Posts Tagged ‘Cubism’

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.

 

 

 

 

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Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour at DVSA!

04/12/2017

Just over a week ago, I presented a two-day watercolour workshop to a group of enthusiastic participants at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was a ‘Cubist’ still-life in watercolour. This is a workshop that I always enjoy presenting. If you know my watercolours, you’ll understand why. They’re based on a playful and colourful response to Cubism, the early Modernist period that I’ve always loved. Picasso, Braque and Gris were the giants of Cubist painting and we kicked things off with a discussion of their work and it’s context in art history.

At the start of the day, I asked the group to consider our project as a creative exercise with an experimental component. That may sound scary but we approached our paintings through a series of well-defined steps. Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. We drew a sheet of fruit shapes, from memory, in our sketchbooks. The next step was to make a composition. The goal was to make it non-traditional and the shapes were supposed to be very distinct and strongly delineated, as in a colouring book. I provided a template of my composition for those who wanted a starting point. Others created their own designs. I worked along with the group and demonstrated each of the four steps.

These are the four steps of my demonstration. 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. Note that this demonstration is from an earlier workshop but it’s almost identical to the one I completed at DVSA.

  

 

This exercise helped distance us from traditional realism and made us aware of the importance of a strong pattern in our paintings.

Interesting, aren’t they? These were done on quarter sheets (15 x 11″) of watercolour paper. I recommended absorbent papers.

Our final project was a ‘Cubist’ watercolour on a half sheet (15 x 22″) of paper. We spent time on thumbnail compositions in our sketchbooks and adopted a ‘wine and cheese’ theme. Colour was discussed. I suggested that the new Cubists use two groups of complementary colours. One group could be green and red, for example, and would cover the most shapes in the painting. The second group might be blue and orange or purple and yellow. The second group would cover less area of the painting. We also used whites and off-whites and, at the very end, black. Various resist materials such as wax and rubber cement were employed. Collage is often an element of these watercolours but sometimes we run out of time.

This is my unfinished demonstration. I do a carefully planned drawing over a random preliminary wash. Early on, I try to establish my white areas and introduce some resist material. Wax and rubber cement were used in this piece.

This watercolour was completed on Saunders Waterford, 140 lb., cold pressed paper and is approximately 22 x 15″.

The prelimary wash doesn’t really show well in my demonstration. Here’s one from a previous workshop. Areas that are left unpainted become glowing whites.

Seeking inspiration from Cubism is a challenge, especially the first time. We all followed the same basic steps but there was plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation. The new Cubists of DVSA outdid themselves. They were willing to take risks and venture into unknown territory. Although not all were able to finish, their cheerful and vibrant watercolours were a treat to look at by the end of the day on Sunday. Click on the Critique image to see a larger version.

‘Cubist’ Watercolour Critique

London Brush and Palette Club – ‘Cubist Watercolour’

20/05/2013

Last week, I visited the London Brush and Palette Club in London, Ontario. I led a three day workshop and our theme was ‘Create a Cubist Watercolour’. This is a workshop that requires imagination, an open mind and a sense of humor. The twenty participating LB&PC members didn’t disappoint. They were very enthusiastic and positive and you’ll see it here in the work they did.

Bob Sivak and Ron Mabee are Co-Workshop Conveners.

Bob Sivak (L), Me and Ron Mabee (R)

Bob Sivak (L), Me and Ron Mabee (R)

Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. We drew a sheet of fruit shapes, from memory, in our sketchbooks. The next step was to make a composition. The goal was to make it non-traditional and the shapes were supposed to be very distinct and strongly delineated, as in a colouring book.

These are the four steps of my demonstration. 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.

Step one of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013   Step two of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013

Step three of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013  Step four of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013

I divided the participants into four groups named after the four key Cubist artists; the Picassos, the Braques, the Grises and the Legers. Let’s have a look at their value studies.

Picassos

Picassos

Braques

Braques

Grises

Grises

Legers

Legers

Interesting, aren’t they? These were done on quarter sheets (11 x 15″) of watercolour paper. I recommended absorbent papers. I used Curry’s 200 lb., CP for all of my demos.

Our next project was in full colour and the theme was ‘wine and cheese’. The new Cubists were allowed to use colours of their own choice. The compositions were simplified to about two dozen shapes. These were also done on quarter sheets. Resist materials were allowed. I used some wax in my demonstration.

Cubist watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs-LB&PC2013

This exercise took us until the middle of Thursday, our second day. The new Cubists did a great job. We don’t always allow ourselves to let loose with colour when we paint. As you can see, the new Cubists didn’t hold back.

Picassos

Picassos

Braques

Braques

Grises

Grises

Legers

Legers

Our final project was a ‘Cubist’ watercolour on a half sheet (15 x 22″) of paper. We spent time on thumbnail compositions in our sketchbooks. Colour was discussed. I suggested that the new Cubists use two groups of complimentary colours. One group could be green and red, for example, and would cover the most shapes in the painting. The second group might be blue and orange or purple and yellow. The second group would cover less area.

We also used whites and off-whites, neutral greys and, at the very end, black. Various resist materials such as wax, masking fluid and salt were employed. Collage became a part of these watercolours, as well. Check out the wine labels.

Our workshop concluded at the start of a long holiday weekend. It’s a Canadian tradition to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria on the third weekend of May. Some of the new Cubists had to leave early due to their holiday plans but we still had lots of watercolour paintings to enjoy. I dissolved the Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger groups and we looked at the work four at a time.

Group one-final w/c-LB&PC2013

Group two-final w/c-LB&PC2013

Group three-final w/c-LB&PC2013

I worked on a half sheet, too. We all followed the same basic steps but there was plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation. The new Cubists of London, Ontario outdid themselves. They were willing to take risks and venture into unknown territory. Their cheerful and vibrant watercolours were a treat to look at by the end of the day on Friday. I’d like to thank the London Brush and Palette Club for inviting me to lead their annual three day workshop. It was a lot of fun.

'Cubist' Still Life by Barry Coombs

‘Cubist’ Still Life
by Barry Coombs

Markham Group of Artists – ‘Cubist’ Watercolour

01/02/2013

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - MarkhamGroupofArtists-30/1/2013I visited the Markham Group of Artists on Wednesday for a one-day workshop. Our theme was a ‘Cubist’ still-life in watercolour. This is a workshop that I always enjoy presenting. If you know my watercolours, you’ll understand why. They’re based on a playful and colourful response to Cubism, the early Modernist period that I’ve always loved.

At the start of the day, I asked the group to consider our project as a creative exercise with an experimental component. That may sound scary but we approached the painting through a series of well-defined steps. I provided a template of the composition that I used. With just one day to complete the work, this saves time although everyone put their own ideas into their designs. I worked along with the group, trying to stay one step ahead. My demonstration is on the left.

Sometimes, I offer this as a two or three day workshop. In that event, we spend more time on the preliminary work, we work bigger and I add a few other elements to the process.

Everyone got into the spirit of things on Wednesday and worked very hard. The final step was to paint some areas with Lamp Black. As you can see below, a few of the participants haven’t added the black yet and some have a few shapes to finish but overall they got a lot done.

Time flies and I, for one, was pooped at the end of the day. It was worth it. Thanks for having me.

'Cubists' at work - Markham Group of Artists-30/1/2013

Critique - Markham Group of Artists-30/1/2013

Markham 'Cubists' - Markham Group of Artists-30/1/2013

Marla Panko at Burlington Art Centre

08/07/2012

Two worlds collided for me recently when I visited Marla Panko‘s wonderful exhibition currently on view at the Burlington Art Centre.

The first world is the rich and rewarding tradition of modernism and, in particular, Cubist painting.  I’ve been a passionate admirer of the Cubist artists since my teen years. Why? I can’t necessarily explain it but it spoke to me immediately; love at first sight.

Cubism was iconoclastic and I compare it to my other favourite period, the early Renaissance. Solidly structured  compositions and (in the later Cubist era) richly patterned colours and bold use of black and white. Most of all, both periods were a new way to interpret the world and are visually beautiful art forms supported by exciting ideas and concepts.

A Cubist painting rarely sets out to please or mollify the viewer. More often, it challenges one’s comfortable notions about art and it’s role in our lives. So, why do the words structure and clarity come to mind, as well as those of Ms. Panko’s exhibition title ; meaning and order? The artist expresses the apparent contradiction well in the following quote from the catalogue:

“I am guided by the desire to make visual sense of the complex world around us – to find meaning and order within the disconnected elements and discarded fragments of modernity.”

CAT’S CRADLE
by Marla Panko

The second world is  the Dundas Valley School of Art, where I taught for many years. Marla is a popular, long-time faculty member at DVSA. Dundas is a pretty town just west of Hamilton, Ontario. It’s regional school, DVSA, has made a huge positive contribution to many creative lives over five decades or so.

The BAC has done a thoughtful and tasteful job of installing the exhibition. Everything rings true with not a note out of place. Ms. Panko’s primary media are acrylic and collage. The works vary in size from the nine small collages that comprise THURSDAY JOURNAL to the larger acrylics. UNITED Z, shown below, is a mixed media relief.

I won’t attempt to say much about the work. First of all, the catalogue, shown above, contains an excellent essay by Elaine Hujer. Secondly, even fine words are no substitute for actually viewing the exhibition. Go see it.

UNITED Z
by Marla Panko

The BAC is located at 1333 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario and can be contacted at (905) 632-7796. The exhibition continues until August 7, 2012.

Clarkson Society of Artists – ‘Cubist’ Watercolour

27/10/2011

I visited the Clarkson Society of Artists yesterday. That’s me above with the Society’s President Eydie Koopman in the middle and Program Coordinator Lyla Stockdale. Our theme for the day was a Tuscan Village, ‘Cubist Style’ and I had prepared an image based on the famous hilltop town of San Gimignano.

Each participant was given a photocopy of my template as a starting point. They were encouraged to crop it or make other personal changes. I don’t like formulas but sometimes a common starting point saves time with an exercise like this and, as you’ll see, there is still plenty of room for interpretation.

   

I wasn’t able to finish my demonstration but I’ll post it as soon as I get a chance to complete it. A key aspect of the exercise is to create a ‘soft-edge’ transition within each shape. Except for shapes that are painted with a solid black. I usually add the blacks at the end of the painting but I did a few areas to show the group how I handle the Lamp Black.

A day of successful ‘Cubist’ painting is greatly enhanced by a good-natured attitude, creative courage and a sense of humour. All of these characteristics were in abundance with the enthusiastic and talented Clarkson group and we had a lot of fun. Few were able to finish their watercolours and not all submitted a piece to the critique but it was still a great way to wrap up an enjoyable project.