Gibsons School of the Arts – Last Day!



I bade farewell to lovely Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast last Friday. We had spent part of Thursday and all of Friday on our final project. The workshop participants created compositions from their own reference material. Most started with photographs and made sketches and studies from them. As the ideas developed, I asked them to put the photographs away. ‘Realism’ was not our goal. Our paintings were intended to be interpretative, whimsical and expressive. The photographs had to be abandoned!

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I worked on my demonstration while the group painted. I called them over from time to time to discuss techniques and concepts. Also, I walked around the studio every ten minutes or so to provide some one-on-one feedback.

Each individual chose their size and format. We were evenly split between quarter and half sheets. In response to our earlier exercises, some elected to leave the white lines between each shape and in the other works the shapes touched each other.

We had talked a lot about colour and composition over the course of the week and the group came through with some dynamic paintings. Some aren’t quite finished yet but we all enjoyed our final critique.

I had a great week at the Gibsons School of the Arts and appreciate the enthusiasm and daring of the participants. Thanks for your likes and comments and for following our progress.


Gibsons School of the Arts – Days Three and Four!


The Sunshine Coast has been living up to it’s name all week. It’s a very pretty place. We’re having a great time with our studio workshop at Gibsons School of the Arts but I may have to return someday to paint outdoors.



We had started a new project on Tuesday. We discussed cool and warm colours and continued to use a basic ‘soft edge’ technique within each shape in the painting. The template for our tonal studies was employed again. The paintings weren’t finished by the end of the day so we worked on them for an hour on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday Critique
We were invited to a beautiful local home for a very nice wine and cheese gathering on Tuesday evening. Our hosts were Dennis O’Brien, one of the workshop participants and Paula O’Brien, a visual artist and arts networker.

Coincidentally, our next exercise had a wine and cheese theme. The students started from my basic template but soon introduced their own ideas. One of the students even rejected the wine and cheese theme and created her own.

Preliminary drawing for watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We concentrated on the same ‘soft edge’ techniques from our fruit paintings. I threw a new idea into the mix. We left an unpainted white line between each shape. From a practical point of view, the dry, thin white line allows one to paint adjacent shapes without having them run together. Also, the white line is an interesting element from a visual point of view.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The group came up with some very colourful and expressive paintings. They’re a hard-working and enthusiastic bunch of artists although there has been some trepidation about our final project. Mainly, because they’ll be working from their own ideas and reference material. We embarked on our final paintings on Thursday afternoon. We have all day tomorrow to work on them. Stay tuned.

Wednesday Afternoon Critique

Gibsons School of the Arts – Day Two!


It was back to the studio on Tuesday morning. It’s a very comfortable space with lots of room for the students to work at individual tables. I demonstrate at this contraption and I love they way it was designed and built although I bump my head on it occasionally.


The subject of our morning talk was composition. We followed that with an exercise that developed a tonal composition and a strong pattern. Everyone used my template for their basic design.

Preliminary drawing for watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

Seven of the shapes were randomly selected to be preserved as paper white. A wash of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna was applied everywhere on the sheet except those seven shapes.

First wash of watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

The first wash is a light middle value and the next step was to add a second darker wash. Several of the light middle value shapes would be preserved.

Second wash of watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

Our final step was to mix an almost black wash. Still, from the same two colours. A few new shapes were added with pencil and the black gave us a full range of value and added definition to the work.

Third wash of watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

The students did a great job of following the steps. We started another project in the afternoon but first we had a look at our tonal studies.

Tuesday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Gibsons School of the Arts – Day One!



I boarded a ferry in Horseshoe Bay last Sunday, setting out on a new teaching adventure. I arrived 45 minutes later at Gibsons, on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. I’m teaching all week at the Gibsons School of the Arts, leading a workshop called ‘Creative Watercolor: Imagination, Colour and Composition’.

On Sunday night, I met the students at a ‘meet and greet’ in a lovely local home. Monday morning, we convened at the Arts Building in the bright and spacious studio.


This is a watercolour workshop and is comprised of a series of exercises, each with it’s own goal. My first demonstration dealt with a basic ‘soft edge’ technique that will become the ‘building block’ of all our paintings. Following that, I discussed drawing and presented our first exercise which was based on an inukshuk. The inukshuk originated with the Inuit and was a pile of stones in a human shape. Here in BC, people love to make their own versions on the rocky beaches although they don’t necessarily resemble a human being.

Preliminary drawing for watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

Our exercise took a ‘step by step’ approach. The drawing is very important and I darkened my pencil lines to stress the need to create clearly defined shapes. Think of a stained glass window or even a colouring book!

The students chose their own colours and tried to apply the ‘soft edge’ technique to every shape in the painting. I worked on my demonstration throughout the day and called the group over from time to time to discuss various ideas about brush-handling and technique.


Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was a full day! Some of the students are primarily acrylic painters and the techniques were a new challenge. The process was new for most of the  watercolour painters, as well. Everyone followed the steps of the exercise and we wrapped up with a look at the results.


Monday Critique

Grand Manan Art Gallery – Talk and Exhibition



I’ve enjoyed a rewarding association with the Grand Manan Art Gallery for several years. One of my watercolours, Ross Island Light, is in the Permanent Collection and I’ve contributed work to the last two annual Square Foot shows. This summer, I wanted to celebrate my 25th anniversary of painting and teaching on the island and offered to do an illustrated talk at the gallery. The GMAG had never hosted an artist talk before but the Board accepted and I prepared a one hour PowerPoint presentation which I gave to an audience of over fifty people last Thursday evening.

One of the works I showed during my talk was the FUNDY GEM, a small watercolour that I painted outdoors on the wharf in North Head in 1992.

FUNDY GEM 1992 Watercolour on paper by Barry Coombs

Watercolour on paper
by Barry Coombs

Over the past winter, I decided to submit a new work to the annual Island Art Show, which runs from August 8 – 27. As I was preparing my talk, I took a fresh look at the FUNDY GEM watercolour of 1992 and I thought that the cropped composition and the attention to the mechanical elements of the fishing boats reflected my longtime passion for Cubism. I decided to re-visit the earlier watercolour and painted a new acrylic on canvas. If you’re on Grand Manan Island, drop by to see the new incarnation of the FUNDY GEM and all the other wonderful work by a wide range of artists. Opening night is this Saturday, August 8, at 7pm.

FUNDY GEM 2015 Acrylic on canvas  by Barry Coombs

Acrylic on canvas
by Barry Coombs

The gallery is located at 21 Cedar Street and is wheelchair-accessible. It can be contacted at and (506) 662-3662.

GMAG Hours
11am – 6pm – Daily
1pm – 5pm – Sunday

Admission – Cash Only
Adults – $2
Children under 12 are free

Grand Manan Island – Thursday and Friday!


Seal Cove was our destination on Thursday morning. We met on-site and I set up my easel for the demonstration. I worked quickly and with a big round brush as the sun came through the mist. As I painted, I discussed a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. I also wanted to encourage the students to try some watercolour sketching, working a bit more spontaneously and rapidly. Some had been spending an entire day on one painting. A watercolour sketch doesn’t have to be perfect and it may be messy but you may get more experience from three or four watercolour sketches than from a single sustained work.


Here’s my demonstration on the board. It’s a 1/2 sheet of Curry’s, 200 lb., cold-pressed watercolour paper.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We had a gorgeous day and there were lots of shady spots. If shade wasn’t available, some of the artists brought their own.


Seal Cove is full of textures and character. It’s always been one of our most popular painting sites on the island.










Fortunately, we found a shady spot for critique. Once again, the paintings of the Birds and the Bees were intermingled.

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

Thursday Critique

We started our morning in the studio on Friday. I spoke to everyone about colour in general and more specifically how to mix a variety of greens. After that talk, the Birds took flight and headed to Dark Harbour. I kept the Bees a little longer as I wanted to give them a few thoughts about pen and wash. I’d done a very basic value study of a barge in Ingall’s Head on Wednesday. The two photos shown are of the same drawing although one looks a bit more brown and is more accurate.

I’d started this drawing with pencil and added a sepia wash to indicate the overall shadow area. The pen added detail, definition and darks.

Step One-Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two-Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

Dark Harbour is on the west side of the island, nestled into towering cliffs. We spent the morning there and most of the group took the opportunity to draw dories.






We returned to North Head for the afternoon. We hadn’t had a chance to paint the Swallowtail Lighthouse yet and several of the painters were keen to do so.



Our week was almost done. Can’t complain about the sunshine but it was nice to cool off with our critique at the studio.


Friday Critique

Friday Critique

Friday Critique

That was it for the painting! Our Farewell Dinner was at the Marathon Inn on Friday evening. Steak or lobster? We followed our delicious meal with Final Critique. Each student brought three pieces of their own choice and presented them one at a time. It’s a nice way to summarize the week and always enjoyable.


Here they are; the class of 2015! Thanks for following along and for your likes and comments.

Grand Manan Group 2015 02

Grand Manan Island – Wednesday!



I demonstrated this morning by the ‘haul-up’, the boatyard at Ingall’s Head. I didn’t complete a painting but did two small studies, one in colour and a value study in sepia. Both the Birds and the Bees attended.

What is a Bee? The Bees are not all the same in our workshop. All have some prior experience and none are complete beginners. Some, however, aren’t experienced with painting outdoors. Some have met me for the first time and are interested in how I present the basics. Some have taken other classes but fundamentals weren’t stressed. No two Bees are alike.

Our Birds are more experienced and several have been to Grand Manan Island, or other destinations, with me prior to this trip.

It was sunny and hot today although there’s always a nice fresh breeze off the water. We settled in and got to work.


Pat at Work


Most of our group are staying at the Marathon Inn in North Head this year. We held our critique at the Inn after a full day by the water. In addition to the critique, I gave a brief presentation on focal points in painting. Following that, we did the critique in two batches and the Birds and the Bees were mixed together.

Thanks for your likes and comments. Tomorrow, we’re off to Seal Cove!


Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Grand Manan Island – First Two Days!



Let me tell you about the Birds and the Bees. We’ve got a great group of painters this week on Grand Manan Island. Some are less-experienced than others and that’s the case for most workshops. I decided on our first morning, yesterday, to give some of my demonstrations for all participants and some for the newer painters. The new guys are getting some ‘back to basics’ and that became B2B and that became the Bees. The more experienced painters, who don’t need the basics, head off to paint outdoors right away and they are now the Birds. Some start the day as a Bee and take flight as a Bird later on.

We met at our studio yesterday, Monday morning, and after a talk with the Birds I discussed a few fundamentals with the Bees. We practiced basic soft-edge techniques and I suggested a simplification exercise that would give them experience without becoming too boring.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Over the course of the day, everyone worked outside for at least a few hours. I visited the Birds where they were perched along the shoreline in North Head and offered them some feedback.

Stewart at Work

Artist at Work

We reconvened in the studio at the end of the day and had our first critique. I looked at the Birds and the Bees separately.

Monday Critique - Bees

Monday Critique – Bees

Monday Critique - Birds

Monday Critique – Birds

This morning, Tuesday, we met again in the studio. A thunderstorm raged outside for an hour or two and I discussed guidelines about painting water and reflections.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Water can be a tricky subject but there are principles, based on observation, that can help. Our group paints outdoors and we don’t use materials like masking fluid so we try to solve the problems with our paint, brushes and paper.

Both Birds and Bees attended the demo and, when it wrapped up, we headed to Woodward’s Cove to paint. Woodward’s Cove is one of the island’s largest harbours and we knew there would be lots of water to challenge us.


Well, we ran out of water but not until mid-afternoon. The tides are spectacular in the Bay of Fundy and this harbour drains completely twice every 24 hours. The painters managed to find lots of subjects, including water, and we had a productive day.

Britta at Work


Aleda at Work


John at Work


Our critique was back at the studio. We looked at the Bees and the Birds separately again but it won’t be long before we start to mix them up.

Tuesday Critique - Bees

Tuesday Critique – Bees

Tuesday Critique - Birds

Tuesday Critique – Birds

Watercolour Painting on BC’s Sunshine Coast!


Original watercolour by Barry Coombs  BLUE CHEESE

Have you planned your summer painting holiday yet? If not, join me for a week in beautiful British Columbia! I’ll be teaching a one week studio watercolour workshop at the Gibsons School of Art from August 17-21. Gibsons is a short drive and ferry ride away from Vancouver.

We’ll be working in the comfort of a bright and spacious studio. Participants will follow a traditional process leading to well-designed, vibrant paintings. The spectacular scenery will inspire our main watercolour project. A spirit of play and interpretation will be combined with a structured approach that draws upon memory and imagination as well as sketches and photo references. Drawing, value, composition and harmonious colour will be emphasized, as well as sound watercolour technique.

Lessons will be demonstrated and discussed clearly, making this workshop an exciting, enjoyable, and positive learning experience.

For full details, please click here.

Sicily 2015 – Double Rooms Available!


Syracuse  IMG_1608
IMG_5971  IMG_1652
Sketching and Painting in Watercolour
October 14 – 29, 2015
Barry Coombs and Marlin Travel

Call your best painting pal or charm your spouse (non-painting partners are very welcome) with visions of sunny Italy.
The deadline is approaching for a painting holiday of a lifetime this October in beautiful Sicily, Italy. Syracuse and Taormina, located on the eastern coast of Sicily, are our two fabulous venues. Ancient Syracuse was the most important city of Greater Greece and rivaled Athens. Greek and Roman ruins, marvelous Baroque architecture and colourful fishing boats comprise some of the inspiring subject matter we will enjoy. Taormina was host to the summer villas of wealthy Romans and it’s beauty is legendary. We last visited Sicily in 2008 and enjoyed a very successful and rewarding painting holiday. It’s definitely time for a return trip.

For full details, click here or on the Sicily 2015 page on the Pages menu of this blog. Don’t delay! Our deadline is July 8, 2015.







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