Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Three


Still Life - SpringTuesWk3/2014

Complementary colours are hard to beat in a still life and these yellows and oranges are set off to great advantage by the blue objects and fabrics. Last week, we painted an array of colourful gift bags. Yesterday, I reviewed a few of the things we discussed then, such as mixing darker values of warm colours and soft edge techniques.

In addition to that, I did a little problem-solving. The problem was a pitcher with it’s handle facing me. The solution involved several steps and some brush-handling skills but the most important element is value. It’s the arrangement of light, middle and dark values that give these studies a sense of form.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk3/2014

The students responded strongly to the colours and light of our subject. By the way, a few paintings of gift bags are mixed in with the PM critique. You may recall that the power went out last Tuesday night just as we were preparing to look at the work.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two


Still LIfe - SpringTuesWk2/2014

It snowed today. The good news is that most of the students seemed genuinely pleased to see these colourful gift bags when they showed up for class. Perhaps, they suggested the spring gardens that we’re all anticipating so eagerly.

Last Tuesday and Saturday, we talked about soft-edge techniques and varying flat planes with value changes. These bags were a perfect followup to that lesson. I used my demonstrations to discuss colour, as well. Creating darker values of the different colours is always a challenge so I deconstructed my bags into their component shapes. This allowed me to paint one shape at a time and work with a variety of colours.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk2/2014

The students responded to the still life with real enthusiasm and created some very vibrant and cheerful images. Not only that, most of the snow had melted by the end of the day but then a new disaster struck. The evening class was just cleaning up and preparing for our critique when the lights went out. We all scrambled for cell phone flashlights and I dug out a few candles. Toronto has suffered an extensive power outage and, as a minor consequence, I can’t show you the work from the evening class.

Hopefully, power will be restored soon and spring will arrive to stay. In the meantime, have a Happy Passover and Easter and see you next week.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique


Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class


Still LIfe - SpringSustSat1/2014

Our still life for yesterday’s class was a variation on the one that I set up last Tuesday. I added some tomatoes and turnips.

My demonstration was also similar to Tuesday’s but I tried something a little bit different. Initially, I painted the shapes with clean water. While wet, I touched some dark colour into the shadow area of each shape. The colours I used were Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone. In a few of the shapes, I mixed the two colours together to create a neutral. When the washes were dry, I added the local colour, such as the terracotta to the big cookie jar, to each shape. Can you see the first washes coming through? I think they’re more successful in some of the objects and less so in others. That’s why we do studies. A study sheet like this lets us experiment and hone new ideas.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringSustSat1/2014

The next piece is the preliminary work on a sustained watercolour by Karen Waite. My written explanation of my demonstration sheet may be unclear so I hope that a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Karen’s work in progress illustrates my thoughts very well, showing the cool and warm colours touched in to wet areas of clean water.

K Waite - underpainting

Preliminary step by Karen Waite

Now, take a look at Karen’s finished piece. She’s allowed the preliminary work to show through in a very effective manner.

Final watercolour by Karen Waite

Final watercolour
by Karen Waite

There’s a lot of good, positive energy in the studio on Saturdays. Everyone works hard and enjoys the camaraderie as well as the painting. We all look forward to the critique. Yesterday, Emilia had to leave an hour early to visit a new grandchild. Here’s a look at her watercolour, followed by the rest of the group.

Final watercolour  by Emilia

Final watercolour
by Emilia

Sustained Saturday Critique - SpringSustSat1/2014

Sustained Saturday Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour – Week One


Still Life - SpringTuesdays2014/Wk1

Spring term is here, if not spring weather. It is starting to improve but, after a brutal winter, we’re taking nothing for granted. I set up a fairly monochromatic still life. Without too many colours to worry about, we could concentrate on value and simplification.

I used a quarter sheet (11 x 15″) of Saunders Waterford, 140 lb., cold press watercolour paper for my demonstrations. It’s an absorbent paper, perfect for soft-edge techniques.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesdays2014/Wk1

A review of basics is always a good way to start a new term. Despite their best intentions, most of the students aren’t able to find much time to paint during the break. Jobs and life in general tend to devour free time and painting is often one of the first casualties. The rust isn’t very evident, though, in the work. I think we’ve kicked off the spring term with aplomb. Now, if it only warms up.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – Wrap Up!

Photo courtesy of Bill

Photo courtesy of Bill

One week ago, we enjoyed our Final Critique. It’s an informal exhibition of our work from our time in Mexico. Each participant selects three or four pieces that had some personal meaning. It could be a favorite, a piece from which the artist learned a lot or one from a special place. It’s a great way to summarize and reflect upon our time together.

In addition to that, Bill (upper left) set up his tripod and took a fabulous group shot of all of the artists and our supportive non-painting friends and partners.

I’d like to thank everyone in our 2014 group and all of those who followed my posts. Also, Reyna and her entire team at the Posada de la Aldea. Muchas gracias! One more thank you goes to our unsung travel agent, Jim Nikiforos of Marlin Travel.

In alphabetical order, here are the artists with their selections!

















More from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico



Last Thursday, we visited the historic town of Atotonilco, which is only about 20 minutes outside of SM de Allende. The church is very ‘paintable’ from any point of view but I always take the group up a sidestreet for this view. You can probably understand why. There’s also a shady area for our demo.


Photo courtesy of Bill

Photo courtesy of Bill

I used flat angled brushes for these studies. Colour and brush-handling are approached differently with each subject. Most of the group tried the flat angled brushes, some for the first time.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Aside from the spectacular church, Atotonilco offers all kinds of visual interest, including the painted walls that are so common here. Here’s an important notice!






We headed over to La Gruta in the early afternoon. La Gruta is my favorite of the many hot springs in the area. We enjoyed a great lunch and a dip in the thermal pools. Everything was well-organized by Clara, the local feline supervisor.


We got back to the Posada de la Aldea a bit late for a critique and decided to look at our work on Friday. I gave a demonstration in our room at the hotel on Friday morning. I used a range of flat angled brushes again. This demo took almost an hour although I worked very quickly.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

After the morning demonstration, we took taxis up to the Chorro neighbourhood and the Casa de la Cultura. It seemed like a fitting spot to do some painting. One of the group suggested that this crucifix was decorated with paintbrushes. Hmmmm?






Another lovely day of sketching and painting wrapped up with a critique at the hotel. Thanks for following our adventures. One more post is yet to come!

Thursday and  Friday Critique

Thursday and
Friday Critique


Plaza San Antonio, SM de Allende




We’re back from San Miguel de Allende, safe and sound and muy feliz (very happy). I’m going to break up the second half of our ten day workshop into a few posts. On Wednesday, we painted in Plaza San Antonio. It’s only a ten minute walk from our hotel and, usually, the only tourists around are us.

I did a demonstration under a big shade tree and talked about colour and simplification. While I demonstrated, the kids from the school came out for their dance classes. Between the traditional music and the raucous Great-tailed Grackles overhead, I had to work hard to communicate my message. It was fun, though. The kids were curious and very well-behaved.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombskids

Everyone settled in and there was no shortage of shady spots or colourful subject matter.


I wander around during the day, visiting students and giving feedback. It’s easy to run down a camera battery as one’s eye is constantly stimulated by the local sights.





SM de Allende is a visual paradise and the weather isn’t bad, either. After another fine day of sketching and painting, we returned to our hotel for a look at the work. Thanks for your comments and stay tuned for our Thursday visit to historic Atotonilco!


Wednesday Critique




Buenos Dias from San Miguel de Allende



Hola, amigos. We arrived in beautiful SM de Allende last Thursday night. Friday was a free day and allowed everyone to adjust to the altitude and find an ATM. Our hotel is the lovely Posada de la Aldea with it’s fabulous courtyard and great vistas.



We start the day with a demonstration and here are two of the study sheets I’ve done for the group. These may not look very glamorous and certainly won’t wind up in frames but they deal with many common elements that are part of the local visual experience. I talk while I paint and the students ask questions but, unfortunately, the process can’t be conveyed to the blog viewer.



We painted in our courtyard and in the park on Saturday and Sunday. The park is a short stroll away so it was a nice way to ease into the ‘en plein air’ mode.




I always like to present some ideas about pen and watercolour. This sheet is shown in two steps. I did the watercolour washes first, followed by the pen work.





I suggested that the group focus on studies and small works for the first few days. Here’s what they did on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday Critique

Saturday Critique

Sunday Critique

Sunday Critique

I demonstrated a few approaches to painting figures on Monday morning. The fellow on the left was painted with the shadows first. The colour was applied when the shadows dried. The man on the right was done in reverse order. A light value of the local colour was painted in each area. When dry, a darker value of each colour was added.


We painted in the central area of SM de Allende for the day. There is no shortage of subject matter and finding shady spots wasn’t too difficult.






As usual, we wrapped up the day with a look at the work. Tuesday was slated as a free day and most of the group took a day trip to the state capitol of Guanajuato. We’ll be back at work on Wednesday morning. Hasta luego!


Monday Critique



A Rocha Exhibition – Hamilton Spectator Review



The Saturday morning paper was a particularly enjoyable read today. Regina Haggo of the Hamilton Spectator has written a very nice review of the On The Rock exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario. I was very flattered and pleased to see my watercolour, YELLOW LLAMA, featured prominently.

Read the review online here. The exhibition continues until March 30.

YELLOW LLAMA Watercolour on paper  by Barry Coombs

Watercolour on paper
by Barry Coombs

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten


Still Life - WinterTuesWk10/2014

That’s it for Winter term at the studio. I’m grateful to all of the students for their enthusiasm, hard work and spirit of adventure! Winter classes may be over but winter hasn’t given up yet in our region. I’m looking out the window at a blizzard and we’re expecting up to 25 centimetres of snow today. That’s 10 inches, for those of you who don’t do metric.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk10/  Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk10/

Once again, I used a 3/4″ flat angled brush for my demonstrations. I was determined to make broad, wedge or swatch-like shapes with the brush. The edge or tip of the brush was used to make the thinner, linear strokes. As blocky and planar as these demos look, they were still developed with a traditional process. ‘Light to dark’ and ‘big to small’, in general.

Most of the students enjoyed our last three classes with the flat angled brushes. Everyone, at least, appreciated the benefits of experimentation and risk-taking. The results, as you can see, were very colourful and exciting.

My Spring Studio Calendar will be out soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique



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