Posts Tagged ‘art groups’

Vermont 2018 – Our Last Day was Friday at Glover!


One more to day to go and the weather was beautiful! One more demonstration, as well, and I decided to offer two basic approaches to painting clouds.

In my first study, all the shapes were drawn in pencil first. I left a fair bit of paper white on the puffy clouds but used an off-white wash in the ‘background’ clouds. Washes were allowed to dry before new ones were applied. The puffy clouds were painted one at a time. I started them with either clean water or a pale wash and touched in the darker values while wet. Very step by step and it took about fifteen minutes or so (using a hairdryer sped things up).

My second study took about four minutes. Cloud shapes were loosely indicated with light pencil marks. I wet the sheet with water overall but left dry patches for the white of the clouds. The light blue went in next and the darker cloud values followed.

The two different basic approaches were appreciated by the group. Of course, there are probably as many ways to paint clouds as there are actual clouds but one has to start somewhere.

Our painting site was the town of Glover and it was full of Vermont character with a wonderful general store and Red Sky Trading. A short stroll took some of our painters into the rural countryside. The colours were out in their glory and it was another fulfilling and creative day.

A shady spot

A not so shady spot

Feeling the Bern!

All good things come to an end, as they say. This was our last day and we had an evening itinerary. First, however, we returned to the Ski Hut Studio to look at our work from Friday. Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique c

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a fine Farewell Dinner at the Highland Lodge. Heidi, Chad, Brittany, Arnold and the whole team had looked after us very well all week long and our dinner was a great way to wrap up. There was musical entertainment, as well, and Heidi sang a song to our group of watercolour painters. It was the John Denver classic, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’.

After dinner, it was back to the studio for our Final Critique. Each artist selected three works to show us and it was a nice way to summarize and recall our endeavours together. Several of the group stayed on Saturday and explored even more of the Northeast Kingdom but our workshop was over.

Thanks go to all of our participants, the staff at Highland Lodge and the very friendly Vermonters we encountered every day. Thank you for following! Next stop is from March 21-31, 2019 in beautiful and safe San Miguel de Allende. Care to join me for a painting adventure in Mexico? Click here to view all of the details!


Vermont 2018 – Thursday at Craftsbury Common!


Another morning and another demonstration in the Ski Hut Studio. The weather was fine and our plan was to paint at Craftsbury Common, which features a lot of charming white buildings. Well, we didn’t have any white paint so what would we do?

The white of the paper can be used, of course, but sometimes it needs a little help. I discussed ways to very lightly tint the paper to create warm, cool or neutral whites. Also, we looked at how to mix whites in shadow.

White can also be enhanced by context. For example, a black roof and shutters can help make a wall in shadow look whiter.

I wrapped up the demonstration and off we went to Craftsbury Common for a very pleasant day of sketching and painting.

We had a few unexpected art critics from nearby Sterling College.

It was a relief to enjoy such good weather. Still, critiques are best held indoors so, at the end of the day, we convened at our Ski Hut Studio. I was very pleased to see the progress made over the week to date. There’s one more day to go. Stay tuned!

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b


Gibsons School of the Arts – Last Day!



I bade farewell to lovely Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast last Friday. We had spent part of Thursday and all of Friday on our final project. The workshop participants created compositions from their own reference material. Most started with photographs and made sketches and studies from them. As the ideas developed, I asked them to put the photographs away. ‘Realism’ was not our goal. Our paintings were intended to be interpretative, whimsical and expressive. The photographs had to be abandoned!

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I worked on my demonstration while the group painted. I called them over from time to time to discuss techniques and concepts. Also, I walked around the studio every ten minutes or so to provide some one-on-one feedback.

Each individual chose their size and format. We were evenly split between quarter and half sheets. In response to our earlier exercises, some elected to leave the white lines between each shape and in the other works the shapes touched each other.

We had talked a lot about colour and composition over the course of the week and the group came through with some dynamic paintings. Some aren’t quite finished yet but we all enjoyed our final critique.

I had a great week at the Gibsons School of the Arts and appreciate the enthusiasm and daring of the participants. Thanks for your likes and comments and for following our progress.


Gibsons School of the Arts – Day One!



I boarded a ferry in Horseshoe Bay last Sunday, setting out on a new teaching adventure. I arrived 45 minutes later at Gibsons, on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. I’m teaching all week at the Gibsons School of the Arts, leading a workshop called ‘Creative Watercolor: Imagination, Colour and Composition’.

On Sunday night, I met the students at a ‘meet and greet’ in a lovely local home. Monday morning, we convened at the Arts Building in the bright and spacious studio.


This is a watercolour workshop and is comprised of a series of exercises, each with it’s own goal. My first demonstration dealt with a basic ‘soft edge’ technique that will become the ‘building block’ of all our paintings. Following that, I discussed drawing and presented our first exercise which was based on an inukshuk. The inukshuk originated with the Inuit and was a pile of stones in a human shape. Here in BC, people love to make their own versions on the rocky beaches although they don’t necessarily resemble a human being.

Preliminary drawing for watercolour exercise by Barry Coombs

Our exercise took a ‘step by step’ approach. The drawing is very important and I darkened my pencil lines to stress the need to create clearly defined shapes. Think of a stained glass window or even a colouring book!

The students chose their own colours and tried to apply the ‘soft edge’ technique to every shape in the painting. I worked on my demonstration throughout the day and called the group over from time to time to discuss various ideas about brush-handling and technique.


Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was a full day! Some of the students are primarily acrylic painters and the techniques were a new challenge. The process was new for most of the  watercolour painters, as well. Everyone followed the steps of the exercise and we wrapped up with a look at the results.


Monday Critique

Humber Valley Art Club – Final Two Days!


I spent two days with the Humber Valley Art Club this week, the third and fourth of our Pen and Watercolour workshop. Do you remember our dories from Day Two? We didn’t have time to look at them so we started off Day Three with an exhibition. Not everyone had a chance to finish adding ink but they still looked good.


Our main project for Day Three had a nautical theme, as well. Everyone had a toy tugboat and followed these steps.


First of all, we drew them in pencil. This is not a large drawing. An open hand would cover it. After a discussion about light and shadow, we painted in the core shadow with a cool, blue-grey wash.


The next step was a bit of a surprise to the workshop participants. I added details in pencil and then glazed colour over local areas of the tugboat.


Finally, the pen. We talked about stroke direction, in particular, and explored the subject with our pens.


Everyone did well and each tugboat had it’s own personality.


Day Four was a busy one. We started off with a drawing of an abandoned shack. This was done from my model and perspective was discussed before we sharpened our pencils. Although we had a good talk about perspective, I stressed that the shack was rundown and didn’t have to conform perfectly to the laws of vanishing points.

A relaxed and runny wash of local colour was applied over the pencil drawing.


The pen brings out details and adds more structure to the drawing.


Our final project was a teddy bear picnic! Everyone had a figurine to work from. We went back to the approach used with the tugboats and established a strong sense of light and shadow first. We also added a new element; a background.




Here are the results! We had a lot of fun looking at the bears. Each one seemed to have a story to tell and many had very amusing expressions.



Thanks for having me, Humber Valley Art Club. It was nice to meet everyone and your enthusiasm and talents made the workshop a success. Keep sketching! Take these ideas and develop your own work in the addictive medium of pen and watercolour.


Willowdale Group of Artists – Wrapup!


Last night, I was back at the Edithvale Community Centre with the Willowdale Group of Artists. It was our third and final evening of Pen with Watercolour. I  didn’t post our second evening, from last week, so let’s start with that.

Duck (parquet approach) by Barry Coombs - WGA2013  Duck (pen and watercolour) by Barry Coombs - WGA2013

A good first step in a drawing is to establish the basic light and shadow shapes. But what direction should the strokes of the pen follow? It can be quite confusing, especially on rounded forms and curving surfaces. The drawing on the upper left shows a ‘parquet’ approach’. The piece on the right was started with exactly the same approach. As you can see, it’s possible to develop a rather flat and mechanical beginning into something more three-dimensional.

Is it the right thing for the subject? Black pen strokes are extremely strong. Still, I was able to create cast and core shadows and a feeling of reflected light. Starting a pen drawing with ‘parquet’ strokes can be a great learning experience.

Here’s a selection of the drawings from the first two weeks of our workshop.

Critique a - WGA2013

Everyday objects was our theme for week three. I prepared a handout sheet with four different subjects.

Pen and ink handout by Barry Coombs - WGA2013

We revisited the question of stroke direction. What do you see in the drawing below? Hopefully, a toy frog. I’ve just repeated WGA over and over again in the core and cast shadow areas and we can still see a toy frog! This doesn’t mean that stroke direction is irrelevant but it does emphasize the importance of shape. The shapes of light and shadow in this drawing are articulate enough to describe a toy frog, regardless of stroke direction.

Pen drawing by Barry Coombs - WGA2013

I had drawn two of my handout subjects onto watercolour paper. This crumpled paint tube is on Arches, 140 lb., Hot Press paper. I did the grey wash first and added the colour when it was dry.

Paint Tube - Watercolour by Barry Coombs - WGA2013

I did the ink bottle on Curry’s, 200 lb., Cold Press watercolour paper. The first image shows the watercolour and the second shows the pen work. I tried to keep a ‘relaxed’ feeling with the brush and pen.

Ink Bottle - Watercolour by Barry Coombs - WGA2013  Ink Bottle - Pen and watercolour by Barry Coombs - WGA2013

The students brought in their own ‘everyday’ objects. All concurred that the biggest challenge, aside from using the watercolour and pen, was to create a believable sense of light and shadow.

As usual, the evening flew by and everyone would have loved more time for the pen. It’s always nice to come away from a workshop with a finished drawing or painting. I think, though, it’s more important to continue working with the new ideas and techniques from the workshop. Pen and watercolour is great for sketchbook-keeping as well as for finished work.

Critique b - WGA2013

Thanks, WGA. It was nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. Jo Baumann, with me in the photo below, is the Workshop Coordinator.

Jo Baumann and myself - WGA2013

Evergreen Watercolour Painters Club


Yesterday, I visited the Evergreen Watercolour Painters Club  in Guelph, Ontario and we did a little pot together. Do I have your attention? The event was a one-day workshop and the theme was pen and watercolour. We completed two drawings over the course of the day. As mentioned, we started off with a little pot.

Step one of pot by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013  Step two of pot by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013

Step one is my pencil drawing. Lots of planning lines. The second step is a wash. I’ve left the white of the paper on the lip of the pot.

Step three of pot by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013  Step four of pot by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013

Step three shows the development of shadow with the pen. The first question with the pen is usually “In what direction should the strokes go?” With this ‘parquet’ approach, shadows can be established without making constant decisions about stroke direction. I used a #03 pigment liner pen from Pilot. The paper is Arches, 140 lb., hot press; a nice, smooth surface for the pen.

Step four shows much more work on the shadows. I’m now ‘cross-hatching’ and the darks are becoming stronger. Overall, the pot is starting to feel more three-dimensional.

Step five of pot by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013

In step five, I’ve erased my pencil lines and sharpened up some edges. Notice the ‘lost edge’ on the lip? Also, I’ve added some ‘stippling’ and short strokes which help give the drawing a tactile quality.

Here’s a look at the pots from the workshop participants.

Pot drawings - EvergreenWPC2013

We were much more relaxed after doing a little pot (that’s my last pot joke, I promise) and moved on to our second drawing. I opened up my bag of tricks and looked what I pulled out!

Toys - EvergreenWPC2013

I won’t show you all of the steps of my fish drawing but I want you to see the small thumbnail in pencil on the right. I used it to figure out the direction of light and the basic shadow shapes.

Fish studies by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013

Fish study by Barry Coombs - EvergreenWPC2013

The steps for my fish drawing were very similar to those of the pot. The participants chose their own toy. I had provided the following handout sheet to help them get started and that’s why the ducks and frogs were the most popular subjects.

Handout Sheet- EvergreenWPC2013

Toy Drawings- EvergreenWPC2013Although we all followed the same steps, all of the drawings have their own personality. We had a lot of fun! The expressions on the faces of the frogs were particularly entertaining.

Thanks for having me, EWPC. Last but not least, here’s a shot of Elaine Ferdinandi, President and Workshop Co-ordinator of the club, with yours truly.

Elaine Ferdinandi and myself- EvergreenWPC2013

WGA – Pen and Watercolour – Week One


I met the Willowdale Group of Artists last night for the first of three evenings devoted to pen and ink combined with watercolour. I brought in a collection of small terracotta dishes; one for each artist.

The first step in our exercise for the evening was to draw the dish on a sheet of cold press watercolour paper. I showed the group how I like to plan a drawing and gave them a few pointers about ellipses.

Step one-Pen and w/c demo by Barry Coombs-WGA2013

Step two was a bit of a surprise. I had also brought a pile of beach stones. I asked the group to place some stones in and around their dishes. Then, they added the stones to their drawing.

Step two-Pen and w/c demo by Barry Coombs-WGA2013

We completed this step and moved on to a discussion of light and shadow. We didn’t work with ‘available’ light. Each artist imagined a single light source. My light is illuminating the objects from the upper left. Pencil was used to indicate the main core and cast shadows.

Step three-Pen and w/c demo by Barry Coombs-WGA2013

Time to paint! I mixed up a neutral grey using Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. I applied the uniform middle value of grey to all shadow areas. In addition to that, I created a background field. It helps to set off the lights in the upper part of the drawing.

Step four-Pen and w/c demo by Barry Coombs-WGA2013

The wash was allowed to dry. We discussed the basic elements of pen drawing including hatch, cross-hatch, stipple and line weight. I added some pen to my drawing. I’ll do some more work on it when we get started next week.

The group didn’t have much time to explore with the pen so we’ll pick up where we left off next Thursday. I’ll also be introducing a new and very colourful subject for our second exercise. Looking forward to it!


SOYRA watercolour workshop – Wrapup!



Recently, I spent three evenings with the Society of York Region Artists. The first evening I presented a Power Point talk about my Cubist-influenced watercolours and followed that with a demonstration of my approach. I didn’t get very far with the demo but I was able to give the audience a good idea of how I compose, draw and paint these works.

I finally finished the Red Barn watercolour (above). It’s painted on a half sheet of Curry’s 200 lb., Cold Press paper.

The next two evenings were devoted to a workshop. We all worked on quarter sheets. I discussed Cubism and showed some examples of paintings of the period. We developed our compositions and preliminary drawings thoughtfully. The next step was to paint our sheets with a very pale wash which established the white areas in the images. All that took up the first evening.


The Yellow Barn is my demonstration (above). I painted along with the group. As we worked, we talked about colour a lot. Use of neutral greys, patterning, preserving whites and off-whites and eventually, black.

The participants worked very hard and I enjoyed their courage and enthusiasm. It was a real challenge and a journey into the unknown for them. I was gratified with their efforts and the positive comments I received.

We could have used another hour! Still, the ‘cubist’ watercolours looked great even though none were quite finished. I asked the participants to send me the completed works and I’ve received one to date. So, here they are; as they were at the end of two evenings and one finished piece.



Cubist Barn by Nancy Newman

Cubist Barn
by Nancy Newman

SOYRA – Cubist Barn in Watercolour


I was back at the Aurora Cultural Centre last night.  It was the first evening of a two-night watercolour workshop with the Society of York Region Artists. The theme is a barn or farm, Cubist style.

Step one of thumbnail by Barry Coombs-SOYRA2013        Step two of thumbnail by Barry Coombs-SOYRA2013

Step three of thumbnail by Barry Coombs-SOYRA2013 Step four of thumbnail by Barry Coombs-SOYRA2013

We spent a lot of time working on our compositions. This is my compositional thumbnail in four steps. Also, we painted a preliminary wash on our quarter sheets which established the white areas. Next Wednesday, we’ll continue with the painting. Stay tuned for the results.