Posts Tagged ‘Art Workshops’

Plein Air Toronto 2018 – Final Two Days!

28/06/2018

THURSDAY

We visited St. James Cathedral in the heart of downtown Toronto on Thursday. The cathedral grounds abut a well-treed park with lovely gardens.

I set up to demonstrate and, being day four, asked the participants if they had any pressing questions before we began to paint. The key question concerned the four-value planning studies that had been a theme all week long. It was a good question. I proceeded to paint a small four-value study. You can probably tell that I invented the simple subject but the exercise helped to clarify the process for everyone.

We enjoyed a lovely, sunny day with a fresh breeze.

The shade of the cathedral wall provided a sheltered spot for our critique.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
One more day of painting together! We met at St. Michael’s College on the downtown University of Toronto campus. Historic architecture, gardens and public sculpture highlighted the subject matter at this charming and peaceful oasis in the city core. As usual, we met for my demonstration.

I followed up on Thursday’s ‘Q and A’ lesson with another discussion of value. Looking at a sun-dappled doorway, I sketched in pencil. Next, I determined my lightest lights and, leaving them as paper-white, I shaded a light middle value everywhere else. The participants were interested in the simplification of a complex subject. I added a bit of a dark middle value and that was enough to communicate the lesson. Later on, I added a wash to further clarify the pattern.

Once again, the weather was spectacular and everyone enjoyed the location.

All good things come to an end, apparently! It was a wonderful week of creativity and companionship. Have a look at the Friday critique.

Friday Critique

I thank all of the participants for their hard work and enthusiasm. Thanks for following us. Next stop is Grand Manan Island and that workshop starts on July 29. Care to join us? There are a few spots left. Click here for the details.

 

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Plein Air Toronto 2018 – First Three Days!

25/06/2018

MONDAY
One week ago, on Monday morning, this year’s participants in our Plein Air Toronto week-long workshop met at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end of Toronto. We had business to discuss and I provided everyone with information sheets on all of our sites. Carpooling was arranged. I followed the practical session with a Power Point talk which I titled Planning your Watercolour Painting.

I’d been looking at Frank Webb’s book recently and noted the ideas I share with him about planning a watercolour. Frank Webb is one of the most successful contemporary watercolour painters so his ideas are meaningful. The first several slides of my presentation featured his thoughts and artwork. Also, I handed out a sheet of his tips on planning and recommended his book.

Mr. Webb’s work was followed by several other historical and contemporary masters of the medium. The participants enjoyed watercolours by J.M.W. Turner, John Singer Sargent and A.J. Casson, amongst many others.

We spent an hour at the studio before heading to the lovely Sunnyside Pavilion on Toronto’s lakeshore. A thunderstorm threatened, and eventually the skies burst, but we were high and dry under the shelter of the pavilion’s courtyard. The clouds eventually moved off and we enjoyed a productive first day.

Staying Dry

We gathered in the late afternoon for our critique.

Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
We visited the Grange Park on Tuesday. The Grange Park is situated behind both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the art school, OCADU. A large Henry Moore sculpture is a landmark and we met in a shady spot with a view of the sculpture. I demonstrated, using the Moore as my subject. My goal was to illustrate a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process; simplifying, editing and using value in order to draw the eye to the main subject.

After the demonstration, the painters settled in for a pleasant day in the park.

The sunshine lasted all day long. As usual, we wrapped up with our critique.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Roundhouse Park was our venue for Day Three of our workshop. It’s in the very core of the downtown area, right next to the CN tower, the baseball stadium and the aquarium. The roundhouse hosts the Toronto Railway Museum and Steamwhistle Brewery.

Rain was threatening (it never really materialized) so I worked very quickly at my demonstration, allowing washes to run together in places. I used a 3/4″ flat angled brush.

Trains, old railway buildings, contemporary structures; Roundhouse Park has all kinds of interesting subject matter.

Most novel outdoor studio of the week!

Well-earned refreshment at the end of the day.

Once again, we found a fairly private wall for our critique. I was very pleased with the progress of the artists. We’re more than halfway through the week already! Stay tuned for our final two days.

Wednesday Critique

 

 

 

Portugal 2017 – Tavira!

29/09/2017

Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside of Tavira in the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The complex is a  restoration of a former tuna fishing camp.

Our first day here was a free day. The students painted on the grounds or took the shuttle into Tavira. We gathered in our studio at the end of the day to plan for the days ahead. Also, I gave a demonstration of pen and ink with watercolour. A few days back, in Redondo, I’d done a small watercolour of some worn walls. At the time, I’d planned to add pen to it and I did so in front of the group, discussing my ideas and decisions as I worked.

Many of the students enjoy combining watercolour with pen. Some use it primarily as a sketchbook approach and others create more sustained works.

On Sunday morning, we boarded our bus and drove to Estoi. We were the hosts of the pousada (hotel) in the stunning old palace of Estoi. We were allowed to paint on the grounds and many of us worked in the adjacent town, as well. Everyone got together at 1pm at the palace for a spectacular lunch.

Later in the day, a tired group boarded our bus for the half hour ride back to Tavira. The day wasn’t over until we’d had our critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

Sunday Critique c

We stayed close to home and painted in Tavira on Monday. It’s a lovely town along a river which is spanned by the ancient Roman bridge.

Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming.

Another critique!

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Our rooms in Tavira were decorated with prints of the watercolours of German artist, August Macke. The watercolours had been painted over one hundred years ago in Tunisia. At the time, Macke had been accompanied by Swiss artist Paul Klee and French artist Louis Moilliet. These Tunisian scenes were full of glowing white buildings and colour! Very similar to our surroundings in southern Portugal. I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time to share with the group. It’s a scene from Tavira and in it I’ve stressed simplification, colour and playfulness. Would it influence the students at all in the days to come?

We had another wonderful day trip destination on Tuesday; the clifftop, typical Algarve fishing village of Cacela Velha. It’s not very big but it’s quite charming and the views of the ocean and coastline are fabulous. Most of our artists settled in to paint in the village but some explored the beach below.

We had another tasty group lunch at the local restaurant and continued to paint until the end of the afternoon. It was a short hop back to our hotel and we held the critique right away. There was a great deal of work to savour.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

While in Cacela Velha, I’d done a small watercolour using a 1/2″ flat angled brush. I showed it to the group and discussed simplification (again) and a few other ideas.

We had a great time in Tavira. There’s one more stop on our painting tour of Portugal. We moved to Cascais on Wednesday. Stay tuned for our exploits in Cascais and the final days of our trip. Thanks for commenting, liking and following!

Portugal 2017 – Mértola!

29/09/2017

Friday was a travel day. We were headed to Tavira, a town in the Algarve, from Évora. Enroute, we stopped for four hours in the scenic hilltop town of Mértola. There was lots of time to explore, sketch and relax over a nice lunch.

The big tour buses can’t make it very far into town because of the narrow streets. I’d arranged for a shuttle and it took us all the way up to the castle. The views from the walls were splendid.

As usual, shady spots were sought out for sketching.

Cafés were also a priority.

Wandering around turned up all kinds of interesting things.

Back to the bus! We had a little over an hour to go before arriving at our new hotel in Tavira. Stay tuned!

Grand Manan Island 2017 – Final Two Days!

11/08/2017

Dark Harbour was our destination on Thursday; towering cliffs, rustic camps and multi-coloured dories. Many artists struggle with the odd angles and nuances when drawing a dory. I set up my easel and gave an optional demonstration, showing the steps I take when drawing a dory. Drawing anything, actually. It’s a matter of careful measuring and checking angles.

When the tide comes in at Dark Harbour, there can be very little room on the beach for stools and easels. Also, the dory you’re painting may suddenly be required for dulsing, the gathering of a nutritious seaweed, and off it goes! Even my subject, this grey dory named Ophelia, was hauled onto the back of a pickup and taken away. Fortunately, I’d long finished my demo by then.

Some of our painters seem to dress to match their vehicles and others coordinate quite well with the dory next to them.

It was another special day. Not only does everyone enjoy painting at Dark Harbour but our local friends allow us the use of their world class outhouse! True Grand Manan hospitality. Another day, another critique back at our studio.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Friday was our last day of painting together! It came too quickly. We had another great painting spot to visit; Woodward’s Cove.

I arrived early and got set up ahead of time for a sustained demonstration. As you’ve seen, I don’t do complete paintings very often as demonstrations. For one thing, they take a chunk of time out of the morning and everyone is itching to get to work. The main reason is that I use demos to make teaching points. They are lessons and not performances followed by an opportunity to purchase. However, I believe it’s important for students to see my process from start to finish at some point during the week and Friday morning was that time.

One of the things I addressed was colour. I urge the students to be less literal with colour and to select colours that work together in the painting. Colour can be used to create a mood or even a temperature. Note that the background trees in my demo are not green! The shed is not a dull neutral grey. There’s nothing inherently wrong with greens, greys and browns but they are often used thoughtlessly and contribute nothing special to the painting.

Woodward’s Cove is a big area with a wide range of subject matter. ‘En plein air’ painting always has challenges but painting on Grand Manan Island has a few rather unique ones. As we painted on Friday, the tide gradually dropped. By the end of the day, the harbour was completely drained of water. Note to self: paint the water in early!

While in Woodward’s Cove, make sure you stop by Shore Things. Driftwood art, colourful fishing floats and other island souvenirs are available. If you have questions about the island, Wayne can answer them.

It was time for one more trip to our studio for a critique. Have a look at the work from Friday and then scroll down for more news about our week.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Our workshop wasn’t quite over. After critique, everyone headed back to their lodgings to freshen up for our Farewell Dinner at the Marathon Inn. Steak or lobster? Dinner was excellent and a lot of fun. Following dinner, we enjoyed our Final Critique. Each student brought three of their works and presented and spoke about them one at a time. It’s a very rewarding way to sum up our week together.

I’d like to thank all of the 2017 participants for helping to make our workshop a success. And thank you, dear reader, for following, commenting and liking! Next year’s dates for Grand Manan will be posted on this blog soon. Why don’t you join us? It’s a spectacular place and the company is excellent. Now, there’s one more photo to see. Allow me to present the Class of 2017!

 

Grand Manan Island 2017 – First Three Days!

08/08/2017

Last week, a group of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painters gathered on lovely Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. We met on Sunday evening and shared a delicious Welcome Dinner at the historic Marathon Inn. The next morning, we met at our studio for a demonstration. I talked about water, which seemed appropriate as we’re on an island and surrounded by the wet stuff. Water has many moods. I tried to offer some ideas to help the students tackle it’s many challenges.

Following the demonstration, we went over to North Head harbour; just a short hop. We all stay in North Head so it’s nice to be close to home on the first day. Several of the students settled into the shady spot in front of Kirk’s shed.

North Head Harbour is very busy with fishing as well as related activities such as rockweed gathering and the care and feeding of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Nearby, Pettes’ Cove attracted a few eyes. It offers a splendid view of the famous Swallowtail lighthouse.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Little did we know at the time but our entire week would give us brilliant weather. The studio is a welcome retreat at the end of the day and we assembled for our first critique of the week.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

On Tuesday morning, we met at Seal Cove. Seal Cove features the traditional herring smokesheds and abounds with character. I set up my easel and did a demonstration. I talked about developing a watercolour with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process.

The students spread out in search of subjects and shade. It didn’t take long to settle in.

A few painters brought their shade with them.

Others sought it out.

A few soaked up the sunshine even though I don’t recommend painting in the sun. It dries up your paper and palette too quickly and bleaches out your darks so the painting can become overworked. Still, a happy artist is a good thing…

Eventually, it was time to return to the studio for our critique. As the week goes by, you may notice different styles in our daily exhibitions. I don’t teach ‘my way or the highway’ workshops. As best I can, I encourage each artist to find their personal voice.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

You guessed it! More sunshine on Wednesday. While at Seal Cove on Tuesday, I’d done a small watercolour with the intention of adding penwork to it for our Wednesday morning demonstration. I did it at the studio before heading to Fisherman’s Haven Lane, which is home to Ingall’s Head Cottages. Many thanks to Wendy, the proprietor, for allowing us to park on her property.

We got to work right away. This is a lovely and quiet spot, a bit off the beaten track. The locals are always interested in our creative efforts.

Finding shade became an art form of it’s own.

Critique time! Is it already Wednesday? Thanks for following along with our exploits. Stay tuned for my report from Thursday and Friday of last week.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – Last Two Days!

28/06/2017

Click on our First Three Days if you somehow missed the last post. Day four of Plein Air Toronto 2017 was Thursday of last week and the weather, which had been tricky all week, took a turn for the worst. I made arrangements for us to sketch in pen and ink all day long and without any concerns about rain. The catch was that our plein air artists were going indoors for the day. We met in the morning at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to historic and contemporary ceramic art.

It’s a beautiful museum but it’s difficult to gather the entire group at once for a demonstration or critique. I handed out a prepared sheet showing basic pen techniques in the morning. Later, I gathered a small group of pen and ink novices and sketched a Pre-Columbian figure as I discussed my thoughts.

It was a great day and don’t forget the excellent restaurant when you visit the Gardiner. Friday was yet another challenging weather day. However, I don’t have almost thirty years of experience for nothing. We met at University College on the lovely downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

The College has a large interior courtyard surrounded, on two sides, by wide colonnades. We were high and dry and had plenty of subject matter through the arches. Even the arches themselves attracted the eye of our artists.

I brought in some examples of pen and watercolour studies, done on the U of T campus, to get the morning started. As the group worked, I began a watercolour of my own for a change. Several of the new students expressed interest in my approach and process. I began with a sketch to resolve a composition and then drew it up on a sheet of watercolour paper.

  

I wasn’t able to finish the piece by the end of the day as I had teaching responsibilities. I pulled it together later in my studio.

Enough about me! Let’s have a look at our day at University College.

Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. The skies cleared just enough and we gathered one more time. What a great group! I thank them all for their cheerful participation and also thank you for following, commenting and liking the posts. Plein Air Toronto will be back next year. Now, for a look at the work from Friday.

University College
Critique a

University College
Critique b

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – First Three Days!

26/06/2017

One week ago, the 2017 Plein Air Toronto participants gathered at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end. We introduced ourselves and I gave a demonstration that considered several common elements of the urban landscape we’d be painting for the next five days. We also discussed colour; green, in particular.

Following our meeting, we headed down to the Sunnyside Pavilion which is on the beach of Lake Ontario.

The Pavilion is a lovely place to sketch and paint, inside and out.

We put in a good day’s work and met inside the Pavilion for our first critique of the week. Click on an image for a larger version.

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique a

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique b

We met onsite at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday morning. It was a blustery day with a few showers but there was ample overhead shelter for us. This urban farm is bordered by a park on one side and a historic cemetery and chapel on the other. There’s lots of great subject matter to choose from including the charming cafe across the street.

I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time. My subject was the cafe and my painting was a value study in cool greys. I discussed my process and the importance of developing an eye for value.

Colour can be added to a study like this by gently ‘glazing’ washes over the appropriate areas. The grey washes should be completely dry before proceeding.

The group wandered around a bit to find their spots and then settled in. I kept a few of the newer folks back to talk about basic drawing and the use of a measuring stick to assist with perspective and proportion. I’ve developed a Drawing Checklist over the years and it can be very useful.

The little bit of rain didn’t deter us. It was a very productive day and we found a private and quiet spot for our critique.

Riverdale Farm
Critique a

Riverdale Farm
Critique b

Wednesday promised to be a day of sunshine and we chose historic Spadina House as our location. We met in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma for my demonstration. I used an approach I call shape-reading, direct painting without any preliminary pencil drawing. Challenging but fun and very instructive. As I painted, I chatted about my thoughts and decisions.

We made the most of our sunny weather and gorgeous painting site.

It was a beautiful day and the paintings were equally lovely. Stay tuned for our final two days of Plein Air Toronto 2017. Coming soon!

Spadina House
Critique a

Spadina House
Critique b

 

 

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 2017

28/03/2017

 

Hola, amigos! We’re back in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. We arrived last Thursday afternoon at the Posada de la Aldea and our first group event was a delicious Welcome Dinner. On Friday morning, I led an orientation walk around town so that everyone could get their bearings. The group had the rest of the day on their own.

Our first day of sketching and painting was Saturday. We met at 9am sharp in a shady spot in the hotel courtyard for a lesson/demonstration. The plan was to work in the courtyard for the day. I discussed subject selection and simplification.

The courtyard has plenty of charm and our artists were not short of inspiration.

We wrapped up the day in our studio with a critique.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

The lovely local park, Parque Benito Juarez, was our painting site for Sunday. We met in our studio for my demonstration prior to walking over to the park. I wanted to prepare the students for some of the creative challenges they would encounter and foliage was the first priority. I also discussed some architectural elements.

Another great day followed by an enjoyable critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

We decided to throw caution to the wind on Monday and paint in the Jardin, the main square. There are lots of people but there is plenty of shade, as well. Before we went up to the Jardin, I gave a demonstration in our studio. Arches were on the menu.

It’s very pleasant to return to our studio at the end of a sunny day outdoors. Our Monday critique went extremely well. Tuesday is a free day; shopping, exploring and relaxing. We’ll be back at it on Wednesday morning. Hasta luego!

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

More from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

14/03/2016

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We were back at our studio on Wednesday morning. Our plan was to paint at the Instituto de Bellas Artes, a beautiful and historic building with a lovely courtyard surrounded by lots of arches. As you can see, I presented a few ideas about arches to the group.

Following my demonstration, we headed up to the Instituto and settled in to work. The Instituto hosts an excellent art and music school. As well as this guitar-making workshop, there are frescoes  and studios throughout.

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Nancy at work

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NIck at work

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Kate at work

It turned into a surprisingly windy day! Not everyone finished their work but that wasn’t so much due to the wind as it was the ambitious choice of subject matter. It took quite a while to sort out the perspective of the arches for some of our painters. Still, it was another good day and we enjoyed the critique back at our studio.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique b

I’ve been leading workshops here in the month of March for a dozen years or so. On occasion, we get a thunderstorm overnight or in the very late afternoon. This year, we experienced a meteorological rarity; rain and cool temperatures during the day. On Thursday, I had hoped to paint in the Parque Guadiana, a quiet and peaceful spot. Due to the weather, I changed the plan. I started off in the studio with some more thoughts about foliage. After that, I suggested the group stay close to home and they did. Some worked from the inside of the hotel and looked out windows at their subjects.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

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The hotel cat stayed dry and the rain didn’t last long but the plan stayed the same. Have a look at the work from Thursday.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Thursday Critique b

The sun was shining Friday morning and we walked up to Parque Guadiana right away. It’s a sweet spot; a garden-like park surrounded by gorgeous villas. As it happened, we weren’t the only painters in the park.

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Stew and Frances at work

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Marike at work

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It was a very pleasant day and the last scheduled painting day of our workshop.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique b

Saturday was another day of freedom for our participants. Shopping was on many agendas but most spent some time working on their paintings and drawings, as well. We got together in the studio for Final Critique late in the afternoon. Each artist chose three works and told us a bit about them and why they’d selected them. It was a great way to wrap up our workshop.

Thanks for following our creative adventures. I now give you, in alphabetical order, the Class of 2016!

Carolyn

Carolyn

Frances

Frances

Karen

Karen

Kate

Kate

Marike

Marike

Nancy

Nancy

Nick

Nick

Stewart

Stewart