Posts Tagged ‘adult watercolour classes’

Winter Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Final Class!


Wednesday evening was our last of eight classes this winter at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Attendance has been excellent and everyone was present for our rusty and dusty still-life.

My demonstration is a small painting, about 8 x 8″ or so. I worked very quickly and, as I painted, I reviewed several of the ideas and techniques from the prior classes. I even threw in a few new thoughts. The bluish object on the left was painted right over the background, for instance. I also cropped very tightly, thinking that the most interesting parts of the objects were the handles and spouts.

I’ve seen a lot of progress with the student’s paintings and I’m grateful for their enthusiasm and hard work. They also paid attention although nobody cropped their composition nearly as much as I did.

This spring, I’ll be teaching four one-day pen and ink workshops (some with watercolour) at DVSA. Next fall, I hope to offer another series of evening watercolour classes. For now, thanks go out to my great bunch of watercolourists and to all of you for following.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b


Winter Tuesday Watercolour Classes – January 12



This is the other side of our still life from the Sustained Saturday class last weekend. It’s a tricky subject and I did my best to simplify the various elements of the challenge. As on Saturday, I discussed the drawing of ellipses and also offered suggestions about how to handle the crate and it’s relationship to the cups and mugs.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I thought I might experience a mutiny when the Tuesday students saw the still life. There were a few nervous remarks as they entered the studio. As usual, however, they accepted the task and worked hard. It was a good learning experience and the classes ended on a very positive note.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight



Can you draw a hot bubble bath? That would be the perfect spot for these toy critters. The Tuesday students couldn’t just turn on a tap, though. They had to draw and paint these guys. Also, they had to tap into their personal wells of creativity. Everyone had three toys at their own work table so they could arrange them in any way they chose.

Last spring, we had a ‘special project’ without a traditional still life in the middle of the room. Everyone had a seashell. We did it again in the autumn; milkweed pods were our inspiration. As far as I was concerned, any treatment of the subject was allowed. Enjoy the shapes and colours. Tell a story. Create a non-traditional design.

I explored a few ideas on my demonstration sheet. Some are more interpretative and others more conventional. Brush-handling is essential to all. I’ve used the brush in different ways to create soft edges.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Imagination can’t be taught. It can be encouraged, however. Sometimes, it helps to consider your painting as a creative exercise with certain parameters. For example, the small painting on my demonstration sheet was drawn with pencil. The shapes were painted one at a time and a darker colour or value was touched into each shape while it was still wet. No shapes were allowed to run into each other. It was a good way to practice a basic soft edge technique.

FISH By Elizabeth Jay

By Elizabeth Jay

I’m showing you this watercolour by Elizabeth Jay because she had to leave a few minutes early and I wasn’t able to include it in the critique photo. I like it, too. Elizabeth used a bit of wax. She also managed to create layers of depth with her use of cool and warm colours.

I’m not sure if the students were elated or exhausted at the end of each class. Some of the results are more playful than others but it was a positive experience overall.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Four



Complementary colours. Cool and warm colours. These cantaloupes really glow against the blues and it’s no accident. Their vibrancy comes from the relationship with blue (blue and orange are an eternal love story). The orange of the cantaloupes  advances as the blue objects and fabrics recede.

I promised lots of painting time to the students so I kept the demonstration, as much as possible, to the point. First of all, a quick reminder of the change in value for a plane change. I’ve drawn two simplified wedges showing three planes on each. So, three values (in cool gray) give them a three-dimensional quality.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I started the cantaloupes with a light, translucent golden wash throughout the area of the exposed fruit. While wet, I touched in some darker orange and green. When that was dry I painted the skin an olive green and left a few flecks of paper white to suggest the pitting. Everything was allowed to dry before I painted the seeds and the darker pits in the skin. Light to dark. Big to small. You’ve heard that before here.

There aren’t as many watercolour paintings to look at today. Various bugs kept several of the painters at home. Here’s what they did! Check out the paintings with warm, yellow or orange, backgrounds. They give the work an interesting sense of space and light. What do you think?

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class – January 10



A full house was on hand today for our first Sustained Saturday of 2015. It’s cold and snowy outside so I defied reality and set up a still life with a bit of a southern feel. The soapbox doesn’t necessarily relate to the other objects but it’s an interesting platform for them.

My demonstration sheet shows two very different approaches to the pot. I painted the one on the left with Raw Sienna, darkening it with Cobalt blue in the shadowy areas. Subsequently, I glazed green over the first washes; not everywhere, of course. The Raw Sienna is preserved where the colour of the clay shows through on the pot.

The study on the right was done in a few minutes. Quick, gestural, bold. This could be a ‘warmup’ study before starting a sustained work. It could also be a finished piece.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The beauty of a Sustained Saturday is time. The class is more than twice as long as a Tuesday morning or evening class. Now, the students will tell you that there’s never enough time, no matter how long the class. I tell them to plan their day, budgeting a certain amount of time for preparatory work and warmup studies. The amount of time they allot for a sustained watercolour is up to the individual.

Several of the students felt rusty after the holiday layoff. I don’t think it really shows. It’s been a great start to our new year and a nice antidote to the deep freeze outside.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One!


Still Life

Happy New Year! The Tuesday watercolour painters were back in action yesterday. My New Year’s Resolution was to review a few basics. The focus of the two classes was value and we took a very traditional approach to our subject.

Step one of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I mixed Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna together to make a cool gray. Working from light to dark, I developed the values. I left paper white for the areas of direct light. The washes were allowed to dry before I applied the local colour.

Step two of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step one of watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I asked the students to study the values carefully and to take their time. Not all completed the colour stage of the painting but they did a great job of observation. All in all, a solid start to our new term.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Six – More Fishing Gear!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk6

This is another view of the still life I used on Saturday. These rough and weather-beaten objects were the perfect subject for our goals yesterday.

I demonstrated using flat angled watercolour brushes. These brushes are made by several different companies. I prefer the firmer synthetic or sable/synthetic mix brushes. They don’t hold as much water as a natural hair round brush and it requires an adjustment when using them for the first time.

Flat angled brushes - WinterTuesWk6

As an extension of last Tuesday’s lesson, I used mostly crisp edges and a bit of wax resist, as well. My preliminary drawing was done with simple, broad strokes of a soft pencil; very general and with no detail. I wanted the brush to have a strong role in the painting and not restrict it to simply filling in between carefully drawn lines.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk6

As on Saturday, the Tuesday students brought these old floats to life with some vivid colour. Most tried the flat angled brushes and some experimented quite freely with the wax. I’m going to stick with these versatile brushes for a few more weeks.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Sustained Saturday – Brass, Kiwis and More!


Still Life - WinterSat1/2013

Yesterday, it was a full house at my studio for our first Sustained Saturday class of 2013. Last Tuesday, I inflicted a still-life of old shoes and boots on the classes. The subject matter may have been prosaic, to say the least, but there were some lovely results.

I tried to make our new still-life attractive in a more traditional fashion. It was complex with a lot of elements so the students were compelled to select an interesting area and create a composition.

Our still-life was lit by a lamp which hangs above it. It illuminates our subject quite well but it doesn’t benefit from the overhead fluorescent lights and even the north light from the window. I wanted to discuss value and the importance of a single light source. So, I painted my demonstration in the dark. As a rule, I don’t recommend painting in the dark but it allowed us all to see and record the most important areas of light.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterSat1/2013

My demonstration was done in four values. My blue/grey washes were mixed from Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. I wasn’t concerned about neatness or subtle soft-edge transitions. This is very much a working study.

1) Paper-white was reserved for the strongest light.

2) My first wash was a middle value and it was painted everywhere except for the lightest areas. The study looked very flat at that point but the light had been revealed.

3) The second wash was a darker middle value and it added structure and definition.

4)The final wash was very dark.

During the class, I frequently turned off the fluorescent lights for a few minutes at a time. I adjusted the window blinds to minimize the impact of exterior light. Most of the students tried a value study before embarking on a more sustained watercolour.

The beauty of a 7 1/2 hour class is the extra time and I was pleased to see much of that time devoted to a sound process involving sketches, studies and colour testing. We included our value studies in our Critique because we wanted to share them as well as the sustained work.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two – Shoes!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk2

It’s surprising how much fun it can be to paint a pile of old shoes and boots. Fun but not without it’s challenges and drawing is probably Challenge Number One.

Step one of drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

The first sheet shows two shoes drawn with straight strokes only. Lots of light lines are used to find the shape of the shoe. I’ve darkened the lines here for better visibility.

Step two of drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

Curved strokes are next. As I draw, I analyze the shapes and try to think about how I will paint them. My watercolour demonstration is in progress below. A tightly cropped composition can help us focus on shapes rather than trying to be overly literal about depicting the shoes. It’s important to study edges where shapes touch each other. Can a dark value be used to set off a light area?

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

Our guest artist was Canadian painter Aba Bayefsky (1923-2001). Aba had a lifelong love for Toronto’s Kensington Market. He was one of my teachers at the Ontario College of Art and I remember him for his sense of humour and insights into my student struggles with drawing and watercolour.

Kensington Shoe Storeby Aba BayefskyPrivate Collection

Many of his charming and spirited drawings and watercolours of the lively ethnic Market have been collected in this book from Mosaic Press. He treats the shoes and boots in a playful manner but his keen observation never wavers.

Aba Bayefsky in Kensington MarketWinterTuesWk2

The careful drawing did slow down many of our artists. I don’t mind looking at unfinished paintings during our end-of-class critiques. The process is more important to me than the product. Still, the two classes  created some very strong watercolours.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One


Still Life - WinterTuesWk12013

Happy New Year, art lovers! It was time to get back to watercolour painting at my studio yesterday. I like to start each term with some colour and some familiar yet pleasing shapes and the citrus fruit seemed to fit the bill.

I used my demonstrations, almost like diagrams on a blackboard, to illustrate the fundamentals that I discussed at the start of each class. Simplification, value and colour were my main topics. I did these little watercolours with my primaries only; Aureolin (Mixture), Rose Madder Quinacridone and Cobalt Blue, all from the Da Vinci Paint Company.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk12013

Some of the students are still fairly new to watercolour and I asked them to keep their paintings as simple as my demonstrations. As it happened, a few of the more experienced artists liked the idea and tried it, as well. The rest went ahead and did their thing and we had some very colourful and cheerful results.

It looks like we have a creative winter term ahead of us. Thanks for following.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique