Posts Tagged ‘Art Workshops’

Cubist Watercolour Weekend at Arts on Adrian!

27/11/2019

SATURDAY
I’ve presented this workshop to many art clubs and classes over the years. For a long time, my own watercolours were based on a playful and colourful response to Cubism, the early Modernist period that I’ve always loved. Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris were the giants of Cubist painting. I kicked things off Saturday morning with a slide talk about their work and it’s context in art history.

Our theme was a ‘Tuscan’ village. Here are a few examples of villages from some of the great Cubists.

Georges Braque

Pablo Picasso

Juan Gris

This entire weekend was a creative exercise with an experimental component. Almost everyone was initially out of their comfort zone but we approached our paintings through a series of well-defined steps. Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. The participants had brought in photo reference of Tuscan villages. They studied the reference and selected various buildings and shapes that interested them. They drew simplified versions of these shapes onto sheets of cartridge paper. Next, they cut them out with scissors and created collage-like compositions on a new sheet of cartridge paper. The format was the same as a quarter sheet of watercolour paper (11 x 15″ or close to it). Once the compositions were resolved, they were transferred to actual quarter sheets of watercolour paper.

Four steps were taken to develop the value studies. First, the drawing. Second, a middle tone wash that covers everything but some randomly selected shapes that are left as paper white. Third, a darker middle tone wash. Finally, some darks. This exercise helped distance us from traditional realism and made us aware of the importance of a strong pattern in our paintings. A mix of either Cobalt Blue or Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna was used.

I worked along with the group. Here are the two final steps of my demonstration.

  

This exercise took up most of Saturday. However baffled, the students followed the process and these are the results. Click on this image and you’ll see a larger version.

Cubist Value Studies

SUNDAY
Our next step was to enlarge the composition to a half sheet (15 x 22″). The half sheet is a different proportion than a quarter sheet, roughly 2 x 3 versus 3 x 4, so adjustments had to be made as they were drawn up.

Before we started painting, we talked about two things, colour and texture. We discussed the basic colour systems such as analogous and complimentary. We also considered using neutrals like greys and browns. I asked them to work out a palette and try to stick with it. Texture was intended to be a big part of the experience. Soft-edge, wax, rubber cement, spattering with a toothbrush and drybrush were all considered.

And we painted. I worked on my sustained demonstration while offering feedback to the group. This is my watercolour in progress.

The students plugged away all afternoon and their Cubist villages began to take shape. It was a lot of fun to walk around the studio as the colourful and cheerful images emerged out of the process. Although it was challenging, everyone followed the same basic steps and found plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation.

Only a few managed to finish but we’ll take a look at them anyway. I asked them to email me the paintings once they had a chance to complete them at home. I’ll finish mine as well and will post the results in a few weeks.

Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version. There’s a lot going on in these watercolours and a better look is needed to fully appreciate them.

Cubist Critique a

Cubist Critique b

Cubist Critique c

Grand Manan Island 2019 – Final Two Days!

27/08/2019

THURSDAY
Instructor: Don’t paint in the sun!
Students: Why are you painting in the sun?

Good question. We were at Ingall’s Head on Thursday and it was another brilliant day. I set up to demonstrate with a flat angled brush. I chose a spot where the students could enjoy the shade of a hauled-up fishing boat. And yes, I was in the sun. This allowed my washes to dry very quickly so I could work on the somewhat complicated subject rapidly. Of course, I faced the usual challenges and drawbacks of working in the sun. First of all, there is the issue of personal comfort. In addition to that, the bright sun dries the washes in your palette, necessitating constant re-mixing. It also bleaches the painting as you work so that your darks don’t look dark enough, compelling you to make them too dark in order to be able to see them.

The flat angled brush is fun to work with and a good way to free up your brush-handling. I always edit and simplify to some degree but with this sketch I eliminated an entire window. I did so to save time. The students are always itching to start painting.

What about those darks? I’m not immune to the problems of working in direct sunshine. My demonstration is on hot press paper, which made things even worse. It didn’t really absorb the paint and my washes dried even faster. Trouble ensued! After I’d stopped painting and the students got to work, I reworked the shed interior. It had been too dark and the shapes had been rough. My touchup adds interest to the dark interior.

Once again, there was a lot of variety in terms of painting subjects. Charming sheds, fishing boats, docks in various states of repair and the drydock, which is the only place on the island where the boats are guaranteed not to move up and down with the tides or suddenly depart on a fishing mission as the woeful painter ponders a partially finished watercolour of an uncooperative boat.

The air-conditioning and shade of our studio at the Grand Manan Art Gallery were very welcome at the end of the day. The gallery is one of the most important components of island cultural life. That’s Garrett Travis on the porch, this year’s summer student who is doing a great job of keeping things running smoothly.

Critique time!

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
Grand Manan Island has a wealth of excellent painting spots. We had only five days together and it was up to me to choose a spot for our final day. Several of the students, in conversation over the course of the week, had indicated a desire to paint a lighthouse. The most famous and spectacular lighthouse on the island is the Swallowtail light. There are two prime viewpoints. One is from above the peninsula that hosts the light. The other is from Pettes’s Cove.

I demonstrated at the studio. First, I tackled the view from the cove. I started with wetting most of the sheet before touching in colour for the sky and water. This preliminary wash covered the entire sheet with the exception of the white area of the lighthouse, which I carefully avoided. I dried the sheet with the studio hairdryer and continued to add shapes, working ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I discussed the other view of the Swallowtail. As you can see, I kept it simple and focused on the relative values of the main shapes and colours.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Off we went! The students were free to choose their viewpoint. I visited back and forth as the day progressed.

Friday was a busy day. We wound up the painting portion with our usual critique at the studio.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

After taking a few hours to refresh ourselves, we met once more at the Compass Rose Inn for a yummy Farewell Dinner. Following the meal, we re-arranged the tables and chairs for our Final Critique. Each student presented three paintings completed during the week and commented a bit on their experience. It’s always a rewarding way to wrap up our time together.

Time marches on, they say. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve taught on Grand Manan Island for twenty-nine summers. I plan to be back for the thirtieth anniversary in 2020. Care to join us?

 

 

Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick 2019 – Our First Three Days!

20/08/2019

Last week, I led an ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop on beautiful Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. This is the twenty-ninth summer that I’ve taught on the island. Our group of workshop participants was a nice blend of repeaters and first-timers. We got to know each other on Sunday evening over a delicious dinner at the lovely Compass Rose Inn.

MONDAY
It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we met in North Head Harbour. I demonstrated in the shade of a large boathouse. My goal was to encourage everyone to spend the day on smaller, quicker watercolour studies rather than settle into a sustained piece right off the bat. With that in mind, I’d prepared a small cardboard frame for each painter. The inside dimension is 4×6″, the size of a postcard.

I worked at my easel. My demonstrations are, in a sense, illustrated discussions. I rarely complete a finished work as a demonstration. My goal is to show a process and discuss it’s benefits. I worked in the 4×6″ format and didn’t do a preliminary pencil drawing. Straight in with the brush! I told the group that I would not criticize them for inaccurate proportion or perspective. I wanted to see what attracted them to the subject; it’s essence. Simplification and editing were stressed. Each painter was asked to do a minimum of two vertical and two horizontal small works over the course of our first day.

Another thing we talk about every morning is the availability of coffee and lunch and, very importantly, the location of the closest washrooms. Eventually, the painters explored the harbour, found their spots and got to work.

Grand Manan is a busy place. Rockweed was being harvested just off the shore as we painted.

I’ll never complain about the sunshine but there is a time for a shady break. Our friend, Kirk, opened up his shed and revealed a whole other range of colourful maritime subject matter.

At the end of the day, we headed to our studio for a critique. This is the first year that we’ve been hosted by the Grand Manan Art Gallery and our liaison, David Ogilvie, made us very welcome.

It was a productive day and I managed to display all of the work together. Click on any critique image in this post in order to view a larger version.

Monday Critique

TUESDAY


The morning was damp and overcast so I gave a demonstration in the studio. I knew the sun would be out soon and it was only day two; a good time to discuss value. Years ago, I painted a watercolour of the now ruined Ross Island lighthouse in my playful quasi-modernist style and donated it to the Permanent Collection of the Grand Manan Art Gallery.

Ross Island Light by Barry Coombs

I drew up the image the night before, simplifying it a great deal. Using a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, I mixed up three values of a ‘sepia’ wash. Paper white was reserved for the lightest areas, followed by the light and dark middle values and, finally, the darks. This process establishes a light direction as well as a pattern in the image. While working ‘en plein air’, a value study can be very useful if not essential. It’s not necessary to spend forever on it or even to paint it. A quick pencil sketch will often suffice.

Demonstration done! Sun shining! We jumped in our vehicles and went to Woodward’s Cove. The harbour there offers all kinds of great painting material. The group spread out a fair bit but I knew where they all were and enjoyed the exercise as I visited and gave feedback throughout the day.

I’ve conducted outdoor critiques many times over the years but the comfort and proximity of the studio prevailed this week. It was back to the gallery in nearby Castalia at the end of the day, where we broke up the critique into two groups.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Seal Cove was the venue for watercolour painting on Wednesday. This popular site still hosts several old sheds that were once used to smoke herring; a key industry in the island’s past. I demonstrated onsite and chose to show an approach I call ‘shape-reading’. As usual, it was an opportunity to look at a subject and discuss a sound process and anticipate potential challenges or problems. The demo was optional as many of the experienced participants had witnessed the approach in other workshops.

Following that, I gathered the participants who were new to my workshops and taught them how to tackle proportion and perspective with a measuring stick. All of those weathered buildings and docks demanded careful consideration of angles. The weather was fine again and another successful day was underway.

Critiques are always constructive and a big part of the learning experience. As you can see, the sheds were by far the most popular subject. The weather forecast looked good (they were givin’ fine, as the locals say) for Thursday. The plan was to paint at Ingall’s Head. Stay tuned!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

Pen and Watercolour: Texture and Composition at DVSA!

20/05/2019

Last Thursday, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to present a one-day workshop. Our primary goal was to combine pen and watercolour to create interesting textures and apply them to this unique still-life. There are many ways to create texture with watercolours. Some of the more contemporary processes can involve the use of salt, saran wrap and scraping with credit cards. We did experiment with wax as a resist material, but I focused more on what the paint itself could do and on brush-handling. Wet touching wet and it’s polar opposite, drybrush, were discussed. We started out by trying the different ideas on a work or study sheet. This allowed for experimentation and play.

Next, we all painted a sheet of studies of some of the objects in the still-life. The first step was pencil drawing followed by watercolour.

The final step was the pen. Many artists prefer to do the pen work first and then ‘tint’ the drawing with watercolour. I favour doing the watercolour first followed by the pen. Neither approach is right or wrong. One way may suit a certain goal more than the other.

Here are the studies created by the students.

Thursday Critique a

After lunch, we talked about selecting a composition from the still-life and began work on a sustained piece. My demonstration shows how I zoomed in and cropped an area of the still-life. Also, I created a ‘background’ from my imagination and memory.

Pen and watercolour is a great combination whether you use it in your sketchbook or for more sustained work. The students all would have liked a bit more time to work on their efforts. I take the blame for that. On Thursday, May 30, I’ll be back at DVSA for another day entitled Pen and Watercolour: More Texture and Composition. There will be a different, but equally interesting, still-life and I guarantee more time to spend on the sustained compositions. In the meantime, have a look a the work and don’t forget to click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique b

Watercolour Boot Camp at DVSA!

07/05/2019

The watercolour world is a very diverse one. Many watercolour teachers impart their personal ‘style’ and not necessarily the basics of the medium. Even those who teach beginners go about it in vastly different manners. Some use exercises out of how-to books. Some base their lessons on play and craft; using salt, saran wrap and credit cards. Is there a right or wrong way? Individual adult students may well respond to one approach with more enthusiasm and understanding than another. Is there a satisfying balance to strike? How much can a beginner learn in 20-30 hours?

I’ve always tried, as best I can, to teach the fundamentals of painting in watercolour. Over the years, I’ve taught a lot of dedicated beginner classes but almost all of my classes now are designed for the intermediate or more advanced student. Recently, I had an urge to return to the basics from my teaching point of view. I proposed a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art and I was pleased that if filled up quickly. Last Thursday was the big day!

The workshop was designed for those with prior watercolour experience who hadn’t painted for a while and also students who felt they needed more training in the fundamentals. I promised a series of exercises based on the key traditional watercolour techniques which include brush-handling, mixing and applying even and graded washes, creating soft edges and more. Have you ever watched an entertaining watercolour demonstration video, tried to do it yourself and realized that a lot of very basic elements weren’t discussed. Why did you keep getting blossoms? Why did you have so much trouble mixing darks? Why did everything run together (but not in a good way)? What is perfectly obvious to the experienced artist/teacher is often neglected when delivering a lesson or demonstration.

I attempted to address those little things that can make a big difference. It won’t be possible to describe everything in this post but I’ll give you an overview of our day.

We started with a discussion about materials and mechanics. I had requested absorbent, cold press watercolour in the material list such as Arches or an equivalent. Not Canson or Strathmore. The paper had to be suitable for the techniques I’d be presenting. Mechanics is the term we use to describe how we organize our tools and materials and work space. I’m right-handed and my palette and water container and paper towel are on my right side. I can’t imagine having my water to my left, reaching and possibly dripping all over my painting as I go back and forth from the container to my palette. I see students do it, though. I see students who’ve formed a lot of bad habits and it holds them back.

Finally, we applied paint to paper. Our first goal was to create an even wash without streaks or blossoms and it takes practice and thought. Watercolour is a thinking medium that does not reward dabbling. It’s also much more physical than folks realize. How do those tiny grains of pigment and binder behave when mixed with water and touched to paper?

We practiced and kept it simple. On the first sheet, I also discussed  mixing greys and blacks with only primary colours. I don’t have grey or black in my palette. I mix them. As a matter of fact, we stuck to our primaries for most of the day and it’s the best way to learn about colour and the potential of your palette. I use Da Vinci paints and my primaries are Aureolin (Mixture), Rose Madder Quinacridone and Cobalt Blue. I also discussed brush-handling and lifting excess paint with a ‘thirsty’ brush. I pointed out a few ‘what not to dos’, as well.

Our next exercise involved creating a small painting based on my diagram and on even washes. The colour theme was cools and warms. We tried to paint even, unvaried washes in each shape and one shape wasn’t supposed to run into another. Kind of like a colouring book or stained glass window.

A real building block technique of watercolour painting is the soft edge that is created when wet touches wet. Wet in wet painting is often taught on a grand scale. The entire sheet is soaked first and colour is added into the water. I don’t start beginners off with that. We worked on a small scale and ‘injected’ darker colours and values into lighter areas, while wet. Again, it takes planning, practice and, very important, timing! The students made swatches on one side of their sheet and worked on a small image, based on rectangles, on the other side. They attempted a wet in wet, soft edge transition in each rectangle without letting the rectangles run into each other. Patience!

Later in the afternoon, I talked about mixing whites. I don’t have white, an opaque colour, in my palette. I use the white of the paper and very light tints on it to create cool and warm whites and off-whites.

Many aspiring watercolour painters hope to work ‘en plein air’ one day. With that in mind, I also discussed greens and how to mix a variety of greens starting with primary blue and yellow. It’s easy to start with a green right out of the tube like Pthalo but it’s important to know how to vary your greens. I have Pthalo Green in my palette and generally use it to add intensity to greens I’ve created from yellow and blue.

It was a long day and everyone applied themselves with energy and thoughtfulness. There was a nice buzz in the studio as we wrapped up, which was gratifying, and the feedback was good. Still, there were several things I didn’t touch on. We ran out of time and didn’t deal with graded washes over a larger area. Maybe, this fall I’ll have to offer a part two?

More from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

01/04/2019

Everyone was refreshed from our day of free time as we met in our studio for my morning demonstration on Wednesday. Our plan was to paint inside the lovely Bellas Artes with it’s cool arcades and tranquil atmosphere. And it’s arches. I used my demonstration to dramatize the feeling of looking into a sunlit space through an arch. I kept my palette simple; cools and warms.

For once, we had no shortage of shade. Most of the students were ready to tackle arches.

Let’s see what happened with those arches! Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Thursday was our last full day of painting. Our plan was to leave on Friday morning for Mexico City (more about that later). We had a lot on our agenda on Thursday so I decided not to offer a demonstration in order to give the group an extra hour of painting time. We walked up to Parque Guadiana, a quiet and pretty park in a residential neighbourhood.

At the end of the day, we gathered at our studio for our Final Critique. I started out by looking at the Thursday paintings and followed that with a selection of work from earlier in the week. It was a nice way to look back on our painting time together.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Wait a minute! What the heck is that bird doing there? One of our painters took a metalworking class while she was here and this was her chance to show us the result.

Thursday Critique c

That was it for our supervised painting days and for our stay in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. My next post will be from Mexico City where we will visit the famous home of Frida Kahlo; Casa Azul.

 

 

 

 

Hola from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

26/03/2019

I’m back in beautiful SM de Allende with a great group of watercolour painters. We arrived on Thursday and enjoyed our Welcome Dinner at the hotel. Friday was a relaxing day. I led most of the group on a tour of the town and the afternoon was free time for painting, shopping or just taking it easy.

Things got serious this morning (Saturday). I gave a demonstration at the hotel, reminding everyone of the importance of value and pattern.

Following that, most of the group worked on the hotel grounds for the day. The courtyard is lovely and spacious and our rooms were close at hand. It’s a good way to start as we sort out the practical elements of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painting.

It was a good start to our workshop. We convened at 5pm sharp for our first critique. Click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

I gave another studio demonstration on Sunday morning. This street scene was quickly drawn from memory. I discussed a ‘big to small’ process and varying washes to add interest. Also, we discussed what colours work when painted over other colours and what doesn’t work. For example, I can’t paint a green door over a red wall without getting a very dull result.

After the demonstration, we headed to Parque Benito Juarez and it’s a lovely spot for painting. The park is very green and surrounded by attractive residences and hotels. Just up the road from the park is the outdoor public laundry. No-one was washing clothes today.

It’s hot here but lovely in the shade. I discourage the painters from painting in the sun. A pleasant day in the park wound down and we returned to our studio for the critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

I left the hotel early on Monday and walked up to Plaza San Antonio, a quiet square with a brilliant white church. I set up my easel and prepared for an onsite demonstration and I was ready to go when the students arrived.

The square has a large shade tree with a view of a street dropping down. I pointed out the importance of checking angles carefully in order to make the perspective believable. After we discussed that, I painted the scene with a flat angled brush. It was a very complicated subject so I stressed simplification as I took them through my process.

Everyone sought out shady spots and got to work.

It was nice to cool off in our studio at the hotel at critique time.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Tuesday is a free day. Shopping, sightseeing and even more painting was on the agenda. We’ll be back at it tomorrow morning in sunny San Miguel de Allende.

Vermont 2018 – Our Last Day was Friday at Glover!

09/10/2018

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!

09/10/2018

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

 

Vermont 2018 – Wednesday at Bread and Puppets!

06/10/2018

I’m devoting an entire post to Wednesday (September 26). We woke up to more foul weather but I had a plan. I’d already made arrangements to sketch and paint indoors in the fascinating Bread and Puppet Museum. Bread and Puppet Theater is a celebrated organization that strives for social justice through wonderful outdoor performances. Click on one of the links here and read all about their endeavours!

So, working ‘en plein air’ was put on hold for the day but painting in the museum was a terrific consolation and a unique Vermont experience.

I had prepared a morning demonstration with the museum in mind. I used cool greys mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna to develop a value study. I’ve simplified the process to show you three steps.

There are three values in Step One; the white of the paper, a light middle value and a darker middle value. I’ve preserved the paper white in the foreground to enhance a feeling of depth.

I’ve added more values in Step Two. The greatest contrast is in the two foreground characters.

There were some intermediate steps but this is the final version. Once the values were developed, I gently ‘glazed’ colour over the local areas. That was my offering for Wednesday morning. We headed to the museum and this is what we found.

What a great day! Thanks so much to the Bread and Puppet Museum for hosting us. Now, let’s go back to Highland Lodge and the Ski Hut Studio for our critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image if you’d like to view a larger version.

We weren’t done yet in Vermont. Stay tuned for our exploits on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique c