Posts Tagged ‘Dundas’

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Four!


The bottles were empty for the Wednesday watercolour students at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Not even half full, unfortunately. Spirits were high, however, and we used our bottles to continue practicing soft-edge techniques. I did a quick review of the basic approach and then applied the techniques with a few studies.

The bottles were first painted by adding dark values to the lighter overall shape while still wet. When the first washes were dry, I added the smaller, darker shapes. These are very clear in the green bottle on the left where the darker shapes all have distinct, crisp edges. In the two brown bottles, I ‘feathered’ some of the edges of the darkest shapes, using a damp brush. This varies the edges of the small, dark shapes and gives the bottle a somewhat more natural appearance. The blue studies, bottom centre, illustrate the feathering technique.

This group of students all work thoughtfully and follow a sound process. Practice swatches, small studies and colour testing all lead to more successful watercolour paintings. Have a look and remember to click on the critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique


Create a ‘Cubist’ Watercolour – Followup!


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.

by Evelyn Cunningham

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?
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.

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?
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.

​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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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


Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Six!


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!


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!



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 Studio at DVSA – Week Four!



I dipped into my treasure trove of drawing subjects yesterday and found an entire ancient realm of castles. Albeit, castles with the names of American resorts. They offered a great opportunity to discuss ideas about handling architecture with pen and ink.

Step one of my demonstration shows some a wet-in-wet wash over a pencil drawing. The wet wash was a combination of Raw Sienna and Cobalt blue, mingling in places to create a grey. The red roofs were added after the first wash dried.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I did a lot of work on the demo with the pen. Note that before I spent time on any details, I tried to establish the main shapes of light and shadow. We didn’t have table lamps available to light our castles, so we all tried to imagine a single light source. I decided upon a light source from the upper right.

Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The castles look complicated but they were a lot of fun to draw. The students did very well. We’re still missing a few holidayers but expect them back in the studio at the Dundas Valley School of Art next week.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Three!



Don’t wake up the cats! Yesterday, at the Dundas Valley School of Art, we focused on stippling and the cats were perfect models.

Have you ever tried stippling? I call it the personality test. Some people love it and find it very relaxing. Others…. Stippling is done with the tip of the pen. Basically, it’s an accumulation of tiny dots that gradually become shapes of ever-darkening values. It requires patience and it can be time-consuming. Also, one needs to preserve the white of the paper for the light areas. Stippling can be combined with other techniques. Yesterday, we concentrated on stippling on its own.

Stippling demonstration by Barry Coombs

The students all did a drawing of a cat. They also continued working on their personal projects. It was a good pace and the projects are coming along very well. We have a small Pen and Ink Studio group this term and a few are on their winter holiday at the moment. Maybe, the quieter studio was a bonus. The cats slept through the entire afternoon.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique


Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Two!



The strangest things turn up in a pen and ink class at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I started off our second day of Pen and Ink Studio with a presentation on various papers and their suitability for pen on it’s own or with wash and watercolour. One of the students launched into a personal project and the rest of us attempted to come to grips with an invading herd of very small elephants.

I focused on the head of one of the creatures and began with a pencil drawing. I painted a few watercolour washes over the drawing and allowed it to dry. The paper is Arches, Hot Press, 140lb on a block.

Step One of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Once dry, I used the pen to refine the drawing. My first consideration was the development of shadows. Definition and detail came next. I’m very careful about how I handle edges. I rarely, if ever, outline with a solid line. Look for the gaps in the pen line around the edges. Also, look at the slightly bumpy underside of the trunk. I didn’t indicate that with the preliminary pencil drawing; just with the pen.

Step Two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was a challenge but the students did well with the elephants. Over the next few weeks, we should be able to see progress with their personal projects.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week One



I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday afternoon to teach Pen and Ink Studio; the first of eight afternoons. The course is designed to allow participants the opportunity to develop their personal projects under the guidance of the instructor. For the first class, I brought in a selection from my collection of bones and we all started with the same exercise.

I used cross-hatching and a bit of stippling in my demonstration. We discussed the basic pen techniques and followed a sound process as the drawings were developed.

Pen and ink demonstration by Barry Coombs

We also discussed the personal projects and they’ll get underway next week. However, our shared experience of drawing bones was a good way to kick off the course. Would you like to join us? If so, contact DVSA. We’ve got room in the class for you.

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen, Wash and Watercolour at DVSA – Buildings and Trees!


I had an enthusiastic and hard-working group of students at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday. Our medium was pen and ink with wash and watercolour. Our theme was buildings and trees. In other words, architectural elements and foliage. To start the class off, I presented some basic perspective elements that are very helpful when drawing buildings. I worked on a large pad at an easel and the students made notes in their sketchbooks.

It was time to draw! We did three projects over the course of the day. Each was started from a very simple diagram and then the students followed my steps. Our first drawing was of a tree and was completed in three steps. The first image shows two steps; the pencil drawing and a ‘sepia’ wash (mixed with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna). In the second step, we used the pen. To create a sense of foliage, looping strokes were employed as if we were repeating Ws and Ms. The bark of the tree shows long zigzag strokes.

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

Our goal was to ‘suggest’ the textures of foliage and bark. Ws and Ms and zigzags may not always work but can be quite effective in many cases. We tried something a bit different with our next drawing. Again, our first step was a light and basic pencil drawing but this time we did the ink before the watercolour. We more or less scribbled with our pens. However, an angular approach was used in the main tree while a looping motion was used in the background bushes. The grass was suggested with a spiky action. The ink step was completed and then watercolour was applied.

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

Here’s a look at what the students achieved with our first two exercises.


We did one more drawing in four steps: pencil, monochromatic wash, pen and watercolour. The first image shows the pencil and monochromatic wash. The wash establishes the light and shadow. This time, we did the pen next. The pen added definition and detail and it was fun to create new shapes such as the cat in the window. Lastly, we glazed some thin washes of local colour over the relevant areas.

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


It was a busy and enjoyable day. I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, November 24. We’ll be using pen and watercolour to draw people and it’s going to be fun. There are still a few spots left so why don’t you join us?