Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two!



Last Saturday, I set up a seasonal still-life of gourds and pumpkins. I modified it a bit for the Tuesday classes. My demonstration didn’t vary much from the Saturday demo, either. These objects are challenging but a lot of fun to paint. We discussed two main and somewhat different approaches.

Have a look at the study on the lower left of the demonstration sheet.  My first step was to establish the core shadow of the pumpkin with a grey wash. The grey was a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. I painted the entire shape with clean water and, while it was still wet, touched the grey wash into the area where I’d observed the core shadow. As both washes were wet, a soft edge was created. When this step was perfectly dry, I painted the pumpkin again with an orange wash. The shadow of the stem was also established with a grey wash and was dry when I added a light green wash over it.

The study on the upper right was painted with the same process. The orange stripes were the final step.

The upper middle study was painted with a different process; ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’. I started with a light yellow wash throughout the shape. While wet, I added a darker value to indicate the core shadow. Once dry, I added the stripes, trying to follow the form of the gourd in order to give it a three-dimensional quality.

The dark green gourd was painted with a mixture of Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone. This odd combination can produce a really blackish green.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Tuesday classes are three hours long and the students have less painting time than the all-day Sustained Saturday participants. With that in mind, most tend to work a little smaller and take on fewer objects in their compositions. Although I strongly stress the learning process over the final product, it is kind of nice to finish a watercolour once in a while. Finished or not, they came up with some very nice work.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Thursday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Fall Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class



It’s that time of year! Pumpkins and gourds are a popular subject and they’re not hard to find right now. Most grocery stores have a display, some things edible and others decorative, as we anticipate Canadian Thanksgiving next weekend.

I approached the studies on my demonstration sheet in two different ways. First of all, I’ll talk about the one on the upper left. I drew the gourd with pencil. Next, I painted it with clear water and touched in a grey while wet. The grey serves as the core shadow of the object. When the grey dried, the whole thing was painted light yellow. Can you see the shadow coming through the pale yellow? The dark green was added once the yellow had dried. The partially painted pumpkin (say that fast three times) below was done in the same manner.

The other three studies were created with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. Let’s discuss the one on the upper right. I painted the whole thing yellow and touched in a darker value, while wet, to indicate the core shadow. Allowing it to dry between washes, I added the orange stripes and then the dark green broken stripes.

The use of light and shadow is a traditional way to give an object a three-dimensional quality. We learned yesterday that the stripes, following the contours of the objects, are also a very effective way to achieve the same goal.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Most of the students followed my lead and warmed up with a sheet of studies. Others completed sketches and thumbnail compositional studies before starting a sustained watercolour. The studio at Arts on Adrian had a great energy and we enjoyed viewing our efforts at critique time.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One!



Yesterday was our first Tuesday back in action and our still life was a variation of the one that I used on Saturday.

Review is never a bad thing, especially after a summer without any studio classes. I discussed colour and soft-edge technique, for the most part.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The Tuesday classes are three hours long so most of the students work a bit smaller than they would for an all day Sustained Saturday. Also, they usually concentrate on less objects in the still life. I expected some rust after a long summer but many of the students had been painting on their own. Some hadn’t but it was hard to tell the difference when it came to critique time.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Fall Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class



A funny thing happened on the way to teaching this fall. Last June, I gave up my studio in Toronto. Yesterday, I taught in the same studio.

Here’s what happened: Eight of my students collectively took over the lease on my former studio and formed Arts on Adrian. I’m now a tenant. As far as my classes go, it’s business as usual. Anyone is welcome to sign up for a class. We had a small group yesterday but, overall, enrollment is very good and the transition has been smooth. I’ve loaned all of my studio furniture and basic equipment to Arts on Adrian. I’ll tell you more about the group and their activities in a future post. I’m very grateful to them and to all of my students who continue to support me.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

What is the goal of a demonstration? Usually, a demonstration shows a process or a specific technique. I often use a demo to illustrate a concept. Yesterday, I discussed several aspects of colour and composition with the students and I painted as I talked. Everyone in the class has a good watercolour skill set so demonstrating a technique or approach didn’t seem necessary. Also, it was the first class of the Fall term and ideas about colour and composition can always be refreshed.

Keep scrolling to see the lovely watercolours they created. Before you get to them I’d like to thank all of you followers as this blog received it’s 150,000th view a few days ago. Stay tuned for a busy term. Not only do I have a Fall Studio Calendar at Arts on Adrian but, in a month, I’ll be off to Sicily to lead a two-week watercolour workshop!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

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 info@grandmananartgallery.com 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


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