ontario. The farmhouse dates to 1899. Have a look at my other acrylics on canvas by clicking here.


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