Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Nine

03/03/2015

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We don’t really do any wildlife art at the studio but if we do it’s from real life and not photographs! Our bears (ursus theodorus) were fairly well-behaved and the students enjoyed the creative opportunity.

Last week, I presented an approach to watercolour painting that can help break down a complex form into it’s components. It can be easier to control soft edge techniques, for instance, within the smaller shapes of legs and ears than it is to paint the entire body of the bear with one wash.

I’ve left thin slices of white paper between the bigger shapes to show my analysis of the components. It’s not necessary to leave the white with this approach but it is important to let a shape dry before painting it’s neighbour.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I haven’t invited the bears to pose for us for a few years now so many of the students were doing them for the first time. Those who’ve painted them in the past just had to bear with me but they’re a great subject; fun to paint and good for practice with soft edge skills.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight

24/02/2015

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Can you draw a hot bubble bath? That would be the perfect spot for these toy critters. The Tuesday students couldn’t just turn on a tap, though. They had to draw and paint these guys. Also, they had to tap into their personal wells of creativity. Everyone had three toys at their own work table so they could arrange them in any way they chose.

Last spring, we had a ‘special project’ without a traditional still life in the middle of the room. Everyone had a seashell. We did it again in the autumn; milkweed pods were our inspiration. As far as I was concerned, any treatment of the subject was allowed. Enjoy the shapes and colours. Tell a story. Create a non-traditional design.

I explored a few ideas on my demonstration sheet. Some are more interpretative and others more conventional. Brush-handling is essential to all. I’ve used the brush in different ways to create soft edges.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Imagination can’t be taught. It can be encouraged, however. Sometimes, it helps to consider your painting as a creative exercise with certain parameters. For example, the small painting on my demonstration sheet was drawn with pencil. The shapes were painted one at a time and a darker colour or value was touched into each shape while it was still wet. No shapes were allowed to run into each other. It was a good way to practice a basic soft edge technique.

FISH By Elizabeth Jay

FISH
By Elizabeth Jay

I’m showing you this watercolour by Elizabeth Jay because she had to leave a few minutes early and I wasn’t able to include it in the critique photo. I like it, too. Elizabeth used a bit of wax. She also managed to create layers of depth with her use of cool and warm colours.

I’m not sure if the students were elated or exhausted at the end of each class. Some of the results are more playful than others but it was a positive experience overall.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven

17/02/2015

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I’ve set up some challenging still lifes over the last few weeks. Today, I opted for an  arrangement of relatively simple objects that take the light well. Our colours are complementary but I’ve placed the cooler green apples in front of the warm terracotta pots, reversing the basic law of advancing warm and receding cool colours. Why not? If it looks good in the still life, let’s make it look good an a sheet of watercolour paper.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I did some basic review of handling soft edges for both classes. During the afternoon break, I painted the little group of terracotta objects. I wanted to try a unifying approach. Here are the steps I used.

Step one of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

STEP ONE – You can see what I mean by a unifying approach. I mixed my terracotta colour with primary yellow and red. There’s a tiny amount of primary blue in the wash, as well. I painted the wash throughout the objects, leaving a few small shapes of paper white untouched.

Step two of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

STEP TWO – The more or less elliptical shapes that denote the inside of the various vessels were painted with a light middle tone and a darker value was touched in while wet. The core shadow areas of the objects on the far left and right were handled differently. A band of clean water was painted above the shadow area. The darker wash was started at the bottom of the band of water. The darker wash and the water touched each other and created a soft edge.

Step three of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

STEP THREE – Several things happened with this step. The jar on the left was completed with the darker shadow shape. This shape has a sharp or crisp edge all round. The similar shape on the right-hand jar was painted almost the same way except I ‘feathered’ the bottom right part of the shape with a damp brush. Now, look at the pitcher at the back. The first step I took was to paint the upper area darker and feather the lower edge with a damp brush. Then, about halfway down, I painted another band of clean water and added the dark shape below it. Whew! I hope it all makes sense.

Step four of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

STEP FOUR – I painted the biggest shape on the large jug with a middle tone. While still wet, I touched in an even darker and cooler wash under the spot and in the lower left corner.

Light to dark and big to small. I harp on it over and over but it works. The students came up with some very strong work. I’m always amazed at what they can accomplish in less than three hours.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 

 

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Six

10/02/2015

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What’s in a background? This is the same photo of the still life that I showed you on Saturday. I selected the green fabric in order to enhance the objects. This, however, isn’t what my students see while they’re painting. They don’t see any sort of backdrop. This is what they see; minus the other students across the room from them.

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Now, you know why you see different background colours and treatments in the student watercolours. Have another look at the last Sustained Saturday Critique and you’ll find some very imaginative and vibrant solutions. You might even think that no-one ever asks me for a suggestion about the background in their painting. You’d be wrong. I’m always hearing ‘I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do?’ Well, I don’t tell them what to do. What we do is review our options. Light or dark? Cool or warm? There are so many things to consider. Let’s have a look at some different background colours with the boots.

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WHITE – Like the watercolour paper itself. Doesn’t do much for me. I prefer the green shown above.

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ORANGE – Hmmm. I like it better than the white but does it complement or otherwise relate to any of the colours in the boots?

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PURPLE – This is the darkest and coolest of the choices, so far. It seems to set off the various warm colours to good advantage. I like it. What do you think?

All we’ve discussed is choice of colour. What about grading the wash from light to dark? Or adding a window or some other familiar element? We’re just getting started but that’s enough for now. It’s time to talk about my Tuesday demonstration sheet.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Once again, I referred to the Saturday class. I talked about colour choices, simplification and process. In some cases, it might be a good idea to paint the entire shape of a boot before letting it dry and glazing other colours over it. In the upper left corner, I painted a green shape. Next, I added the pure Cobalt Blue (see the swatch to the left of the boot). I ended up with dark green and not blue.

With the boot on the right, I looked at it’s component shapes and painted them one at a time. This allowed for more control of the washes, particularly when soft edges were desired. It also gave me a blue and green boot.

The Tuesday students have only half the painting time of the Saturday students. Wisely, most of them kept their backgrounds simple but there are still some very effective treatments.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – February 7

07/02/2015

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It’s white and gray outside. We’ve had a lot of snow recently and there’s more on the way. Fortunately, our still life was bright and colourful, albeit a bit different. These may not be snow boots but the shapes and colours gave the students lots to think about.

Saturday classes are full days and I suggested taking the time to do some ‘warmup’ painting. The boots on the left of my demonstration sheet were painted without any preliminary pencil drawing. I painted the overall shape of the yellow boot and let it dry before I added the black tread. Simplification. Never a bad thing.

The other boot was painted as a yellow shape, as well. When I added the other shapes, I was curious to see how the colours would look over the underlying yellow wash. All of them, of course, have been influenced by the yellow. I painted a cool pink over the handles, for instance. When the pink dried, it had mixed optically with the yellow and now looks orange.

Every approach has it’s pros and cons. If I really wanted the handle to be pink, I’d have to paint it over white paper and not a yellow wash. However, the yellow wash does help to harmonize all of the other colours.

A sheet of studies in the morning is great preparation for a sustained work in the afternoon. The artist is more likely to experiment on a study sheet and, sometimes, an unplanned or unexpected result can be a very positive lesson.

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These boots were made for painting! Everyone seemed to enjoy the variety of shapes and colours. Most of the students spent time on studies and the thought and extra effort really paid off.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Five

03/02/2015

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Our still life wasn’t the most colourful I’ve ever set up. It poses some good challenges, however. I wanted to discuss process, colour and middle tones and these objects gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.

I’ve been harping on a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process quite a lot recently. A big part of representational painting is problem-solving and a sound process can help us solve them.

First of all, I want to mention colour. The study on the left of my demonstration sheet was painted with a triad of Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Rose Madder Quinacridone. It works but Raw Sienna is slightly granular and not fully transparent. When I make my darker middle tones and darks, it can be more difficult to mix and apply them. Those little particles in the Raw Sienna, like grains of sand, are trickier to control with a fluid wash.

The other two studies were painted with Aureolin MIxture (a transparent primary yellow), Cobalt Blue and Rose Madder Quinacridone. All are transparent primaries. If you want to learn how to mix colour, try limiting yourself to your primaries for a while. I know that a lot of teachers give out material lists with as many as two dozen required colours. My palette has seven or eight colours in it. I rarely use more than four or five in a painting.

My transparent primaries were a little easier to handle when I mixed my dark browns.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Now, for the oil jar. Step one is a single unifying wash throughout the object. I’ve reserved a few small shapes of paper white. Also, I’ve touched in some darker paint in the lower area before the overall wash dried.

Step one of watercolour study by Barry Coombs

Step One

Everything was allowed to dry before I started step two. This oil jar is a complex form and I need to establish the light and shadow to give it a three-dimensional feeling.

Step two of watercolour study by Barry Coombs

Step Two

Again, everything was dry before I started to apply the dark brown of step three. As you can see, I’ve reserved some of the first wash. Step three actually is two steps. After the dark brown was dry, I added a few touches of an even darker and cooler near-black.

Step three of watercolour study by Barry Coombs

Step Three

My process involves several elements including simplification, editing and decision-making based on my experience and my goals with the study. Still, the basic steps are ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’.

Did I mention that the still life was challenging? Not everyone finished. Finishing isn’t as important to me as seeing evidence of a good process and I think my hard-working students responded very well to the lesson.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Four

27/01/2015

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Complementary colours. Cool and warm colours. These cantaloupes really glow against the blues and it’s no accident. Their vibrancy comes from the relationship with blue (blue and orange are an eternal love story). The orange of the cantaloupes  advances as the blue objects and fabrics recede.

I promised lots of painting time to the students so I kept the demonstration, as much as possible, to the point. First of all, a quick reminder of the change in value for a plane change. I’ve drawn two simplified wedges showing three planes on each. So, three values (in cool gray) give them a three-dimensional quality.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I started the cantaloupes with a light, translucent golden wash throughout the area of the exposed fruit. While wet, I touched in some darker orange and green. When that was dry I painted the skin an olive green and left a few flecks of paper white to suggest the pitting. Everything was allowed to dry before I painted the seeds and the darker pits in the skin. Light to dark. Big to small. You’ve heard that before here.

There aren’t as many watercolour paintings to look at today. Various bugs kept several of the painters at home. Here’s what they did! Check out the paintings with warm, yellow or orange, backgrounds. They give the work an interesting sense of space and light. What do you think?

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Three

20/01/2015

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Today’s still life could have caused a riot in the morning class but, fortunately, everyone had breakfast before coming to the studio. They’re not just muffins, though; they’re solid and relatively simple forms and they take the light well.

I had a lot to talk about. The studies in gray helped us analyze the basic volumes of the muffins. Colour and process were my main topics. I painted the muffins with primary colours. Anything on the sheet that looks brown was created with yellow, red and blue. All studies were approached with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. In other words, the bigger shape of the top of a muffin was painted before adding the smaller chocolate chip or raisin marks. The wrapped area of the muffins was painted before adding the thin groove-like strokes. These smaller marks are generally darker in value than the area around them.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The muffin leaning on it’s side on the right of the demonstration sheet was inspired by Elizabeth H, a morning student. She did a very thoughtfully observed treatment of a similarly positioned muffin in her painting (upper row, centre of the AM critique). Elizabeth noticed that the ellipse of the bottom of the muffin was not an even value. It varies from dark to light. Also, the side wall of the wrapper alternates in value with the bottom. This gives a very three-dimensional quality to the form.

I counted the muffins at the start of each class. As the muffins warmed up under the hot lamp the fragrance became more and more appealing. It was almost as good as a real bakery and I didn’t want the still life to be depleted by muffin monsters over the course of the day.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two

13/01/2015

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Last Tuesday, we went back to basics. I painted our hats in gray, focusing on value. Colour was glazed on the value study. On Saturday, I used this still life and I wanted the Tuesday students to have a shot at it, too. There’s nothing like a little Mexican pot on a cold winter day.

I continued with some review this week. Last week, I mixed Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue to make my grays. Today, I mixed my grays with Raw Sienna and Cobalt Blue. Raw Sienna is not as dark as Burnt Sienna and it’s basically a yellow. It makes gray with a different quality.

The goal of my demonstrations was to create a pot with as few values as possible. Simplification of form! I also reviewed ‘wire frame’ drawing (see the lower left corner) and basic soft edge application (bottom right).

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

This would be a very boring blog without the wonderful watercolours that the students come up with week after week. They always work hard and make my job easy. Anyway, time to go. Something about this still life has given me the munchies.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 

Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – January 10

10/01/2015

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A full house was on hand today for our first Sustained Saturday of 2015. It’s cold and snowy outside so I defied reality and set up a still life with a bit of a southern feel. The soapbox doesn’t necessarily relate to the other objects but it’s an interesting platform for them.

My demonstration sheet shows two very different approaches to the pot. I painted the one on the left with Raw Sienna, darkening it with Cobalt blue in the shadowy areas. Subsequently, I glazed green over the first washes; not everywhere, of course. The Raw Sienna is preserved where the colour of the clay shows through on the pot.

The study on the right was done in a few minutes. Quick, gestural, bold. This could be a ‘warmup’ study before starting a sustained work. It could also be a finished piece.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The beauty of a Sustained Saturday is time. The class is more than twice as long as a Tuesday morning or evening class. Now, the students will tell you that there’s never enough time, no matter how long the class. I tell them to plan their day, budgeting a certain amount of time for preparatory work and warmup studies. The amount of time they allot for a sustained watercolour is up to the individual.

Several of the students felt rusty after the holiday layoff. I don’t think it really shows. It’s been a great start to our new year and a nice antidote to the deep freeze outside.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique


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