Posts Tagged ‘Arts on Adrian’

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

17/04/2019

I’m back from sunny Mexico to some less than welcoming spring weather. All the more reason to set up a bright and cheerful still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour students. I had the still-lifes of Paul Cézanne in mind.

Cézanne developed his gorgeous, luminous watercolours with brushstrokes of pure colour over a pencil drawing. I didn’t mimic his process exactly with my demonstration but we discussed it as I painted. I never insist that the students emulate my demo but I did ask them to give it a try, even as a study for an hour or so. Saturday is a six hour class so there’s time to experiment and explore.

Most gave it a shot and a few spent the day pursuing the approach. Not everyone liked it but they’re always willing to consider new ideas.

Sustained Saturday Critique

The Tuesday students worked from the same still-life. It’s a three hour class and, at the beginning, I sensed some interest in the fabrics and folds. My demonstration, as a result, was a simplified study of a section of fabric and they found it helpful.

They don’t have a full day but they really work hard and they’re quite good at selecting and composing. Basically, they selected and zoomed in on an area of the still-life that attracted their eye. Not taking on too much gave them a better chance to resolve their work in the time available.

Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Tuesday Critique

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Painting from Photos in Watercolour at Arts on Adrian!

04/03/2019

I’ve never been an advocate of painting from photographs although I have done it on occasion in the distant past. Let me clarify my thought. I have used photos as reference. My ‘Cubist’ watercolours have always been inspired by memory, imagination, sketches and, at times, some photo reference. My more traditional bird drawings and paintings, however, rely greatly on my own photographic reference. However, I don’t copy photos verbatim and I don’t understand why anyone does so. Technical virtuosity and rendering skills, no matter how sublime, do not necessarily equal art.

North Head, Grand Manan
by Barry Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

White-throated Sparrow
by Barry Coombs

Many artists do work from photographs, though, and many do it well. An artist is capable of transforming the photographic reference into something personal and beautiful.

I prefer the tradition of ‘en plein air’ and direct observation and it’s mostly what I teach. As a longtime instructor, it’s been impossible to avoid the preference many students hold for working from photographs. I decided to deal with the practice by offering a one-day workshop.

The participants sent me three photos each ahead of time. I created a PowerPoint presentation so that we could look at them all together and identify potential problems. We broke it down into three categories: composition, light and shadow and colour.

First of all, we looked at watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs. Then, we looked at the photos sent by the students. Our goal was to find the essence of the subject. In order to do so, all of the images required some serious consideration.

We looked at this lovely snowy scene from Karen W. I made a few suggestions. Eliminate or move the two trees in the lower left corner. Remove the sign or whatever it is in the same area. Lose the wire seen across the roof. Re-design the foliage to show the viewer more of the building. Re-design the trees on the left to deepen the space and suggest a pathway. Karen had a great idea and shortened the roof so it wouldn’t run off the righthand edge of the painting.

Our next step was to decide on a format. Most of our pads and watercolour blocks are of a 3 x 4 proportion (9 x 12, 12 x 16). The format was drawn directly onto the photograph and a grid was created. Then, a smaller image, in exactly the same proportion, was drawn and a four-value study was completed. Have a look at what Karen W did. Later on, you’ll see her sustained watercolour in progress in the critique image.

Gridded Photo and Study
by Karen W

Once a small study was completed, the grid was used to transfer the image to a watercolour sheet, in exactly the same proportion! The rest of the afternoon, for the most part, was spent painting. I interrupted at one point for a brief discussion of copyright and ethical issues that often arise when working from photos. Of course, if you always use your own photo you don’t have to concern yourself with these issues.

The day went very well. Not everyone was able to finish their work but all went away with a better understanding of the potential problems and pitfalls of simply copying a photograph and the many creative benefits of interpreting their photographic image. Here are a few of the photos that were used.

And here are the paintings! Click on the critique image to view a larger version. Karen’s painting is on the upper left.

Painting from Photos Critique

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright and ethics

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

20/02/2019

The gloves were off this week at Arts on Adrian in Toronto! These strange, sculptural shapes are hockey gloves and they provided many challenges to the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour painters.

The first challenge was drawing. I approach all subjects the same way, more or less. I start with very basic shapes. Take a look at the study at the bottom of the demonstration sheet. That’s what my drawing looked like before I refined it as in the larger study.

Our next challenge was light and it was a real key to this subject. The gloves are black so we had to keep the lightest areas as luminous as possible. This meant thin washes in those areas; lots of water.

Another challenge was black. I mixed my blacks and greys with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. However, the students were allowed to change the colours, if they so desired.

In my demonstration, I painted the different segments of the glove one at a time. The structure of the glove lent itself to this approach.

Believe it or not, there are Canadians who hate hockey. I found out who they were as we painted the gloves. Everyone dug deep and worked hard to solve this tricky painting problem. There may have been some frustration but, fortunately, no-one dropped the gloves!

By the way, this blog received it’s 245,000th view today. Thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

16/01/2019

I was back at Arts on Adrian this week. These old lanterns were the subject for the Sustained Saturday and Tuesday afternoon classes. I had a plan. The students are often quite literal/optical about the colours they use in their work. Also, they’re often stymied as to what to do with their backgrounds/negative spaces. We discussed this tendency and I laid out some steps of an exercise:
Step 1) Draw one lantern.
Step 2) Adjust the frame of reference/rectangle with masking tape. I didn’t want huge amounts of negative space so the compositions were tightened up in this manner.
Step 3) Wet the sheet and randomly touch in primary colours to create a preliminary wash. This was done only on Saturday as those students had much more time to paint.
Step 3) Break up the negative space with pencil lines into simple, arbitrary shapes; geometric or organic.
Step 4) Select a colour for your lantern. It doesn’t have to be the colour that you’re observing. Mix three or so colours for the negative spaces that enhance the colour of the lantern.
Step 5) Paint the negative spaces. Try to vary the washes.
Step 6) Paint the lantern. The lighting on the actual still-life may be difficult to understand in places so consider the underlying forms as you paint.

That’s more or less the process we followed. I strayed from it a bit as I demonstrated because I wanted to show different ideas without taking the time to complete my painting. Here are a few stages of my demonstration. In the image on the left, you may be able to make out the faint preliminary wash in the ‘white’ areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our exercise had a few goals. We attempted to harmonize our colours and to be more interpretative with colour. We sought to establish an effective figure/ground relationship by painting all negative spaces first and not last as is too often the practice. Varying the washes added visual interest and, combined with trying to understand the basic forms of the lanterns, gave the paintings a more natural quality of light.

I was pleased to hear that the students really enjoyed our project. They certainly worked hard and with enthusiasm. Have a look at their work and remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

31/10/2018

The Arts on Adrian students considered this to be a challenging still-life. Lots of objects. Lots of possible compositions and approaches. I talked about a few things to start the Saturday and Tuesday classes. Many of these students are quite experienced watercolour painters and are interested in adding new elements to their work. Following the same process over and over again allows for improvement but varying the process, even risk-taking, is what gives you new ideas.

I started out with a pencil drawing. Here’s my most basic planning for my drawing.

I refined the drawing and created a small composition. Then, I wet the entire surface with clean water. While wet, I very randomly touched in the primaries; yellow, red and blue. This preliminary wash broke the ice. It crosses the lines and challenged me to work with it.

I let the painting dry completely before continuing. As I painted, I used different brush-handling techniques to vary washes. At times, I started a shape with water and added paint. Or I started with paint and gently feathered the edge of the shape with a damp brush. Other washes started with a light value and I added a darker value while it remained wet. In general, I wanted to add interest to all of the shapes in the painting.

On Tuesday, I did a bit more work on the small composition. Also, I broke down the shapes of the pitcher to show the techniques I’d employed.

I enjoyed looking over shoulders as the students worked on both days. There was a lot of energy in the studio on both days. What do think of their efforts?

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Spring Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One!

14/04/2018

It was a classic still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour painters this past week. I thought that our apples and terra-cotta objects would be a refreshing subject after the layoff of a month or so since the end of the winter classes.

My demonstration was a small painting, done quickly. I started with a wet-in-wet preliminary wash of warm colours over the whole sheet. You can see the wash in the background, untouched. As usual, I talked as I painted. My demonstrations are usually a sort of illustrated talk; a way of showing a process and discussing painting problems. I don’t mind quick and messy if I can communicate my ideas.

The Saturday students used their six hour day well. Most take their time with compositional sketches and studies of the various objects before embarking on their sustained piece. Some complete more than one piece over the course of the day. I love the thought they put into their work! Also of note are the pen and ink drawings that hold their own with the watercolours on our critique wall.

Sustained Saturday Critique

We work from the same still-life on Tuesday. Here’s a look at the still-life with a backdrop of a different colour. In the Arts on Adrian studio, the still-life is placed in the centre of the room with an overhead light. There is no backdrop so the students have to come up with a creative solution of their own. However, I photograph the still-life with backdrops of different colours in order to try different relationships and to make the still-life stand out clearly for these blog posts.

There you go! Let’s see what the Tuesday afternoon and evening painters achieved. I’m back at Arts on Adrian on Saturday, April 21 and Tuesday, April 24. There are still a few spots left! Care to join us?

Reminder: Click on any critique image for a larger version.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Brass!

03/03/2017

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Here are two views of our still-life from the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour classes at Arts on Adrian in Toronto.

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Saturday class is an all day affair and I suggested that the students take the time to do a small warmup painting. I used a flat angled brush for my demonstration and worked very quickly. As I painted, I discussed various aspects of the still-life. Fast and messy, this painting is not an end in itself but part of a process. A warmup painting can help the student identify potential problems and challenges before tackling a sustained piece.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Several of the students followed my lead before settling into a more sustained painting.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday classes are three hours in duration. I decided to discuss the drapery behind the objects. My demonstrations simplify the folds as much as possible.

That’s it for Winter term at Arts on Adrian. I’ll be posting my Spring calendar soon!

Watercolour demonstrations by Barry Coombs

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Rust and Dust!

08/02/2017

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These old cans and containers have a lot of character and are always a popular subject with the watercolour students. On Saturday, I focused my demonstration primarily on colour and texture.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

A Sustained Saturday class is six hours long and it allows the students lots of time to complete thumbnail sketches and small studies before starting a more ambitious piece. This extra effort always pays off!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday was quite a challenge and I’m not talking about the watercolour painting! Our region experienced an ice storm. I followed the weather report every half hour and decided to run the classes. Amazingly, eleven determined students showed up for the afternoon class. Unfortunately, conditions worsened but four undaunted (maybe crazy) artists turned up for the evening session.

I concentrated on simplification and colour with my demonstration. The small study on the right was done in the evening. I’ve drawn attention to the foregound object by eliminating all paper white in the background with a cool grey wash. When that wash dried, I added shadow shapes of the other objects in a single value. Suggestion versus depiction.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

A potentially disastrous day turned into a success!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique