Archive for the ‘Dundas Valley School of Art’ Category

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Final Week!

01/12/2018

Eight weeks ago, I met this group and, bit by bit, identified what I thought they needed most in terms of process and techniques. The handling of soft edges has been near the top of the list and I’ve demonstrated several times with that in mind. Every Wednesday evening, I tape up the demonstrations that I’ve done to that point. This gives everyone a chance to review previous lessons.

Last Wednesday evening was my final class at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. Why not finish off with another shot at those soft edges? First of all, I needed a still-life that would suggest softness and the teddy bears were ready to go. They love getting out of the box once in a while.

I painted the bear one shape at a time and tried to create a soft edge, wet touching wet, within each shape. It’s surprisingly difficult to do and takes a lot of thought and practice.

I’ve enjoyed the last eight weeks with this hard-working bunch of artists. I’ve seen improvement and growing confidence in their work. Some have signed up for another round of classes with me that start in January and I look forward to working with them again. Care to join us? Check the DVSA winter calendar for details.

Wednesday Critique

 

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Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Seven!

23/11/2018

I like these geometric objects as a watercolour subject as they can be broken down into their component shapes. Each shape can be painted with a soft-edge transition; wet touching wet. Soft-edge techniques have become a major theme of this Wednesday evening class at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Why not? These techniques are fundamental to the medium and were, once again, the focus of my demonstration.

The students have been working hard. Some are doing homework and it has paid off. They are becoming increasingly confident (although you wouldn’t know it from listening to them) and I like their progress very much. We have one more class to go this term. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Six!

19/11/2018

The pomegranates made their way from Toronto to the Dundas Valley School of Art just in time for the Wednesday evening class. I’ve been focusing on basics with this group and some of the students requested a demonstration of even, ungraded washes over larger areas. Good idea!

Nothing is intrinsically better or worse in a watercolour painting. There are roles for both crisp and soft edges. Graded washes can be very attractive but a flatter, even wash may be appropriate at times. At the very least, the watercolour painter should know how to do it.

There was a lot to talk about for such a simple looking thing. A wash of a single pigment is easier to apply than a wash comprised of two or more pigments. Lighter washes (more water) are easier to apply than darker washes (more pigment). I discussed how to plan the direction of the wash and follow the bead. Mix enough paint so you don’t run out partway through. Don’t dip your brush in the water as it will dilute the wash and often create blossoms. Float the paint on gently and don’t grind your brush into the paper. It takes practice and thought.

It was a challenge but everyone will improve gradually. Overall, the students had a very strong evening of painting and I was pleased to see the progress. Technique will get better; again with lots of practice. I’m seeing much more confidence in the handling of values and colour than even a few weeks ago. Well done!

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Five!

09/11/2018

This pile of old ball caps was our painting subject at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. We’ve already painted ceramic and metal objects as well as fruit and vegetables. Why not these soft, crumpled forms that take the light so nicely?

Several of the students had upgraded their watercolour paper to something more absorbent and of a better quality and I’m glad they did. I reviewed soft edge techniques again and stressed simplification. It’s not necessary to paint every single wrinkle!

Last week, many of the students struggled. One reason was the usual and quite normal adjustment to new techniques. The other reason was trying to overcome the hurdle of cheap paper. What do I really think about the importance of using an appropriate paper? I promise not to mention it again.

There was a happy atmosphere during our critique at the end of the evening. Gaining competence with these techniques will continue to require lots of practice but the work looked great!

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

07/11/2018

It was our fourth evening at the Dundas Valley School of Art and we’re already at the midpoint of the fall term. It was also Halloween although I didn’t choose a thematic still-life. Instead, I went for these colourful metal objects. I wanted to discuss soft edge techniques again and these seemed to be an appropriate subject.

I reviewed and elaborated on a few ways to create the gentle transitions of a soft edge. How wet is the first wash? How dark is the second wash? Timing! There was a lot to talk about. The bottom right study, by the way, was an example of how not to do a wash. You had to be there.

I also stressed the importance of using the right paper for the job. My material list suggested absorbent papers such as Arches, Winsor & Newton and Saunders; all 140lb. and cold pressed. Unfortunately, many of the students disregarded this and purchased cheap, non-absorbent paper. I’ve watched them struggle with it for a few weeks and brought it to their attention again last Wednesday. We’ll see what they turn up with tonight.

Everyone worked hard and gained experience and that’s the important thing. However, we’ll see if better quality paper makes a difference over the next few weeks. It should. That’s why they make the good stuff.

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Three!

25/10/2018

I employed the KISS rule yesterday at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Keep it simple, student! Last week, you may recall that very few of the paintings were finished at the end of the night. I don’t really care as to whether or not they’re finished but I do think it’s important to go through the whole process. With that in mind, I suggested a few options; smaller paintings and/or less objects in the painting. In addition to that, I opted to use pears, always a classic subject, with some simple pots to set them off.

My demonstration sheet below is of the ‘you had to be there’ variety. It doesn’t look like much but I used it to discuss basic ‘soft edge’ techniques. The demonstration plus our discussion clicked somehow.

I’d like to take a little bit of credit for the results but I didn’t paint these watercolours, did I? Overall, the students really pushed themselves and were much more satisfied with their work than they had been last week. I’m also pleased that the less-experienced watercolour painters have shown improvement every class. See you at DVSA next week!

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!

20/10/2018

Ceramic objects were our subject at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. I’d given thought to the work from our first class and decided to focus my demonstration/lesson on two things; mixing middle tones and simplification. The prerequisite for this class is ‘some prior watercolour experience’. As such, some of the students have a fair bit more experience than others but I have no problem with reviewing a few basics.

The less-experienced watercolour artist often has trouble with mixing the middle tones and their paintings can look washed out. Starting with primaries, I offered my thoughts. Next we turned our attention to simplification. Simplification of form is not a technique; it’s a concept. It’s very closely allied to chiaroscuro (light and shadow). My little studies are painted with a single value mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I didn’t paint the areas where I observed direct light striking the objects. Can I get any simpler? Can you see and understand the basic objects?

Many of the students spent time on small studies before embarking on a painting. That took time and not many of them were able to finish their work by the end of the evening. It was time well spent, though!

Learning can’t be rushed. We’ll see more resolved images over the weeks to follow. I saw a lot of good things on Wednesday evening.

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week One!

12/10/2018

Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend, the leaves are falling and it’s time for Fall term at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I was back in Studio Two for an evening of intermediate watercolour painting on Wednesday. It was nice to see several familiar faces and to meet a bunch of artists for the first time.

Where does one start with a new class? The first evening gives me a chance to see how everyone likes to handle the medium and for the students to get to know me. I discussed the basic guidelines of a sound process; ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’. I didn’t focus overly on technique; just a step-by-step picture-making process. I worked on my demonstration in front of the class for a while before they got to work. While they painted, I continued with the process and showed them the study as I painted each step.

I also kept an eye on their paintings over the course of the evening. Generally, the work was quite competent but I noted a few things that I’ll discuss with next week’s demonstration. Click on the image below and you’ll see a larger version of our first Fall Wednesday Critique.

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!