Archive for the ‘Art Workshops’ Category

The ‘Dipping Pen’ at DVSA!

13/10/2017

Yesterday was my first day back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. It was a one-day workshop and our theme was pen and ink drawing with the traditional dipping pen. All of my one-day pen and ink workshops to date have employed disposable sketching pens from Pilot, Micron and Staedtler. They’re easy to use; no muss and no fuss. They’re portable and I use them for sketching all the time. However, for my sustained studio drawings, I always use a good old metal nib and a bottle of India ink.

I’ve been drawing with these tools since I was a teenager. My all-time favourite ink is Speedball Super Black and I’ve always used their nibs and holders, as well. These are what I recommended on my material list for the workshop. I suggested a choice of three different nibs; 22B Extra Fine, 56 School and 99 Drawing. The paper I recommended was Strathmore Bristol. By the way, Speedball Super Black comes in an extremely practical bottle with a wide (easy for dipping) mouth and a wider (hard to knock over) base.

Decades of experience have taught me not just how to draw but how to manage the dipping pen. It’s very easy to make a mess and unfortunate blobs are common for the novice. I started the day with my hard-earned tips regarding the care, transport and use of the metal nib. Everything matters, especially how your work area is organized.

The students were given about a half hour to try out their materials, experimenting with marks and strokes and getting a feel for the nibs. Next, I handed out a template of a basic feather shape. With my demonstration, I discussed mark-making and patterns. It gave the students a chance to unleash their imaginations while practicing with their new tools. They took to it very well. The usual problems were encountered but the only real disaster was a coffee spill! The three recommended nibs were tried by most of the students and the 99 Drawing was considered to be the most difficult to use. It’s very sensitive to pressure and wonderful to work with but may require a little more experience in order to gain confidence with it. Have a look at the feathers. Click on the image for an enlarged version. There’s some lovely detail to enjoy!

Our second drawing was of a leaf. I issued handouts with a black and white photo of the leaf. It wasn’t a very good photo, a bit blurry, so we discussed ways to clarify and simplify the image. My demonstration dealt again with technique but also with the concept of ‘light and shadow’.

We took our time with the leaf drawings and they were very successful. Overall, it was an enjoyable day with an enthusiastic and talented group of art students. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is an Introduction to Drawing Birds with pen and ink and takes place on Thursday, November 2. Care to join us?

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Portugal 2017 – Cascais!

02/10/2017

Last Wednesday, we left Tavira and the Algarve and headed for the beautiful seaside town of Cascais. We had two more painting days on our itinerary and a free day at the very end of our stay. Cascais is very close to Lisbon and it’s airport.

I went back to basics on Thursday morning. I’d noticed that some of the students had been a bit tentative regarding their grasp of and commitment to light and shadow. Light and shadow is a fundamental concept of traditional representational art. It’s a very important step in order to simplify a subject. I’d drawn two subjects ahead of time and painted them in front of the group. The lighthouse was painted with a sepia wash and the palace was done with a combination of cool and warm (red and blue) colours.

I gave the students a lot of freedom to find their painting spots in Cascais. Our hotel backed on to a lovely park and the lighthouse and several palaces were very close by.

The famous Boca de Inferno (Mouth of Hell) was a short walk from our hotel.

The park was home to some lovely wild avian creatures as well as a number of chickens and roosters.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

European Robin

Mother hen and her brood

We had one more ‘regular’ end of day critique. If you click on a critique photo, you’ll be able to view a larger version of it.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Friday was a painting day and, once again, I allowed the students to wander and find their own painting spots. Cascais was very popular with the group. The sea, the amazing buildings and even the variety of public art on display throughout the town were all an inspiration.

Friday was our final scheduled painting day. Saturday would be a free day and several of the group took a tour to Sintra, a hilltown of palaces and castles. Still, Friday was a very important day. We met in our studio at 5pm for our Final Critique. This is quite a different experience from our daily critiques and is more like an exhibition. Each student selects three pieces, or sheets, of their work and presents them to the group. They talk about their selections and about their experience over our two weeks together. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to summarize our trip.

Here is the class of Portugal 2017 in alphabetical order.

Aleda

Barb

Barbara

Carolyn

Elizabeth

Evelyn

Frances

Ian

Judy

Leslie

Maria

Marlene

Nila

Renate

Valarie

Final Critique was followed by our Farewell Dinner. We held our Farewell Dinner one night early because of our early flight on Sunday morning. We were picked up at the inhumane hour of 4:30am but got to the airport in plenty of time and made it back to Canada tired but happy.

What a trip! The Portuguese are very friendly, English was widely spoken and we had nothing but sunshine for two weeks. Thanks for following, commenting and liking these posts.

 

Portugal 2017 – Tavira!

29/09/2017

Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside of Tavira in the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The complex is a  restoration of a former tuna fishing camp.

Our first day here was a free day. The students painted on the grounds or took the shuttle into Tavira. We gathered in our studio at the end of the day to plan for the days ahead. Also, I gave a demonstration of pen and ink with watercolour. A few days back, in Redondo, I’d done a small watercolour of some worn walls. At the time, I’d planned to add pen to it and I did so in front of the group, discussing my ideas and decisions as I worked.

Many of the students enjoy combining watercolour with pen. Some use it primarily as a sketchbook approach and others create more sustained works.

On Sunday morning, we boarded our bus and drove to Estoi. We were the hosts of the pousada (hotel) in the stunning old palace of Estoi. We were allowed to paint on the grounds and many of us worked in the adjacent town, as well. Everyone got together at 1pm at the palace for a spectacular lunch.

Later in the day, a tired group boarded our bus for the half hour ride back to Tavira. The day wasn’t over until we’d had our critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

Sunday Critique c

We stayed close to home and painted in Tavira on Monday. It’s a lovely town along a river which is spanned by the ancient Roman bridge.

Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming.

Another critique!

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Our rooms in Tavira were decorated with prints of the watercolours of German artist, August Macke. The watercolours had been painted over one hundred years ago in Tunisia. At the time, Macke had been accompanied by Swiss artist Paul Klee and French artist Louis Moilliet. These Tunisian scenes were full of glowing white buildings and colour! Very similar to our surroundings in southern Portugal. I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time to share with the group. It’s a scene from Tavira and in it I’ve stressed simplification, colour and playfulness. Would it influence the students at all in the days to come?

We had another wonderful day trip destination on Tuesday; the clifftop, typical Algarve fishing village of Cacela Velha. It’s not very big but it’s quite charming and the views of the ocean and coastline are fabulous. Most of our artists settled in to paint in the village but some explored the beach below.

We had another tasty group lunch at the local restaurant and continued to paint until the end of the afternoon. It was a short hop back to our hotel and we held the critique right away. There was a great deal of work to savour.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

While in Cacela Velha, I’d done a small watercolour using a 1/2″ flat angled brush. I showed it to the group and discussed simplification (again) and a few other ideas.

We had a great time in Tavira. There’s one more stop on our painting tour of Portugal. We moved to Cascais on Wednesday. Stay tuned for our exploits in Cascais and the final days of our trip. Thanks for commenting, liking and following!

Portugal 2017 – Mértola!

29/09/2017

Friday was a travel day. We were headed to Tavira, a town in the Algarve, from Évora. Enroute, we stopped for four hours in the scenic hilltop town of Mértola. There was lots of time to explore, sketch and relax over a nice lunch.

The big tour buses can’t make it very far into town because of the narrow streets. I’d arranged for a shuttle and it took us all the way up to the castle. The views from the walls were splendid.

As usual, shady spots were sought out for sketching.

Cafés were also a priority.

Wandering around turned up all kinds of interesting things.

Back to the bus! We had a little over an hour to go before arriving at our new hotel in Tavira. Stay tuned!

Portugal 2017 – Évora!

24/09/2017

Last Sunday, a tired bunch of artists arrived in beautiful Évora, a walled city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Our hotel, with it’s backdrop of a Roman aqueduct and it’s inviting pool, was a welcome sight. Many of us explored the town for the afternoon before gathering for our Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

We met in our studio on Monday morning for some orientation and a demonstration. There are a lot of white buildings with colourful decorative features in Portugal. I hoped to prepare the students for our first few days.

Following the demo, we headed up to the area of town near the cathedral. There were lots of painting subjects and it wasn’t hard to find shady spots.

A few of us climbed to the top of the cathedral later in the day and were rewarded with splendid views.

Eventually, we all met back at the hotel for our first critique of the trip.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Monday Critique c

Three mini-buses with three charming and efficient drivers (Bruno, José and Ricardo) picked us up on Tuesday morning and we headed to the nearby hilltop village of Évoramonte. Upon arrival, we gathered in front of the old gate and took in the wraparound view. I gave a tour of the village, which was inside the old walls, with a castle towering over everything. Take your time and enjoy the photos from Évoramonte. I’ll see you at critique time.

As you’ve seen, it was a special day on top of the world. Our mini-buses were ready to go and we had our critique back at the hotel.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

We painted in the Jardim Publico in Évora on Wednesday. I went ahead early to pick a shady spot for my demonstration so my easel would be ready to go when the group arrived. I painted a rather complicated subject as quickly as I could manage (about 40 minutes). My goal was to help the students simplify the things they were seeing, foliage in particular.

It was a lovely and peaceful day in the park. I think (hope) the demonstration helped some of the newer students with their grasp of foliage.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Redondo! The same drivers picked us up on Thursday morning. Redondo is a fairly large town and, like Évoramonte, has a village within the old castle walls at the very top of the hill. It was another spectacular painting site.

Quite a few of us visited the local potter. His work was very quaint, reminiscent of the work of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis.

The students have been producing a lot of work. The critique is always a great way to wrap up the day.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Our time in Évora has come to an end. Next stop, Tavira! Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Manan Island 2017 – First Three Days!

08/08/2017

Last week, a group of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painters gathered on lovely Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. We met on Sunday evening and shared a delicious Welcome Dinner at the historic Marathon Inn. The next morning, we met at our studio for a demonstration. I talked about water, which seemed appropriate as we’re on an island and surrounded by the wet stuff. Water has many moods. I tried to offer some ideas to help the students tackle it’s many challenges.

Following the demonstration, we went over to North Head harbour; just a short hop. We all stay in North Head so it’s nice to be close to home on the first day. Several of the students settled into the shady spot in front of Kirk’s shed.

North Head Harbour is very busy with fishing as well as related activities such as rockweed gathering and the care and feeding of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Nearby, Pettes’ Cove attracted a few eyes. It offers a splendid view of the famous Swallowtail lighthouse.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Little did we know at the time but our entire week would give us brilliant weather. The studio is a welcome retreat at the end of the day and we assembled for our first critique of the week.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

On Tuesday morning, we met at Seal Cove. Seal Cove features the traditional herring smokesheds and abounds with character. I set up my easel and did a demonstration. I talked about developing a watercolour with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process.

The students spread out in search of subjects and shade. It didn’t take long to settle in.

A few painters brought their shade with them.

Others sought it out.

A few soaked up the sunshine even though I don’t recommend painting in the sun. It dries up your paper and palette too quickly and bleaches out your darks so the painting can become overworked. Still, a happy artist is a good thing…

Eventually, it was time to return to the studio for our critique. As the week goes by, you may notice different styles in our daily exhibitions. I don’t teach ‘my way or the highway’ workshops. As best I can, I encourage each artist to find their personal voice.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

You guessed it! More sunshine on Wednesday. While at Seal Cove on Tuesday, I’d done a small watercolour with the intention of adding penwork to it for our Wednesday morning demonstration. I did it at the studio before heading to Fisherman’s Haven Lane, which is home to Ingall’s Head Cottages. Many thanks to Wendy, the proprietor, for allowing us to park on her property.

We got to work right away. This is a lovely and quiet spot, a bit off the beaten track. The locals are always interested in our creative efforts.

Finding shade became an art form of it’s own.

Critique time! Is it already Wednesday? Thanks for following along with our exploits. Stay tuned for my report from Thursday and Friday of last week.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – Last Two Days!

28/06/2017

Click on our First Three Days if you somehow missed the last post. Day four of Plein Air Toronto 2017 was Thursday of last week and the weather, which had been tricky all week, took a turn for the worst. I made arrangements for us to sketch in pen and ink all day long and without any concerns about rain. The catch was that our plein air artists were going indoors for the day. We met in the morning at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to historic and contemporary ceramic art.

It’s a beautiful museum but it’s difficult to gather the entire group at once for a demonstration or critique. I handed out a prepared sheet showing basic pen techniques in the morning. Later, I gathered a small group of pen and ink novices and sketched a Pre-Columbian figure as I discussed my thoughts.

It was a great day and don’t forget the excellent restaurant when you visit the Gardiner. Friday was yet another challenging weather day. However, I don’t have almost thirty years of experience for nothing. We met at University College on the lovely downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

The College has a large interior courtyard surrounded, on two sides, by wide colonnades. We were high and dry and had plenty of subject matter through the arches. Even the arches themselves attracted the eye of our artists.

I brought in some examples of pen and watercolour studies, done on the U of T campus, to get the morning started. As the group worked, I began a watercolour of my own for a change. Several of the new students expressed interest in my approach and process. I began with a sketch to resolve a composition and then drew it up on a sheet of watercolour paper.

  

I wasn’t able to finish the piece by the end of the day as I had teaching responsibilities. I pulled it together later in my studio.

Enough about me! Let’s have a look at our day at University College.

Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. The skies cleared just enough and we gathered one more time. What a great group! I thank them all for their cheerful participation and also thank you for following, commenting and liking the posts. Plein Air Toronto will be back next year. Now, for a look at the work from Friday.

University College
Critique a

University College
Critique b

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – First Three Days!

26/06/2017

One week ago, the 2017 Plein Air Toronto participants gathered at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end. We introduced ourselves and I gave a demonstration that considered several common elements of the urban landscape we’d be painting for the next five days. We also discussed colour; green, in particular.

Following our meeting, we headed down to the Sunnyside Pavilion which is on the beach of Lake Ontario.

The Pavilion is a lovely place to sketch and paint, inside and out.

We put in a good day’s work and met inside the Pavilion for our first critique of the week. Click on an image for a larger version.

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique a

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique b

We met onsite at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday morning. It was a blustery day with a few showers but there was ample overhead shelter for us. This urban farm is bordered by a park on one side and a historic cemetery and chapel on the other. There’s lots of great subject matter to choose from including the charming cafe across the street.

I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time. My subject was the cafe and my painting was a value study in cool greys. I discussed my process and the importance of developing an eye for value.

Colour can be added to a study like this by gently ‘glazing’ washes over the appropriate areas. The grey washes should be completely dry before proceeding.

The group wandered around a bit to find their spots and then settled in. I kept a few of the newer folks back to talk about basic drawing and the use of a measuring stick to assist with perspective and proportion. I’ve developed a Drawing Checklist over the years and it can be very useful.

The little bit of rain didn’t deter us. It was a very productive day and we found a private and quiet spot for our critique.

Riverdale Farm
Critique a

Riverdale Farm
Critique b

Wednesday promised to be a day of sunshine and we chose historic Spadina House as our location. We met in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma for my demonstration. I used an approach I call shape-reading, direct painting without any preliminary pencil drawing. Challenging but fun and very instructive. As I painted, I chatted about my thoughts and decisions.

We made the most of our sunny weather and gorgeous painting site.

It was a beautiful day and the paintings were equally lovely. Stay tuned for our final two days of Plein Air Toronto 2017. Coming soon!

Spadina House
Critique a

Spadina House
Critique b

 

 

Introduction to Drawing Cats at DVSA!

11/06/2017

Two weeks ago, I led a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and our medium was pen with watercolour. Last Thursday, I was back and it was time to draw cats!

All of our cat drawings were done from photo reference. I began the day with a look at the skeleton of a cat followed by some tips on drawing the creatures. We usually complete two drawings and start a third over the course of a day.

Our first challenge on Thursday was a calico. I drew the cat with pencil and followed that with some initial pen work.

The next stop was to establish the colours with watercolour. The washes were perfectly dry before I went back in with more pen.

Our next subject was a portrait of a Himalayan kitten. Again, I started with the pencil drawing but this time I applied the watercolour before the pen.

Once dry, it was time to add the pen. The relationship and balance between the amount of pen and watercolour can be unique to each drawing. The pen work in this drawing is much more restrained than in that of the calico. If I was somehow able to eliminate the watercolour, would there be enough penwork to describe the kitten? Maybe not, but they work together effectively.

I presented a much more playful approach to our final drawing of a sleeping tabby. Pencil first before using the pen in a linear manner. Line variety and weight is the key here.

I tried to maintain the playful feel with a non-literal approach to colour. Washes of Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone (basically, a cool green and a cool red) were allowed to run into each other. Not all of the students completed this drawing before we ran out of time but they enjoyed the different process.

I won’t be back at DVSA until next fall but I’ve got an exciting lineup of pen and ink and watercolour workshops on the calendar. It’s been an enjoyable spring term with a great bunch of enthusiastic and talented students. Have a peek at their drawings of cats.

Drawing Cats-Critique a

Drawing Cats-Critique b

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – Another Successful Workshop!

03/04/2017

We’re back home, safe and sound, after another wonderful ten creative days in San Miguel de Allende. Last Tuesday was a free day. On Wednesday morning, we walked up to Plaza San Antonio with it’s striking white church.

I brought my easel along to do an on-site demonstration. We could see the mountains beyond the buildings that surrounded the square. As usual, I discussed my thoughts and decisions as I painted.

It’s always advisable to paint in the shade, especially in Mexico! Fortunately, Plaza San Antonio has plenty of shade and much to paint.

We had a great day and finished off with a critique at our studio. Sadly, we’re down to nine painters. One of the students had to cut her painting holiday short because of a business trip. Aren’t careers a nuisance?

A few of the students followed my lead and painted the same view I did with my demo. That’s not something I recommend necessarily but there are many ways to learn and absorb ideas from an instructor.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

We met in our studio again for my demonstration on Thursday morning. There had been quite a demand for a figure demonstration and I bowed to the requests. My two figures were both started with pencil. Using a cool grey wash, I painted the shadows on the gent to the left. When the washes were dry, I glazed on the local colours. I started directly with local colour for the lady on the right and left a fair bit of paper white to suggest light. I let the washes dry before adding the penwork.

One of my favourite painting spots in SM de Allende is the Instituto Bellas Artes. It’s a shady and peaceful art and music school. Our students settled into the spots of their choice while listening to relaxing live guitar music. Later on, the musical program changed to piano emanating from an upper floor studio.

Another treat at Bellas Artes are the many murals painted by past instructors and students.

We thanked Bellas Artes for hosting a soothing and inspiring day of painting and sketching. It was time for critique, once again.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Alas, Friday was our last day of painting together. We strolled up to Parque Guadiana, a tranquil park in a pretty residential neighbourhood. I did a brief demonstration at my easel. It was really an illustrated review of some of the things we’d discussed to date. Once the students settled down to work, I painted two small works that took about 45 minutes each. I later showed them to the group and explained my thoughts and process.

Friday critique was held in our hotel studio.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Our painting time had come to an end but we had one more event to celebrate on Saturday; Final Critique. It’s a chance to summarize our time together. Each student selects three of their works and tells us a bit about them and their overall experience. Here is the SM de Allende Class of 2017 (in alphabetical order)!

Fiona

Frances

Ian

Michael

Orshy

Phil

Renate

Susan

Let’s not forget our missing painter, now attending a conference in India.

Karen

That’s all, amigos. I’m grateful to this year’s participants for their good nature and hard work. Thanks go to Jim Nikiforos of Air Transat Travel for his efforts and to those of you who have liked and commented on our adventures. Hasta luego!