Posts Tagged ‘plein air art workshops’

Grand Manan Island 2017 – Final Two Days!

11/08/2017

Dark Harbour was our destination on Thursday; towering cliffs, rustic camps and multi-coloured dories. Many artists struggle with the odd angles and nuances when drawing a dory. I set up my easel and gave an optional demonstration, showing the steps I take when drawing a dory. Drawing anything, actually. It’s a matter of careful measuring and checking angles.

When the tide comes in at Dark Harbour, there can be very little room on the beach for stools and easels. Also, the dory you’re painting may suddenly be required for dulsing, the gathering of a nutritious seaweed, and off it goes! Even my subject, this grey dory named Ophelia, was hauled onto the back of a pickup and taken away. Fortunately, I’d long finished my demo by then.

Some of our painters seem to dress to match their vehicles and others coordinate quite well with the dory next to them.

It was another special day. Not only does everyone enjoy painting at Dark Harbour but our local friends allow us the use of their world class outhouse! True Grand Manan hospitality. Another day, another critique back at our studio.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Friday was our last day of painting together! It came too quickly. We had another great painting spot to visit; Woodward’s Cove.

I arrived early and got set up ahead of time for a sustained demonstration. As you’ve seen, I don’t do complete paintings very often as demonstrations. For one thing, they take a chunk of time out of the morning and everyone is itching to get to work. The main reason is that I use demos to make teaching points. They are lessons and not performances followed by an opportunity to purchase. However, I believe it’s important for students to see my process from start to finish at some point during the week and Friday morning was that time.

One of the things I addressed was colour. I urge the students to be less literal with colour and to select colours that work together in the painting. Colour can be used to create a mood or even a temperature. Note that the background trees in my demo are not green! The shed is not a dull neutral grey. There’s nothing inherently wrong with greens, greys and browns but they are often used thoughtlessly and contribute nothing special to the painting.

Woodward’s Cove is a big area with a wide range of subject matter. ‘En plein air’ painting always has challenges but painting on Grand Manan Island has a few rather unique ones. As we painted on Friday, the tide gradually dropped. By the end of the day, the harbour was completely drained of water. Note to self: paint the water in early!

While in Woodward’s Cove, make sure you stop by Shore Things. Driftwood art, colourful fishing floats and other island souvenirs are available. If you have questions about the island, Wayne can answer them.

It was time for one more trip to our studio for a critique. Have a look at the work from Friday and then scroll down for more news about our week.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Our workshop wasn’t quite over. After critique, everyone headed back to their lodgings to freshen up for our Farewell Dinner at the Marathon Inn. Steak or lobster? Dinner was excellent and a lot of fun. Following dinner, we enjoyed our Final Critique. Each student brought three of their works and presented and spoke about them one at a time. It’s a very rewarding way to sum up our week together.

I’d like to thank all of the 2017 participants for helping to make our workshop a success. And thank you, dear reader, for following, commenting and liking! Next year’s dates for Grand Manan will be posted on this blog soon. Why don’t you join us? It’s a spectacular place and the company is excellent. Now, there’s one more photo to see. Allow me to present the Class of 2017!

 

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Grand Manan Island 2017 – First Three Days!

08/08/2017

Last week, a group of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painters gathered on lovely Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. We met on Sunday evening and shared a delicious Welcome Dinner at the historic Marathon Inn. The next morning, we met at our studio for a demonstration. I talked about water, which seemed appropriate as we’re on an island and surrounded by the wet stuff. Water has many moods. I tried to offer some ideas to help the students tackle it’s many challenges.

Following the demonstration, we went over to North Head harbour; just a short hop. We all stay in North Head so it’s nice to be close to home on the first day. Several of the students settled into the shady spot in front of Kirk’s shed.

North Head Harbour is very busy with fishing as well as related activities such as rockweed gathering and the care and feeding of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Nearby, Pettes’ Cove attracted a few eyes. It offers a splendid view of the famous Swallowtail lighthouse.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Little did we know at the time but our entire week would give us brilliant weather. The studio is a welcome retreat at the end of the day and we assembled for our first critique of the week.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

On Tuesday morning, we met at Seal Cove. Seal Cove features the traditional herring smokesheds and abounds with character. I set up my easel and did a demonstration. I talked about developing a watercolour with a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process.

The students spread out in search of subjects and shade. It didn’t take long to settle in.

A few painters brought their shade with them.

Others sought it out.

A few soaked up the sunshine even though I don’t recommend painting in the sun. It dries up your paper and palette too quickly and bleaches out your darks so the painting can become overworked. Still, a happy artist is a good thing…

Eventually, it was time to return to the studio for our critique. As the week goes by, you may notice different styles in our daily exhibitions. I don’t teach ‘my way or the highway’ workshops. As best I can, I encourage each artist to find their personal voice.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

You guessed it! More sunshine on Wednesday. While at Seal Cove on Tuesday, I’d done a small watercolour with the intention of adding penwork to it for our Wednesday morning demonstration. I did it at the studio before heading to Fisherman’s Haven Lane, which is home to Ingall’s Head Cottages. Many thanks to Wendy, the proprietor, for allowing us to park on her property.

We got to work right away. This is a lovely and quiet spot, a bit off the beaten track. The locals are always interested in our creative efforts.

Finding shade became an art form of it’s own.

Critique time! Is it already Wednesday? Thanks for following along with our exploits. Stay tuned for my report from Thursday and Friday of last week.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 2017

28/03/2017

 

Hola, amigos! We’re back in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. We arrived last Thursday afternoon at the Posada de la Aldea and our first group event was a delicious Welcome Dinner. On Friday morning, I led an orientation walk around town so that everyone could get their bearings. The group had the rest of the day on their own.

Our first day of sketching and painting was Saturday. We met at 9am sharp in a shady spot in the hotel courtyard for a lesson/demonstration. The plan was to work in the courtyard for the day. I discussed subject selection and simplification.

The courtyard has plenty of charm and our artists were not short of inspiration.

We wrapped up the day in our studio with a critique.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

The lovely local park, Parque Benito Juarez, was our painting site for Sunday. We met in our studio for my demonstration prior to walking over to the park. I wanted to prepare the students for some of the creative challenges they would encounter and foliage was the first priority. I also discussed some architectural elements.

Another great day followed by an enjoyable critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

We decided to throw caution to the wind on Monday and paint in the Jardin, the main square. There are lots of people but there is plenty of shade, as well. Before we went up to the Jardin, I gave a demonstration in our studio. Arches were on the menu.

It’s very pleasant to return to our studio at the end of a sunny day outdoors. Our Monday critique went extremely well. Tuesday is a free day; shopping, exploring and relaxing. We’ll be back at it on Wednesday morning. Hasta luego!

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Ragusa, Noto and more from Siracusa!

22/10/2015

Ragusa c

Monday was the day for our trip to the splendid baroque towns of Ragusa and Noto. We started with Ragusa and followed our knowledgeable and entertaining guide, Francesca, from site to site before enjoying a traditional Sicilian lunch.

Ragusa a

Ragusa b

Noto was our next destination. It’s absolutely gorgeous with it’s honey-coloured stone.

Noto a

Noto b

Noto c

Tuesday was a painting day and our transport picked us up at 9am for the short drive to the archeological park. The weather was somewhat threatening and a few raindrops fell as I demonstrated at my easel. Sometimes, a simple and quick demo is just the ticket so I finished up so the group could get to work. Guess what? We had a great day. It was cloudy and there was distant thunder a few times but no rain.

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ap c

It was back to our room at the Hotel Gutkowski for a look at the work.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Wednesday didn’t start off well. The winds were high and the waves were higher and it was raining on and off.

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I decided to spend part of the morning presenting a sustained demonstration at the hotel. I worked back and forth on two sheets of figure studies. The first sheet portrays a group of fishermen that I photographed during our boat cruise. I apologize for the terrible photo of step one. I drew the group with pencil and followed that by painting in the shadows with a cool grey wash. When that dried, I added the local colour. For the final step, I developed the drawing with pen and ink.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I used a few different approaches on my second sheet. The drummer was done with a brush pen.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

It happened again! It was a very blustery day but didn’t rain much and the sun broke through several times. However, it was our last day in Siracusa so most of the group took some time off  for shopping and even for a performance at the puppet theatre. We also had to pack. Thursday was to be an easy travel day but we still needed to prepare for our next stop: Taormina!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siracusa, Sicilia – We’re here!

18/10/2015

Hotel

Our tired group arrived in Siracusa last Thursday. We settled into our charming boutique hotel, Hotel Gutkowski, which faces the sea. We made our way to a local restaurant for our Welcome Dinner before finally getting a good night’s sleep.

Seawall

Friday was mostly a recovery day and the group enjoyed a free morning. In the afternoon, we met a local guide and enjoyed a walking tour of the Ortigia, the old town of Siracusa. We wandered the narrow streets and visited the beautiful Piazza Duomo. At the end of the tour, we found ourselves by the harbour. Boat tour, anyone? Why not?

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Umbrellas

Puppet Sign

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Saturday was our first full day of sketching and painting. We started off with my demonstration at the hotel. I discussed several of the common visual elements we would be encountering during our stay. After the demo, we headed to the Duomo.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

I always suggest that the participants find a shady spot. As you can see, some really paid attention.

Gillian at work

George at work

Joel and Sandra at work

Joanne and Elizabeth at work

We regrouped at the hotel at the end of the day for our first critique. Everyone enjoyed seeing each other’s initial impressions of Siracusa.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

Saturday Critique b

On Sunday morning, I led the group through the Ortigia and crossed a bridge to the mainland part of town. I knew of a special little harbour that is home to many of the small traditional fishing boats. I set my easel up there for my demonstration. I showed the group how I approach a drawing with lots of ‘planning lines’ before I added watercolour. The name of the boat is Felicia and my little study is now in the private collection of it’s fisherman owner.

Boat with eye

Harbour

Fishing Boats

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Shady spots weren’t hard to find. This little harbour was a lovely spot to paint. Can you see the painters under the far wall?

Harbour with painters

We weren’t the only ones painting!

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Forgot your sketching stool? Don’t worry about it. The local fisherman were gentlemen and provided a comfortable perch for one of our painters.

Barb and Chair

Once again, it was back to the hotel for a look at our work. Tomorrow, we’re off to the baroque towns of Ragusa and Noto. Stay tuned!

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

Sunday Critique b

 

 

 

 

SM de Allende, Mexico – Sunday and Monday

25/03/2015

Ma

We convened at our studio, the Salon Aldama, on Sunday morning. I did a sustained watercolour demonstration which I completed in a little under an hour. My demos aren’t always so long but I wanted to take the group through a process. Also, I talk throughout my demonstrations, sharing my thoughts and decisions. Sunday morning, I discussed everything from basic brush-handling to soft-edge technique and colour mixing.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

My subject may seem a bit unorthodox. It’s a view from our hotel parking lot. It has several elements, however, that we see from day to day in SM de Allende.

Our Sunday painting site was the park; Parque Benito Juarez. The park is a lovely green space surrounded by picturesque villas. It’s also adjacent to the outdoor public laundry where several of the students settled in for the morning.

Marie, Nancy and Elizabeth at work

Karen at work

It was back to our hotel for critique at the end of the day.

Me

Mf

The focus of my Tuesday morning demonstration was on several of the things we see and deal with as artists every day in our ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop. Flowers and foliage, stones and walls.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Our site was Plaza San Antonio, a quiet square off the beaten track, with a church and a small park. There’s a school across from the church and the attentions of the charming and well-behaved kids are always a treat. Everyone found a shady spot and got to work.

Nancy at work

Carolyn at work

Marlene at work

Joan and Fiona at work

Another great day and another critique. Lots of nice work! Everyone has been working hard and we all looked forward to our free day on Tuesday.

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Th

SM de Allende, Mexico – Saturday

22/03/2015

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I’m back in lovely San Miguel de Allende for my annual ten-day watercolour workshop. We arrived late Thursday night and took it easy yesterday. This morning, I took the group behind the hotel for a demonstration.

What do the following two images have in common? My watercolour study is an extreme simplification of the view on the right. SM de Allende is rich in detail but colour and light are paramount. I’ve used basic blocks of colour in this little study. Restricting the shapes to blocks prevents me from overworking it and getting distracted by ‘realism’. It also keeps my focus on my goals of establishing a pattern and colour harmony. Remember this is only a preliminary study but it can be an important step towards a successful sustained composition.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs IMG_4940

Everyone settled in to work for the day. We stayed on the hotel property and there was no shortage of spectacular subject matter.

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After a lunch break, we got back to work.

Stewart at Work  Nila at Work

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It was a brilliant day and we wound it up with a critique in our studio, Salon Aldama. The work was terrific and a great start to our workshop.

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