My hobby is birding. As such, I’m a member in a few clubs and organizations. One of these is the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. The club produces the Wood Duck magazine nine times a year, from September to May. I recently submitted a pen and ink drawing of an American Kestrel for the December issue. The editor liked it and suggested we make it a regular feature. Barry’s Birds has hatched and taken flight!
The last time we convened at the Arts on Adrian studio, the students were faced with a still-life comprised solely of cardboard objects. The entire setup was, basically, light brown. We changed that. After a discussion about colour theory, each student adopted a colour system (complementary or analagous are two examples) that appealed to them and converted the still-life into a very colourful watercolour painting.
This time, I set up a still-life of just about every colour I could find in my trove of objects. It’s colourful but that doesn’t mean that the colours are working well together. The new challenge for the students was to pick an area of the still-life and adjust the colours in order to make a more effective statement.
I looked at a small corner of the arrangement and made a simplified thumbnail sketch. You can see that I made some key changes. I wanted to draw the eye to the bowl on the plate and to create a bit of depth to the space in the painting.
I had asked the students to plan all of their colours at the outset with a thumbnail sketch, as I had. Why not? Why wait until the painting is near completion before deciding what colour to employ in the remaining unpainted areas (almost always the background)?
The students enjoyed our colour challenge. We spend a lot of time in watercolour class discussing drawing, composition and technique. We discuss colour, as well, but I think our intensive two-class mini-workshop really struck a chord.
I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday for a day of pen and ink drawing. We combined the pen with watercolour and our theme was ‘drawing people’. I rarely use photographs when I teach but they’re perfect for this lesson. I brought in the photo reference for the students.
We started the day with a discussion about proportions of the figure and head. That proved to be very helpful with the two exercises that we completed. Our first drawing was of a little boy and I demonstrated in three steps. The first step was the pencil drawing. Following that, we got out the pens. The final step was the watercolour although, once the watercolour was dry it was possible to go back in with the pen, if desired.
We varied the process with our second drawing. Pencil first. Watercolour second. Pen third. Be careful with that pen! You can’t erase it. I might have been too enthusiastic and unintentionally gave this poor woman a bit of a moustache. Oh well, it’s Movember, after all.
As always, some of the students were faster workers than others. We didn’t have time for a third drawing but, near the end of the class, I gave one more demonstration. I started with pencil and then applied a ‘sepia’ wash mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I did the pen work once the wash had dried.
We wrapped up the day with a look at the student work. They did very well and should be equipped with a sound process for their own projects. Have a look at their work and, if you’re in the area, join me this winter at DVSA for eight weeks of Pen and Ink Studio on Thursday afternoons.
Colour challenge? I’d say! I set up this monochromatic still-life for the watercolour classes this week. Eyebrows were definitely raised as the students entered the Arts on Adrian studio. No colour in the still-life and no demonstration either but I was prepared with a presentation about colour systems.
We discussed some basic colour theory; primaries, secondaries, complementaries and cool/warm colours. Following that, we looked at split complementaries, triads and analogous systems. I also talked about greys and their role in painting.
The students were asked to decide upon a colour system to use in their painting. Most created a thumbnail sketch in their sketchbooks and either added colour to it or used colour swatches on the side to sort out their palettes. It was certainly a challenge but they rose to the occasion. We had a lot of fun and the lesson will be applied to all future work.
I had an enthusiastic and hard-working group of students at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday. Our medium was pen and ink with wash and watercolour. Our theme was buildings and trees. In other words, architectural elements and foliage. To start the class off, I presented some basic perspective elements that are very helpful when drawing buildings. I worked on a large pad at an easel and the students made notes in their sketchbooks.
It was time to draw! We did three projects over the course of the day. Each was started from a very simple diagram and then the students followed my steps. Our first drawing was of a tree and was completed in three steps. The first image shows two steps; the pencil drawing and a ‘sepia’ wash (mixed with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna). In the second step, we used the pen. To create a sense of foliage, looping strokes were employed as if we were repeating Ws and Ms. The bark of the tree shows long zigzag strokes.
Our goal was to ‘suggest’ the textures of foliage and bark. Ws and Ms and zigzags may not always work but can be quite effective in many cases. We tried something a bit different with our next drawing. Again, our first step was a light and basic pencil drawing but this time we did the ink before the watercolour. We more or less scribbled with our pens. However, an angular approach was used in the main tree while a looping motion was used in the background bushes. The grass was suggested with a spiky action. The ink step was completed and then watercolour was applied.
Here’s a look at what the students achieved with our first two exercises.
We did one more drawing in four steps: pencil, monochromatic wash, pen and watercolour. The first image shows the pencil and monochromatic wash. The wash establishes the light and shadow. This time, we did the pen next. The pen added definition and detail and it was fun to create new shapes such as the cat in the window. Lastly, we glazed some thin washes of local colour over the relevant areas.
It was a busy and enjoyable day. I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, November 24. We’ll be using pen and watercolour to draw people and it’s going to be fun. There are still a few spots left so why don’t you join us?
***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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 email@example.com for information.
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.
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.
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.
The students did very well with their studies. Here’s a look at their toy blocks.
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.
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.
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?
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.
This is the preliminary drawing for the study of the pitcher on the lower left of the sheet.
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.