Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – More Gourds!



***Sometime yesterday, this blog received it’s 175,000th view. Thank you all for following, commenting and liking!

I couldn’t deny the Tuesday watercolour students an opportunity to paint the gourds and the straw bale. The Saturday class had enjoyed it and created some very nice work. On Saturday, I had painted a fairly rapid watercolour sketch as my demonstration and I did the same for the Tuesday afternoon and evening groups. As I paint, I discuss various elements of the still-life and the decisions I’m making. Generally, a quick watercolour sketch is more about suggestion than depiction. Simplification, editing and creative licence are all key factors.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

On Saturday, I’d also devoted some time to a completely different process; starting with values in grey and glazing on local colour once the grey washes are dry. Some of the less-experienced students found this to be a very useful way to develop their understanding of value and light and shadow. Yesterday, I worked with some of them one on one. My demo from Saturday (below) should give you an idea of the approach.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Several of the students embraced the quick sketch idea and some did more than one piece during the class. It was a good challenge. Many of these students have very good skill sets but would like to add more spontaneity to their work overall. Taking a few risks and working fast can be a positive step in that direction!

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! Many long-time followers may remember when it was possible to click on an image here and see a larger version. It was particularly useful with the images of the critiques because we all like to see the works closer up. For some mysterious reason, a while back, this feature ceased to function and I couldn’t figure out how to restore it. Recently, I’ve had some feedback from a WordPress ‘Happiness Engineer’. I think the proposed solution may work. Click on one of the critique images and let me know if you’re able to view the larger version. I hope so!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Fall Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – Gourds and Pumpkins!



Every fall, I like to set up a seasonal still-life for the classes. Saturday was no exception and, for the first time, I included a straw bale as the ‘platform’. I was very keen to see what the group would do with the straw.

My demonstration was done in two parts. First of all, I did a small watercolour sketch and invited all of the students to watch. I used flat angled brushes and worked very quickly. Many of the experienced students have very good skill sets but would like to introduce more spontaneity and risk-taking into their work. As I painted, I tried to give them a few ideas to consider.

Secondly, I invited the newer students to watch as I switched gears to a very traditional approach to watercolour painting. With the grey studies, I painted the values first and later glazed the local colour over the grey. This approach can really help those who are working on ‘soft-edge’ skill development as well as their understanding of light and shadow and value.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Some of the more experienced students enjoy this process, as well. Rather than show you the final step of my studies in grey, I’d like to present the work of one of those students. Have a look at the watercolour below by Jane D. Now, take a look at the work from the critique and see if you can find the finished work.

While you’re at it, check out the watercolour on the extreme right in the second row. George H. was certainly not intimidated by the straw!

Study in greys by Jane D.

Study in greys
by Jane D.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique


Faculty for Art 1 at DVSA

TREE SHADOW by Barry Coombs

by Barry Coombs

ORANGE HOUSE by Barry Coombs

by Barry Coombs

The Dundas Valley School of Art is currently hosting a faculty exhibition called Faculty for Art 1. The exhibition runs until October 30. I have two pieces in the exhibition, TREE SHADOW and ORANGE HOUSE. Both are acrylics on canvas and are 24 x 18″. Contact DVSA at 905-628-6357 or info@dvsa.ca for information.




Pen and Ink – Everyday Objects at DVSA!


Last Thursday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for a day of pen and ink drawing. Our theme was ‘Everyday Objects’. My goals for the day were threefold. First of all, we discussed the basic pen and ink techniques of hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line weight. Secondly, I wanted the students to understand the everyday objects they were drawing in terms of basic volumes. I hoped this would help them when drawing on their own. Thirdly, we considered ‘light and shadow’ and it’s importance to making things look three-dimensional.

Lesson sheet by Barry Coombs


Our first drawing was of a toy block. The block, of course, is a cube and that’s how I started my demonstration. There are three visible planes on my cube and I wanted each of them to be a different value.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

I also like to work with a ‘light to dark’ process. Using this ‘parquet’ approach to cross-hatching, I developed the drawing gradually. Eventually, I added a cast shadow. The studio is lit by fluorescent lighting and there is also light coming in from the windows. Multiple light sources don’t usually help us make things look three-dimensional. With that in mind, we decided on an arbitrary light source coming from the upper right.

Final step of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students did very well with their studies. Here’s a look at their toy blocks.

Toy Blocks Critique

Toy Blocks Critique

Our next subject was an empty thread spool. Where do I find this stuff? Professional secret.


We analyzed this object in terms of cylinders and cones and, once again, lit it from the upper right.

Lesson sheet by Barry Coombs

A lot of things are discussed during my demonstrations and, unfortunately, I can’t break down every step in detail. Still, we followed the same basic process that we’d used with the blocks.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs  Final step of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Spools Critique

Spools Critique

These two studies took up most of our day. We started another drawing, of spoons, and they were coming along well when we ran out of time. If you’re in the neighbourhood, why don’t you join us on Thursday, October 13 for Pen and Ink with Wash and Watercolour at the DVSA?

Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – More Apples!



The Tuesday classes were back in action yesterday. They worked from the same still-life that was used for the Sustained Saturday group on the weekend. Here’s a different view of the still-life.

Back to basics was the order of the day again, especially after a long summer layoff from studio classes. In addition to that, I met some new students yesterday. Although all of them had some prior experience with the medium, I wanted to expose them to some of my ideas about drawing, value and simplification. I focused on those elements with my demonstrations.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

This is the preliminary drawing for the study of the pitcher on the lower left of the sheet.

Drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs

As expected, many of the students concentrated on fundamentals and spent their time on studies. It’s valuable experience and should pay off in the months ahead. Most of the more experienced students started off with thumbnail studies, as usual, and then developed a sustained image.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Fall Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – Apples!



It was ‘back to school’ on Saturday at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. I was pleased to see the students, new and old. Some had painted a fair bit over the summer months and others….

I decided to start off the fall term with some review. We discussed light and shadow and, always important, simplification of form. I used the sepia study on the left to show both of these principles and also to present my quite traditional approach to drawing. Next up was relative value. A green apple is generally much lighter in value than a dark green pitcher although both receive light and have areas of core shadow.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Saturdays are a full day. Each student approaches the day in their own way but I always encourage time spent on a sound process. This usually includes thumbnail sketches, studies and colour testing. Any summertime rust came off gradually as the day progressed and we enjoyed some lovely work for our critique at the end of the day.

Our next Sustained Saturday takes place on October 15. There are still a few spots available! See the details at https://barrycoombs.wordpress.com/fall-studio-calendar-2016/.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Zippity Zoo Daze!!!


Lioness study by Barry Coombs

I took on many jobs to pay the rent and earn tuition as an art student. Not all were ‘art-related’, such as my two summers making office furniture on an assembly line. As a picture framer, I felt some contact with the broader world of art. Skills learned at school got me a job as a commercial screen printer and it was much the same that qualified me as a T-shirt designer and very occasional free-lance illustrator.

I took one short-term job with a specific goal in mind. Way back then, teaching had worked it’s way into my mind as a possible future source of income. I would have to be comfortable painting and drawing in front of people in order to teach and demonstrate. So, I responded to an ad for Zippity Zoo Daze. It’s no less embarrassing now than it was decades ago.

Zippity Zoo Daze was a joint promotion shared by Simpsons, a large Canadian department store, and the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. I spent several Saturday afternoons painting mostly African wildlife in one of the Simpsons Toronto branches. I worked from a book of photographs. Children and adults would crowd around to watch. The job ended with a final weekend of doing the same at the zoo. Still, working from photos.

Llama study by Barry Coombs  Elephant study by Barry Coombs

I used inexpensive pads of Strathmore watercolour paper. As a particular challenge, I did not do any preliminary drawing in pencil. I ‘drew’ with my brush and mapped in the shapes with light washes.

Camel study by Barry Coombs

I hadn’t had any specific training during my art school classes for this assignment. Demonstrations of anything were rare, particularly in watercolour. I worked from light to dark, observed values and shapes carefully and used the brush to mimic textures. Basically, I rendered.

Rhinoceroses study by Barry Coombs

Looking back, I can see things I like in these studies such as the use of ‘lost edge’. I can also see that I was timid with the darkest values in several of them. Overall, it was an excellent experience. I wasn’t paid much and didn’t benefit a lot from all of the amazing publicity I was told I’d receive but I forced myself to work in front of an audience. Years later, it paid off when I commenced my teaching career.

Ape studies by Barry Coombs


Fall Studio Calendar 2016


Learn Traditionally; Paint Creatively
Barry Coombs will be offering weekday and weekend classes at Arts on Adrian in the fall of 2016. Classes are limited to twelve students, unless otherwise noted. Material lists are provided upon registration. Demonstrations, individual attention and constructive critiques are employed in all classes. The studio is accessible by transit and free parking is available. The studio is on the second floor and is not wheelchair-accessible.
Please, note that the studio is solvent and scent-free!

#224 – 15 Adrian Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M6N 5G4

Click here to view demonstrations from Barry’s classes and workshops.
Click here for directions.

This is an intermediate level course. It includes instruction in watercolour technique, drawing concepts, colour and composition. Masters of the medium, historic and contemporary, are examined. Personal development is stressed. This course is also suitable for students wishing to work in pencil, pen and ink or pen and wash.
Pre-requisite: a beginner watercolour course or equivalent experience.

Students are not required to enroll for all of the classes in a term. Individual classes may be selected but please read the registration information below. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

September 20, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)

September 20, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)

Students work from the still-life in watercolour, pencil, pen and ink or any combination of these media. Watercolour painters may use a maximum size of 15 x 22″ (half sheet). This is an opportunity to work at a comfortable pace and develop a sustained image.
Pre-requisite: a beginner course or equivalent experience in watercolour, pen and ink or drawing.

Saturday, September 17, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, October 15, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 5, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 26, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)

To confirm a place in a class, please email Barry at info@barrycoombs.ca. Registrations are first-come, first-serve. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

You will receive a full refund if you notify me of your cancellation more than 36 hours before any class or workshop. If you give me less than 36 hours notice, I will not refund the fee unless I can fill the spot from the waiting list.

Grand Manan Island – Final Day!


One week ago this morning we met at our studio to start the final day of my annual sketching and watercolour painting workshop on Grand Manan Island. As usual, I began with a lesson/demonstration.


Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I don’t follow a course outline for any of my workshops. Also, I don’t teach just my ‘style’ although I do present elements of it, if and when appropriate or upon request. I teach fundamentals and principles; techniques and concepts.

Friday morning was foggy. I showed an approach to fog. I also responded to what I had seen of the student’s work the previous day at Dark Harbour. One more thing! I talked about colour and contrast and how they can be used to create a focal point. As soon as I was done, we were off to Fisherman’s Haven Lane in Ingall’s Head.







What a week! A little bit of fog and a few tentative drops of rain as we packed up to head back for critique. Other than that, we enjoyed almost 100% sunshine. Friday was a busy day, overall. We looked at the work from the day. Then, we dispersed to our accommodations to prepare for our Farewell Dinner at the Marathon Inn. Steak or lobster? The big event followed dinner. It was time for our Final Critique; a summary of our week together. And, of course, our group photo taken by the generous and talented David Ogilvie.

It was a great evening and the perfect way to wrap up our week. I’ll be back next year from Sunday, July 30 – Friday, August 4. Details will be posted soon on this blog. Thanks for following, liking and commenting and don’t leave before taking a peek at our group photo and the work from Ingall’s Head!

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique b

Grand Manan 2016 Courtesy: David Ogilvie

Grand Manan 2016
Courtesy: David Ogilvie

Grand Manan Island 2016 – Wednesday and Thursday!


We started at the studio again last Wednesday morning. I had prepared a demonstration on Tuesday at Woodward’s Cove and photographed the first three steps, which I showed on my computer screen.

Step One

Step One

You can probably see the faint pencil lines under the washes in Step One. The washes have been applied in two ways. In some, such as the boat hull, I painted the shape with water and added the colour to the upper area while wet. In the roof, I painted a light grey wash and added the darker grey while wet.

Step Two

Step Two

I continued with the same process and added more shapes. Washes were allowed to dry before adding new ones.

Step Three

Step Three

All of the big shapes are in place. I’ve left the white of the paper in a few areas because I’m about to add flowers in Step Four.

Step Four

Step Four

Overall, I’ve used a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ approach. As mentioned, I wanted to paint the flowers over clean white paper. The yellows and pinks would lose their intensity if there was a grey or greenish wash underneath. This painting isn’t finished but it’s as far as I took it on Wednesday morning. It was time to hit the road for Seal Cove!



The old herring smokesheds and piers of Seal Cove provide endless subject matter for our artists. It’s a magical place. Everyone settled in. It was another sunny day so shady spots were sought out.


Britta at work




It’s always nice to wind up the day at our studio. We’d all had enough sun and, of course, it’s easy to tape the work up on the wall. Here they are; the sketches and paintings from Seal Cove.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique b

You guessed it! We met at our studio again on Thursday morning. A few days earlier, I’d made a small watercolour study in North Head Harbour. I wanted to add pen to it and this was my opportunity.

Step One

Step One

I discussed the basic pen techniques; hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line variety. I love working with pen and wash and I try to present my thoughts at least once during all of the ‘en plein air’ workshops I teach.

Step Two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two

Our painting spot for Thursday was Dark Harbour, surrounded by towering cliffs, on the west side of the island. The small harbour is used mostly by those who collect dulse, an edible seaweed, and dories are their workhorses.








The critique is a very important part of the painting day. I make my comments and I try to be positive and encouraging. The students get my feedback and also learn a lot from each other. It’s an enjoyable and educational aspect of the workshop.

One more day to go! As always, thanks for following, liking and commenting. While I prepared this post, my blog received it’s 171,000th view and I appreciate them all.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Thursday Critique b