Posts Tagged ‘outdoor painting workshops’

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – Last Two Days!

28/06/2017

Click on our First Three Days if you somehow missed the last post. Day four of Plein Air Toronto 2017 was Thursday of last week and the weather, which had been tricky all week, took a turn for the worst. I made arrangements for us to sketch in pen and ink all day long and without any concerns about rain. The catch was that our plein air artists were going indoors for the day. We met in the morning at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to historic and contemporary ceramic art.

It’s a beautiful museum but it’s difficult to gather the entire group at once for a demonstration or critique. I handed out a prepared sheet showing basic pen techniques in the morning. Later, I gathered a small group of pen and ink novices and sketched a Pre-Columbian figure as I discussed my thoughts.

It was a great day and don’t forget the excellent restaurant when you visit the Gardiner. Friday was yet another challenging weather day. However, I don’t have almost thirty years of experience for nothing. We met at University College on the lovely downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

The College has a large interior courtyard surrounded, on two sides, by wide colonnades. We were high and dry and had plenty of subject matter through the arches. Even the arches themselves attracted the eye of our artists.

I brought in some examples of pen and watercolour studies, done on the U of T campus, to get the morning started. As the group worked, I began a watercolour of my own for a change. Several of the new students expressed interest in my approach and process. I began with a sketch to resolve a composition and then drew it up on a sheet of watercolour paper.

  

I wasn’t able to finish the piece by the end of the day as I had teaching responsibilities. I pulled it together later in my studio.

Enough about me! Let’s have a look at our day at University College.

Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. The skies cleared just enough and we gathered one more time. What a great group! I thank them all for their cheerful participation and also thank you for following, commenting and liking the posts. Plein Air Toronto will be back next year. Now, for a look at the work from Friday.

University College
Critique a

University College
Critique b

Plein Air Toronto 2017 – First Three Days!

26/06/2017

One week ago, the 2017 Plein Air Toronto participants gathered at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end. We introduced ourselves and I gave a demonstration that considered several common elements of the urban landscape we’d be painting for the next five days. We also discussed colour; green, in particular.

Following our meeting, we headed down to the Sunnyside Pavilion which is on the beach of Lake Ontario.

The Pavilion is a lovely place to sketch and paint, inside and out.

We put in a good day’s work and met inside the Pavilion for our first critique of the week. Click on an image for a larger version.

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique a

Sunnyside Pavilion
Critique b

We met onsite at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday morning. It was a blustery day with a few showers but there was ample overhead shelter for us. This urban farm is bordered by a park on one side and a historic cemetery and chapel on the other. There’s lots of great subject matter to choose from including the charming cafe across the street.

I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time. My subject was the cafe and my painting was a value study in cool greys. I discussed my process and the importance of developing an eye for value.

Colour can be added to a study like this by gently ‘glazing’ washes over the appropriate areas. The grey washes should be completely dry before proceeding.

The group wandered around a bit to find their spots and then settled in. I kept a few of the newer folks back to talk about basic drawing and the use of a measuring stick to assist with perspective and proportion. I’ve developed a Drawing Checklist over the years and it can be very useful.

The little bit of rain didn’t deter us. It was a very productive day and we found a private and quiet spot for our critique.

Riverdale Farm
Critique a

Riverdale Farm
Critique b

Wednesday promised to be a day of sunshine and we chose historic Spadina House as our location. We met in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma for my demonstration. I used an approach I call shape-reading, direct painting without any preliminary pencil drawing. Challenging but fun and very instructive. As I painted, I chatted about my thoughts and decisions.

We made the most of our sunny weather and gorgeous painting site.

It was a beautiful day and the paintings were equally lovely. Stay tuned for our final two days of Plein Air Toronto 2017. Coming soon!

Spadina House
Critique a

Spadina House
Critique b

 

 

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – Another Successful Workshop!

03/04/2017

We’re back home, safe and sound, after another wonderful ten creative days in San Miguel de Allende. Last Tuesday was a free day. On Wednesday morning, we walked up to Plaza San Antonio with it’s striking white church.

I brought my easel along to do an on-site demonstration. We could see the mountains beyond the buildings that surrounded the square. As usual, I discussed my thoughts and decisions as I painted.

It’s always advisable to paint in the shade, especially in Mexico! Fortunately, Plaza San Antonio has plenty of shade and much to paint.

We had a great day and finished off with a critique at our studio. Sadly, we’re down to nine painters. One of the students had to cut her painting holiday short because of a business trip. Aren’t careers a nuisance?

A few of the students followed my lead and painted the same view I did with my demo. That’s not something I recommend necessarily but there are many ways to learn and absorb ideas from an instructor.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

We met in our studio again for my demonstration on Thursday morning. There had been quite a demand for a figure demonstration and I bowed to the requests. My two figures were both started with pencil. Using a cool grey wash, I painted the shadows on the gent to the left. When the washes were dry, I glazed on the local colours. I started directly with local colour for the lady on the right and left a fair bit of paper white to suggest light. I let the washes dry before adding the penwork.

One of my favourite painting spots in SM de Allende is the Instituto Bellas Artes. It’s a shady and peaceful art and music school. Our students settled into the spots of their choice while listening to relaxing live guitar music. Later on, the musical program changed to piano emanating from an upper floor studio.

Another treat at Bellas Artes are the many murals painted by past instructors and students.

We thanked Bellas Artes for hosting a soothing and inspiring day of painting and sketching. It was time for critique, once again.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Alas, Friday was our last day of painting together. We strolled up to Parque Guadiana, a tranquil park in a pretty residential neighbourhood. I did a brief demonstration at my easel. It was really an illustrated review of some of the things we’d discussed to date. Once the students settled down to work, I painted two small works that took about 45 minutes each. I later showed them to the group and explained my thoughts and process.

Friday critique was held in our hotel studio.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Our painting time had come to an end but we had one more event to celebrate on Saturday; Final Critique. It’s a chance to summarize our time together. Each student selects three of their works and tells us a bit about them and their overall experience. Here is the SM de Allende Class of 2017 (in alphabetical order)!

Fiona

Frances

Ian

Michael

Orshy

Phil

Renate

Susan

Let’s not forget our missing painter, now attending a conference in India.

Karen

That’s all, amigos. I’m grateful to this year’s participants for their good nature and hard work. Thanks go to Jim Nikiforos of Air Transat Travel for his efforts and to those of you who have liked and commented on our adventures. Hasta luego!

Plein Air Toronto – Last Two Days!

22/06/2016

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Two days to go in our week of sketching and painting in watercolour! Last Thursday, we met at Riverdale Farm and painted in and around the farm and the adjacent Toronto Necropolis, a park-like and tranquil cemetery.

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I gathered the gang in the Necropolis for a demonstration. We deal with a lot of visual information while painting ‘en plein air’. One of our most important tasks is to find and preserve the light in our subject. A value study is likely the best way to do so and, using a mixture of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna, I created a study in four values. The lightest value in my study is the white of the paper. It’s followed by a light middle tone, a dark middle tone and ultimately, the dark. Even the more experienced students found it helpful.

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Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I even ended up with an unintentional goofy face on my house. Following the demonstration, I spent some time with the newer students and presented a refresher of some basic watercolour techniques. After that, my job was to find everyone. They’d set up throughout the farm, park and cemetery.

Katie at work

Emily at work

Only a few of the group focused on the farm animals as subjects but I can’t resist showing you a few of the Riverdale residents.

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Later on, we found a quiet, shady spot for our critique. Plans were made for Friday, our final day together.

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Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Thursday Critique b

On Friday, we visited Black Creek Pioneer Village, an extensive and wonderful historic site. The buildings and artifacts offer many attractive opportunities for the artists and there are animals, as well.

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I set up under a shade tree and demonstrated at my easel. I chose a complicated subject and tried to simplify it with a watercolour sketch. I talk as I paint and attempt to describe the process and the decisions I’m making as the image develops.

Watercolour demonstraton by Barry Coombs

As usual, the group spread out to find inspiration. On a big site like Pioneer Village, it’s easy to lose track of a few of the painters. I now employ modern technology and text missing painters in order to find them.

Friday was the hottest day of our week but there’s no shortage of comfortable, shady spots at the village.

Evelyn at work

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Eventually, it was time for our last critique of the week. I appreciate the energy, enthusiasm and talent the participants shared at all of our great painting sites. Was there improvement? I think so. Aside from my efforts, they learn from each other and the critique is a very important part of the process. Have a look at Friday’s work! Thanks for following and feel free to leave a comment. Next year, consider Toronto for an ‘en plein air’ painting experience. We’ve had participants from all over Canada and the USA, as well.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique c

Friday Critique c

 

Plein Air Toronto 2016- Days Two and Three!

20/06/2016

Last Tuesday, we visited Kew Gardens and Beach in the east end of Toronto. It’s a lovely, shady spot with gardens, sporting facilities and lots to paint. One of the highlights is the Gardener’s House.

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I wanted to discuss some basic thoughts about foliage and it’s relationship to architecture. As you can see, I set up my easel in the beautiful sunshine. If you’ve ever attended one of my outdoor workshops, you’ll know that I don’t advise painting in the sun. It’s very hard to see what you’re doing and the watercolour dries more quickly than desired. In this case, I wanted the paint to dry quickly so I could illustrate my ideas without taking too much time.

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Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Following the demonstration, I joined some of the new students for a discussion of perspective and the use of a measuring stick. Familiarity with a measuring stick can help us understand the angles of buildings.

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We had a special guest on Tuesday. Jay Holobach is an artist from Nashville, Tennessee. He’s spending a lot of time in Toronto this summer and I thought I’d extend some good old Canadian hospitality and invite him to paint with us for the day. Jay works in oils and our watercolour painters enjoyed his company and his work.

Jay Holobach

Kim and Katie at work

Phil at work

Elizabeth at work

Speaking of things Canadian, what better spot for our critique than a hockey rink! Nice boards for taping our paintings and sketches and the sun on our backs. Several hundred puck marks set off the work to great advantage.

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Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique b

We don’t often paint downtown but we did on Wednesday! The Roundhouse was our venue and it hosts the Toronto Railway Museum and Steam Whistle Brewery. Not only that; the Roger’s Centre (home of the MLB Blue Jays), the landmark CN Tower and the Ripley’s Aquarium surrounded us.

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I wanted to discuss pen combined with watercolour. Many of the regular students have seen my approach to pen and watercolour so I let them get to work. I gathered a smaller group of the new students and took them through the steps of a drawing of this building.

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Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step One – pencil and wash

Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two – Colour

Step Three - Pen

Step Three – Pen

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I photographed the steps on my iPad and showed them to the rest of the group as I did my rounds over the course of the day. In addition to that, I completed two more sketches with pen and watercolour.

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

There is no shortage of subject matter at the Roundhouse. The trains and buildings were very popular with our artists.

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We found another good critique spot at the end of the day. The Don Station building provided a convenient wall and lots of shade. After critique, we headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner and drinks and a chance to get to know each other. I hope you’re enjoying our Plein Air Toronto week. Look for my next post a few days from now.

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Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique b

 

Plein Air Toronto 2016 – Day One!

18/06/2016

Last Monday morning, my annual Plein Air Toronto workshop, a week of sketching and painting in watercolour, began at the Arts on Adrian studio. I had a prepared a demonstration dealing with basic approaches to painting skies and clouds.

Studio Demo

Skies are always a challenge, especially in watercolour. I had painted a few sheets ahead of time and I completed one sheet while the students watched. By the way, the sky in the upper right corner is upside down!

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

I also brought in a few books. We took a careful look at skies painted by some of the great English watercolour painters of the past as well as some by the American, Winslow Homer and Canadian artist, Frederick Hagan.

Here are some more sky studies I showed to the group. Some have been created with a soft edge (wet into wet) process and some are a combination of soft and crisp edges. Some were done in one step and others took two or three steps to complete.

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Sky in watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

It was time to head out of doors and the Sunnyside Pavilion on the shore of Lake Ontario was our destination. Upon arrival, we settled in for the rest of the day.

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Sarah at work  Evelyn at work

Barb at work

Marian at work

Ian, Wendy and Olwen at work

Emily at work

It was a great start to our week. At the end of the day, we gathered for our critique and discussed our plan for Tuesday. Stay tuned! Our activities from last Tuesday and Wednesday are coming soon.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Monday Critique b

 

 

Taormina! Week Two of our Sicilian Painting Holiday.

25/10/2015

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fri a

Whether you look up or down, Taormina is gorgeous. We had an easy travel day from Siracusa last Thursday as it’s only a few hours to Taormina. Upon arrival, one of the participants said “We’ve gone from the charming to the spectacular”. This is not a criticism of Siracusa. It’s a great city. Taormina, however, soars above the sea and spectacular is certainly not an understatement.

Friday was a free day except for a guided walking tour in the afternoon. One of the most important sites we visited is the Greek Theatre.

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It was back to work on Saturday. We walked to the local park and it was a perfect place to paint. The park was founded by Florence Trevelyan from the UK. Look her up! It’s a fascinating story.

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I set up for a demonstration and discussed foliage. Given our surroundings, it seemed like an appropriate subject. I had a little help with my demo, by the way.

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Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The group enjoyed the day very much. Aside from the lovely gardens, the park features Victorian follies and fabulous views of Mount Etna.

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Following a very pleasant day of sketching and painting, we headed back to our hotel for an outdoor critique.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

Saturday Critique b

We strolled up to a quiet piazza on Sunday morning. I demonstrated with a 1″ flat angled brush. It was a peaceful and lovely spot. We were minutes away from shops and restaurants but it felt like a private outdoor studio.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

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Our critique at the end of the day was enhanced by a glass of almond wine, a Sicilian specialty. It’s been a wonderful trip so far and there’s still lots of painting time ahead of us. Thanks for your comments and likes.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

Sunday Critique b

Grand Manan Island – Wednesday!

29/07/2015

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I demonstrated this morning by the ‘haul-up’, the boatyard at Ingall’s Head. I didn’t complete a painting but did two small studies, one in colour and a value study in sepia. Both the Birds and the Bees attended.

What is a Bee? The Bees are not all the same in our workshop. All have some prior experience and none are complete beginners. Some, however, aren’t experienced with painting outdoors. Some have met me for the first time and are interested in how I present the basics. Some have taken other classes but fundamentals weren’t stressed. No two Bees are alike.

Our Birds are more experienced and several have been to Grand Manan Island, or other destinations, with me prior to this trip.

It was sunny and hot today although there’s always a nice fresh breeze off the water. We settled in and got to work.

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Pat at Work

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Most of our group are staying at the Marathon Inn in North Head this year. We held our critique at the Inn after a full day by the water. In addition to the critique, I gave a brief presentation on focal points in painting. Following that, we did the critique in two batches and the Birds and the Bees were mixed together.

Thanks for your likes and comments. Tomorrow, we’re off to Seal Cove!

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Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique

Grand Manan Island – First Two Days!

28/07/2015

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Let me tell you about the Birds and the Bees. We’ve got a great group of painters this week on Grand Manan Island. Some are less-experienced than others and that’s the case for most workshops. I decided on our first morning, yesterday, to give some of my demonstrations for all participants and some for the newer painters. The new guys are getting some ‘back to basics’ and that became B2B and that became the Bees. The more experienced painters, who don’t need the basics, head off to paint outdoors right away and they are now the Birds. Some start the day as a Bee and take flight as a Bird later on.

We met at our studio yesterday, Monday morning, and after a talk with the Birds I discussed a few fundamentals with the Bees. We practiced basic soft-edge techniques and I suggested a simplification exercise that would give them experience without becoming too boring.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Over the course of the day, everyone worked outside for at least a few hours. I visited the Birds where they were perched along the shoreline in North Head and offered them some feedback.

Stewart at Work

Artist at Work

We reconvened in the studio at the end of the day and had our first critique. I looked at the Birds and the Bees separately.

Monday Critique - Bees

Monday Critique – Bees

Monday Critique - Birds

Monday Critique – Birds

This morning, Tuesday, we met again in the studio. A thunderstorm raged outside for an hour or two and I discussed guidelines about painting water and reflections.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Water can be a tricky subject but there are principles, based on observation, that can help. Our group paints outdoors and we don’t use materials like masking fluid so we try to solve the problems with our paint, brushes and paper.

Both Birds and Bees attended the demo and, when it wrapped up, we headed to Woodward’s Cove to paint. Woodward’s Cove is one of the island’s largest harbours and we knew there would be lots of water to challenge us.

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Well, we ran out of water but not until mid-afternoon. The tides are spectacular in the Bay of Fundy and this harbour drains completely twice every 24 hours. The painters managed to find lots of subjects, including water, and we had a productive day.

Britta at Work

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Aleda at Work

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John at Work

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Our critique was back at the studio. We looked at the Bees and the Birds separately again but it won’t be long before we start to mix them up.

Tuesday Critique - Bees

Tuesday Critique – Bees

Tuesday Critique - Birds

Tuesday Critique – Birds

Plein Air Toronto 2015 – First Three Days!

23/06/2015

Last week, from Monday to Friday, I led an outdoor watercolour painting workshop in the parks, gardens and historic sites of Toronto, Ontario. I’m posting late due to some internet trouble but I hope you’ll still enjoy our adventures.

We met on Monday morning in my west-end studio. I often start an outdoor week with a general demonstration intended to cover several of the common elements encountered by artists working outdoors.

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Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

After the demo, we headed down to the lakeshore and painted near the restored, though currently unused, Joy gas station. Everyone settled in to paint and draw. We had a large picnic shelter handy in case of rain but the weather cooperated.

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Karen at work

Lynn at work

Phil and Polly at work

Evelyn at work

It was a great start to the week and we wrapped up with our critique.

Monday Critique A

Monday Critique A

Monday Critique B

Monday Critique B

Thunderstorms threatened on Tuesday so we met at St. Mike’s College on the beautiful downtown University of Toronto campus. There’s a lot of overhead protection on the site but, good fortune prevailed, and we had another sunny day with no rain.

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You can say that again! St. Mike’s College is in the middle of urban Toronto but a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds were nesting and the male attacked artists and other passersby all day long when they got too close. No damage done, though.

This American Robin was also on her nest. She was very well behaved.

American Robin on nest

I discussed pen combined with watercolour and used a ‘show and tell’ approach. We looked at some past demonstrations and discussed the techniques before getting to work.

Evelyn at work

Katie at work

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Laura, Elizabeth and Barb at work

It was a productive day and we had a lot to look at when the the time came for our critique.

Tuesday Critique A

Tuesday Critique A

Tuesday Critique B

Tuesday Critique B

Tuesday Critique C

Tuesday Critique C

Spadina House was our site for Wednesday but it doesn’t open until noon. We set up for the first two hours in the parkette between Spadina House and Casa Loma. I took the opportunity to use one tower of Casa Loma as my subject. I discussed the underlying volumes in architecture and even foliage. Cubes, cones, cylinders and spheres. My proportions aren’t all accurate and I omitted the chimney but the point of the demo was well received.

Wedb  Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

At noon, we entered the gardens surrounding Spadina House. It’s a lovely spot with plenty of shade and a great variety of subject matter.

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Unfortunately, my camera battery died before critique. I took our photo with my iPad and it’s a bit dark. Still, the quality of the work is evident. Stay tuned for more watercolours and drawings from Toronto. I’ll be posting Thursday and Friday soon.

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Critique