Archive for the ‘Sketching’ Category

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

Introduction to Drawing Dogs at DVSA

29/05/2017

Last Thursday, it was another day of pen and watercolour at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and we really had no choice but to work from photographs. I provided the photo reference. I also issued a printed handout showing the skeleton of a dog. My intention was not to be too scientific or absolutely anatomically perfect but it definitely helped us understand the basic structure underneath all of that cuddly fur.

I started each exercise by demonstrating on an 18 x 24″ pad of cartridge paper at an easel. Using coloured markers, I presented an approach to capturing the proportions and dynamics of the subject. Dog Number One was a Golden Retriever.

Following the discussion, I switched to watercolour paper and drew the dog in pencil. My next step was with pen. I paid attention to the direction of my pen strokes in order to convey a feeling of fur.

It was time for watercolour! I wet the entire dog with water. While nice and wet, I added the orange/gold wash and let it run a bit. Note that some areas, particularly the legs, are whiter than the rest of the dog. It took a while for the wash to dry but eventually it did. I then worked back in with the pen, adding more definition to the head. I left it at this point but could have done more penwork throughout the body.

Dog Number Two was a West Highland Terrier. I started out on the easel again. I considered light and shadow for this exercise as I wanted to preserve the white of the paper for the lightest areas on the dog.

This time we painted first, wet onto the dry paper. Using a neutral grey, I tried to establish the light and shadow as well as a shaggy feel. A bit of colour was added to the ears and some other spots.

Once again, stroke direction was important with the pen.

We didn’t have much time left for Dog Number Three but I wanted to do a portrait and this Beagle puppy was perfect. After drawing it with pencil, I added the colour washes. The lightest colour was first and the darkest last.

I did some quick pen work and left it unfinished. The students didn’t have time to do this exercise but some wanted to try it at home.

We were dog-tired at the end of a long day of learning. There was a good energy in the room as we looked at the drawings.

Drawing Dogs –
Critique a

Drawing Dogs –
Critique b

I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, June 8, for the last workshop in the series. Guess what we’ll be drawing? That’s right; cats! Join us.

 

 

Intro to Pen with Wash and Watercolour at DVSA!

15/05/2017

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Thursday. Our workshop was an Introduction to Pen with Wash and Watercolour and we completed three drawings and some studies over the course of the day. We started off with a relatively simple subject; a jalapeño pepper.

The first step was to position the pepper in profile. Next, we drew it in pencil. Following the pencil, we hatched and cross-hatched with our pens. The green wash was next and we left some paper white for highlights. A cool grey wash was added to the cast shadow area. Once the washes had dried, we worked back in with pen.

Before we began our next drawing, we did a few studies of curving volumes and considered how they would receive light from above. After those studies, I pulled out my surprise. Dog chews!

Am I crazy? The students may have thought so at first but they really enjoyed studying these interesting forms. Using our studies as reference, we drew the chews in pencil and then added a brown wash to indicate the areas of core shadow. The penwork was our last step and we tried to follow the forms with our strokes. Also, note the upper edges of the chew. There is no hard outline! Gaps have been left to allow light to flow into the object from the surrounding paper.

Our final subject was quite different and we varied our approach with it. Pencil first and the colour washes second. Pen was used for shadow and to define the various planes.

 

Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day and that’s a good thing. Learning and concentrating can be very tiring. Still, we had time for a look at the work. My next workshop at DVSA is drawing dogs with pen and watercolour and takes place on Thursday, May 25. Care to join us?

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique a

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique b

 

 

Barry’s Birds for Wood Duck magazine – April and May

05/05/2017

These pen and ink drawings were my submissions for the April and May issues of the Wood Duck, the magazine of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. The monthly feature is called Barry’s Birds.

Killdeer-
April

Sharp-shinned Hawk-
May

Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA

21/04/2017

Spring term began this week at the Dundas Valley School of Art and I was back in the studio yesterday. Pen and Ink Basics was our theme and my keen and hard-working students put in a full day. We completed three drawings and used a different approach with each. All of our drawings were done from a diagram model that I provided at my easel.

Our focus was on light and shadow as well as fundamental pen techniques. Our pear was started with a ‘parquet’ approach. The students didn’t have to worry about stroke direction and concentrated initially on the shapes of light and shadow.

Our pear gradually became more three-dimensional as we applied principles of light and shadow with cross-hatching. Our second drawing was the hat. We started with hatching, parallel strokes, and developed the drawing with cross-hatching. I discussed the idea of ‘edge versus outline’ and you’ll notice gaps in the lines that describe the edges of our objects. These allow light to infiltrate the drawing and give it a more natural feel than a hard colouring book-like outline would achieve.

The ball cap was our final drawing of the day and stippling was our technique. We didn’t want to work too big as stippling is rather time-consuming. Over the course of the day, we looked at drawings by the masters including Michelangelo and Henry Moore and were inspired by the lessons found in their beautiful work.

We wrapped up with a look at our own work. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is called Pen and Ink with Wash and Watercolour and takes place on May 11. Care to join us?

Pen and Ink Basics Critique

Barry’s Birds for Wood Duck magazine – February and March

14/03/2017

These pen and ink drawings were my submissions for the February and March issues of the Wood Duck, the magazine of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. The monthly feature is called Barry’s Birds.

Eastern Screech-Owl –
February

Red-bellied Woodpecker –
March

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Seven!

24/02/2017

img_5951

NUTS! The students screamed in unison when I showed them the subject for our pen and ink drawings yesterday at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Well, I’m exaggerating. They always wonder what will emerge from my bag of tricks and they’re forever keen to test their skills.

We covered a lot of ground yesterday. Let’s start with my demonstration. I drew a dish in pencil.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I added some nuts. Two in the dish and one in front of it. I decided on a light source coming from the upper right. Look at the little study on the bottom right of the sheet. This helped me simplify the light and shadow pattern on my subject.

Step two of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Those messy pen lines on the upper sheet are a result of another demonstration. The students asked me for my thoughts on using a traditional metal nib with a bottle of India ink. We’ve been using disposable sketching pens for our drawings in class. No muss, no fuss! The traditional tools can be messy. Spills. Heartbreaking blobs in the middle of a drawing you’ve spent hours on. So, the disposable pens are fine for our learning process. However, the metal nib, used thoughtfully and with care, can give a drawing a special quality.

The next image shows my setup and tools. The paper is Strathmore Bristol, vellum surface. The nib is a School 56 and it’s in a wooden holder. My ink is Speedball Super Black India Ink, my favourite! The wide mouth and base help prevent spills. The white tester card helps prevent blobs. I test the pen every time I dip it in the ink before I touch my drawing. I also clean my nib every 5 minutes or so with paper towel and an organic nib cleaning fluid (spit). Oh, and there’s my demonstration again with most of the ink work completed.

Step three of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students enjoyed the nuts.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Before I sign off, let’s take a moment to look at some of the personal projects. The sunflowers are a work in progress by Vicky. This is a full sheet of watercolour paper and she’s using calligraphy dipping nibs. I took this photo at the start of the class yesterday so there’ll be a lot more to see next week.

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Here’s another drawing by Val. It’s a small piece, approx. 9 x 12″, and she’s combined pen with watercolour.

Pen and watercolour by Val

Pen and watercolour by Val

That’s it, in a nutshell! There’s one more week of Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA. I’ll be offering four one-day pen workshops this spring and they’re already posted on the DVSA website. Join us!

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Five!

12/02/2017

img_5756

Last Thursday afternoon was Pen and Ink Studio time at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I brought in my collection of milkweed pods. Natural forms are a very rewarding subject and the students enjoyed drawing them.

I showed a few different approaches to studying the milkweed. This is a demonstration from a past workshop. I started with a pencil drawing before adding a light wash of a sepia-like brown. When it dried, I added a second darker wash of the same colour. Once again, I waited for it to dry. The pen work was my final step.

Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

The next study is the one I worked on during the Thursday class. It was developed with local colour and then I explored it with the pen using mostly the technique of cross-hatching.

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Some of the students elected to use colour and others stuck with values of sepia. One of our students devoted the afternoon to her personal project and it’s coming along very nicely. I hope to post some of these projects soon!

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique