Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two!



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!



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!



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


San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – Final Critique!


Mexico - Class of 2015

Here they are; the class of 2015! Thanks go to Stewart and his tripod for our group photo. Last Saturday, we wound up a wonderful ten-day watercolour workshop with our Final Critique. Everyone made a selection of their work and spoke about their experience one at a time. The artists and their work are shown in alphabetical order.

Thanks for following our adventures and commenting and liking the posts. Planning for 2016 is already underway. Do you want to be on the ‘interested’ list?
















SM de Allende, Mexico – Thursday and Friday!



This may seem like a rather humble portal. It’s the entrance to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Let’s take a look inside!

IMG_5442  IMG_5438


Td  Te



Serene, shady and beautiful; the Instituto is a wonderful place to paint. I’d made arrangements for us a few days prior and on Thursday we invaded.

Anticipating a lot of arches, I did a demonstration in our studio at the hotel before we left for the Instituto. I discussed drawing and perspective; most of my planning lines are still visible. The washes were developed with a ‘big to small’ process. My first wash covered the whole sheet. My second wash covered everything except the light exterior wall. I darkened the architecture a step at a time. Then, I painted the door and planter right over the shadows.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Once at the Instituto, it wasn’t difficult to find comfortable painting spots and lots of attractive subjects. We settled in for the morning.

Fiona at work  Paula at work

Barb at work  Joan at work

Paula at work

Karen at work

In addition to all of the other perks of this excellent painting site, a fabulous lunch spot was steps away; just across the street in it’s own shady courtyard. We all enjoyed the delicious food, great service and ambience of Cafe Contento.


It was a downhill walk to our hotel for our tired painters at the end of the day. As usual, we convened in the Salon Aldama for our critique.



Friday was our last day of painting as a group. I arranged to do the demonstration in a spacious, sunny upper room at our hotel. The huge windows offer a great view of the town. I wanted to wrap up with something a bit different so I chose a flat angled brush and did very little preparatory drawing; basic shapes only. I talked about my process and decisions as I worked. This watercolour involves a degree of artistic licence and a lot of simplification.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Our venue was a small, peaceful park, Parque Guadiana, not far from the hotel. It was a productive day. I’ll leave you with the critique and I think you’ll see that the students worked very hard and improved during our time here. One more post to come, though! Stay tuned for our Final Critique.










SM de Allende, Mexico – Wednesday


Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We headed out of town on Wednesday to historic Atotonilco. I knew what was in store and that was lots of domes, towers and belfries. My demonstration had two main themes. First of all, I discussed the basic volumes that make up an architectural form. Can we analyze the tower in terms of spheres, cones, cylinders and cubes? Doing so gives us a greater understanding of the subject and also leads to my second theme; light and shadow.

The light changes over the course of the day and, if the sun goes behind a cloud, shadows can’t be seen at all. Understanding the forms we’re painting helps us light the forms effectively.

The cathedral and ruins at Atotonilco are quite spectacular. It’s a quiet town and only about twenty minutes away from SM de Allende. We hopped in our taxis and got there in no time.




It’s a very popular spot with my students and you can see why. As usual, we gathered back at the studio for our critique.



As we wound up our critique, thunder crashed and the skies opened up for about 30 minutes. Soon, the sun was back out and we were treated to a fabulous double rainbow. Another great day in San Miguel de Allende.




SM de Allende, Mexico – Sunday and Monday



We convened at our studio, the Salon Aldama, on Sunday morning. I did a sustained watercolour demonstration which I completed in a little under an hour. My demos aren’t always so long but I wanted to take the group through a process. Also, I talk throughout my demonstrations, sharing my thoughts and decisions. Sunday morning, I discussed everything from basic brush-handling to soft-edge technique and colour mixing.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

My subject may seem a bit unorthodox. It’s a view from our hotel parking lot. It has several elements, however, that we see from day to day in SM de Allende.

Our Sunday painting site was the park; Parque Benito Juarez. The park is a lovely green space surrounded by picturesque villas. It’s also adjacent to the outdoor public laundry where several of the students settled in for the morning.

Marie, Nancy and Elizabeth at work

Karen at work

It was back to our hotel for critique at the end of the day.



The focus of my Tuesday morning demonstration was on several of the things we see and deal with as artists every day in our ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop. Flowers and foliage, stones and walls.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Our site was Plaza San Antonio, a quiet square off the beaten track, with a church and a small park. There’s a school across from the church and the attentions of the charming and well-behaved kids are always a treat. Everyone found a shady spot and got to work.

Nancy at work

Carolyn at work

Marlene at work

Joan and Fiona at work

Another great day and another critique. Lots of nice work! Everyone has been working hard and we all looked forward to our free day on Tuesday.



SM de Allende, Mexico – Saturday



I’m back in lovely San Miguel de Allende for my annual ten-day watercolour workshop. We arrived late Thursday night and took it easy yesterday. This morning, I took the group behind the hotel for a demonstration.

What do the following two images have in common? My watercolour study is an extreme simplification of the view on the right. SM de Allende is rich in detail but colour and light are paramount. I’ve used basic blocks of colour in this little study. Restricting the shapes to blocks prevents me from overworking it and getting distracted by ‘realism’. It also keeps my focus on my goals of establishing a pattern and colour harmony. Remember this is only a preliminary study but it can be an important step towards a successful sustained composition.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs IMG_4940

Everyone settled in to work for the day. We stayed on the hotel property and there was no shortage of spectacular subject matter.



IMG_4943   IMG_4947IMG_4982


After a lunch break, we got back to work.

Stewart at Work  Nila at Work


It was a brilliant day and we wound it up with a critique in our studio, Salon Aldama. The work was terrific and a great start to our workshop.




Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten



Winter term has come to an end. Hopefully, the winter weather is on the wane, as well. I opted for the classic shapes of the pears and warm colours for our last still life.

My demonstrations are basically watercolour sketches. As I painted, I chatted about many of the things we’ve discussed over the past ten classes. Simplification, soft edge, brush-handling, etc.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

It’s been a great term. Many of the students showed real progress. Most of all, everyone learns something, including me, every class. The students are very supportive of each other and we have fun. And the commitment! Kim made the time to come to class today before flying to Europe for a family March break holiday. Still, she had to leave before our critique so here is her watercolour.

PEARS by Kim Magee

by Kim Magee

Thanks for participating, following, commenting and liking. My Spring Studio Calendar will be published on this blog in a few days. Spring Tuesdays start again on April 7.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique



Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – March 7



The Teddy Bear Picnic proved to be a week-long event at my studio. The Tuesday students had a lot of fun with them and the Saturday group came up with a few interesting interpretations of their own.

I presented the same concepts in today’s demonstration as I had on Tuesday. We tried to break the bears down into their component shapes. This allowed more control of soft edge techniques. Simplification, as always, was discussed. How can we suggest the full, three-dimensional quality of the toys with the simplest means?

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Did I say ‘a few interesting interpretations’? That might be an understatement. These imaginative visual solutions are worth a good look.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 319 other followers