Archive for the ‘Arts on Adrian’ Category

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

17/04/2019

I’m back from sunny Mexico to some less than welcoming spring weather. All the more reason to set up a bright and cheerful still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour students. I had the still-lifes of Paul Cézanne in mind.

Cézanne developed his gorgeous, luminous watercolours with brushstrokes of pure colour over a pencil drawing. I didn’t mimic his process exactly with my demonstration but we discussed it as I painted. I never insist that the students emulate my demo but I did ask them to give it a try, even as a study for an hour or so. Saturday is a six hour class so there’s time to experiment and explore.

Most gave it a shot and a few spent the day pursuing the approach. Not everyone liked it but they’re always willing to consider new ideas.

Sustained Saturday Critique

The Tuesday students worked from the same still-life. It’s a three hour class and, at the beginning, I sensed some interest in the fabrics and folds. My demonstration, as a result, was a simplified study of a section of fabric and they found it helpful.

They don’t have a full day but they really work hard and they’re quite good at selecting and composing. Basically, they selected and zoomed in on an area of the still-life that attracted their eye. Not taking on too much gave them a better chance to resolve their work in the time available.

Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Tuesday Critique

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Painting from Photos in Watercolour at Arts on Adrian!

04/03/2019

I’ve never been an advocate of painting from photographs although I have done it on occasion in the distant past. Let me clarify my thought. I have used photos as reference. My ‘Cubist’ watercolours have always been inspired by memory, imagination, sketches and, at times, some photo reference. My more traditional bird drawings and paintings, however, rely greatly on my own photographic reference. However, I don’t copy photos verbatim and I don’t understand why anyone does so. Technical virtuosity and rendering skills, no matter how sublime, do not necessarily equal art.

North Head, Grand Manan
by Barry Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

White-throated Sparrow
by Barry Coombs

Many artists do work from photographs, though, and many do it well. An artist is capable of transforming the photographic reference into something personal and beautiful.

I prefer the tradition of ‘en plein air’ and direct observation and it’s mostly what I teach. As a longtime instructor, it’s been impossible to avoid the preference many students hold for working from photographs. I decided to deal with the practice by offering a one-day workshop.

The participants sent me three photos each ahead of time. I created a PowerPoint presentation so that we could look at them all together and identify potential problems. We broke it down into three categories: composition, light and shadow and colour.

First of all, we looked at watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs. Then, we looked at the photos sent by the students. Our goal was to find the essence of the subject. In order to do so, all of the images required some serious consideration.

We looked at this lovely snowy scene from Karen W. I made a few suggestions. Eliminate or move the two trees in the lower left corner. Remove the sign or whatever it is in the same area. Lose the wire seen across the roof. Re-design the foliage to show the viewer more of the building. Re-design the trees on the left to deepen the space and suggest a pathway. Karen had a great idea and shortened the roof so it wouldn’t run off the righthand edge of the painting.

Our next step was to decide on a format. Most of our pads and watercolour blocks are of a 3 x 4 proportion (9 x 12, 12 x 16). The format was drawn directly onto the photograph and a grid was created. Then, a smaller image, in exactly the same proportion, was drawn and a four-value study was completed. Have a look at what Karen W did. Later on, you’ll see her sustained watercolour in progress in the critique image.

Gridded Photo and Study
by Karen W

Once a small study was completed, the grid was used to transfer the image to a watercolour sheet, in exactly the same proportion! The rest of the afternoon, for the most part, was spent painting. I interrupted at one point for a brief discussion of copyright and ethical issues that often arise when working from photos. Of course, if you always use your own photo you don’t have to concern yourself with these issues.

The day went very well. Not everyone was able to finish their work but all went away with a better understanding of the potential problems and pitfalls of simply copying a photograph and the many creative benefits of interpreting their photographic image. Here are a few of the photos that were used.

And here are the paintings! Click on the critique image to view a larger version. Karen’s painting is on the upper left.

Painting from Photos Critique

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright and ethics

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

20/02/2019

The gloves were off this week at Arts on Adrian in Toronto! These strange, sculptural shapes are hockey gloves and they provided many challenges to the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour painters.

The first challenge was drawing. I approach all subjects the same way, more or less. I start with very basic shapes. Take a look at the study at the bottom of the demonstration sheet. That’s what my drawing looked like before I refined it as in the larger study.

Our next challenge was light and it was a real key to this subject. The gloves are black so we had to keep the lightest areas as luminous as possible. This meant thin washes in those areas; lots of water.

Another challenge was black. I mixed my blacks and greys with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. However, the students were allowed to change the colours, if they so desired.

In my demonstration, I painted the different segments of the glove one at a time. The structure of the glove lent itself to this approach.

Believe it or not, there are Canadians who hate hockey. I found out who they were as we painted the gloves. Everyone dug deep and worked hard to solve this tricky painting problem. There may have been some frustration but, fortunately, no-one dropped the gloves!

By the way, this blog received it’s 245,000th view today. Thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

07/02/2019

We’ve had some weather! Currently, we’re suffering our second day of traffic tangles and school and business closures due to an ice storm. Last week, a blizzard forced me to postpone my Tuesday afternoon class in Toronto until this week, barely ahead of the ice and freezing rain. Last night, my Wednesday class in Dundas was canceled and a makeup will be scheduled. Anyway, this post from Arts on Adrian is overdue.

I found these decorative violins at a thrift shop last December and I couldn’t wait to include them in a still-life. The Sustained Saturday students got first crack at them. This is a capable and experienced group and, rather than discuss techniques, I talked about colour. Often, I find a small colour sketch useful to plan and harmonize the palette for a painting. My demonstration illustrates our discussion.

All of the students considered their colours ahead of time and most completed some sort of small study. I was particulary drawn to the simplicity and effectiveness of this one by George H.

Watercolour study
by George H.

The day went very well. I did notice, however, that drawing the violins was a challenge to all and it took a lot of time to do so. With that in mind, I gave the Tuesday students a quick refresher on a sound approach to drawing using basic shapes as a starting point in addition to a brief chat about colour.

Everyone enjoyed the still-life and I think it shows in the work. Stay safe and warm out there and thanks, as always, for your likes and comments. Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

16/01/2019

I was back at Arts on Adrian this week. These old lanterns were the subject for the Sustained Saturday and Tuesday afternoon classes. I had a plan. The students are often quite literal/optical about the colours they use in their work. Also, they’re often stymied as to what to do with their backgrounds/negative spaces. We discussed this tendency and I laid out some steps of an exercise:
Step 1) Draw one lantern.
Step 2) Adjust the frame of reference/rectangle with masking tape. I didn’t want huge amounts of negative space so the compositions were tightened up in this manner.
Step 3) Wet the sheet and randomly touch in primary colours to create a preliminary wash. This was done only on Saturday as those students had much more time to paint.
Step 3) Break up the negative space with pencil lines into simple, arbitrary shapes; geometric or organic.
Step 4) Select a colour for your lantern. It doesn’t have to be the colour that you’re observing. Mix three or so colours for the negative spaces that enhance the colour of the lantern.
Step 5) Paint the negative spaces. Try to vary the washes.
Step 6) Paint the lantern. The lighting on the actual still-life may be difficult to understand in places so consider the underlying forms as you paint.

That’s more or less the process we followed. I strayed from it a bit as I demonstrated because I wanted to show different ideas without taking the time to complete my painting. Here are a few stages of my demonstration. In the image on the left, you may be able to make out the faint preliminary wash in the ‘white’ areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our exercise had a few goals. We attempted to harmonize our colours and to be more interpretative with colour. We sought to establish an effective figure/ground relationship by painting all negative spaces first and not last as is too often the practice. Varying the washes added visual interest and, combined with trying to understand the basic forms of the lanterns, gave the paintings a more natural quality of light.

I was pleased to hear that the students really enjoyed our project. They certainly worked hard and with enthusiasm. Have a look at their work and remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Four!

28/11/2018

I wanted to combine some interesting shapes and textures with rich colours for the final still-life of the fall term at Arts on Adrian. Saturday is an all-day class and I always keep that in mind with my demonstration. The still-life featured decorative patterns in the tea tins and the fabric so I discussed colour selection for those elements of the subject. The black box was started with soft-edge washes before the suggestion of texture. Do candle flames have a crisp or soft edge? Both options were considered.

The students did well with the flames although one individual snuffed the candle out. I don’t know if it was a philosophical statement or not. Either way, it was a very creative day.

Sustained Saturday Critique

I started off the Tuesday class with a review of the Saturday demonstration. I suggested that the students simplify the patterns of the tins and fabric as they have only half the painting time of the Saturday class. Also, I took a look at the wicker basket on the wine bottle and pointed out it’s underlying volumes and how they receive light. The texture is more meaningful when the volumes are well-understood.

More time, please! The still-life had it’s challenges and most of the Tuesday students would have appreciated another hour or so of painting time. I like the way these paintings are going, though.

Saturday and Tuesday classes start again in January. I’ll have my Winter Calendar posted on this site soon. Thanks for following and liking our fall classes at Arts on Adrian in the west end of Toronto, Ontario!

Tuesday Critique

 

 

 

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

15/11/2018

It’s pomegranate season! I’d been keeping an eye on quality and prices for the past week or so and the creativity stars aligned in time for our Saturday and Tuesday classes. Cézanne loved to paint pomegranates and that’s good enough for me.

I talked mostly about colour selection on Saturday. The study on the upper right shows cast shadows on three different surfaces; a green plate, a gold fabric and a white fabric. Notice how the colour of the cast shadow relates to the colour of each surface.

I discussed the lessons from the Saturday demonstration with the Tuesday students, as well. In addition to that, I did a few studies and varied the washes using soft edge techniques.

The students paid attention to my offerings but didn’t need me for inspiration. Maybe, they channeled their inner Cézannes. They certainly made the most of our annual still-life of juicy pomegranates.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

31/10/2018

The Arts on Adrian students considered this to be a challenging still-life. Lots of objects. Lots of possible compositions and approaches. I talked about a few things to start the Saturday and Tuesday classes. Many of these students are quite experienced watercolour painters and are interested in adding new elements to their work. Following the same process over and over again allows for improvement but varying the process, even risk-taking, is what gives you new ideas.

I started out with a pencil drawing. Here’s my most basic planning for my drawing.

I refined the drawing and created a small composition. Then, I wet the entire surface with clean water. While wet, I very randomly touched in the primaries; yellow, red and blue. This preliminary wash broke the ice. It crosses the lines and challenged me to work with it.

I let the painting dry completely before continuing. As I painted, I used different brush-handling techniques to vary washes. At times, I started a shape with water and added paint. Or I started with paint and gently feathered the edge of the shape with a damp brush. Other washes started with a light value and I added a darker value while it remained wet. In general, I wanted to add interest to all of the shapes in the painting.

On Tuesday, I did a bit more work on the small composition. Also, I broke down the shapes of the pitcher to show the techniques I’d employed.

I enjoyed looking over shoulders as the students worked on both days. There was a lot of energy in the studio on both days. What do think of their efforts?

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian This Week!

17/10/2018

Fall term began last Saturday at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end of Toronto. I set up a similar still-life to the one I used recently at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Pumpkins, squashes and gourds; very seasonal and fun to paint.

My demonstration for the classes focused on the relationship between drawing and linear composition. In addition to that, I discussed the pattern that is created by a tonal/value understanding of the subject. I also touched on colour mixing for some of these objects.

There’s always lots of creative energy in these classes and the work was impressive. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back at Arts on Adrian in two weeks!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Spring Tuesday and Saturday Watercolour Classes – Week Three!

05/05/2018

The Arts on Adrian studio resembled a thrift store this week. My pile of old shoes was definitely an unorthodox subject but the quasi-organic, soft forms offered a different kind of challenge than our previous still-lifes this term.

Once in a while, I like to demonstrate a ‘shape-reading’ approach to watercolour painting. This means starting with the watercolour brush; no prior pencil drawing! Several of the students have experimented with shape-reading before but some were tackling it for the first time. I started my demonstration with the afternoon class and added to it for the evening class.

Old shoes and boots may lack glamour but they can be a reasonably forgiving subject. Let’s have a look at the work from the Tuesday students.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

The Saturday students have a full day and I urged them to not just paint shoes but tell a story with their paintings. I also strongly suggested that they be bolder and more interpretative with colour. I didn’t have to tell them twice. Here’s my Saturday demonstration followed by the student paintings.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Click on the critique images to view a larger version. That’s it for spring term at Arts on Adrian! It was short but sweet and I thank the great students for their enthusiasm and creativity. I’ll be in touch soon.