Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven!

19/05/2015

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You never know what the reaction will be when the students walk into the studio and see a new still life. Fortunately, the response to this pile of brick and stone was quite positive.

I discussed the relationship between three-dimensional form and texture. Texture, essentially, can be suggested by small marks and shapes. These can be created by adding or lifting paint. Texture can also be shown on the edge of an object; a broken or irregular edge rather than a smooth edge. Texture is fun! However, texture should not overwhelm the basic light and shadow relationship that gives a three-dimensional quality to objects in the painting. Too many textural marks in an area of direct light can ‘kill’ the light and make the stone or brick appear flat.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

As I mentioned, the response to the still life was positive but I may have understated it. The students really enjoyed it. The basic forms are relatively simple and they proved to be a fairly forgiving painting  subject. I’m particularly pleased with the background solutions the students came up with for these old stones and bricks.

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Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Six!

12/05/2015

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A monochromatic still life is a great way to study light and shadow. Values are easier to see and understand without any conflict from different colours. Although we are mid-term at the moment, I still thought it’d be worth spending time on a subject like these wooden objects. As you’ll see below, many of  the Tuesday students went beyond a basic value study and found ways to create some special paintings.

I concentrated on value and colour with my demonstrations. My main goal with value was to set off one or two light objects to as much advantage as possible. For example, in each painting, I’ve darkened the upper wooden bowl so it doesn’t compete with the brightly lit utensils.

My morning study uses an analogous colour relationship of yellow and green. These are landscape colours and they’re easy on the eye. My evening study is more of a complementary choice of orange and blue. Neither the orange or blue are intense but they still give the study a vibrant quality.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Who’d know that these banal, everyday kitchen articles could become so glamorous?

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Five!

05/05/2015

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This is a slightly simplified version of the still life from last Saturday as the Tuesday students have only three hours and not a whole day to develop their work. The essence is the same; warm colours set off by cool.

I’ve been discussing process a lot this term. I went back a few weeks with the small study on the left. It’s an attempt to understand the colour relationships in the still life. The study on the right is somewhat more elaborate, a quick watercolour sketch that harkens back to last week’s notions about risk-taking and spontaneity.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Did I say three hours? I pinned up the work for the AM critique and stepped back. I was quite impressed with the volume and quality produced in just a few hours. There weren’t as many students in the evening class but they also applied themselves and came up with some lovely work.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – May 2

02/05/2015

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Sustained Saturdays run from 10am – 4:30pm. We stop painting at 4pm and take half an hour to look at the work together. In other words, there’s lots of painting time. I don’t rush my morning demonstration and I strongly suggest that the students devote ample time to preliminary studies.

My demonstration focused on basics; value and colour. Some of the objects in the still life were more challenging to draw than others. An orange may not test the limits of a student with decent drawing skills but the handle on the big jar is a different story. I painted the handle (left side of sheet) in four values. Actually, I only painted three values. The lightest value (1) is the paper white itself; no paint necessary. There are two middle tones (2 & 3) and a strong dark (4).

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

The warm colours of the oranges and grapefruit really glow against the blue objects and fabric. It’s not always easy to capture that essence in a painting. You could hear a pin drop in the last few hours as the students were absorbed in their work. I spend most of my time in the later afternoon reminding them to step back from their paintings and view them in an upright position. Better decisions are made from a distance and one has to keep a fresh eye. Time stepping back is never time wasted, especially on a Sustained Saturday!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Four!

29/04/2015

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The Tuesday students were greeted with a small surprise today. I left up the board and fabric that I put behind the still life when I photograph it for my post. Temporarily, that is. I wanted the students to see the effect of the dark middle tone background and how it enhanced the light on the objects.

I don’t set up still lifes with a backdrop for a practical reason. A full class of twelve students wouldn’t work well if the tables were in a U shape. It doesn’t suit the available space. There are other reasons but that’s the main one.

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As a result, the students have the weekly challenge of choosing a colour and treatment for their backgrounds. I think it’s a better learning experience than simply imitating what’s in front of them week after week. They may not agree!

There were more surprises in store on Tuesday. Last week, we talked about seeing our painting as blocks of colour. This week I suggested they keep that in mind but consider blocks of light and shadow, as well. Our next surprise was my demonstration.  I wanted to encourage everyone to try a more spontaneous approach and even take a few risks.

I felt confident that I could communicate these fairly simple objects without being overly careful or deliberate with my drawing or painting so I used a large round brush and worked over a very basic sketchy preparatory drawing. I established my lights first throughout the image. Then, thinking initially of blocks of colour and shadow, I worked quickly, occasionally stopping to allow an area to dry.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

My demonstrations were quick and spirited but one could also describe them as messy. There are qualities, however, that I like and may not have attained through a slower, more steady process.

Some of my students are more ready for a new challenge than others. Everyone develops at their own pace. This Tuesday, they tried to escape their comfort zones. There were nerves and a few sighs early on but, in the end, it was fun!

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

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Tuesday PM Critique

 

 

New Work at Art Etc, Art Gallery of Burlington

24/04/2015
YELLOW PEARS by Barry Coombs

YELLOW PEARS
by Barry Coombs

Last week, I was at the Art Etc Gallery Shop in the Art Gallery of Burlington for their annual intake of new work. As usual, Rhonda Bullock and her team were very professional and I really appreciate their genuine enthusiasm about my recent acrylics, in particular. Rhonda also took the time to outline the various upcoming events that will promote the Art Etc artists.

The committee selected five acrylics and three watercolours and have since asked for two more of my larger acrylics.  Have a look at my updated page on their website.

The Art Etc Gallery Shop sells and rents original artwork. Drop in when you’re in the neighbourhood or make a special trip! It’s worth it.

The Art Etc Gallery Shop is in the Art Gallery of Burlington, located at 1333 Lakeshore Road in Burlington, Ontario. They can be contacted at 905-632-7796, Ext. 301.

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Three!

22/04/2015

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I went back to a more traditional still life on Tuesday. Not quite the jumble of colour that we painted last week. Colour, however, is what I discussed at the start of each class.

Almost all of the students follow my recommendation and do a thumbnail sketch before they paint. The thumbnail sketch is used primarily to understand light and shadow and to create a composition. On Tuesday, I suggested an additional quick study to establish colour relationships. On the left side of my demonstration sheet there are two small studies. I’ve used blocks of colour and made no effort to represent apples or vases. Now, take a look at the photo of the still life above. The upper study was made while looking at the left side of the photo and the lower study is from the right. Just colour.

I tried two different solutions in the backgrounds of the studies. The green in the upper study creates a very different mood than the violet in the lower study. Which do you prefer?

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

There’s so much to think about for a watercolour painter! Some of my students worry about finishing their painting by the end of a three hour class. I don’t care if they finish. Class time should be about the learning process and not about making a product. I’m quite happy to see a thoughtfully developed work in progress during our critique.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two!

15/04/2015

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I stuck with the still life from last Saturday for the Tuesday classes. The soft forms present a unique challenge and the results from Saturday were very strong. I knew the Tuesday students would be up for it so the mittens were off!

I concentrated mostly on the mittens with my morning and evening demonstrations. Of all the various objects in the still life, the mittens are the most interesting as shapes. The thumb, however, is very important. If it isn’t distinct, the shape may not convey the essence of the mitten. I’ve tried to make the thumb as clear as possible in these studies.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I also suggested ‘tightly-cropped’ compositions with little background area. The students responded well and really created the feeling of a messy mud room jumble.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 

Spring Sustained Watercolour Class – April 11!

12/04/2015

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The title of my still life is ‘Farewell to Winter’. Tidy up your mud room; warm weather is finally on the way! Or, so we’re told.

Soft shapes are always a challenge and soft-edge techniques can help to convey them. During my demonstration, I reviewed some of these techniques and stressed, as I usually do, a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. The still life gave us an opportunity to mix blacks, as well. I used a combination of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna for my blacks. However, a look at the upper area of the toque and the lunch bag will reveal very diluted blacks, thinned with water, where the light is being received most strongly.

Another subject was the multi-coloured patterns on the toques and socks. I try to avoid painting things like stripes side by side, if possible. The toque on the upper right of the sheet was painted with an overall yellow wash. When dry, the red and black were painted over the yellow. The sock was painted a light pink and, while wet, I touched in a bluish shadow. I later added the darker pink. Sometimes, this approach doesn’t work. For example, I couldn’t paint a bright red over a dark green and retain the intensity of the red.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

A Sustained Saturday is a full day at the office. Most of the students spend the morning hours on thumbnails and studies before settling into a sustained work. Some work bigger than others and some complete more than one painting. Our critique at the end of the day summarizes the experience in an educational and enjoyable manner.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

 

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One!

08/04/2015

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Apparently, the first day of spring was March 20. Yesterday, April 7, was the first day of spring term in my studio. As for the arrival of true spring weather…….

I wanted to kick off with colour and simple shapes. You may not consider the bottles and jars to be simple shapes but try to forget that they’re made of glass. They’re very familiar objects and can be communicated to your viewer with much less fuss than you may think.

I painted shapes and marks within the overall silhouette of each object, using a mix of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna to make a grey. I attempted to make ‘articulate’ shapes and marks that helped to describe the form of the object. In combination with the overall silhouette of the local colour, these shapes and marks can give a strong sense of the essence of the object.

The best example below is the yellow bottle with the handle. The version in the middle of the sheet shows only the grey shapes and marks. It’s not much but still suggests something about the bottle. When the yellow silhouette is added, as it is on the left of the sheet, the object is quite clear.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was good to see everyone back in action. Some of the students hadn’t been painting much over the break. A few had been to Mexico with me and were definitely on their game. Still, everyone applied themselves and you can the results. The PM class was missing most of our painters for the first night, for various reasons, but they’ll be back soon!

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 


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