Archive for the ‘Painting Holidays’ Category

Grand Manan Island 2019 – Final Two Days!

27/08/2019

THURSDAY
Instructor: Don’t paint in the sun!
Students: Why are you painting in the sun?

Good question. We were at Ingall’s Head on Thursday and it was another brilliant day. I set up to demonstrate with a flat angled brush. I chose a spot where the students could enjoy the shade of a hauled-up fishing boat. And yes, I was in the sun. This allowed my washes to dry very quickly so I could work on the somewhat complicated subject rapidly. Of course, I faced the usual challenges and drawbacks of working in the sun. First of all, there is the issue of personal comfort. In addition to that, the bright sun dries the washes in your palette, necessitating constant re-mixing. It also bleaches the painting as you work so that your darks don’t look dark enough, compelling you to make them too dark in order to be able to see them.

The flat angled brush is fun to work with and a good way to free up your brush-handling. I always edit and simplify to some degree but with this sketch I eliminated an entire window. I did so to save time. The students are always itching to start painting.

What about those darks? I’m not immune to the problems of working in direct sunshine. My demonstration is on hot press paper, which made things even worse. It didn’t really absorb the paint and my washes dried even faster. Trouble ensued! After I’d stopped painting and the students got to work, I reworked the shed interior. It had been too dark and the shapes had been rough. My touchup adds interest to the dark interior.

Once again, there was a lot of variety in terms of painting subjects. Charming sheds, fishing boats, docks in various states of repair and the drydock, which is the only place on the island where the boats are guaranteed not to move up and down with the tides or suddenly depart on a fishing mission as the woeful painter ponders a partially finished watercolour of an uncooperative boat.

The air-conditioning and shade of our studio at the Grand Manan Art Gallery were very welcome at the end of the day. The gallery is one of the most important components of island cultural life. That’s Garrett Travis on the porch, this year’s summer student who is doing a great job of keeping things running smoothly.

Critique time!

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
Grand Manan Island has a wealth of excellent painting spots. We had only five days together and it was up to me to choose a spot for our final day. Several of the students, in conversation over the course of the week, had indicated a desire to paint a lighthouse. The most famous and spectacular lighthouse on the island is the Swallowtail light. There are two prime viewpoints. One is from above the peninsula that hosts the light. The other is from Pettes’s Cove.

I demonstrated at the studio. First, I tackled the view from the cove. I started with wetting most of the sheet before touching in colour for the sky and water. This preliminary wash covered the entire sheet with the exception of the white area of the lighthouse, which I carefully avoided. I dried the sheet with the studio hairdryer and continued to add shapes, working ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I discussed the other view of the Swallowtail. As you can see, I kept it simple and focused on the relative values of the main shapes and colours.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Off we went! The students were free to choose their viewpoint. I visited back and forth as the day progressed.

Friday was a busy day. We wound up the painting portion with our usual critique at the studio.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

After taking a few hours to refresh ourselves, we met once more at the Compass Rose Inn for a yummy Farewell Dinner. Following the meal, we re-arranged the tables and chairs for our Final Critique. Each student presented three paintings completed during the week and commented a bit on their experience. It’s always a rewarding way to wrap up our time together.

Time marches on, they say. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve taught on Grand Manan Island for twenty-nine summers. I plan to be back for the thirtieth anniversary in 2020. Care to join us?

 

 

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Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick 2019 – Our First Three Days!

20/08/2019

Last week, I led an ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop on beautiful Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. This is the twenty-ninth summer that I’ve taught on the island. Our group of workshop participants was a nice blend of repeaters and first-timers. We got to know each other on Sunday evening over a delicious dinner at the lovely Compass Rose Inn.

MONDAY
It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we met in North Head Harbour. I demonstrated in the shade of a large boathouse. My goal was to encourage everyone to spend the day on smaller, quicker watercolour studies rather than settle into a sustained piece right off the bat. With that in mind, I’d prepared a small cardboard frame for each painter. The inside dimension is 4×6″, the size of a postcard.

I worked at my easel. My demonstrations are, in a sense, illustrated discussions. I rarely complete a finished work as a demonstration. My goal is to show a process and discuss it’s benefits. I worked in the 4×6″ format and didn’t do a preliminary pencil drawing. Straight in with the brush! I told the group that I would not criticize them for inaccurate proportion or perspective. I wanted to see what attracted them to the subject; it’s essence. Simplification and editing were stressed. Each painter was asked to do a minimum of two vertical and two horizontal small works over the course of our first day.

Another thing we talk about every morning is the availability of coffee and lunch and, very importantly, the location of the closest washrooms. Eventually, the painters explored the harbour, found their spots and got to work.

Grand Manan is a busy place. Rockweed was being harvested just off the shore as we painted.

I’ll never complain about the sunshine but there is a time for a shady break. Our friend, Kirk, opened up his shed and revealed a whole other range of colourful maritime subject matter.

At the end of the day, we headed to our studio for a critique. This is the first year that we’ve been hosted by the Grand Manan Art Gallery and our liaison, David Ogilvie, made us very welcome.

It was a productive day and I managed to display all of the work together. Click on any critique image in this post in order to view a larger version.

Monday Critique

TUESDAY


The morning was damp and overcast so I gave a demonstration in the studio. I knew the sun would be out soon and it was only day two; a good time to discuss value. Years ago, I painted a watercolour of the now ruined Ross Island lighthouse in my playful quasi-modernist style and donated it to the Permanent Collection of the Grand Manan Art Gallery.

Ross Island Light by Barry Coombs

I drew up the image the night before, simplifying it a great deal. Using a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, I mixed up three values of a ‘sepia’ wash. Paper white was reserved for the lightest areas, followed by the light and dark middle values and, finally, the darks. This process establishes a light direction as well as a pattern in the image. While working ‘en plein air’, a value study can be very useful if not essential. It’s not necessary to spend forever on it or even to paint it. A quick pencil sketch will often suffice.

Demonstration done! Sun shining! We jumped in our vehicles and went to Woodward’s Cove. The harbour there offers all kinds of great painting material. The group spread out a fair bit but I knew where they all were and enjoyed the exercise as I visited and gave feedback throughout the day.

I’ve conducted outdoor critiques many times over the years but the comfort and proximity of the studio prevailed this week. It was back to the gallery in nearby Castalia at the end of the day, where we broke up the critique into two groups.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Seal Cove was the venue for watercolour painting on Wednesday. This popular site still hosts several old sheds that were once used to smoke herring; a key industry in the island’s past. I demonstrated onsite and chose to show an approach I call ‘shape-reading’. As usual, it was an opportunity to look at a subject and discuss a sound process and anticipate potential challenges or problems. The demo was optional as many of the experienced participants had witnessed the approach in other workshops.

Following that, I gathered the participants who were new to my workshops and taught them how to tackle proportion and perspective with a measuring stick. All of those weathered buildings and docks demanded careful consideration of angles. The weather was fine again and another successful day was underway.

Critiques are always constructive and a big part of the learning experience. As you can see, the sheds were by far the most popular subject. The weather forecast looked good (they were givin’ fine, as the locals say) for Thursday. The plan was to paint at Ingall’s Head. Stay tuned!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

Our last few days in Mexico City!

09/04/2019

We headed up to Mexico City on Friday morning and checked in to a lovely hotel on the main square. A few hours of free time were spent exploring the Zocalo and surrounding area. Our goal in Mexico City was to visit Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo. In addition to that, we planned to visit the Museo Rivera, a purpose-built building housing the pre-hispanic artifact collection of Diego Rivera. After an excellent breakfast on the terrace overlooking the national cathedral, our transport picked us up on Saturday morning. First stop, Casa Azul.

Casa Azul from the street

In the courtyard

Kitchen

Frida’s studio

Our next stop was the rather imposing Museo Rivera. The collection is extensive and fascinating.

Cartoon for mural

It was a full day with a lot of shuttling around but worth it. It was also the last day of group activities before heading home on Sunday morning. I’d like to thank all of our participants for making the workshop a success. Here they are, the class of 2019!

Courtesy: Stewart Stein

More from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

01/04/2019

Everyone was refreshed from our day of free time as we met in our studio for my morning demonstration on Wednesday. Our plan was to paint inside the lovely Bellas Artes with it’s cool arcades and tranquil atmosphere. And it’s arches. I used my demonstration to dramatize the feeling of looking into a sunlit space through an arch. I kept my palette simple; cools and warms.

For once, we had no shortage of shade. Most of the students were ready to tackle arches.

Let’s see what happened with those arches! Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Thursday was our last full day of painting. Our plan was to leave on Friday morning for Mexico City (more about that later). We had a lot on our agenda on Thursday so I decided not to offer a demonstration in order to give the group an extra hour of painting time. We walked up to Parque Guadiana, a quiet and pretty park in a residential neighbourhood.

At the end of the day, we gathered at our studio for our Final Critique. I started out by looking at the Thursday paintings and followed that with a selection of work from earlier in the week. It was a nice way to look back on our painting time together.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Wait a minute! What the heck is that bird doing there? One of our painters took a metalworking class while she was here and this was her chance to show us the result.

Thursday Critique c

That was it for our supervised painting days and for our stay in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. My next post will be from Mexico City where we will visit the famous home of Frida Kahlo; Casa Azul.

 

 

 

 

Hola from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

26/03/2019

I’m back in beautiful SM de Allende with a great group of watercolour painters. We arrived on Thursday and enjoyed our Welcome Dinner at the hotel. Friday was a relaxing day. I led most of the group on a tour of the town and the afternoon was free time for painting, shopping or just taking it easy.

Things got serious this morning (Saturday). I gave a demonstration at the hotel, reminding everyone of the importance of value and pattern.

Following that, most of the group worked on the hotel grounds for the day. The courtyard is lovely and spacious and our rooms were close at hand. It’s a good way to start as we sort out the practical elements of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painting.

It was a good start to our workshop. We convened at 5pm sharp for our first critique. Click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

I gave another studio demonstration on Sunday morning. This street scene was quickly drawn from memory. I discussed a ‘big to small’ process and varying washes to add interest. Also, we discussed what colours work when painted over other colours and what doesn’t work. For example, I can’t paint a green door over a red wall without getting a very dull result.

After the demonstration, we headed to Parque Benito Juarez and it’s a lovely spot for painting. The park is very green and surrounded by attractive residences and hotels. Just up the road from the park is the outdoor public laundry. No-one was washing clothes today.

It’s hot here but lovely in the shade. I discourage the painters from painting in the sun. A pleasant day in the park wound down and we returned to our studio for the critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

I left the hotel early on Monday and walked up to Plaza San Antonio, a quiet square with a brilliant white church. I set up my easel and prepared for an onsite demonstration and I was ready to go when the students arrived.

The square has a large shade tree with a view of a street dropping down. I pointed out the importance of checking angles carefully in order to make the perspective believable. After we discussed that, I painted the scene with a flat angled brush. It was a very complicated subject so I stressed simplification as I took them through my process.

Everyone sought out shady spots and got to work.

It was nice to cool off in our studio at the hotel at critique time.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Tuesday is a free day. Shopping, sightseeing and even more painting was on the agenda. We’ll be back at it tomorrow morning in sunny San Miguel de Allende.

Vermont 2018 – Our Last Day was Friday at Glover!

09/10/2018

One more to day to go and the weather was beautiful! One more demonstration, as well, and I decided to offer two basic approaches to painting clouds.

In my first study, all the shapes were drawn in pencil first. I left a fair bit of paper white on the puffy clouds but used an off-white wash in the ‘background’ clouds. Washes were allowed to dry before new ones were applied. The puffy clouds were painted one at a time. I started them with either clean water or a pale wash and touched in the darker values while wet. Very step by step and it took about fifteen minutes or so (using a hairdryer sped things up).

My second study took about four minutes. Cloud shapes were loosely indicated with light pencil marks. I wet the sheet with water overall but left dry patches for the white of the clouds. The light blue went in next and the darker cloud values followed.

The two different basic approaches were appreciated by the group. Of course, there are probably as many ways to paint clouds as there are actual clouds but one has to start somewhere.

Our painting site was the town of Glover and it was full of Vermont character with a wonderful general store and Red Sky Trading. A short stroll took some of our painters into the rural countryside. The colours were out in their glory and it was another fulfilling and creative day.

A shady spot

A not so shady spot

Feeling the Bern!

All good things come to an end, as they say. This was our last day and we had an evening itinerary. First, however, we returned to the Ski Hut Studio to look at our work from Friday. Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique c

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a fine Farewell Dinner at the Highland Lodge. Heidi, Chad, Brittany, Arnold and the whole team had looked after us very well all week long and our dinner was a great way to wrap up. There was musical entertainment, as well, and Heidi sang a song to our group of watercolour painters. It was the John Denver classic, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’.

After dinner, it was back to the studio for our Final Critique. Each artist selected three works to show us and it was a nice way to summarize and recall our endeavours together. Several of the group stayed on Saturday and explored even more of the Northeast Kingdom but our workshop was over.

Thanks go to all of our participants, the staff at Highland Lodge and the very friendly Vermonters we encountered every day. Thank you for following! Next stop is from March 21-31, 2019 in beautiful and safe San Miguel de Allende. Care to join me for a painting adventure in Mexico? Click here to view all of the details!

Vermont 2018 – Thursday at Craftsbury Common!

09/10/2018

Another morning and another demonstration in the Ski Hut Studio. The weather was fine and our plan was to paint at Craftsbury Common, which features a lot of charming white buildings. Well, we didn’t have any white paint so what would we do?

The white of the paper can be used, of course, but sometimes it needs a little help. I discussed ways to very lightly tint the paper to create warm, cool or neutral whites. Also, we looked at how to mix whites in shadow.

White can also be enhanced by context. For example, a black roof and shutters can help make a wall in shadow look whiter.

I wrapped up the demonstration and off we went to Craftsbury Common for a very pleasant day of sketching and painting.

We had a few unexpected art critics from nearby Sterling College.

It was a relief to enjoy such good weather. Still, critiques are best held indoors so, at the end of the day, we convened at our Ski Hut Studio. I was very pleased to see the progress made over the week to date. There’s one more day to go. Stay tuned!

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

 

Vermont 2018 – Wednesday at Bread and Puppets!

06/10/2018

I’m devoting an entire post to Wednesday (September 26). We woke up to more foul weather but I had a plan. I’d already made arrangements to sketch and paint indoors in the fascinating Bread and Puppet Museum. Bread and Puppet Theater is a celebrated organization that strives for social justice through wonderful outdoor performances. Click on one of the links here and read all about their endeavours!

So, working ‘en plein air’ was put on hold for the day but painting in the museum was a terrific consolation and a unique Vermont experience.

I had prepared a morning demonstration with the museum in mind. I used cool greys mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna to develop a value study. I’ve simplified the process to show you three steps.

There are three values in Step One; the white of the paper, a light middle value and a darker middle value. I’ve preserved the paper white in the foreground to enhance a feeling of depth.

I’ve added more values in Step Two. The greatest contrast is in the two foreground characters.

There were some intermediate steps but this is the final version. Once the values were developed, I gently ‘glazed’ colour over the local areas. That was my offering for Wednesday morning. We headed to the museum and this is what we found.

What a great day! Thanks so much to the Bread and Puppet Museum for hosting us. Now, let’s go back to Highland Lodge and the Ski Hut Studio for our critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image if you’d like to view a larger version.

We weren’t done yet in Vermont. Stay tuned for our exploits on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique c

 

 

 

 

 

Vermont 2018 – First Two Days!

03/10/2018

I just got back from beautiful Vermont last night. A week ago Sunday, on the 23d of September, our group of Canadian and American watercolour painters converged on the lovely and welcoming Highland Lodge, which overlooks Caspian Lake in the Northeast Kingdom. Our generous host, Heidi Lauren, offered us cocktails in the charming bar before we enjoyed a delicious Welcome Dinner together.

MONDAY
The following morning, Monday the 24th, we met in our Ski Hut Studio. I started the painting week off with a slide presentation with two themes. The first segment was entitled Planning Your Watercolour and focused on a sound process. The second part featured the work of acclaimed Canadian artist, A. J. Casson (1898-1992). Casson was a member of the celebrated Group of Seven; a ground-breaking group of Canadian landscape painters. We took particular interest in how he simplified foliage in his watercolours and oils and how he dealt with fall foliage, in particular.

A. J. Casson

A. J. Casson

After our studio meeting, we headed to the famous Greensboro Barn at Turning Stone Farm and were hosted by local artist, Jennifer Ranz. It was a wonderful painting site with a great variety of subject matter including the barn itself and a classic Vermont maple sugar shack.

We settled in for the day. The painters spread out all over the property. It was overcast and cool but that doesn’t stop a keen bunch of ‘en plein air’ watercolourists!

Eventually, it was time to warm up and have a look at the day’s work. It was a short drive back to the lodge and our Ski Hut Studio. Here’s the work from our first day. Click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
It was a grim day. Cool and wet. Fortunately, we had our spacious and well-furnished studio where we met for a demonstration. Looking again at the work of A. J. Casson, I discussed the simplification of foliage and greens, as well. Do you see the four swatches of green in the lower left corner? They were all darkened with the same wash of Cobalt Blue. Works, doesn’t it?

The resourceful painters found several places to work for the day. The studio, the front porch, the lodge interior and even through the windows of their rooms and cabins. Of course, it helped that the Highland Lodge has a spectacular view.

Ski Hut Studio

Lodge Interior

Front Porch

Undaunted! It was a productive day as you can see from our critique. Stay tuned for the next episode of our creative adventures. There’s lots more to come from Vermont.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

 

Grand Manan Island 2018 – Final Two Days!

08/08/2018

THURSDAY
We kicked off Thursday morning at our studio. My demonstration was of graded washes; washes over large areas, even the whole sheet, with gentle soft-edge transitions. First of all, I did two washes of skies. Then, I did an unusual one; an almost abstract runny wash that suggested a misty landscape. As it dried, however, I worked light to dark and gradually developed an interior with a window. When finished, the misty landscape could be seen through the window.

The final wash suggested a foggy day. I used value to accentuate the feeling of depth and atmosphere.

Following our session at the studio, we convoyed to Dark Harbour on the west side of the island. Dark Harbour is home to the largest fleet of dories on the island and they’re used primarily for gathering dulse, an edible seaweed. The dories are always a popular subject and we spent a productive day below the towering cliffs.

Camps, cabins of all shape and size, line the beach at Dark Harbour. This one still seems to be celebrating last month’s Canada Day holiday.

The tide was flowing in quickly toward the end of the afternoon. We took the hint and made our way back for critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image to see a larger version.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
Would we enjoy yet another day of beautiful weather? Our painting site was a quiet laneway of sheds and boats at Ingall’s Head. I set up my easel for one more demonstration. I wanted to take the group through the whole process of a small watercolour painting, starting with a pencil drawing and working light to dark and big to small. At one point, I moved everything to a shadier spot and completed the work there.

We got sun, all right! Our painters dispersed after the demo to look for shade and subject matter.

Alas, all good things come to an end. We went back to our studio to cool off and have a look at the day’s work.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

On Friday evening, we gathered at our cottage for our Farewell Dinner. It was an opportunity to relax, socialize and discuss the week. After dinner, we had one more group event on our itinerary; Final Critique. Each artist showed us a small selection of their week’s creative output and talked about it for a few minutes. It’s a very nice way to summarize our time together. Earlier in the day, our good friend and excellent photographer, David Ogilvie, took a group photo. Here they are; the Grand Manan class of 2018!

Thanks go to all of the participants for their hard work and enthusiasm. Also, special thanks to my partner, Aleda O’Connor, for taking time from her own painting to assist me in every way. In addition to that, I appreciate you for following, liking and commenting.

Grand Manan Island
Class of 2018