Posts Tagged ‘Dundas Valley School of Art’

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

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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?

Introduction to Drawing Cats at DVSA!

11/06/2017

Two weeks ago, I led a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and our medium was pen with watercolour. Last Thursday, I was back and it was time to draw cats!

All of our cat drawings were done from photo reference. I began the day with a look at the skeleton of a cat followed by some tips on drawing the creatures. We usually complete two drawings and start a third over the course of a day.

Our first challenge on Thursday was a calico. I drew the cat with pencil and followed that with some initial pen work.

The next stop was to establish the colours with watercolour. The washes were perfectly dry before I went back in with more pen.

Our next subject was a portrait of a Himalayan kitten. Again, I started with the pencil drawing but this time I applied the watercolour before the pen.

Once dry, it was time to add the pen. The relationship and balance between the amount of pen and watercolour can be unique to each drawing. The pen work in this drawing is much more restrained than in that of the calico. If I was somehow able to eliminate the watercolour, would there be enough penwork to describe the kitten? Maybe not, but they work together effectively.

I presented a much more playful approach to our final drawing of a sleeping tabby. Pencil first before using the pen in a linear manner. Line variety and weight is the key here.

I tried to maintain the playful feel with a non-literal approach to colour. Washes of Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone (basically, a cool green and a cool red) were allowed to run into each other. Not all of the students completed this drawing before we ran out of time but they enjoyed the different process.

I won’t be back at DVSA until next fall but I’ve got an exciting lineup of pen and ink and watercolour workshops on the calendar. It’s been an enjoyable spring term with a great bunch of enthusiastic and talented students. Have a peek at their drawings of cats.

Drawing Cats-Critique a

Drawing Cats-Critique b

Introduction to Drawing Dogs at DVSA

29/05/2017

Last Thursday, it was another day of pen and watercolour at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Our theme was dogs and we really had no choice but to work from photographs. I provided the photo reference. I also issued a printed handout showing the skeleton of a dog. My intention was not to be too scientific or absolutely anatomically perfect but it definitely helped us understand the basic structure underneath all of that cuddly fur.

I started each exercise by demonstrating on an 18 x 24″ pad of cartridge paper at an easel. Using coloured markers, I presented an approach to capturing the proportions and dynamics of the subject. Dog Number One was a Golden Retriever.

Following the discussion, I switched to watercolour paper and drew the dog in pencil. My next step was with pen. I paid attention to the direction of my pen strokes in order to convey a feeling of fur.

It was time for watercolour! I wet the entire dog with water. While nice and wet, I added the orange/gold wash and let it run a bit. Note that some areas, particularly the legs, are whiter than the rest of the dog. It took a while for the wash to dry but eventually it did. I then worked back in with the pen, adding more definition to the head. I left it at this point but could have done more penwork throughout the body.

Dog Number Two was a West Highland Terrier. I started out on the easel again. I considered light and shadow for this exercise as I wanted to preserve the white of the paper for the lightest areas on the dog.

This time we painted first, wet onto the dry paper. Using a neutral grey, I tried to establish the light and shadow as well as a shaggy feel. A bit of colour was added to the ears and some other spots.

Once again, stroke direction was important with the pen.

We didn’t have much time left for Dog Number Three but I wanted to do a portrait and this Beagle puppy was perfect. After drawing it with pencil, I added the colour washes. The lightest colour was first and the darkest last.

I did some quick pen work and left it unfinished. The students didn’t have time to do this exercise but some wanted to try it at home.

We were dog-tired at the end of a long day of learning. There was a good energy in the room as we looked at the drawings.

Drawing Dogs –
Critique a

Drawing Dogs –
Critique b

I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, June 8, for the last workshop in the series. Guess what we’ll be drawing? That’s right; cats! Join us.

 

 

Intro to Pen with Wash and Watercolour at DVSA!

15/05/2017

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Thursday. Our workshop was an Introduction to Pen with Wash and Watercolour and we completed three drawings and some studies over the course of the day. We started off with a relatively simple subject; a jalapeño pepper.

The first step was to position the pepper in profile. Next, we drew it in pencil. Following the pencil, we hatched and cross-hatched with our pens. The green wash was next and we left some paper white for highlights. A cool grey wash was added to the cast shadow area. Once the washes had dried, we worked back in with pen.

Before we began our next drawing, we did a few studies of curving volumes and considered how they would receive light from above. After those studies, I pulled out my surprise. Dog chews!

Am I crazy? The students may have thought so at first but they really enjoyed studying these interesting forms. Using our studies as reference, we drew the chews in pencil and then added a brown wash to indicate the areas of core shadow. The penwork was our last step and we tried to follow the forms with our strokes. Also, note the upper edges of the chew. There is no hard outline! Gaps have been left to allow light to flow into the object from the surrounding paper.

Our final subject was quite different and we varied our approach with it. Pencil first and the colour washes second. Pen was used for shadow and to define the various planes.

 

Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day and that’s a good thing. Learning and concentrating can be very tiring. Still, we had time for a look at the work. My next workshop at DVSA is drawing dogs with pen and watercolour and takes place on Thursday, May 25. Care to join us?

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique a

Pen, Wash & Watercolour
Critique b

 

 

Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA

21/04/2017

Spring term began this week at the Dundas Valley School of Art and I was back in the studio yesterday. Pen and Ink Basics was our theme and my keen and hard-working students put in a full day. We completed three drawings and used a different approach with each. All of our drawings were done from a diagram model that I provided at my easel.

Our focus was on light and shadow as well as fundamental pen techniques. Our pear was started with a ‘parquet’ approach. The students didn’t have to worry about stroke direction and concentrated initially on the shapes of light and shadow.

Our pear gradually became more three-dimensional as we applied principles of light and shadow with cross-hatching. Our second drawing was the hat. We started with hatching, parallel strokes, and developed the drawing with cross-hatching. I discussed the idea of ‘edge versus outline’ and you’ll notice gaps in the lines that describe the edges of our objects. These allow light to infiltrate the drawing and give it a more natural feel than a hard colouring book-like outline would achieve.

The ball cap was our final drawing of the day and stippling was our technique. We didn’t want to work too big as stippling is rather time-consuming. Over the course of the day, we looked at drawings by the masters including Michelangelo and Henry Moore and were inspired by the lessons found in their beautiful work.

We wrapped up with a look at our own work. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is called Pen and Ink with Wash and Watercolour and takes place on May 11. Care to join us?

Pen and Ink Basics Critique

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Eight!

06/03/2017

Sadly, our Pen and Ink Studio at the Dundas Valley School of Art has come to an end! Last Thursday was our eighth afternoon together. Every day I presented a project. Some of the students tried the projects and some worked on their own with my guidance and feedback. Some did both.

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I brought in the fleet for our daily project. My demonstration was done in a few steps. First of all, I drew my boat in pencil but I added several features that weren’t present in my little model. Also, I added local colour with watercolour. Pen was the final step.

Step One of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students also had a little fun with the boats and gave them personal touches.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

It’s time to look at some of the other work that’s been done. We’ll start with this full sheet pen and watercolour piece by Vicky. She’s really pushed herself with this large format and has used calligraphy and lettering nibs for the penwork.

Pen and Watercolour by Vicky

Pen and Watercolour by Vicky

This is another large format piece. Elaine has planned this carefully but there’s still a lot to do. She masked out the area of the motorcycle and rider in order to paint the washes with broad strokes right across the sheet. She’s also been working on studies of the bike and rider and I think it will all pay off when she gets to the pen stage.

Pen and watercolour by Elaine

Pen and watercolour by Elaine

Finally, we have three works by Barbara. She’s been working on them as well as the daily projects. All are done with pen and watercolour. The first image gives a good sense of her process.

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

Pen and watercolour by Barbara

We worked hard and enjoyed ourselves in Pen and Ink Studio. Why don’t you join us this spring? I’ll be back at DVSA to teach a series of four one-day workshops in pen and ink and watercolour. Click on DVSA and you’ll find all of the information.

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Seven!

24/02/2017

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NUTS! The students screamed in unison when I showed them the subject for our pen and ink drawings yesterday at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Well, I’m exaggerating. They always wonder what will emerge from my bag of tricks and they’re forever keen to test their skills.

We covered a lot of ground yesterday. Let’s start with my demonstration. I drew a dish in pencil.

Step one of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Next, I added some nuts. Two in the dish and one in front of it. I decided on a light source coming from the upper right. Look at the little study on the bottom right of the sheet. This helped me simplify the light and shadow pattern on my subject.

Step two of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

Those messy pen lines on the upper sheet are a result of another demonstration. The students asked me for my thoughts on using a traditional metal nib with a bottle of India ink. We’ve been using disposable sketching pens for our drawings in class. No muss, no fuss! The traditional tools can be messy. Spills. Heartbreaking blobs in the middle of a drawing you’ve spent hours on. So, the disposable pens are fine for our learning process. However, the metal nib, used thoughtfully and with care, can give a drawing a special quality.

The next image shows my setup and tools. The paper is Strathmore Bristol, vellum surface. The nib is a School 56 and it’s in a wooden holder. My ink is Speedball Super Black India Ink, my favourite! The wide mouth and base help prevent spills. The white tester card helps prevent blobs. I test the pen every time I dip it in the ink before I touch my drawing. I also clean my nib every 5 minutes or so with paper towel and an organic nib cleaning fluid (spit). Oh, and there’s my demonstration again with most of the ink work completed.

Step three of pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students enjoyed the nuts.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Before I sign off, let’s take a moment to look at some of the personal projects. The sunflowers are a work in progress by Vicky. This is a full sheet of watercolour paper and she’s using calligraphy dipping nibs. I took this photo at the start of the class yesterday so there’ll be a lot more to see next week.

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Pen and watercolour by Vicky

Here’s another drawing by Val. It’s a small piece, approx. 9 x 12″, and she’s combined pen with watercolour.

Pen and watercolour by Val

Pen and watercolour by Val

That’s it, in a nutshell! There’s one more week of Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA. I’ll be offering four one-day pen workshops this spring and they’re already posted on the DVSA website. Join us!

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Six!

21/02/2017

Every Thursday afternoon this winter, I meet with my dedicated students at the Dundas Valley School of Art for Pen and Ink Studio. I offer a project every afternoon and the students have also been working on personal drawings which combine pen with wash and watercolour. The students are always curious as to what I’ll bring in and I always try to surprise and challenge them. I don’t know what I’d do without dollar stores and thrift shops!

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Our colourful trumpets were a cheerful subject and quite a few questions arose as we drew them. We discussed ellipses, in particular, as well as a sound planning process. I’d already erased my pencil ‘planning’ lines before I photographed the demonstration shown below but there were a lot of them! The study in the lower right corner is an analysis of light and shadow on the trumpet.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I started with the pen before adding watercolour to this drawing and I added more penwork after the watercolour had dried. I left a few paper-white highlights, as well.

Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students did very well with the trumpets. One was particularly chuffed although she didn’t want to toot her own horn (she gets credit for the joke).

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Val brought in two drawings that she’s been working on. The upper one is done with stippling and a grey wash. The lower drawing of objects on a beach utilizes a mix of pen techniques with watercolour. Lovely work, Val!

Pen and Watercolour Projects by Val

Pen and Watercolour Projects by Val

 

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Five!

12/02/2017

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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