Posts Tagged ‘Seal Cove’

Grand Manan Island 2017 – First Three Days!


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











Grand Manan Island 2016 – Wednesday and Thursday!


We started at the studio again last Wednesday morning. I had prepared a demonstration on Tuesday at Woodward’s Cove and photographed the first three steps, which I showed on my computer screen.

Step One

Step One

You can probably see the faint pencil lines under the washes in Step One. The washes have been applied in two ways. In some, such as the boat hull, I painted the shape with water and added the colour to the upper area while wet. In the roof, I painted a light grey wash and added the darker grey while wet.

Step Two

Step Two

I continued with the same process and added more shapes. Washes were allowed to dry before adding new ones.

Step Three

Step Three

All of the big shapes are in place. I’ve left the white of the paper in a few areas because I’m about to add flowers in Step Four.

Step Four

Step Four

Overall, I’ve used a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ approach. As mentioned, I wanted to paint the flowers over clean white paper. The yellows and pinks would lose their intensity if there was a grey or greenish wash underneath. This painting isn’t finished but it’s as far as I took it on Wednesday morning. It was time to hit the road for Seal Cove!



The old herring smokesheds and piers of Seal Cove provide endless subject matter for our artists. It’s a magical place. Everyone settled in. It was another sunny day so shady spots were sought out.


Britta at work




It’s always nice to wind up the day at our studio. We’d all had enough sun and, of course, it’s easy to tape the work up on the wall. Here they are; the sketches and paintings from Seal Cove.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique b

You guessed it! We met at our studio again on Thursday morning. A few days earlier, I’d made a small watercolour study in North Head Harbour. I wanted to add pen to it and this was my opportunity.

Step One

Step One

I discussed the basic pen techniques; hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and line variety. I love working with pen and wash and I try to present my thoughts at least once during all of the ‘en plein air’ workshops I teach.

Step Two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step Two

Our painting spot for Thursday was Dark Harbour, surrounded by towering cliffs, on the west side of the island. The small harbour is used mostly by those who collect dulse, an edible seaweed, and dories are their workhorses.








The critique is a very important part of the painting day. I make my comments and I try to be positive and encouraging. The students get my feedback and also learn a lot from each other. It’s an enjoyable and educational aspect of the workshop.

One more day to go! As always, thanks for following, liking and commenting. While I prepared this post, my blog received it’s 171,000th view and I appreciate them all.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Thursday Critique b


Grand Manan Island – Day Three!



It was low tide when we arrived at Seal Cove this morning. The fog was fairly dense, as well, but visibility was fine for sketching and painting. The old smoke sheds of Seal Cove offer quite a challenge to the artist. I started the day with a discussion about perspective and showed the students how to use a measuring stick to check angles accurately.


Seal Cove is usually the most popular of our painting sites. The weathered textures and subtle colours are very appealing. Even the avifauna get in on the act! This Herring Gull is perched on a red shingle roof and the rosy hue is reflected onto its’ white underside.


We broke around midday and had a delicious lunch at the McLaughlin’s Wharf Inn. After that, it was back to work.




We had our critique at the Marathon Inn. Most of the group are guests of the Inn and we commandeered a common room for a little while.




Grand Manan Island – Last Day!


It was a cool and foggy morning and we started the day in Seal Cove, amongst the herring smokesheds. My watercolour demonstration was of the ‘shape-reading’ approach; no pencil drawing was done prior to painting. Also, I left a little bit of the dry paper between the shapes in order to prevent everything from running together in the damp conditions.

We warmed up with coffee at the charming McLaughlin’s Wharf Inn (506-662-8760) for a while but the damp mist prevailed and we decided to check out some other sites around the island. As it happened, the weather had improved in the North Head area so we settled in for the rest of the day.

At the end of the day, we gathered behind the Marathon Inn for our critique.

Friday Critique

Our Farewell Dinner took place at the Marathon in the evening and it was lobster with melted butter all around. Not to mention the fresh potato salad and my all-time favourite Caesar salad (apparently the secret has to do with anchovies).

We followed dinner with our Final Critique, a chance to review the week and enjoy the paintings and sketches one more time. David and Joyce Ogilvie, who have been to Lucca and Puglia with us in the past, dropped by with their daughter, Alison. Alison is a long-time workshop regular on Grand Manan and she’ll be joining us in Newfoundland next week. David is a fine photographer and he took our group photo. I’ll send it out as soon as he forwards it to me.

That’s it for the Group of Seven, Grand Manan style. The artists all deserve a thank you for contributing to a rewarding, creative experience. I’m glad you’ve been following us and appreciate your comments. Why don’t you mark July 28 – August 3, 2013 in your calendars and treat yourself to this gem of an island?

Grand Manan Island – Days One and Two


The Group of Seven has arrived on Grand Manan. Well, maybe not the famous Group of Seven but we’ll do our best this week. We started off with a day of sketching and I discussed two-point perspective and how to check angles with a measuring stick. Our morning was spent in North Head Harbour.

We couldn’t find enough angles in the harbour so, after lunch, we worked on the grounds of the Marathon Inn. I gave a short demonstration of basic pen and ink techniques.

This morning, we set out for Seal Cove, noted for the smokesheds from the historic herring industry. It was a sunny and windy morning and my board was moving around on my easel as I demonstrated. I began with a value study in blue/grey. When it dried, I glazed some colour over it.



After lunch, we gathered again and I added some pen to the image. Then, it was back to work for the rest of the day. There’s no shortage of subject matter in Seal Cove and it all has character.


We held our critique on-site at the end of the day and it featured a little bit of everything.

Tuesday Critique

What’s Right with New Brunswick Tourism?


Jetty, Seal Cove
Private Collection

Good news, at last! There were several positive developments last week. My Letter to the Editor was published in the Fredericton Gleaner early in the week. The office of the Hon. Rick Doucet, MLA for Charlotte-The Isles, contacted the Deputy Minister on my behalf. I’m very grateful for the support.

Best of all, last Friday, I had an email from the Hon. Trevor Holder, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living. It included a sincere and much appreciated apology from the Minister. Thank you. Even better, Mr. Holder included some very constructive suggestions and has offered me the opportunity to speak with his group tourism team. Already, I have some messages in my voicemail from late last week when I was away teaching at Blue Mountain.

I hope this will be the final post concerning my problem with New Brunswick Tourism. I look forward to speaking with the group tourism team. I have a few ideas of my own about the potential of art workshops on Grand Manan Island.

Most of all, I can’t wait to be back on the Island this summer for some watercolour painting, good company and, of course, lobster dipped in melted butter.  Would you like to join me?

Grand Manan Island, NB – Days One and Two



It’s great to be back on Grand Manan Island! We spent our first two days painting at Seal Cove with it’s historic smokesheds. Smoked herring was a major industry on the island for generations. I started off our first day with a watercolour demonstration using a ‘shape-reading’ approach. This painting was done exclusively with the brush with no prior pencil drawing.


We enjoyed a nice, sunny day but nothing beats a shady spot with a good view. I didn’t think men were necessarily more practical than women but Jake and Paul are out of the sun while Alison is basking in it.


The weather looked a bit threatening this morning and we headed back to Seal Cove and the shelter of the Sardine Museum. I did two demonstrations; both using pen and wash. The sequence of these demos was pencil, wash and pen. The morning demo is an interior of the Sardine Museum using a monochromatic wash. I’ve used the wash to establish a pattern of light and shadow. The pen was done over the dry wash.

After lunch, I presented a different subject with colour. Same process, basically. Most of the group gathered for the demo. I’d already prepared the washes and showed them a few more ideas about penwork.


It was back to work for the rest of the day. The rain never materialized, after all.