Pen, Wash and Watercolour at DVSA – Buildings and Trees!

I had an enthusiastic and hard-working group of students at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday. Our medium was pen and ink with wash and watercolour. Our theme was buildings and trees. In other words, architectural elements and foliage. To start the class off, I presented some basic perspective elements that are very helpful when drawing buildings. I worked on a large pad at an easel and the students made notes in their sketchbooks.

It was time to draw! We did three projects over the course of the day. Each was started from a very simple diagram and then the students followed my steps. Our first drawing was of a tree and was completed in three steps. The first image shows two steps; the pencil drawing and a ‘sepia’ wash (mixed with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna). In the second step, we used the pen. To create a sense of foliage, looping strokes were employed as if we were repeating Ws and Ms. The bark of the tree shows long zigzag strokes.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Our goal was to ‘suggest’ the textures of foliage and bark. Ws and Ms and zigzags may not always work but can be quite effective in many cases. We tried something a bit different with our next drawing. Again, our first step was a light and basic pencil drawing but this time we did the ink before the watercolour. We more or less scribbled with our pens. However, an angular approach was used in the main tree while a looping motion was used in the background bushes. The grass was suggested with a spiky action. The ink step was completed and then watercolour was applied.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Here’s a look at what the students achieved with our first two exercises.


We did one more drawing in four steps: pencil, monochromatic wash, pen and watercolour. The first image shows the pencil and monochromatic wash. The wash establishes the light and shadow. This time, we did the pen next. The pen added definition and detail and it was fun to create new shapes such as the cat in the window. Lastly, we glazed some thin washes of local colour over the relevant areas.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs


It was a busy and enjoyable day. I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, November 24. We’ll be using pen and watercolour to draw people and it’s going to be fun. There are still a few spots left so why don’t you join us?



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5 Responses to “Pen, Wash and Watercolour at DVSA – Buildings and Trees!”

  1. Wolfe Joan Says:

    Always enjoyable, informative, and inspiring to read your emails. Thanks for sharing so generously. You make it look so simple and possible. You are a blessing to your students and those who get to share your wisdom through these emails. Thank you!

  2. Leslie Cadeau Says:

    Sounds like so much fun but too far away. My best to you both. Leslie

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Francine Kurlandski Says:

    Good morning

    Are you teaching anywhere closer to the Bathurst ,Steeles area I have taken your workshops a long time ago with the willowdale art society I am very interested but the Dundas area is a little far Also I work mon to Thursday I have Friday’s and Sunday’s Thanks Francine

    Sent from my iPad


    • Barry Coombs Says:

      Hi Francine,
      Thanks for your interest. I teach in Toronto at the Arts on Adrian studio in the Symington and Dupont area. There is a link to Studio Classes on the home page of this blog. Currently, I offer classes on Tuesday, morning and evening, and all day on Saturdays. Cheers, Barry

  4. Lois Says:

    So interesting, and look forward to see the article on drawing people. Thanks for sharing,,, Lois

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