Grand Manan Island – Thursday and Friday!


Seal Cove was our destination on Thursday morning. We met on-site and I set up my easel for the demonstration. I worked quickly and with a big round brush as the sun came through the mist. As I painted, I discussed a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. I also wanted to encourage the students to try some watercolour sketching, working a bit more spontaneously and rapidly. Some had been spending an entire day on one painting. A watercolour sketch doesn’t have to be perfect and it may be messy but you may get more experience from three or four watercolour sketches than from a single sustained work.


Here’s my demonstration on the board. It’s a 1/2 sheet of Curry’s, 200 lb., cold-pressed watercolour paper.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We had a gorgeous day and there were lots of shady spots. If shade wasn’t available, some of the artists brought their own.


Seal Cove is full of textures and character. It’s always been one of our most popular painting sites on the island.










Fortunately, we found a shady spot for critique. Once again, the paintings of the Birds and the Bees were intermingled.

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

We started our morning in the studio on Friday. I spoke to everyone about colour in general and more specifically how to mix a variety of greens. After that talk, the Birds took flight and headed to Dark Harbour. I kept the Bees a little longer as I wanted to give them a few thoughts about pen and wash. I’d done a very basic value study of a barge in Ingall’s Head on Wednesday. The two photos shown are of the same drawing although one looks a bit more brown and is more accurate.

I’d started this drawing with pencil and added a sepia wash to indicate the overall shadow area. The pen added detail, definition and darks.

Step One-Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two-Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

Dark Harbour is on the west side of the island, nestled into towering cliffs. We spent the morning there and most of the group took the opportunity to draw dories.






We returned to North Head for the afternoon. We hadn’t had a chance to paint the Swallowtail Lighthouse yet and several of the painters were keen to do so.



Our week was almost done. Can’t complain about the sunshine but it was nice to cool off with our critique at the studio.


Friday Critique

Friday Critique

Friday Critique

That was it for the painting! Our Farewell Dinner was at the Marathon Inn on Friday evening. Steak or lobster? We followed our delicious meal with Final Critique. Each student brought three pieces of their own choice and presented them one at a time. It’s a nice way to summarize the week and always enjoyable.


Here they are; the class of 2015! Thanks for following along and for your likes and comments.

Grand Manan Group 2015 02

Grand Manan Island – Wednesday!



I demonstrated this morning by the ‘haul-up’, the boatyard at Ingall’s Head. I didn’t complete a painting but did two small studies, one in colour and a value study in sepia. Both the Birds and the Bees attended.

What is a Bee? The Bees are not all the same in our workshop. All have some prior experience and none are complete beginners. Some, however, aren’t experienced with painting outdoors. Some have met me for the first time and are interested in how I present the basics. Some have taken other classes but fundamentals weren’t stressed. No two Bees are alike.

Our Birds are more experienced and several have been to Grand Manan Island, or other destinations, with me prior to this trip.

It was sunny and hot today although there’s always a nice fresh breeze off the water. We settled in and got to work.


Pat at Work


Most of our group are staying at the Marathon Inn in North Head this year. We held our critique at the Inn after a full day by the water. In addition to the critique, I gave a brief presentation on focal points in painting. Following that, we did the critique in two batches and the Birds and the Bees were mixed together.

Thanks for your likes and comments. Tomorrow, we’re off to Seal Cove!


Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Grand Manan Island – First Two Days!



Let me tell you about the Birds and the Bees. We’ve got a great group of painters this week on Grand Manan Island. Some are less-experienced than others and that’s the case for most workshops. I decided on our first morning, yesterday, to give some of my demonstrations for all participants and some for the newer painters. The new guys are getting some ‘back to basics’ and that became B2B and that became the Bees. The more experienced painters, who don’t need the basics, head off to paint outdoors right away and they are now the Birds. Some start the day as a Bee and take flight as a Bird later on.

We met at our studio yesterday, Monday morning, and after a talk with the Birds I discussed a few fundamentals with the Bees. We practiced basic soft-edge techniques and I suggested a simplification exercise that would give them experience without becoming too boring.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Over the course of the day, everyone worked outside for at least a few hours. I visited the Birds where they were perched along the shoreline in North Head and offered them some feedback.

Stewart at Work

Artist at Work

We reconvened in the studio at the end of the day and had our first critique. I looked at the Birds and the Bees separately.

Monday Critique - Bees

Monday Critique – Bees

Monday Critique - Birds

Monday Critique – Birds

This morning, Tuesday, we met again in the studio. A thunderstorm raged outside for an hour or two and I discussed guidelines about painting water and reflections.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Water can be a tricky subject but there are principles, based on observation, that can help. Our group paints outdoors and we don’t use materials like masking fluid so we try to solve the problems with our paint, brushes and paper.

Both Birds and Bees attended the demo and, when it wrapped up, we headed to Woodward’s Cove to paint. Woodward’s Cove is one of the island’s largest harbours and we knew there would be lots of water to challenge us.


Well, we ran out of water but not until mid-afternoon. The tides are spectacular in the Bay of Fundy and this harbour drains completely twice every 24 hours. The painters managed to find lots of subjects, including water, and we had a productive day.

Britta at Work


Aleda at Work


John at Work


Our critique was back at the studio. We looked at the Bees and the Birds separately again but it won’t be long before we start to mix them up.

Tuesday Critique - Bees

Tuesday Critique – Bees

Tuesday Critique - Birds

Tuesday Critique – Birds

Watercolour Painting on BC’s Sunshine Coast!


Original watercolour by Barry Coombs  BLUE CHEESE

Have you planned your summer painting holiday yet? If not, join me for a week in beautiful British Columbia! I’ll be teaching a one week studio watercolour workshop at the Gibsons School of Art from August 17-21. Gibsons is a short drive and ferry ride away from Vancouver.

We’ll be working in the comfort of a bright and spacious studio. Participants will follow a traditional process leading to well-designed, vibrant paintings. The spectacular scenery will inspire our main watercolour project. A spirit of play and interpretation will be combined with a structured approach that draws upon memory and imagination as well as sketches and photo references. Drawing, value, composition and harmonious colour will be emphasized, as well as sound watercolour technique.

Lessons will be demonstrated and discussed clearly, making this workshop an exciting, enjoyable, and positive learning experience.

For full details, please click here.

Sicily 2015 – Double Rooms Available!


Syracuse  IMG_1608
IMG_5971  IMG_1652
Sketching and Painting in Watercolour
October 14 – 29, 2015
Barry Coombs and Marlin Travel

Call your best painting pal or charm your spouse (non-painting partners are very welcome) with visions of sunny Italy.
The deadline is approaching for a painting holiday of a lifetime this October in beautiful Sicily, Italy. Syracuse and Taormina, located on the eastern coast of Sicily, are our two fabulous venues. Ancient Syracuse was the most important city of Greater Greece and rivaled Athens. Greek and Roman ruins, marvelous Baroque architecture and colourful fishing boats comprise some of the inspiring subject matter we will enjoy. Taormina was host to the summer villas of wealthy Romans and it’s beauty is legendary. We last visited Sicily in 2008 and enjoyed a very successful and rewarding painting holiday. It’s definitely time for a return trip.

For full details, click here or on the Sicily 2015 page on the Pages menu of this blog. Don’t delay! Our deadline is July 8, 2015.






Square Foot Exhibition at Grand Manan Art Gallery

'How Not To Draw A Dory' by Barry Coombs

‘How Not To Draw A Dory’ by Barry Coombs

The second annual Square Foot Exhibition opened last weekend at the Grand Manan Art Gallery on beautiful Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. The exhibition will continue until July 17, 2015.

I submitted a new acrylic on canvas entitled How Not To Draw A Dory. The exhibition features a wide range of work from islanders, summer visitors and artists ‘from away’.

The gallery is located at 21 Cedar Street and is wheelchair-accessible. It can be contacted at and (506) 662-3662.

GMAG Hours
11am – 6pm – Daily
1pm – 5pm – Sunday

Admission – Cash Only
Adults – $2
Children under 12 are free


Plein Air Toronto 2015 – Final Two Days!



Black Creek Pioneer Village was our venue for Thursday of our outdoor painting week in Toronto, Ontario. It’s always a popular spot.

I did a fairly sustained demonstration at my easel. Once a week, I like to take the students through the process and decision-making involved in a watercolour painting. Generally, I worked ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ and with a limited palette. I didn’t do much in the way of ‘soft edge’ washes for two reasons. First of all, the steep angle of my easel doesn’t favour really wet work. Also, the washes take a while to dry and the demo was long enough already.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Pioneer Village has it all for watercolour painters, a great variety of subject matter spread over an extensive site and even lots of overhead shelter in case of rain. Fortunately, we didn’t need it.


Kim and Elizabeth at Work


Peggy at Work




Another pleasant day of sketching and painting wrapped up with our critique.

Thursday Critique A

Thursday Critique A

Thursday Critique B

Thursday Critique B

Thursday Critique C

Thursday Critique C

It was back to the beach for Friday. We met at the historic Sunnyside Pavilion. I brought in a few books for a ‘show and tell’ start to the day. We looked at work by Canadian artist, Toni Onley and French artist, Paul Signac. After the talk, everyone explored the Pavilion and area and found their spots.


PA-13Ian at Work


We had a very nice lunch on the sunny lakeside patio.


All good things come to an end. Eventually, we gathered for one last critique. Thanks for following, liking and commenting on our efforts. Next stop, Grand Manan Island!

Friday Critique A

Friday Critique A

Friday Critique B

Friday Critique B

Plein Air Toronto 2015 – First Three Days!


Last week, from Monday to Friday, I led an outdoor watercolour painting workshop in the parks, gardens and historic sites of Toronto, Ontario. I’m posting late due to some internet trouble but I hope you’ll still enjoy our adventures.

We met on Monday morning in my west-end studio. I often start an outdoor week with a general demonstration intended to cover several of the common elements encountered by artists working outdoors.


Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

After the demo, we headed down to the lakeshore and painted near the restored, though currently unused, Joy gas station. Everyone settled in to paint and draw. We had a large picnic shelter handy in case of rain but the weather cooperated.


Karen at work

Lynn at work

Phil and Polly at work

Evelyn at work

It was a great start to the week and we wrapped up with our critique.

Monday Critique A

Monday Critique A

Monday Critique B

Monday Critique B

Thunderstorms threatened on Tuesday so we met at St. Mike’s College on the beautiful downtown University of Toronto campus. There’s a lot of overhead protection on the site but, good fortune prevailed, and we had another sunny day with no rain.


You can say that again! St. Mike’s College is in the middle of urban Toronto but a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds were nesting and the male attacked artists and other passersby all day long when they got too close. No damage done, though.

This American Robin was also on her nest. She was very well behaved.

American Robin on nest

I discussed pen combined with watercolour and used a ‘show and tell’ approach. We looked at some past demonstrations and discussed the techniques before getting to work.

Evelyn at work

Katie at work


Laura, Elizabeth and Barb at work

It was a productive day and we had a lot to look at when the the time came for our critique.

Tuesday Critique A

Tuesday Critique A

Tuesday Critique B

Tuesday Critique B

Tuesday Critique C

Tuesday Critique C

Spadina House was our site for Wednesday but it doesn’t open until noon. We set up for the first two hours in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma. I took the opportunity to use one tower of Casa Loma as my subject. I discussed the underlying volumes in architecture and even foliage. Cubes, cones, cylinders and spheres. My proportions aren’t all accurate and I omitted the chimney but the point of the demo was well received.

Wedb  Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

At noon, we entered the gardens surrounding Spadina House. It’s a lovely spot with plenty of shade and a great variety of subject matter.




Unfortunately, my camera battery died before critique. I took our photo with my iPad and it’s a bit dark. Still, the quality of the work is evident. Stay tuned for more watercolours and drawings from Toronto. I’ll be posting Thursday and Friday soon.

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten!



Spring term has come to an end at my studio. The focus will shift to outdoor painting over the next few months. I hadn’t included eggplants in a still life for quite a while. Whenever I do, I think of Charles Demuth, the American Precisionist artist who was a wonderful watercolourist. An internet search of his images should pull up lots of his still life watercolours and eggplants were a favourite subject.

Occasionally, a drawing lesson crashes our watercolour party and today it was because of the bowls. As you can see, they’re upright. They almost look like circles but they’re not. They’re ellipses; circles in perspective. I discussed ellipses with both the morning and evening classes.

We also talked about colour choices and mixing, particularly for the eggplants. The bumpy cucumbers were fun to demonstrate. We quickly tired of calling them cucumbers (that extra syllable was just too much) and dubbed them ‘pickles’.

Watercolour study sheet by Barry Coombs

The students responded to the still life with aplomb! It was a bright and cheerful finale to spring term. Thanks for liking, following and commenting and stay tuned. Our Plein Air Toronto watercolour workshop starts next Monday, June 15.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

AT THE TABLE exhibition at the DVSA Gallery

FORMAGGIO  by Barry Coombs

by Barry Coombs

FORMAGGIO (24 x 36″) is my latest acrylic on canvas. It’s currently on view in a curated exhibition entitled AT THE TABLE. The exhibition juxtaposes still life paintings and handmade functional vessels featuring local potters and painters from the Dundas Valley School of Art and the Carnegie Gallery plus rarely-exhibited historic works from private collections.

Meet the artists on Thursday, June 11 from 7 – 9pm! The exhibition continues until June 12, 2015.

Dundas Valley School of Art is located at 21 Ogilvie Street in Dundas, Ontario. 905-628-1087

Gallery Hours:
Mon to Thurs – 9am – 9pm
Fri and Sat – 9am – 4pm
Sunday – Closed


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