Posts Tagged ‘Dundas Valley School of Art’

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

08/02/2018

If you’ve ever spent time around a coastal fishing community, you’ll likely know what these things are. They’re floats that are used on nets and lobster pots. I’ve beachcombed quite a collection over the years and put together this selection for the Wednesday night watercolour students at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

Last week, our subject was hats and I demonstrated an approach to developing values with cool grey washes. Do you remember my demonstration?

The floats in the demonstration from yesterday evening were first painted in the same way as the hats. Once the washes were dry, I took it a step further. Using thin washes of local colour, I gently ‘glazed’ the objects. This is a very traditional approach to watercolour painting. I brought in a book and showed them a Gainsborough landscape that was completed with the same process.

All approaches/processes/styles have their pros and cons. The ‘value plus glazing’ process is great for establishing light and shadow and establishing a strong pattern in the painting. It’s not always the best approach for bright, vivid colour. All of the students felt that they could benefit from the experience and gave it a shot. They did well. As always, clicking on a critique image will bring up a larger version. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

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Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Three!

02/02/2018

If it’s a winter Wednesday evening, it’s time for watercolour painting at the Dundas Valley School of Art. As you can see, our still-life was comprised of a pile of hats. The hats aren’t particularly colourful but they were the perfect subject for the lesson I had in mind. I went ‘back to basics’ and talked about two main things during my demonstration; tone/value and brush-handling skills.

I drew my hats in pencil first. My cool grey was a mix of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. As I painted, I was very careful to leave the white of the paper for the lightest areas of the subject. I developed the bigger middle tone shapes next and the smaller dark shapes and marks came last. The brush-handling I mentioned involves the soft edge washes used to create gentle transitions such as on the crowns of the hats.

This study could be continued by ‘glazing’ washes of colour over the values. Believe it or not, this approach was widely used by early watercolourists a few hundred years ago and is still employed by some contemporary painters. I chose this lesson because I thought some of the students could use a refresher in light and shadow.

Next week, I’m going to take it a step further and discuss glazing. But right now, let’s see what the Wednesday class did. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Two!

27/01/2018

Last Thursday, this blog had it’s 200,000th view! Thank you for following, commenting and liking. Now, what happened at DVSA on Wednesday evening?

I brought in my collection of ‘Mexican’ pots on Wednesday. Lovely, solid forms with lots of texture on their distressed surfaces. My demonstration dealt, first of all, with process. Many watercolour painters follow three basic guidelines; light to dark, big to small and soft to crisp. Add in a dollop of simplification and a sprinkle of editing and you’ve got the essence of my lesson.

It was only our second night together so I think my ‘back to basics’ approach was appreciated. Thinking back to my suggestion of week one, almost everyone did a thumbnail sketch/compositional study first. This helped focus on an area of interest in the still-life. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour Critique b

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.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week One!

18/01/2018

Last night, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach Watercolour: Concept and Technique. This course, based on observation of the still-life, is comprised of eight evenings and we got off to a good start.

I didn’t discuss or demonstrate anything to do with watercolour technique. Rather, I focused on finding a composition with a thumbnail sketch/study. Thumbnail sketches are a very helpful part of the process. They don’t have to be pretty. They’re tools; not masterpieces. I lightly sketched an area of the still-life before deciding where I wanted to focus. I framed that area with pencil lines and shaded the main shadows within it. My next step was to enlarge the thumbnail on my watercolour paper while maintaining the same proportions as the sketch.

This was a new concept to many of the students. They worked hard on their thumbnails and on transferring the compositions to their larger watercolour sheets. The process slowed some of them down a bit and not all finished their watercolours. I didn’t mind that at all. As they incorporate thumbnails into their practice, they’ll become quicker and more assured. At the end of the evening, we looked at the paintings in two batches. See you next Wednesday!

Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

Winter Studio Watercolour Classes!

01/01/2018

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s time to start thinking about creative pursuits to warm the soul over the cold months ahead. I’ll be teaching studio watercolour classes at two venues.

ARTS ON ADRIAN
My winter calendar for classes at Arts on Adrian, in the west end of Toronto, can be viewed by clicking here. You’ll also see it under the Pages menu in the sidebar. Classes are offered on three Tuesday afternoons, three Tuesday evenings and three Saturdays (all day). Please, use the Contact form below to register.

DUNDAS VALLEY SCHOOL OF ART
I’ll be teaching a watercolour studio class at the Dundas Valley School of Art in Dundas, Ontario. Registration is done through DVSA. The details below are from the school website.

3A32 *NEW* Watercolour: Concept and Technique with Barry Coombs
17 Jan – 7 Mar, 2018 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm

This watercolour course is based on traditional observation of the still-life. A new and attractive still life will be presented every week. You’ll learn to observe and understand value and develop your watercolour skills and ideas. Drawing and composition will also be emphasized. Demonstrations and constructive critiques are a feature of every class. Not suitable for beginners. Wednesdays. Course Fee: $269 Limit: 15 students

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

Van Gogh and the Reed Pen at DVSA!

24/11/2017

Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful book of the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a real doorstop and was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was particularly attracted to the reed pen drawings. Reeds, like quills, go back a long way as drawing instruments. Why did Vincent use them? The fluidity and expressive marks can’t be matched by steel nibs. Vincent was also broke most of the time and likely made his own pens.

Yesterday, I presented a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I had harvested reeds from phragmites at a local wetland. The students just needed to bring their ink and paper.

I had cut enough pens for everyone ahead of time. Naturally, the students wanted the experience of cutting their own so I demonstrated and assisted with the process. Everyone made a successful pen and got through the entire day with very little maintenance.

We all tested our pens on a common sheet. We used variations of a sepia ink. Some were dark brown and some were more reddish. Vincent used different types of ink. Often, he used black ink which has since faded to brown but he also used sepia.

I handed out reproductions of some of Vincent’s drawings and we started out by copying them. I wasn’t concerned with perfect copies, by any means, but the process of trying to re-create Vincent’s lines and marks was very instructive. All of us also gained a real appreciation for his genius.

We turned our newfound skills to our own imagery in the afternoon. Everyone had brought in photographs of rural subjects. I offered a few thoughts about interpretation of photos, ‘a la Vincent’.

Following that, we drew for the rest of the day. The mood in the studio was very positive and the students remarked many times on how much fun it was to draw with a reed pen of their own making. As usual, many were pooped when we gathered for our critique but happy and satisfied.

 

Introduction to Drawing Birds at DVSA!

03/11/2017

Yesterday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach a one-day workshop. Our medium was pen and ink and our theme was an introduction to drawing birds. I chatted a bit about famous bird artists like John James Audubon, James Fenwick Lansdowne and Robert Bateman and discussed their processes. We also talked about David Sibley and other excellent bird illustrators whose work informs the field guides used to identify birds. Artists past and present have worked from mounted specimens, skins, field sketches and photos. Our only option yesterday was to use photos as our reference. We worked from black and white photos as our drawings were in black and white, as well.

Proportion is important when drawing a bird. I used a simple grid approach and presented this to the students.

This is a Black-capped Chickadee, a common woodland and feeder bird in southern Ontario. I’m going to show you three steps of my demonstration. The first step establishes the main values throughout the drawing with hatching. I do not outline and I develop the darks very patiently. Most of the preliminary pencil drawing has been erased, including the grid, but not all.

I’ve used cross-hatching to emphasize plumage details and to stress ‘light and shadow’ in order to give the bird fullness and form.

I’ve developed the darks and added definition to areas like the undertail and legs. Note the gaps I’ve left around the edge of the bird such as the beak, upper breast, upper back, tail, legs and branch. Did you notice the gaps before I mentioned them? These gaps allow light to flow throughout the drawing and enhance the feeling of vitality. A heavy outline is not only unnecessary; it would flatten out the drawing and detract from the impression of fullness and liveliness.

The students followed my steps in order to understand the process. There were a lot of elements to consider and they did very well with the exercise.

Black-capped Chickadee Critique

Our afternoon drawing was a portrait of a Downy Woodpecker; another local favourite. Here’s my grid analysis and my unfinished demonstration.

I enjoyed the talented and enthusiastic group of students. Several were birders and many were members of the local Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. They worked hard and came away with a sound process for drawing birds at home from their photos. Let’s have a look at their Downy Woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker Critique

The ‘Dipping Pen’ at DVSA!

13/10/2017

Yesterday was my first day back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. It was a one-day workshop and our theme was pen and ink drawing with the traditional dipping pen. All of my one-day pen and ink workshops to date have employed disposable sketching pens from Pilot, Micron and Staedtler. They’re easy to use; no muss and no fuss. They’re portable and I use them for sketching all the time. However, for my sustained studio drawings, I always use a good old metal nib and a bottle of India ink.

I’ve been drawing with these tools since I was a teenager. My all-time favourite ink is Speedball Super Black and I’ve always used their nibs and holders, as well. These are what I recommended on my material list for the workshop. I suggested a choice of three different nibs; 22B Extra Fine, 56 School and 99 Drawing. The paper I recommended was Strathmore Bristol. By the way, Speedball Super Black comes in an extremely practical bottle with a wide (easy for dipping) mouth and a wider (hard to knock over) base.

Decades of experience have taught me not just how to draw but how to manage the dipping pen. It’s very easy to make a mess and unfortunate blobs are common for the novice. I started the day with my hard-earned tips regarding the care, transport and use of the metal nib. Everything matters, especially how your work area is organized.

The students were given about a half hour to try out their materials, experimenting with marks and strokes and getting a feel for the nibs. Next, I handed out a template of a basic feather shape. With my demonstration, I discussed mark-making and patterns. It gave the students a chance to unleash their imaginations while practicing with their new tools. They took to it very well. The usual problems were encountered but the only real disaster was a coffee spill! The three recommended nibs were tried by most of the students and the 99 Drawing was considered to be the most difficult to use. It’s very sensitive to pressure and wonderful to work with but may require a little more experience in order to gain confidence with it. Have a look at the feathers. Click on the image for an enlarged version. There’s some lovely detail to enjoy!

Our second drawing was of a leaf. I issued handouts with a black and white photo of the leaf. It wasn’t a very good photo, a bit blurry, so we discussed ways to clarify and simplify the image. My demonstration dealt again with technique but also with the concept of ‘light and shadow’.

We took our time with the leaf drawings and they were very successful. Overall, it was an enjoyable day with an enthusiastic and talented group of art students. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is an Introduction to Drawing Birds with pen and ink and takes place on Thursday, November 2. Care to join us?