Archive for the ‘Dundas Valley School of Art’ Category

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Four!

15/03/2020

Last Wednesday, I was back at Dundas Valley School of Art. It was the final evening class in a short series of four. My demonstrations on the first three nights had focused on various fundamentals of process and technique. What to do for the final evening?

I decided to paint a small work (7 x 6″) from start to finish. I followed a forgiving light to dark and big to small process. I worked quickly and discussed my thoughts and decisions as I painted. I completed it in about 32 minutes thanks to a handy hair dryer. I rarely do a whole painting as a demonstration but, once in a while, I think the students can benefit from seeing all of the steps.

Something clicked. This group has been a pleasure to work with and their progress over four short evenings has been remarkable. Click on the critique image to view a larger version.

That’s it until spring term. The schedule is up in the air right now due to the coronavirus. Most of us will be spending much more time at home for the next while. If so, paint a lot and stay well!

Wednesday Evening Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Three!

06/03/2020

Thanks for all of your comments about the value of critiques last week! I think that most of us consider the critique to be an indispensable element of an art class.

I chose these colourful gift bags for our still-life at Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday evening. First of all, the colours are cheerful. Secondly, the broad, flat planes allowed me to deal with applying even, ungraded washes for my demonstration. I painted the overall shape of this green bag first and strove to keep the wash consistent and without streaks or blossoms.

Following that, I continued to develop the bag, guided by a light to dark and big to small process. I used soft-edge techniques to show value transitions on the ribbon.

It was only our third class (one more to go) and I’m pleased with the progress already. There’s a lot to deal with in the world of observational painting; drawing, composing, grasping light and shadow, brush-handling and more!

Wednesday Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!

27/02/2020

Last night, I was at Dundas Valley School of Art for the second evening of a four-week watercolour class based on the still-life. As I mentioned last week, the students are a balanced mix of ‘regulars’ and new. By ‘regulars’, I mean students who have done at least two prior still-life courses with me, more than that in some cases. Although this class is not intended for novices, most of the new students have no prior experience with observational work but have taken other watercolour classes at some time.

How does an instructor handle a group of students with various levels of skill and experience? First of all, in the world of non-credit adult education, this is the norm. I’ve been teaching adults for thirty-two years and this has always been the case wherever I’ve taught. So, back to the question.

Last week, I didn’t know the new students at all. My demonstration dealt with the fundamental issue of observational work. Find the light! Also, I briefly touched on soft-edge techniques. We got started and, as I walked around the studio, observing and offering feedback, I quickly grasped the skill levels of the new students.

The thing about traditional, observational work is that watercolour technique is only a partner to the basics of drawing and understanding light and shadow. It’s very challenging to new students especially if they don’t have much of a background in drawing. As I walked around, I felt that all of the new students were able to draw the subject competently. The general grasp of light and shadow was less accomplished but that’s often the case with much more experienced students. This is why I chose the topic for the first demonstration last week.

I started the second class with a demonstration for the whole group. You can see it on the left side of the sheet. A bit of everything was discussed; light and shadow, the value and colour relationships between the various objects and soft-edge technique. Then, I asked the ‘regulars’ to get to work and I kept the new students with me for a few more minutes. The right side of the sheet illustrates my talk about creating soft edges, a core watercolour technique. After this supplementary lesson, the new students got to work.

Back to the question again. This is one way that I deal with a group of students with various levels of skill and experience. I do other things, as well. I suggested that the new students consider a sheet of studies of individual objects rather than tackling a full composition, for example. Also, I constantly stress process over product. To the new student, their first four evenings of still-life painting are merely an introduction to the process. It’s a learning experience. The regulars continue to develop their observational and watercolour skills as well as their grasp of colour and composition, also a learning experience.

I’ve enjoyed the first two evenings. Everyone has worked hard. Our attendance was diminished a bit by a winter storm but we still had a lot to look at for our critique at the end of the class. The critique, by the way, is a critical part of the learning experience but not the only opportunity to learn. The engaged students will learn a lot from each other as they walk around during breaks and look at the other paintings in progress as well as during the critique. I offer constructive critiques and I emphasize that the critique is not a competition but an opportunity to learn from the feedback given to every participant.

I’ve written a lengthy post now and only scratched the surface about adult studio-based art classes. Before we look at the paintings from last night, I have a question for you. How much do you value critiques in the art classes you’ve taken? Please, comment.

Wednesday Critique

 

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA!

22/02/2020

I was back at Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday for the first evening class of a series of four. The group was a very balanced mix of ‘regular’ students and new (to me) ones. All have some experience in the watercolour medium but not all had done a lot of, or any, prior observational still-life painting. Everyone was keen, however, and I’m looking forward to the next three classes.

Finding and preserving the key light may be the most critical element of observational and representational work. It’s always challenging in a studio lit with numerous fluorescent tubes. I always place a lamp with a strong bulb over the still-life and that’s the light source we try to heed. The fluorescent lights confuse the issue but, alas, we need them to see what we’re doing. At the start of the class, and once in a while throughout, I’ll turn off the overhead tubes for a few minutes. This helps everyone see the important light much better and always enhances the still-life.

My demonstration focused on finding the light and also on creating interest in the shadowy areas of the objects. I like to emphasize the positive but the right side of the sheet shows a few examples of ‘how not to draw’. I’d already presented my more positive drawing approach briefly in the mortar and pestle study on the left.

There are a lot of objects in my still-lifes but I never recommend that the students paint them all. I suggest that they choose an area of the collection and do a thumbnail compositional study before enlarging it on their watercolour sheet. With several students new to this experience, I also suggested that they forget about composing and painting a group of objects but create a sheet of individual studies. Some chose this route and I think that the focus on practice over product will make the class a more successful learning experience for them.

I enjoyed the evening and the enthusiasm of the group. Stay tuned for their efforts over the next three Wednesday evenings. As one of my DVSA colleagues says, “practice makes progress”!

Wednesday Critique

 

Interpret Your Photos in Watercolour at DVSA – Weeks Three and Four!

30/01/2020

WEEK THREE

Wednesday Critique-Week Three

These are the small watercolours that the students completed during the third evening of our four-week course at Dundas Valley School of Art. Also, you can see their four-value studies. I allowed them a lot of painting time but still introduced a few new ideas.

One of those ideas was the notan. Notan is a Japanese word and it means ‘light dark harmony’. A notan is usually a two-value study of the essence of the subject. White and black. I found some excellent information about notans at two websites: drawpaintacademy.com/notan/ and virtualartacademy.com/notan/

Here is a photo I took in Vermont and a notan I made from it. I used pencil and a black marker. You can see a basic grid and you’ll note quite a few little adjustments to the composition.

In addition to that, I talked about other approaches to four-value studies. We’d done ours in watercolour and used ‘sepia’ washes. They can also be done with pencil or markers or just about any medium that works for you.

I did one from a photo that one of my Toronto students had brought in for the one-day workshop last winter (are you reading this, Emilia?). In this case, I used grey and black markers and here are the steps I took:

Courtesy of Emilia

 

  

As you can see, I made some very strong decisions about this composition. I’ve edited a lot and re-arranged the lamppost to better effect, I think. Remember that I’m interpreting the photo and not simply copying it!

We had another discussion about colour mixing, as well as a few tips for painting foliage. The students completed the work shown above and we looked ahead to week four.

WEEK FOUR
We kicked off the evening with a look at the photos the students proposed to interpret for their final project. Several of the group had done homework and I commend their enthusiasm! This work included notans and even some small colour studies.

My goal for the final class was to give them as much painting time as possible. Still, I had two things I wanted to present. First of all, I took a few minutes and showed the gang a book by eminent Australian watercolourist, Robert Wade. His book is entitled Painting More Than The Eye Can See. It’s full of excellent ideas about watercolour process and creative license. You can see how well-worn my copy is.

As the students worked, I provided them with some information regarding copyright, moral rights, the ethics of painting from photos and other related issues.

We covered a great deal of material in four evenings. One student said that her only complaint was that the course was too short. I think she may be right. The next time I propose the course, I’ll probably ask for six or eight weeks.

It was a very nice group and I’ll conclude with a look at the work they did during our final evening. Not everyone finished as we only had a few hours but they all followed a thoughtful process that, with practice, will really bring their photo reference to life!

Click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique-
Week Four

 

Interpret Your Photos in Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!

17/01/2020

Last March, I offered a one-day workshop at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. The theme was to better understand the process and potential pitfalls of working from photographs. The day went very well and I expanded it to a four-evening course and offered it this winter at Dundas Valley School of Art.

We started a week ago Wednesday. I didn’t post the first class because we spent a lot of time looking at a PowerPoint presentation that I’d prepared. First of all, I showed a selection of watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs and, of course, they were quite impressive. Then, we looked at photos that I’d taken and some that were submitted by students. Our goal was to identify potential problems, elements in the photos that would not necessarily work in a painting. We also analyzed the photos in terms of composition, light and shadow and colour.

Our overall goal is to transform the photo reference into something special and not simply copy it verbatim. We began by creating a four-value study from a photo during the first class. This is one of my photos and it’s unremarkable although the subject has potential.

I started by selecting an area of the photo in a proportion of 3 x 4 units and drawing a grid over the selected area. I chose 3 x 4 because so many of our standard watercolour blocks and pads are 3 x 4 (9 x 12″, 12 x 16″, 18 x 24″).

Using the grid, I transferred the image to a watercolour sheet. The new image is larger than the gridded photo but it’s in the same proportion of 3 x 4. This small watercolour study is 6 x 8″. It was completed with four values. The lightest is the white of the paper. The light and dark middle tones and the dark tones were mixed with a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue.

Detail isn’t important in the study; simplification is the key. Four values create a strong pattern.

The students began their studies on the first evening but didn’t complete them. We continued with them during the second class. Click on the image to view a larger version of their studies.

Wednesday Critique

The students brought in their own photos for the second class and we had a thorough look at them. Each student picked one and started a four-value study. That experience will reward them with the next step which is a small watercolour painting in full colour.

We discussed a few other things on Wednesday such as mixing greens, browns and greys. Next week, I’ll catch you up with their paintings from their own photos. Also, I’ll be offering some more thoughts on how to effectively interpret your photos in watercolour.

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Final Week!

22/11/2019

I wanted a cheerful subject for our final class this fall at Dundas Valley School of Art and these colourful peppers fit the bill nicely. Warm colours such as red, yellow and orange can be tricky to work with; particularly when one mixes the darker values. With that in mind, I talked mostly about colour mixing to start things off. Also, I took a shot at a red pepper and discussed the steps including the initial drawing, soft-edge washes and some useful brush-handling techniques.

I’ve enjoyed the group this term and been very pleased with their progress. During our critique on Wednesday evening, I pointed out that a successful painting isn’t judged solely by the ‘realistic’ rendering of the individual objects. A successful work is the sum of it’s parts. The skill to render a pepper realistically can be learned with practice. Creating bright, colourful paintings like the students did is no mean feat and not to be under-rated.

As usual, remember to click on the critique image to view a larger version. Thanks for following along for the past eight weeks! Thanks to you, this blog received it’s 280,000th view the other day.

By the way, the still-life served another important role; delicious stuffed peppers prepared by Aleda O’Connor! Check out her website.

Wednesday Critique

 

 

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!

16/11/2019

We had our first big snowfall earlier this week in southern Ontario. I thought this still-life might suggest warmer climes. Whether or not it did, the watercolour students at Dundas Valley School of Art enjoyed it. I didn’t do a demonstration on Wednesday evening. Instead, I reviewed the demos from the first six classes and discussed the elements of the still-life. This approach gave the students more painting time than usual and they responded very well.

Progress continues to be made. I stress that the whole painting be considered. All of the relationships within the frame of reference will affect the outcome. In particular, that means the backgrounds must be considered. On Wednesday, several different treatments of the background were implemented; warm colours, cool colours, light values, darker values, geometric, and graded washes. Which do you think work best?

As usual, click on the critique to view a larger version. Thanks for following!

Wednesday Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Six!

11/11/2019

These rusty and dusty old cans were our subject matter last Wednesday at Dundas Valley School of Art. My demonstrations have been focused primarily on soft-edge techniques and brush-handling this term. I added a new wrinkle to the process on Wednesday evening.

I started the demo with a pencil drawing and then taped around it to create a composition. Next, I painted a very light and slightly varied wash across the whole image, using a mix of Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. When the wash was dry, I continued the painting and started with the bigger shapes, often touching in a new colour or value and letting it run a bit. Gradually, the image took shape as I continued to work with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process.

This demonstration took a while. The students watched the initial washes only before they got to work. I carried on with it as they painted. I’d do a step and hold it up to show them. After walking around the studio to give feedback, I’d do another step and so on. Once in a while, a sustained demo can be helpful but must be balanced with the student’s painting time.

The preliminary wash idea was new to most of the class but everyone tried it. In a way, it breaks the creative ice. All of the sheet is covered by paint right away even though it’s a light wash. The gritty old gas cans were the right subject, as well. It’s hard to get too precious as they’re so worn and they’re fun to draw.

Here’s the work! Click on the image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Five!

04/11/2019

Last Wednesday was a grim, dark and damp day. These colourful objects brightened up the studio at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Also, they were the perfect subject for our continuing exploration of soft-edge techniques.

Soft edges create gentle transitions across the planes of an object or surface. Success with these techniques requires thought and perseverance. It’s worth the investment in time and energy as soft edges are a key element of watercolour painting.

In class, the focus tends to be on finishing the painting before the end of the evening. That can backfire sometimes as not enough time is spent on practicing techniques on scrap paper or the backs of old paintings. I suggest that my students fill up sheets with ‘swatches’. For example, paint a 2 x 2″ shape in a light blue wash. While it’s still wet, touch in a darker blue wash in the bottom half of the swatch. A soft edge transition should result where the light and dark washes meet. Sounds simple? Try it. It’s hard to believe how many things can go wrong before you’ve spent hours and hours at it.

I’m going to continue to stress these ideas in the weeks ahead. Now, let’s have a look at the student work from Wednesday evening.

Wednesday Critique