Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Week Three!

28/02/2018

Black objects and reflections! How would the students at Arts on Adrian respond to this painting challenge? Let’s find out.

My demonstrations on Saturday and Tuesday focused on two main things. First, how to paint black without any black paint in the palette? There are a few ways to mix blacks. Ultramarine Blue works well with Burnt Sienna. An unusual way to make black is to mix Viridian or Pthalo Green with a cool red. My cool red is Rose Madder Quinacridone from Da Vinci. I settled on Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna.

The second thing was reflections. I discussed a few guidelines about handling reflections. Most of the reflections in our still-life could be painted with crisp edges. Success is based on accurate value relationships between the actual objects being reflected (grapefruit, orange, lemon) and their reflections on the surfaces of the black vases and jars.

Saturday Demonstration

The Sustained Saturday students approached the reflections with gusto!

Sustained Saturday Critique

My Tuesday demonstrations dealt with the same ideas. In the evening, I took a study a little further and added a background.

Tuesday Demonstrations

The Tuesday afternoon and evening students were equally enthusiastic. The black objects and reflections were a tricky painting problem but everyone enjoyed the process and learned a lot. That’s it for our winter term at Arts on Adrian in Toronto. I’ll be posting my spring calendar very soon. Thanks for following!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

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Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Six!

22/02/2018

Please, bear with me as I tell you about last night’s watercolour class at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our still-life comprised of cuddly critters was a great opportunity to talk about soft edge techniques. First of all, I broke down the bear into it’s component parts (ears, arms, nose, paws). Last week, I used a very similar approach with the colourful gift bags. I painted each shape with a light wash and touched in a darker version while it was still wet. This created a soft edge. It’s easier said than done and takes a lot of practice.

One of the students completely ignored the soft edge process and developed his image with values. This was fine with me. You may recall that I presented this approach a few weeks ago. David would like to improve his understanding of value and is quite happy to devote more time to it. Later on, he glazed some colour on his piece. Look for it in the critique.

Value Study
by David Chapman

I also urged everyone to pay a bit more attention to their compositions. Their thumbnail sketches took time and it slowed them down a bit so several ‘works in progress’ are featured in our critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Five!

18/02/2018

It was already our fifth evening of Watercolour: Concept and Technique last Wednesday at the Dundas Valley School of Art! We’ve had a cold and fairly white winter so I thought some bright colours were in order. Also, I wanted to talk about colour mixing and applying washes and these gift bags fit the bill.

If you don’t see a multi-coloured bag in the still-life, your vision is fine. I broke this bag down into component shapes so I could discuss colour and washes without taking the time to paint several bags. We’ve only got three hours to paint, after all, and that includes my demonstration and our constructive critique.

The students always apply themselves and most wish there was more painting time by the end of the class. Some of these watercolours are unfinished but why rush? The learning process is more important than the final product.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

08/02/2018

If you’ve ever spent time around a coastal fishing community, you’ll likely know what these things are. They’re floats that are used on nets and lobster pots. I’ve beachcombed quite a collection over the years and put together this selection for the Wednesday night watercolour students at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

Last week, our subject was hats and I demonstrated an approach to developing values with cool grey washes. Do you remember my demonstration?

The floats in the demonstration from yesterday evening were first painted in the same way as the hats. Once the washes were dry, I took it a step further. Using thin washes of local colour, I gently ‘glazed’ the objects. This is a very traditional approach to watercolour painting. I brought in a book and showed them a Gainsborough landscape that was completed with the same process.

All approaches/processes/styles have their pros and cons. The ‘value plus glazing’ process is great for establishing light and shadow and establishing a strong pattern in the painting. It’s not always the best approach for bright, vivid colour. All of the students felt that they could benefit from the experience and gave it a shot. They did well. As always, clicking on a critique image will bring up a larger version. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Week Two!

07/02/2018

I had to do the dishes before setting up a still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday classes at Arts on Adrian this week. Wait a minute! Those dishes are the still-life. Do you think this is an unorthodox subject? It may be, but the students really enjoyed it.

My demonstrations were much more about drawing than watercolour painting. That’s because of all of those tricky ellipses. An ellipse is a circle in perspective and there are several good guidelines about drawing them. Ellipse theory! Like other elements of perspective, a little bit of information can go a long way. Conversely, too much theory can lead to confusion and frustration. I tried to strike a balance in order to help the students with the challenge.

I threw a small wrench into the works. As if drawing ellipses isn’t tough enough. I gave everyone a copy of a photo of a typical kitchen sink. My hope was that some of the visual elements would give them ideas for the ‘backgrounds’ of their paintings.

The Saturday students used their full day well and several employed the kitchen sink photo to enhance their paintings overall. Have a look at their work and click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

We don’t have a backdrop behind the still-life in the studio. It’s in the centre of the room and students sit all around it. I photograph the still-life for these posts with a fabric behind it and I enjoy seeing how the different colours work with the objects. The dark blue shown above is effective. What do you think of the green? Both the blue and green are colours that are already present in the still-life objects.

The Tuesday classes got a slightly abbreviated version of the Saturday demonstration. Many of them work a bit smaller and place less objects in their compositions. It’s a practical solution as they have only an afternoon or evening to complete their paintings. Here’s the work from Tuesday. My next round of classes at Arts on Adrian in Toronto are a few weeks away. Check out my Winter Studio Calendar and think about joining us.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

 

 

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Three!

02/02/2018

If it’s a winter Wednesday evening, it’s time for watercolour painting at the Dundas Valley School of Art. As you can see, our still-life was comprised of a pile of hats. The hats aren’t particularly colourful but they were the perfect subject for the lesson I had in mind. I went ‘back to basics’ and talked about two main things during my demonstration; tone/value and brush-handling skills.

I drew my hats in pencil first. My cool grey was a mix of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. As I painted, I was very careful to leave the white of the paper for the lightest areas of the subject. I developed the bigger middle tone shapes next and the smaller dark shapes and marks came last. The brush-handling I mentioned involves the soft edge washes used to create gentle transitions such as on the crowns of the hats.

This study could be continued by ‘glazing’ washes of colour over the values. Believe it or not, this approach was widely used by early watercolourists a few hundred years ago and is still employed by some contemporary painters. I chose this lesson because I thought some of the students could use a refresher in light and shadow.

Next week, I’m going to take it a step further and discuss glazing. But right now, let’s see what the Wednesday class did. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Two!

27/01/2018

Last Thursday, this blog had it’s 200,000th view! Thank you for following, commenting and liking. Now, what happened at DVSA on Wednesday evening?

I brought in my collection of ‘Mexican’ pots on Wednesday. Lovely, solid forms with lots of texture on their distressed surfaces. My demonstration dealt, first of all, with process. Many watercolour painters follow three basic guidelines; light to dark, big to small and soft to crisp. Add in a dollop of simplification and a sprinkle of editing and you’ve got the essence of my lesson.

It was only our second night together so I think my ‘back to basics’ approach was appreciated. Thinking back to my suggestion of week one, almost everyone did a thumbnail sketch/compositional study first. This helped focus on an area of interest in the still-life. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour Critique b

Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour – Followup!

20/01/2018

Last November, I taught a two-day watercolour workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. The title of the workshop was Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour. Click here if you’d like to review the post about the workshop. It was essentially a creative exercise inspired by ideas from Cubist artists, particularly Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Other modernist artists such as Henri Matisse were discussed. The watercolour studies and paintings were developed with a very traditional step-by-step approach. Colour and composition were carefully considered. Textures were created with the use of resist materials and watercolour techniques. The results were anything but traditional. However, the paintings were colourful, playful and expressive.

Where does a student go with these new ideas following the intense two days of the workshop? I’m not always able to follow up. This time, however, I was able to do so. Two of the participants, Evelyn Cunningham and Rosemary Tannock, are involved with the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. Evelyn is a founding member and Rosemary is a regular participant in classes and open still-life sessions. I see them both fairly frequently and they see each other a lot, as well. Allow me to introduce them by way of their finished watercolours from the DVSA workshop.

WINE AND CHEESE
by Evelyn Cunningham

WINE AND CHEESE
by Rosemary Tannock

Apparently, I’d created a monster! Two monsters. Evelyn and Rosemary were very excited about the workshop and continued to apply their new concepts in the studio. They shared ideas and feedback with each other and sent images of their new work to me. Reports came in from their other drawing and painting friends. The two new ‘Cubists’ were telling everyone about the experience.

I decided to make the most of their enthusiasm and proposed this followup post. Evelyn and Rosemary have agreed to share their work and thoughts with you.

Why did you sign up for the workshop?
Evelyn:
To do something completely different, after a positive experience of using my left (non-dominant) hand. Also I was interested in what attracted Barry to this way of thinking.
***Note: Evelyn suffered a nasty injury to her right hand last year which has since healed. For several months, including two weeks with my watercolour painting holiday in Portugal, she worked exclusively with her left hand.

Rosemary:
Two reasons:
1) I had seen your creative and colourful watercolour cubist compositions on your blog; these captured my interest initially because of the colour combinations and whimsical form​s, but had no idea how you created them​.
2) I had limited knowledge of Cubism and previously have bypassed them in exhibitions because I did not know how to approach them.

How has the workshop influenced your work since?
Evelyn:
To my great surprise, I found breaking the conventional rules about perspective, colour and realism to be both scary and exhilarating. As a result of this workshop, my pendulum has moved back from doing the purely “Cubist” approach that Barry showed us, to trying to combine my natural painting instincts from before with giving myself permission to do the exact opposite of previous habits, in the same painting. It has resulted in some uncertainly, but a lot more fun.

Rosemary:
​In 3 major ways:
1) Your introduction to Cubism was so informative and interesting: it allowed me to better understand its philosophy, approach and its forms.
2) During the workshop exercises and activities, I realized how engaging Cubism is: from initial idea, design of thematic forms, through to colour choices and whimsicalness.
3) It is the first workshop I have ever taken that has stimulated me – drove me eagerly – to pursue and explore a specific approach independently: this approach to Cubism is artistically, technically, and intellectually engaging and challenging, while being great fun!

The new paintings since the workshop!
Now, let’s have a look at six watercolour paintings completed by Evelyn and Rosemary since the workshop. Click on any image to see a larger version.

TULIPS and TULIPA were painted during an Out of Control Tuesday watercolour session at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. These sessions allow the painters to work and interact without instruction.

In TULIPS, Evelyn has utilized a planar approach and distorted the perspective of the vase. The attractive cool/warm colour system softens the angularity of the forms.

TULIPS-
by Evelyn Cunningham

Rosemary has flattened out the shapes in TULIPA and intensified the colours. Her use of the written word enhances the flatness of the painting’s surface.

TULIPA-
by Rosemary Tannock

TOYS is as playful as it’s subject matter suggests. Another planar treatment is combined with a geometric background. The warm colours evoke pleasant associations with play and youth.

TOYS
by Evelyn Cunningham

In MATRYOSHKA DOLLS, the flatness is further emphasized by the black lines. Texture and pattern add interest to the shapes surrounding the dolls.

MATRYOSHKA DOLLS
by Rosemary Tannock

Evelyn uses soft, wet-in-wet washes to create a tranquil quality in GREAT BLUE HERON; a real celebration of unspoiled nature. Almost everything has been simplified into basic shapes and planes. Only the water and, perhaps, the logs are treated in a more traditional and naturalistic manner.

GREAT BLUE HERON
by Evelyn Cunningham

Rosemary re-visits the wine and cheese theme in VINTAGE 75. This was painted as a birthday card for a lucky friend. The curves and diagonals combine with complementary colours and the dynamic result embodies the fun of a great birthday party.

VINTAGE 75
by Rosemary Tannock

Evelyn and Rosemary continue to work with ideas from the workshop! Their creative courage and spirit of adventure has impressed me and their painting pals. At times, most of us have been stuck in the painting doldrums, lacking inspiration and wondering how to deal with it. A creative exercise such as our Cubist watercolour workshop can be refreshing and liberating. We may never thoroughly embrace every new idea but good things can seep into and re-invigorate our work.

Thanks, Evelyn and Rosemary! How about some comments? I know they’d like to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week One!

18/01/2018

Last night, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach Watercolour: Concept and Technique. This course, based on observation of the still-life, is comprised of eight evenings and we got off to a good start.

I didn’t discuss or demonstrate anything to do with watercolour technique. Rather, I focused on finding a composition with a thumbnail sketch/study. Thumbnail sketches are a very helpful part of the process. They don’t have to be pretty. They’re tools; not masterpieces. I lightly sketched an area of the still-life before deciding where I wanted to focus. I framed that area with pencil lines and shaded the main shadows within it. My next step was to enlarge the thumbnail on my watercolour paper while maintaining the same proportions as the sketch.

This was a new concept to many of the students. They worked hard on their thumbnails and on transferring the compositions to their larger watercolour sheets. The process slowed some of them down a bit and not all finished their watercolours. I didn’t mind that at all. As they incorporate thumbnails into their practice, they’ll become quicker and more assured. At the end of the evening, we looked at the paintings in two batches. See you next Wednesday!

Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Week One!

17/01/2018

Last Saturday was our first watercolour class of the new year at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. I have quite a collection of bottles and, no, they weren’t all recently emptied at New Year’s Eve parties. I enjoy painting bottles and the students responded to them with real energy and enthusiasm.

As usual, I started off with a demonstration. That yellowish rectangle on the left side of the sheet was a suggestion for a wet-in-wet preliminary wash. I wet the area with water and touched in some yellow and raw sienna quite randomly. A wash like this can add atmosphere to the painting and harmonize the colours. Many of the Saturday students gave it a try.

I discussed a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ approach. In general, the first wash on a bottle covered the entire area except for a few reserved paper-white highlights. It’s like a silhouette. I like to touch other colours and values into this first wash and let them run. Next, I add middle-tone shapes to give the bottle structure and presented some brush-handling techniques to help with this process. Finally, I add the darkest (and smallest) marks to bring the bottle to life.

The students got to work. Most of them do a thumbnail study to better understand the objects and relationshiops and to  sort out their compositions.  As I patrolled the room, I notice George at work.

Hmmmm! Was that part of the still-life displayed on his camera? Let’s take a closer look.

So it was! I investigated. George was not drawing from the camera screen. He was observing the still-life with care. However, following a good look at the still-life, he photographed and enlarged an area that interested him. He then pursued his usual and traditional process and completed his thumbnail sketch from observation. Cameras, phones and iPads have made their way into studio and ‘en plein air’ practice for some time now. I approve of the way George balanced the old and the new.

If you’ve never attended a Sustained Saturday, why don’t you consider joining us soon? It’s a very vibrant day of creativity in excellent and supportive company. Here’s what they did with the bottles. Click on any critique image for a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

This is another view of the bottle still-life with a different backdrop colour.

My demonstrations for the Tuesday classes dealt with the same ideas. I did develop a transparency a bit more and you can see it on the right side of the sheet where I’ve attempted to show the wooden box through the green bottle.

The Tuesday students applied themselves to the task with zeal. Remember that they have much less time to work on their paintings than their Saturday counterparts but come up with some very solid results.

There’s still a spot for you in an upcoming Tuesday or Saturday class. Check out my Winter Studio Calendar!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique