Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour at DVSA!

Just over a week ago, I presented a two-day watercolour workshop to a group of enthusiastic participants at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was a ‘Cubist’ still-life in watercolour. This is a workshop that I always enjoy presenting. If you know my watercolours, you’ll understand why. They’re based on a playful and colourful response to Cubism, the early Modernist period that I’ve always loved. Picasso, Braque and Gris were the giants of Cubist painting and we kicked things off with a discussion of their work and it’s context in art history.

At the start of the day, I asked the group to consider our project as a creative exercise with an experimental component. That may sound scary but we approached our paintings through a series of well-defined steps. Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. We drew a sheet of fruit shapes, from memory, in our sketchbooks. The next step was to make a composition. The goal was to make it non-traditional and the shapes were supposed to be very distinct and strongly delineated, as in a colouring book. I provided a template of my composition for those who wanted a starting point. Others created their own designs. I worked along with the group and demonstrated each of the four steps.

These are the four steps of my demonstration. First, the drawing. Second, a middle tone wash that covers everything but some randomly selected shapes that are left as paper white. Third, a darker middle tone wash. Finally, some darks. Note that this demonstration is from an earlier workshop but it’s almost identical to the one I completed at DVSA.

  

 

This exercise helped distance us from traditional realism and made us aware of the importance of a strong pattern in our paintings.

Interesting, aren’t they? These were done on quarter sheets (15 x 11″) of watercolour paper. I recommended absorbent papers.

Our final project was a ‘Cubist’ watercolour on a half sheet (15 x 22″) of paper. We spent time on thumbnail compositions in our sketchbooks and adopted a ‘wine and cheese’ theme. Colour was discussed. I suggested that the new Cubists use two groups of complementary colours. One group could be green and red, for example, and would cover the most shapes in the painting. The second group might be blue and orange or purple and yellow. The second group would cover less area of the painting. We also used whites and off-whites and, at the very end, black. Various resist materials such as wax and rubber cement were employed. Collage is often an element of these watercolours but sometimes we run out of time.

This is my unfinished demonstration. I do a carefully planned drawing over a random preliminary wash. Early on, I try to establish my white areas and introduce some resist material. Wax and rubber cement were used in this piece.

This watercolour was completed on Saunders Waterford, 140 lb., cold pressed paper and is approximately 22 x 15″.

The prelimary wash doesn’t really show well in my demonstration. Here’s one from a previous workshop. Areas that are left unpainted become glowing whites.

Seeking inspiration from Cubism is a challenge, especially the first time. We all followed the same basic steps but there was plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation. The new Cubists of DVSA outdid themselves. They were willing to take risks and venture into unknown territory. Although not all were able to finish, their cheerful and vibrant watercolours were a treat to look at by the end of the day on Sunday. Click on the Critique image to see a larger version.

‘Cubist’ Watercolour Critique

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6 Responses to “Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour at DVSA!”

  1. Joanne Ross Says:

    Barry, I know two of the participants who were in your workshop and they have been unable to stop praising your teaching as well as the mental workout and the fun they experienced with you. Each of them has subsequently made another painting in this “style” and they are fantastic!! Congrats to you!

  2. Lois Says:

    Love the Cubism!! wish I could have been there.
    Lois

  3. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    Super information! Thank you so much…yes, great work by the class.

  4. January 16, 2017 | Linda Halcomb's Blog Says:

    […] abstract paintings. I decided to use the first exercise done during his class which is described here . It is to create an abstract using one color (he used Sepia). Step one is to create a drawing on […]

  5. Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour – Followup! | Barry Coombs Art Workshops Says:

    […] November, I taught a two-day watercolour workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. The title of the workshop was Create a ‘Cubist’ […]

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