Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Five!



Last Thursday afternoon was Pen and Ink Studio time at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I brought in my collection of milkweed pods. Natural forms are a very rewarding subject and the students enjoyed drawing them.

I showed a few different approaches to studying the milkweed. This is a demonstration from a past workshop. I started with a pencil drawing before adding a light wash of a sepia-like brown. When it dried, I added a second darker wash of the same colour. Once again, I waited for it to dry. The pen work was my final step.

Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

The next study is the one I worked on during the Thursday class. It was developed with local colour and then I explored it with the pen using mostly the technique of cross-hatching.

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Some of the students elected to use colour and others stuck with values of sepia. One of our students devoted the afternoon to her personal project and it’s coming along very nicely. I hope to post some of these projects soon!

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink – Everyday Objects at DVSA!


Last Thursday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for a day of pen and ink drawing. Our theme was ‘Everyday Objects’. My goals for the day were threefold. First of all, we discussed the basic pen and ink techniques of hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line weight. Secondly, I wanted the students to understand the everyday objects they were drawing in terms of basic volumes. I hoped this would help them when drawing on their own. Thirdly, we considered ‘light and shadow’ and it’s importance to making things look three-dimensional.

Lesson sheet by Barry Coombs


Our first drawing was of a toy block. The block, of course, is a cube and that’s how I started my demonstration. There are three visible planes on my cube and I wanted each of them to be a different value.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

I also like to work with a ‘light to dark’ process. Using this ‘parquet’ approach to cross-hatching, I developed the drawing gradually. Eventually, I added a cast shadow. The studio is lit by fluorescent lighting and there is also light coming in from the windows. Multiple light sources don’t usually help us make things look three-dimensional. With that in mind, we decided on an arbitrary light source coming from the upper right.

Final step of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students did very well with their studies. Here’s a look at their toy blocks.

Toy Blocks Critique

Toy Blocks Critique

Our next subject was an empty thread spool. Where do I find this stuff? Professional secret.


We analyzed this object in terms of cylinders and cones and, once again, lit it from the upper right.

Lesson sheet by Barry Coombs

A lot of things are discussed during my demonstrations and, unfortunately, I can’t break down every step in detail. Still, we followed the same basic process that we’d used with the blocks.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs  Final step of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Spools Critique

Spools Critique

These two studies took up most of our day. We started another drawing, of spoons, and they were coming along well when we ran out of time. If you’re in the neighbourhood, why don’t you join us on Thursday, October 13 for Pen and Ink with Wash and Watercolour at the DVSA?

Cinqueterre, Italy 1981-2


Riomaggiore by Barry Coombs

A long time ago, I had the good fortune to study in Florence for an academic year. After my return to Canada, it took years to pay off my student loans but it was worth it. During the Christmas break, a friend and I followed the sage advice of Sandro at Zecchi’s, the famous art supply store in Florence, and visited the coastal villages known as Cinqueterre. We had intended to stay overnight but dragged out the trip for several days, hiking the entire trail system and sketching everything that caught our eye.

I thought it would be timely to share a few of my Cinqueterre sketches as I’ll be heading off to Lucca with an eager and talented group next month. One of our day trips will take us to Cinqueterre.

The sketch above is of Riomaggiore. All of these sketches were done in a 9 1/2 x 13 1/2″ hardcover sketchbook. My typical practice was to lay in the drawing with pencil and then complete it with ink. I (carefully) carried around bottles of ink and ‘crow quill’ nibs and holders. Black and Raw Sienna inks were used in the Riomaggiore sketch.

Corniglia by Barry Coombs

The next sheet gives a sense of the dramatic topography of this beautiful area. I settled on my sketching stool and looked down over Corniglia. I completed the sketch in Sepia ink, turned my stool around and looked way up at San Bernardino. If you’ve been to the region, you’re probably wondering about San Bernardino. It’s not one of the five villages. Actually, it’s a hilltop hamlet and is considered to be a part of Corniglia.

Vernazza by Barry Coombs

The third and final sketch that I’ll share today is of Vernazza; Sepia ink over pencil. I loved working with a ‘dipping’ pen and I still do but, these days, I use them exclusively in the studio. Outdoors, I use various pigment ink disposable sketching pens and I’ve strongly recommended that my students bring a compact sketching kit to Lucca.

I drew and painted outdoors as much as possible while studying in Florence. However, the occasional rainy weather gave me the opportunity to sketch in the museums and galleries, including the Uffizi! I learned a lot by studying the masters through drawing whether it was figures from paintings or sculptures. I’ll show you a few of those in my next post. Ciao!


Merry Christmas!

Pull yourself together,  Mr. C. It's time to go!

Pull yourself together,
Mr. C. It’s time to go!!!

Charlevoix, Quebec – Day One


I’m back in Charlevoix for my fourth annual painting holiday. This gorgeous region of Quebec is famous for art. Where else in the world would you find a sign like this? “There are other places for this” is what the sign says and it’s right. Charlevoix has a multitude of pretty spots where you can stand at your easel or set down your stool. There is absolutely no need to paint on the railroad tracks. Usually.

Today, we worked in our local village of Les Eboulements and most of the group concentrated on sketching. I think a day of sketching is a great way to start the week. Do a lot of looking  and get a feel for the place.

After lunch in our studio, we had a look at the work from the morning. The biggest challenge was a familiar one; angles and perspective! I did a short review of the use of a measuring stick before we headed back out into the field.

Those nasty roof-lines continued to cause trouble so a quick plein air meeting was called to address the problem. I did a bit of sketching over the course of the day and used my drawings to illustrate some of the ideas we were focusing on.

We held our Critique in the comfort of the studio. It was a pleasure to see a mix of sketches and watercolours. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing more watercolours over the next few days.

Monday Critique

Drawing Boot Camp – Light and Shadow – Day Two


We started our second day of Drawing Boot Camp-Light and Shadow with a brief review of our work from Day One. The subject of our first drawing exercise was a single apple. Our materials were the same as those of Day One; a 2B and a 6B pencil and a measuring stick. Erasers were not used.

Our next drawing exercise was of a white jar. It’s shiny surface gave us a chance to consider reflected light and it’s relationship with direct light. Also, this plain old jar was a good challenge in terms of proportion.

Towards the end of the exercise, and to the huge relief of all, I distributed kneaded erasers. I firmly believe that the overuse of erasers is a hindrance to drawing. I have often observed students scrubbing away frantically at every single line they put on the paper and getting absolutely nowhere. First of all, one should strive to draw with a light touch. Secondly, your preliminary and planning lines are useless if they are constantly wiped off the sheet. Go easy on the erasing.

We took a break and looked at a few books of master drawings. Thoughtful study of the masters is not only instructional but a great pleasure. We discussed the Cours de Dessin, an influential academic drawing course first published in the 1860’s, by Charles Bargue. I have a copy of the 2003 reprint. The very classical Bargue approach had a huge impact, as unlikely as it might seem, on Vincent Van Gogh.

We wrapped up our Boot Camp with a drawing of apples in a bowl. I enjoyed our Boot Camps and hope that everyone learned a lot. I’m considering a series of drawing classes for this fall. Anyone interested?


Drawing Boot Camp – Light and Shadow


Last month, I gave a two-day class called Drawing Boot Camp-Proportion and Perspective. Yesterday, some of the same students and several new ones convened at my studio for the first day of Drawing Boot Camp-Light and Shadow. Everyone was issued a sketchbook, a 2B and a 6B pencil, a measuring stick, clips and a support board. Erasers were checked at the door.

We started off with a five-value grey scale. It gave us a chance to get to know the pencils and paper and to practice tip and side shading.

Our next project was a cone. A triangle was drawn on the sheet. A curved line was added from the lower left to the lower right corners. We did the drawing in steps, stopping to discuss some of the principles of light and shadow.

Our second exercise began with a line drawing of a cube. At first, we didn’t look at an actual cube. I drew a cube from memory, in line only, at my easel while I reviewed basic two-point perspective. Once we’d commenced to shade, the top plane was left as untouched paper and the two side planes were developed as two distinct values.

That’s when I put a white cube on a piece of white board under a lamp. It helped us to establish the cast shadow. Following that, a background was introduced. Then, our final step, we graded several of the planes, making them less flat and giving a more natural feel to the drawing.

It was time to work from direct observation. I placed four identical cylindrical bottles, made from brown cardboard, on the platform under the lamp. Each student selected a bottle that showed an interesting balance of light and shadow.

We completed four projects over a very full day of drawing. Day two of Drawing Boot Camp-Light and Shadow is next Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Drawing Boot Camp – Proportion and Perspective – Day Two


Last week, we started our two-day Drawing Boot Camp and it concluded yesterday. We used the yellow, red and blue Prismacolor pencils again for almost all of our drawing exercises. We continued to work on proportion and ellipses and to follow the guidelines from my Drawing Checklist. Our subject matter was quite varied; everything from fruit to bowls, bottles and books. The drawing exercises were short and focused.

Two books, one on top of the other, can be surprisingly tricky. Especially, when you don’t have much time. We tackled this and related subjects after a morning lecture/demonstration on two point perspective.

At the end of the day, we switched to 2B graphite pencils. This still-life of bottles and jars was a fifteen minute exercise. One of our goals was to place the entire group on the sheet without running off the edges or ending up with an extremely small drawing with too much empty space surrounding it.

It was definitely a Boot Camp. We did a lot of drawing and everyone was tired at the end of the day. Including me. I enjoyed it very much, though. I don’t teach drawing as much as I used to in the past.

Over the years, I taught courses such as Beginner Drawing, Object Drawing, Life Drawing, Drawing into Painting and Pen and Ink Drawing at many venues including Sheridan College, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Dundas Valley School of Art and Continuing Education at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Helping students to gain confidence and pleasure from drawing is a very satisfying pursuit.

Thanks for your recent comments about the Boot Camp. I wish you could have been here!

Drawing Boot Camp – Proportion and Perspective – Day One


This spring, I’ve offered two Drawing Boot Camps. They take place on consecutive Wednesdays and each Boot Camp is a two- day class. Our first Boot Camp, dedicated to Proportion and Perspective, started last Wednesday, April 4. It continues next week on the 11th.

We worked very hard all day long on a series of short drawing exercises. Everyone received a new sketchbook and three Prismacolor pencils; a yellow, a red and a blue. Yellow is for planning. Red is for wire frame. Blue is for refining. Each exercise had specific guidelines and goals. Erasers were strictly forbidden.

Overall, we want to draw with more confidence and understanding. We discussed concepts such as basic ellipse theory and learned how to use a measuring stick. We looked at master drawings. We drew a lot and everyone was pooped at the end of the day. Here are a few of my demonstrations from Wednesday.

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One


Our first Tuesday watercolour classes of the Spring term began today. I started everyone off with a drawing lesson. Here’s an analysis of the box with the beveled edge in three steps. It’s followed by a value study of the box in a slightly different attitude.


The still-life objects are made from cardboard. I bought them at a dollar store. They’re obviously not very colourful but they take the light beautifully so they’re a great subject for a value study. Add a little bit of imagination, as many of the painters did today, and the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique