Archive for the ‘Sketching’ Category

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

 

 

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Grand Manan Island 2018 – First Three Days!

05/08/2018

Last Sunday, the 2018 workshop participants arrived on this beautiful island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Everyone settled in to their lodgings and, in the early evening, gathered at the Compass Rose Inn for our Welcome Dinner. It was a delicious lobster feast.

MONDAY
On Monday morning, we met at 9am sharp at our studio, the North Head Market Hall. We discussed the week ahead. Some of the more experienced painters headed out to the nearby harbour and got to work. I kept the newer participants behind and taught my ‘drawing checklist’ which hinges on the use of a measuring stick to help with angles (perspective) and proportion. At one point, we stepped outside to analyze the angles of a neighbouring building.

Following our session at the studio, the rest of the group wandered over to the harbour and settled in to sketch and paint for the day.

As we painted, the everyday activities of the island went on around us, such as harvesting rockweed.

It was a great start to our week. At the end of the day, we went back to our studio for our critique. Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

After critique, I presented a slide show (PowerPoint) with the theme of planning a watercolour. It included ideas and artwork of quite a range of artists from the contemporary American Frank Webb to renowned English watercolour painters from as far back as a few hundred years ago. It set the table for the Tuesday morning demonstration.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
Woodward’s Cove was our sketching and painting venue for Tuesday. I followed up on ideas we’d discussed during the Monday slide presentation and demonstrated on-site at my easel.

I painted a study in four values; paper-white, light middle value, dark middle value and dark. Let me show you the steps.

I started with a pencil drawing. Next, I painted a light middle value everywhere except for the areas I wanted to preserve as my most important lights.

A dark middle value starts to show more structure overall.

The final value is the darkest of all. The darks add definition and detail.

The harbour at Woodward’s Cove drains completely at low tide and fills up again six hours later. It’s a great painting site with a wide range of subject matter.

Another day of sunshine! Eventually, we gathered at our studio for critique.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
This workshop, as stated on my website, is for participants with some previous experience in the medium. No-one in our group was a complete beginner but several had taken other watercolour courses and not really been taught any fundamentals. Go figure! So, on Wednesday morning, I gave a short refresher of basic techniques and brush-handling in the studio.

Once the demonstration was done, we joined the rest of the gang at historic Seal Cove. A bit of fog rolled in and added some mystery to the old herring smokesheds and docks that make this such a special painting spot.

Lovely, isn’t it? Let’s see what the painters did at Seal Cove.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

We have two more days to go on spectacular Grand Manan Island! Thanks for following and stay tuned.

 

 

Plein Air Toronto 2018 – Final Two Days!

28/06/2018

THURSDAY

We visited St. James Cathedral in the heart of downtown Toronto on Thursday. The cathedral grounds abut a well-treed park with lovely gardens.

I set up to demonstrate and, being day four, asked the participants if they had any pressing questions before we began to paint. The key question concerned the four-value planning studies that had been a theme all week long. It was a good question. I proceeded to paint a small four-value study. You can probably tell that I invented the simple subject but the exercise helped to clarify the process for everyone.

We enjoyed a lovely, sunny day with a fresh breeze.

The shade of the cathedral wall provided a sheltered spot for our critique.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
One more day of painting together! We met at St. Michael’s College on the downtown University of Toronto campus. Historic architecture, gardens and public sculpture highlighted the subject matter at this charming and peaceful oasis in the city core. As usual, we met for my demonstration.

I followed up on Thursday’s ‘Q and A’ lesson with another discussion of value. Looking at a sun-dappled doorway, I sketched in pencil. Next, I determined my lightest lights and, leaving them as paper-white, I shaded a light middle value everywhere else. The participants were interested in the simplification of a complex subject. I added a bit of a dark middle value and that was enough to communicate the lesson. Later on, I added a wash to further clarify the pattern.

Once again, the weather was spectacular and everyone enjoyed the location.

All good things come to an end, apparently! It was a wonderful week of creativity and companionship. Have a look at the Friday critique.

Friday Critique

I thank all of the participants for their hard work and enthusiasm. Thanks for following us. Next stop is Grand Manan Island and that workshop starts on July 29. Care to join us? There are a few spots left. Click here for the details.

 

Plein Air Toronto 2018 – First Three Days!

25/06/2018

MONDAY
One week ago, on Monday morning, this year’s participants in our Plein Air Toronto week-long workshop met at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end of Toronto. We had business to discuss and I provided everyone with information sheets on all of our sites. Carpooling was arranged. I followed the practical session with a Power Point talk which I titled Planning your Watercolour Painting.

I’d been looking at Frank Webb’s book recently and noted the ideas I share with him about planning a watercolour. Frank Webb is one of the most successful contemporary watercolour painters so his ideas are meaningful. The first several slides of my presentation featured his thoughts and artwork. Also, I handed out a sheet of his tips on planning and recommended his book.

Mr. Webb’s work was followed by several other historical and contemporary masters of the medium. The participants enjoyed watercolours by J.M.W. Turner, John Singer Sargent and A.J. Casson, amongst many others.

We spent an hour at the studio before heading to the lovely Sunnyside Pavilion on Toronto’s lakeshore. A thunderstorm threatened, and eventually the skies burst, but we were high and dry under the shelter of the pavilion’s courtyard. The clouds eventually moved off and we enjoyed a productive first day.

Staying Dry

We gathered in the late afternoon for our critique.

Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
We visited the Grange Park on Tuesday. The Grange Park is situated behind both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the art school, OCADU. A large Henry Moore sculpture is a landmark and we met in a shady spot with a view of the sculpture. I demonstrated, using the Moore as my subject. My goal was to illustrate a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process; simplifying, editing and using value in order to draw the eye to the main subject.

After the demonstration, the painters settled in for a pleasant day in the park.

The sunshine lasted all day long. As usual, we wrapped up with our critique.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Roundhouse Park was our venue for Day Three of our workshop. It’s in the very core of the downtown area, right next to the CN tower, the baseball stadium and the aquarium. The roundhouse hosts the Toronto Railway Museum and Steamwhistle Brewery.

Rain was threatening (it never really materialized) so I worked very quickly at my demonstration, allowing washes to run together in places. I used a 3/4″ flat angled brush.

Trains, old railway buildings, contemporary structures; Roundhouse Park has all kinds of interesting subject matter.

Most novel outdoor studio of the week!

Well-earned refreshment at the end of the day.

Once again, we found a fairly private wall for our critique. I was very pleased with the progress of the artists. We’re more than halfway through the week already! Stay tuned for our final two days.

Wednesday Critique

 

 

 

Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink at DVSA!

15/06/2018

Yesterday, I was back in Studio Two at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I taught a one-day workshop entitled Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink. At the outset, I explained to the students that our focus would be on proportion, light and shadow and simplification of form. I started out at my easel on an 18 x 24″ pad of Cartridge paper and, using markers, illustrated and discussed the basic proportions of the head. Also, I elaborated on the eye, nose and mouth.

Our first exercise was based on details from two Old Master paintings. I had reproduced the images in black and white to make the light and shadow as clear as possible. You may recognize the enigmatic smile on the left. It’s the Mona LIsa by Leonardo da Vinci. On the right, the detail is taken from the Annunciata di Palermo by Antonello da Messina.

The vast majority of my teaching practice is based on direct observation; still-life and en plein air landscape, for example. I use photographic reference very rarely but most frequently in one-day workshops of this nature. We always discuss the pros and cons of working from photos and the importance of understanding the underlying forms and volumes in our subject matter. In addition to that, I always try to select photographic images that portray light and shadow as well as possible.

   

Something else I rarely employ in my teaching is a straight-edge or ruler. However, I suggested that we all use a grid to transfer the proportions of the photo onto our drawing paper so a ruler was necessary.

Pen and ink technique was our next topic and we used hatching and cross-hatching for the most part. The Mona Lisa smile was the greater challenge of the first two exercises. Everyone strove to understand the structure of the nose and mouth from the shapes and values in the photo they were given. Here are my demonstrations.

These two exercises took up two thirds of our day but there was no rush as a lot of experience was gained. The commitment and enthusiasm of the students is evident in their drawings.

I issued each student two photos for our final exercise. These images were selected from the internet and used for educational purposes only. Each student was given a choice of drawing either the male or female portrait.

  

We followed the same process for the most part but I talked about a few new things with my demonstration. One of those things was the technique of stippling and how it could be mingled with hatching in a pen and ink drawing. Also, I showed them a demonstration of a pure stippling drawing that I’d done several years ago.

This is my demonstration of the male portrait. Do you recognize him?

The students did very well with their portrait drawings but most weren’t finished when we ran out of time. I elected to allow them the remaining time to draw rather than present the work for a critique so, unfortunately, you won’t be able to see their work. Trust me. They were looking good.

That’s it for my spring term workshops at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’ll be back in the fall. In the meantime, stay tuned for posts from my Plein Air Toronto watercolour workshop which starts next Monday!

 

The Dramatic Pen at DVSA!

25/05/2018

I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday, joined by a full studio of enthusiastic art students. The title of the workshop, the Dramatic Pen, refers to the use of black and white ink on a toned or tinted paper. This practice goes back a long way. We looked at a book of German drawings and I’m showing a few here from the great Albrecht Dürer.

The paper colour in the German drawings varied from grays to blues, greens, deep reds and exciting purples. The tone of the paper, regardless of colour, acts as a middle tone. The colour of the paper often dramatized and enhanced the subject.

 

The tools of our trade were fairly simple. Pigment ink pens in black and white were used. The white pen is a Uniball Signo broad. I would have preferred a somewhat finer nib but it was unavailable at our local art supply store. The black pen is a #8 Pilot drawing pen. Our paper is Canson pastel paper, purchased in a pad.

We kicked off with a discussion of basic volumes and principles of light and shadow. This gave us a chance to try out the pens and work on our cross-hatching technique. Note that the white is reserved exclusively for areas of direct light.

Our next project was of a garlic and each student was issued one. The creases in the skin of the garlic helped us decide on line direction. Here are two steps of my demonstration:

The students selected the paper colour of their own choice. They did a great job with their garlics. If you click on any of the critique images, you’ll see a larger version.

Garlic critique a

Garlic critique b

Our final drawing was of a beautiful Henry Moore sculpture. Wait a minute! That sure resembles a dog chew. No offence intended to the great Henry Moore. The organic quality of the dog chew made it a good subject. Have a look at two steps of my demonstration. I added a bit of stippling to this study.

Once the comments about dog chews died down, everyone applied themselves to the task at hand.

I’m offering one more workshop this spring; Introduction to Portraiture in Pen and Ink on Thursday, June 14. Stay tuned!

Van Gogh and the Reed Pen at DVSA!

24/11/2017

Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful book of the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a real doorstop and was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was particularly attracted to the reed pen drawings. Reeds, like quills, go back a long way as drawing instruments. Why did Vincent use them? The fluidity and expressive marks can’t be matched by steel nibs. Vincent was also broke most of the time and likely made his own pens.

Yesterday, I presented a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I had harvested reeds from phragmites at a local wetland. The students just needed to bring their ink and paper.

I had cut enough pens for everyone ahead of time. Naturally, the students wanted the experience of cutting their own so I demonstrated and assisted with the process. Everyone made a successful pen and got through the entire day with very little maintenance.

We all tested our pens on a common sheet. We used variations of a sepia ink. Some were dark brown and some were more reddish. Vincent used different types of ink. Often, he used black ink which has since faded to brown but he also used sepia.

I handed out reproductions of some of Vincent’s drawings and we started out by copying them. I wasn’t concerned with perfect copies, by any means, but the process of trying to re-create Vincent’s lines and marks was very instructive. All of us also gained a real appreciation for his genius.

We turned our newfound skills to our own imagery in the afternoon. Everyone had brought in photographs of rural subjects. I offered a few thoughts about interpretation of photos, ‘a la Vincent’.

Following that, we drew for the rest of the day. The mood in the studio was very positive and the students remarked many times on how much fun it was to draw with a reed pen of their own making. As usual, many were pooped when we gathered for our critique but happy and satisfied.

 

Introduction to Drawing Birds at DVSA!

03/11/2017

Yesterday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach a one-day workshop. Our medium was pen and ink and our theme was an introduction to drawing birds. I chatted a bit about famous bird artists like John James Audubon, James Fenwick Lansdowne and Robert Bateman and discussed their processes. We also talked about David Sibley and other excellent bird illustrators whose work informs the field guides used to identify birds. Artists past and present have worked from mounted specimens, skins, field sketches and photos. Our only option yesterday was to use photos as our reference. We worked from black and white photos as our drawings were in black and white, as well.

Proportion is important when drawing a bird. I used a simple grid approach and presented this to the students.

This is a Black-capped Chickadee, a common woodland and feeder bird in southern Ontario. I’m going to show you three steps of my demonstration. The first step establishes the main values throughout the drawing with hatching. I do not outline and I develop the darks very patiently. Most of the preliminary pencil drawing has been erased, including the grid, but not all.

I’ve used cross-hatching to emphasize plumage details and to stress ‘light and shadow’ in order to give the bird fullness and form.

I’ve developed the darks and added definition to areas like the undertail and legs. Note the gaps I’ve left around the edge of the bird such as the beak, upper breast, upper back, tail, legs and branch. Did you notice the gaps before I mentioned them? These gaps allow light to flow throughout the drawing and enhance the feeling of vitality. A heavy outline is not only unnecessary; it would flatten out the drawing and detract from the impression of fullness and liveliness.

The students followed my steps in order to understand the process. There were a lot of elements to consider and they did very well with the exercise.

Black-capped Chickadee Critique

Our afternoon drawing was a portrait of a Downy Woodpecker; another local favourite. Here’s my grid analysis and my unfinished demonstration.

I enjoyed the talented and enthusiastic group of students. Several were birders and many were members of the local Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. They worked hard and came away with a sound process for drawing birds at home from their photos. Let’s have a look at their Downy Woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker Critique

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?

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.