Grand Manan Island 2019 – Final Two Days!

27/08/2019

THURSDAY
Instructor: Don’t paint in the sun!
Students: Why are you painting in the sun?

Good question. We were at Ingall’s Head on Thursday and it was another brilliant day. I set up to demonstrate with a flat angled brush. I chose a spot where the students could enjoy the shade of a hauled-up fishing boat. And yes, I was in the sun. This allowed my washes to dry very quickly so I could work on the somewhat complicated subject rapidly. Of course, I faced the usual challenges and drawbacks of working in the sun. First of all, there is the issue of personal comfort. In addition to that, the bright sun dries the washes in your palette, necessitating constant re-mixing. It also bleaches the painting as you work so that your darks don’t look dark enough, compelling you to make them too dark in order to be able to see them.

The flat angled brush is fun to work with and a good way to free up your brush-handling. I always edit and simplify to some degree but with this sketch I eliminated an entire window. I did so to save time. The students are always itching to start painting.

What about those darks? I’m not immune to the problems of working in direct sunshine. My demonstration is on hot press paper, which made things even worse. It didn’t really absorb the paint and my washes dried even faster. Trouble ensued! After I’d stopped painting and the students got to work, I reworked the shed interior. It had been too dark and the shapes had been rough. My touchup adds interest to the dark interior.

Once again, there was a lot of variety in terms of painting subjects. Charming sheds, fishing boats, docks in various states of repair and the drydock, which is the only place on the island where the boats are guaranteed not to move up and down with the tides or suddenly depart on a fishing mission as the woeful painter ponders a partially finished watercolour of an uncooperative boat.

The air-conditioning and shade of our studio at the Grand Manan Art Gallery were very welcome at the end of the day. The gallery is one of the most important components of island cultural life. That’s Garrett Travis on the porch, this year’s summer student who is doing a great job of keeping things running smoothly.

Critique time!

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
Grand Manan Island has a wealth of excellent painting spots. We had only five days together and it was up to me to choose a spot for our final day. Several of the students, in conversation over the course of the week, had indicated a desire to paint a lighthouse. The most famous and spectacular lighthouse on the island is the Swallowtail light. There are two prime viewpoints. One is from above the peninsula that hosts the light. The other is from Pettes’s Cove.

I demonstrated at the studio. First, I tackled the view from the cove. I started with wetting most of the sheet before touching in colour for the sky and water. This preliminary wash covered the entire sheet with the exception of the white area of the lighthouse, which I carefully avoided. I dried the sheet with the studio hairdryer and continued to add shapes, working ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I discussed the other view of the Swallowtail. As you can see, I kept it simple and focused on the relative values of the main shapes and colours.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Off we went! The students were free to choose their viewpoint. I visited back and forth as the day progressed.

Friday was a busy day. We wound up the painting portion with our usual critique at the studio.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

After taking a few hours to refresh ourselves, we met once more at the Compass Rose Inn for a yummy Farewell Dinner. Following the meal, we re-arranged the tables and chairs for our Final Critique. Each student presented three paintings completed during the week and commented a bit on their experience. It’s always a rewarding way to wrap up our time together.

Time marches on, they say. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve taught on Grand Manan Island for twenty-nine summers. I plan to be back for the thirtieth anniversary in 2020. Care to join us?

 

 

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Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick 2019 – Our First Three Days!

20/08/2019

Last week, I led an ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop on beautiful Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. This is the twenty-ninth summer that I’ve taught on the island. Our group of workshop participants was a nice blend of repeaters and first-timers. We got to know each other on Sunday evening over a delicious dinner at the lovely Compass Rose Inn.

MONDAY
It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we met in North Head Harbour. I demonstrated in the shade of a large boathouse. My goal was to encourage everyone to spend the day on smaller, quicker watercolour studies rather than settle into a sustained piece right off the bat. With that in mind, I’d prepared a small cardboard frame for each painter. The inside dimension is 4×6″, the size of a postcard.

I worked at my easel. My demonstrations are, in a sense, illustrated discussions. I rarely complete a finished work as a demonstration. My goal is to show a process and discuss it’s benefits. I worked in the 4×6″ format and didn’t do a preliminary pencil drawing. Straight in with the brush! I told the group that I would not criticize them for inaccurate proportion or perspective. I wanted to see what attracted them to the subject; it’s essence. Simplification and editing were stressed. Each painter was asked to do a minimum of two vertical and two horizontal small works over the course of our first day.

Another thing we talk about every morning is the availability of coffee and lunch and, very importantly, the location of the closest washrooms. Eventually, the painters explored the harbour, found their spots and got to work.

Grand Manan is a busy place. Rockweed was being harvested just off the shore as we painted.

I’ll never complain about the sunshine but there is a time for a shady break. Our friend, Kirk, opened up his shed and revealed a whole other range of colourful maritime subject matter.

At the end of the day, we headed to our studio for a critique. This is the first year that we’ve been hosted by the Grand Manan Art Gallery and our liaison, David Ogilvie, made us very welcome.

It was a productive day and I managed to display all of the work together. Click on any critique image in this post in order to view a larger version.

Monday Critique

TUESDAY


The morning was damp and overcast so I gave a demonstration in the studio. I knew the sun would be out soon and it was only day two; a good time to discuss value. Years ago, I painted a watercolour of the now ruined Ross Island lighthouse in my playful quasi-modernist style and donated it to the Permanent Collection of the Grand Manan Art Gallery.

Ross Island Light by Barry Coombs

I drew up the image the night before, simplifying it a great deal. Using a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, I mixed up three values of a ‘sepia’ wash. Paper white was reserved for the lightest areas, followed by the light and dark middle values and, finally, the darks. This process establishes a light direction as well as a pattern in the image. While working ‘en plein air’, a value study can be very useful if not essential. It’s not necessary to spend forever on it or even to paint it. A quick pencil sketch will often suffice.

Demonstration done! Sun shining! We jumped in our vehicles and went to Woodward’s Cove. The harbour there offers all kinds of great painting material. The group spread out a fair bit but I knew where they all were and enjoyed the exercise as I visited and gave feedback throughout the day.

I’ve conducted outdoor critiques many times over the years but the comfort and proximity of the studio prevailed this week. It was back to the gallery in nearby Castalia at the end of the day, where we broke up the critique into two groups.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Seal Cove was the venue for watercolour painting on Wednesday. This popular site still hosts several old sheds that were once used to smoke herring; a key industry in the island’s past. I demonstrated onsite and chose to show an approach I call ‘shape-reading’. As usual, it was an opportunity to look at a subject and discuss a sound process and anticipate potential challenges or problems. The demo was optional as many of the experienced participants had witnessed the approach in other workshops.

Following that, I gathered the participants who were new to my workshops and taught them how to tackle proportion and perspective with a measuring stick. All of those weathered buildings and docks demanded careful consideration of angles. The weather was fine again and another successful day was underway.

Critiques are always constructive and a big part of the learning experience. As you can see, the sheds were by far the most popular subject. The weather forecast looked good (they were givin’ fine, as the locals say) for Thursday. The plan was to paint at Ingall’s Head. Stay tuned!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

SUMMER IN THE CITY at Gallery on the Bay!

18/06/2019

You are invited to attend an exhibition of gallery artists at
GALLERY ON THE BAY

All are welcome at the
Opening Reception this Friday, June 21 from 7-10pm
with live jazz by Nick Deutsch and Henry Strong
The exhibition runs from June 21 – July 14, 2019

“Six of my recent acrylics are featured. I hope you’ll drop by and enjoy the work. I’ll be present on Friday evening at the Opening Reception.” – Barry Coombs

SUMMER HOURS
(June 22 to July 14)
Thursdays, 12-4pm
Fridays, 12-4pm
Saturdays, 12-4pm
Sundays, 12-4pm

CONTACT INFORMATION
231 Bay Street North
Hamilton, Ontario
L8R 2R1
905-540-8532
marlaise@bell.net

Pen and Watercolour – More Texture and Composition at DVSA!

03/06/2019

Last Thursday, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to lead my fourth and final one-day workshop of the spring term. Two weeks prior, I’d presented a workshop of the same basic theme but our still-life was a collection of rusty and dusty gas cans. On Thursday, we worked from an equally interesting group of worn and distressed objects. Do you know what they are? If you live in a coastal area, you probably recognize them as fishing floats.

My demonstrations were similar to those of the first workshop. Our basic process was to draw with pencil, paint with watercolour and then add ink. Along the way, we used different materials and techniques to create texture. Soft-edge techniques, wax, dry-brush and other ideas were presented. We began with a practice sheet of swatches and experiments.

You may have noticed that our still-life has a lot of white in it. The four whites enclosed by the blue area on the sheet below are all different from each other; some warmer and some cooler.

Our next step was a sheet of studies of individual objects.

We’ll take a closer look at the old cork net float from the sheet above. Note the pen work on the edge of the object. Texture isn’t present only in the ‘interior’ of the object. What is done on the edges is very important.

Eventually, we had a look at the study sheets created by the students.

Study Sheets

We cover a lot of territory in these workshops. Following lunch, I discussed some basic thoughts about composition, including the rule of thirds. Our goal was to create a composition and work on it for the afternoon. Each student selected and composed an area of the still-life.

Also, I talked about some common problems in compositions such as run-on lines, edge issues, kisses and spatial relationships.

The rest of the day was spent working diligently and thoughtfully on the work. As usual, not everyone finished their piece but these workshops are about learning and taking ideas away for future use; process over product. Here are the works in progress:

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Pen and Watercolour: Texture and Composition at DVSA!

20/05/2019

Last Thursday, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to present a one-day workshop. Our primary goal was to combine pen and watercolour to create interesting textures and apply them to this unique still-life. There are many ways to create texture with watercolours. Some of the more contemporary processes can involve the use of salt, saran wrap and scraping with credit cards. We did experiment with wax as a resist material, but I focused more on what the paint itself could do and on brush-handling. Wet touching wet and it’s polar opposite, drybrush, were discussed. We started out by trying the different ideas on a work or study sheet. This allowed for experimentation and play.

Next, we all painted a sheet of studies of some of the objects in the still-life. The first step was pencil drawing followed by watercolour.

The final step was the pen. Many artists prefer to do the pen work first and then ‘tint’ the drawing with watercolour. I favour doing the watercolour first followed by the pen. Neither approach is right or wrong. One way may suit a certain goal more than the other.

Here are the studies created by the students.

Thursday Critique a

After lunch, we talked about selecting a composition from the still-life and began work on a sustained piece. My demonstration shows how I zoomed in and cropped an area of the still-life. Also, I created a ‘background’ from my imagination and memory.

Pen and watercolour is a great combination whether you use it in your sketchbook or for more sustained work. The students all would have liked a bit more time to work on their efforts. I take the blame for that. On Thursday, May 30, I’ll be back at DVSA for another day entitled Pen and Watercolour: More Texture and Composition. There will be a different, but equally interesting, still-life and I guarantee more time to spend on the sustained compositions. In the meantime, have a look a the work and don’t forget to click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique b

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

15/05/2019

We continue to suffer through a cold, wet spring in southern Ontario. I tried to brighten things up with a colourful still-life. On Saturday, I reviewed some ideas about colour mixing. White is always challenging, especially when you don’t have any white paint in your palette. I used a mixture of Raw Sienna and Cobalt Blue for the white jar. The very diluted first wash is almost invisible but gives a warmish tint to the paper.

We had a smaller group than usual with a few Saturday stalwarts off traveling here and there. They were missed but it was still a great day at the Arts on Adrian studio.

Sustained Saturday Critique

I discussed the same colour ideas with the Tuesday students. In addition to that, I elaborated on the white jar. I used the same mixture again but took it a few steps further. This jar would look much whiter, of course, if the other darker objects were painted around it. Paint relationships and not just things!

That’s it for our spring term at Arts on Adrian! I thank all of the students and also our viewers for following and commenting. I’ll be back at Arts on Adrian in the fall. Before you go, have a look at the watercolour paintings from the Tuesday class.

Tuesday Critique

 

 

 

Watercolour Boot Camp at DVSA!

07/05/2019

The watercolour world is a very diverse one. Many watercolour teachers impart their personal ‘style’ and not necessarily the basics of the medium. Even those who teach beginners go about it in vastly different manners. Some use exercises out of how-to books. Some base their lessons on play and craft; using salt, saran wrap and credit cards. Is there a right or wrong way? Individual adult students may well respond to one approach with more enthusiasm and understanding than another. Is there a satisfying balance to strike? How much can a beginner learn in 20-30 hours?

I’ve always tried, as best I can, to teach the fundamentals of painting in watercolour. Over the years, I’ve taught a lot of dedicated beginner classes but almost all of my classes now are designed for the intermediate or more advanced student. Recently, I had an urge to return to the basics from my teaching point of view. I proposed a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art and I was pleased that if filled up quickly. Last Thursday was the big day!

The workshop was designed for those with prior watercolour experience who hadn’t painted for a while and also students who felt they needed more training in the fundamentals. I promised a series of exercises based on the key traditional watercolour techniques which include brush-handling, mixing and applying even and graded washes, creating soft edges and more. Have you ever watched an entertaining watercolour demonstration video, tried to do it yourself and realized that a lot of very basic elements weren’t discussed. Why did you keep getting blossoms? Why did you have so much trouble mixing darks? Why did everything run together (but not in a good way)? What is perfectly obvious to the experienced artist/teacher is often neglected when delivering a lesson or demonstration.

I attempted to address those little things that can make a big difference. It won’t be possible to describe everything in this post but I’ll give you an overview of our day.

We started with a discussion about materials and mechanics. I had requested absorbent, cold press watercolour in the material list such as Arches or an equivalent. Not Canson or Strathmore. The paper had to be suitable for the techniques I’d be presenting. Mechanics is the term we use to describe how we organize our tools and materials and work space. I’m right-handed and my palette and water container and paper towel are on my right side. I can’t imagine having my water to my left, reaching and possibly dripping all over my painting as I go back and forth from the container to my palette. I see students do it, though. I see students who’ve formed a lot of bad habits and it holds them back.

Finally, we applied paint to paper. Our first goal was to create an even wash without streaks or blossoms and it takes practice and thought. Watercolour is a thinking medium that does not reward dabbling. It’s also much more physical than folks realize. How do those tiny grains of pigment and binder behave when mixed with water and touched to paper?

We practiced and kept it simple. On the first sheet, I also discussed  mixing greys and blacks with only primary colours. I don’t have grey or black in my palette. I mix them. As a matter of fact, we stuck to our primaries for most of the day and it’s the best way to learn about colour and the potential of your palette. I use Da Vinci paints and my primaries are Aureolin (Mixture), Rose Madder Quinacridone and Cobalt Blue. I also discussed brush-handling and lifting excess paint with a ‘thirsty’ brush. I pointed out a few ‘what not to dos’, as well.

Our next exercise involved creating a small painting based on my diagram and on even washes. The colour theme was cools and warms. We tried to paint even, unvaried washes in each shape and one shape wasn’t supposed to run into another. Kind of like a colouring book or stained glass window.

A real building block technique of watercolour painting is the soft edge that is created when wet touches wet. Wet in wet painting is often taught on a grand scale. The entire sheet is soaked first and colour is added into the water. I don’t start beginners off with that. We worked on a small scale and ‘injected’ darker colours and values into lighter areas, while wet. Again, it takes planning, practice and, very important, timing! The students made swatches on one side of their sheet and worked on a small image, based on rectangles, on the other side. They attempted a wet in wet, soft edge transition in each rectangle without letting the rectangles run into each other. Patience!

Later in the afternoon, I talked about mixing whites. I don’t have white, an opaque colour, in my palette. I use the white of the paper and very light tints on it to create cool and warm whites and off-whites.

Many aspiring watercolour painters hope to work ‘en plein air’ one day. With that in mind, I also discussed greens and how to mix a variety of greens starting with primary blue and yellow. It’s easy to start with a green right out of the tube like Pthalo but it’s important to know how to vary your greens. I have Pthalo Green in my palette and generally use it to add intensity to greens I’ve created from yellow and blue.

It was a long day and everyone applied themselves with energy and thoughtfulness. There was a nice buzz in the studio as we wrapped up, which was gratifying, and the feedback was good. Still, there were several things I didn’t touch on. We ran out of time and didn’t deal with graded washes over a larger area. Maybe, this fall I’ll have to offer a part two?

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

01/05/2019

Wait a minute! Where’s the still-life? I was well prepared for the Saturday and Tuesday classes at Arts on Adrian in Toronto. I thought, for a change, I’d show you how the still-life was assembled.

Our theme made the studio interior feel more spring-like than what we could see out the window. It was a cold and wet April in our neck of the woods. Setting this up was a fair bit of work but worth it as the students enjoyed it very much. This is what they see (above) and the next image is what you see.

All set! Bring on the students. I believe that the Arts on Adrian studio matches any other in the region for lighting, facilities and general comfort. Coffee is always on, cookies lead to temptation and there’s an ensuite washroom.

On Saturday, the full day class, I demonstrated with a 3/4″ flat angled brush. I drew a bit in pencil first and worked quickly with the brush. I talked as I painted, discussing various elements of the still-life.

I didn’t insist that everyone else use a flat angled brush. Some did. Others stuck with their rounds. Either way, a lot of solid work was accomplished.

Sustained Saturday Critique

One of our students, Karen W, had to leave early to attend a wedding. Here’s her work in progress.

Work in progress by Karen W

We looked at my Saturday demonstration on Tuesday morning. In addition to that, I zoomed in on a few of the key elements of the still-life.

The Tuesday students made the most of their afternoon of painting. Here’s their work! Don’t forget to click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Tuesday Critique

 

Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA!

21/04/2019

Spring term is underway at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’m scheduled to teach four one-day workshops and the first took place last Thursday. Pen and Ink Basics is exactly as it sounds. My goal was to introduce the students to the core techniques of pen and ink drawing. We used sketching pens for this workshop as it cut down on overturned bottles of India ink and allowed everyone to focus on the techniques.

It’s not all about technique, however. I simply cannot teach drawing without discussing fundamentals and principles. The most important for us on Thursday was ‘light and shadow’.

Before we started our first pen and ink exercise, I worked at an easel and presented a few ideas about ‘light and shadow’ and it’s effect on basic volumes. Next, we started on our first drawing; a pear. The students worked from my diagrams/models. Remember that our goal was to gain some fluency with the techniques. The day was not about creating original works of art. I demonstrated the steps one at a time.

Where does one begin with a pen and ink drawing? First of all, we decided to use cross-hatching as our technique. That was all very well but what direction should the lines follow? I presented an approach that I call ‘parquet’ and you can probably tell where I got the name. The initial work with the parquet approach looks very mechanical and the emphasis is on overall shape and value rather than stroke direction.

As you can see, the first step was only the beginning. We continued to develop the drawing until it gained a three-dimensional quality. We talked about edge versus outline as well as other considerations.

In total, we did three drawings over the course of the day. Our second exercise was the ball cap and we used stippling as our technique. Our final drawing was the teapot. We combined cross-hatching (although not with parquet) with line variety.

The students were keen and brought a lot of energy to the projects. We wrapped up with a look at the drawings. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

17/04/2019

I’m back from sunny Mexico to some less than welcoming spring weather. All the more reason to set up a bright and cheerful still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour students. I had the still-lifes of Paul Cézanne in mind.

Cézanne developed his gorgeous, luminous watercolours with brushstrokes of pure colour over a pencil drawing. I didn’t mimic his process exactly with my demonstration but we discussed it as I painted. I never insist that the students emulate my demo but I did ask them to give it a try, even as a study for an hour or so. Saturday is a six hour class so there’s time to experiment and explore.

Most gave it a shot and a few spent the day pursuing the approach. Not everyone liked it but they’re always willing to consider new ideas.

Sustained Saturday Critique

The Tuesday students worked from the same still-life. It’s a three hour class and, at the beginning, I sensed some interest in the fabrics and folds. My demonstration, as a result, was a simplified study of a section of fabric and they found it helpful.

They don’t have a full day but they really work hard and they’re quite good at selecting and composing. Basically, they selected and zoomed in on an area of the still-life that attracted their eye. Not taking on too much gave them a better chance to resolve their work in the time available.

Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Tuesday Critique