Posts Tagged ‘Sketching’

Vermont 2018 – Our Last Day was Friday at Glover!

09/10/2018

One more to day to go and the weather was beautiful! One more demonstration, as well, and I decided to offer two basic approaches to painting clouds.

In my first study, all the shapes were drawn in pencil first. I left a fair bit of paper white on the puffy clouds but used an off-white wash in the ‘background’ clouds. Washes were allowed to dry before new ones were applied. The puffy clouds were painted one at a time. I started them with either clean water or a pale wash and touched in the darker values while wet. Very step by step and it took about fifteen minutes or so (using a hairdryer sped things up).

My second study took about four minutes. Cloud shapes were loosely indicated with light pencil marks. I wet the sheet with water overall but left dry patches for the white of the clouds. The light blue went in next and the darker cloud values followed.

The two different basic approaches were appreciated by the group. Of course, there are probably as many ways to paint clouds as there are actual clouds but one has to start somewhere.

Our painting site was the town of Glover and it was full of Vermont character with a wonderful general store and Red Sky Trading. A short stroll took some of our painters into the rural countryside. The colours were out in their glory and it was another fulfilling and creative day.

A shady spot

A not so shady spot

Feeling the Bern!

All good things come to an end, as they say. This was our last day and we had an evening itinerary. First, however, we returned to the Ski Hut Studio to look at our work from Friday. Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique c

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a fine Farewell Dinner at the Highland Lodge. Heidi, Chad, Brittany, Arnold and the whole team had looked after us very well all week long and our dinner was a great way to wrap up. There was musical entertainment, as well, and Heidi sang a song to our group of watercolour painters. It was the John Denver classic, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’.

After dinner, it was back to the studio for our Final Critique. Each artist selected three works to show us and it was a nice way to summarize and recall our endeavours together. Several of the group stayed on Saturday and explored even more of the Northeast Kingdom but our workshop was over.

Thanks go to all of our participants, the staff at Highland Lodge and the very friendly Vermonters we encountered every day. Thank you for following! Next stop is from March 21-31, 2019 in beautiful and safe San Miguel de Allende. Care to join me for a painting adventure in Mexico? Click here to view all of the details!

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Vermont 2018 – First Two Days!

03/10/2018

I just got back from beautiful Vermont last night. A week ago Sunday, on the 23d of September, our group of Canadian and American watercolour painters converged on the lovely and welcoming Highland Lodge, which overlooks Caspian Lake in the Northeast Kingdom. Our generous host, Heidi Lauren, offered us cocktails in the charming bar before we enjoyed a delicious Welcome Dinner together.

MONDAY
The following morning, Monday the 24th, we met in our Ski Hut Studio. I started the painting week off with a slide presentation with two themes. The first segment was entitled Planning Your Watercolour and focused on a sound process. The second part featured the work of acclaimed Canadian artist, A. J. Casson (1898-1992). Casson was a member of the celebrated Group of Seven; a ground-breaking group of Canadian landscape painters. We took particular interest in how he simplified foliage in his watercolours and oils and how he dealt with fall foliage, in particular.

A. J. Casson

A. J. Casson

After our studio meeting, we headed to the famous Greensboro Barn at Turning Stone Farm and were hosted by local artist, Jennifer Ranz. It was a wonderful painting site with a great variety of subject matter including the barn itself and a classic Vermont maple sugar shack.

We settled in for the day. The painters spread out all over the property. It was overcast and cool but that doesn’t stop a keen bunch of ‘en plein air’ watercolourists!

Eventually, it was time to warm up and have a look at the day’s work. It was a short drive back to the lodge and our Ski Hut Studio. Here’s the work from our first day. Click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
It was a grim day. Cool and wet. Fortunately, we had our spacious and well-furnished studio where we met for a demonstration. Looking again at the work of A. J. Casson, I discussed the simplification of foliage and greens, as well. Do you see the four swatches of green in the lower left corner? They were all darkened with the same wash of Cobalt Blue. Works, doesn’t it?

The resourceful painters found several places to work for the day. The studio, the front porch, the lodge interior and even through the windows of their rooms and cabins. Of course, it helped that the Highland Lodge has a spectacular view.

Ski Hut Studio

Lodge Interior

Front Porch

Undaunted! It was a productive day as you can see from our critique. Stay tuned for the next episode of our creative adventures. There’s lots more to come from Vermont.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

 

Grand Manan Island 2018 – Final Two Days!

08/08/2018

THURSDAY
We kicked off Thursday morning at our studio. My demonstration was of graded washes; washes over large areas, even the whole sheet, with gentle soft-edge transitions. First of all, I did two washes of skies. Then, I did an unusual one; an almost abstract runny wash that suggested a misty landscape. As it dried, however, I worked light to dark and gradually developed an interior with a window. When finished, the misty landscape could be seen through the window.

The final wash suggested a foggy day. I used value to accentuate the feeling of depth and atmosphere.

Following our session at the studio, we convoyed to Dark Harbour on the west side of the island. Dark Harbour is home to the largest fleet of dories on the island and they’re used primarily for gathering dulse, an edible seaweed. The dories are always a popular subject and we spent a productive day below the towering cliffs.

Camps, cabins of all shape and size, line the beach at Dark Harbour. This one still seems to be celebrating last month’s Canada Day holiday.

The tide was flowing in quickly toward the end of the afternoon. We took the hint and made our way back for critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image to see a larger version.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

FRIDAY
Would we enjoy yet another day of beautiful weather? Our painting site was a quiet laneway of sheds and boats at Ingall’s Head. I set up my easel for one more demonstration. I wanted to take the group through the whole process of a small watercolour painting, starting with a pencil drawing and working light to dark and big to small. At one point, I moved everything to a shadier spot and completed the work there.

We got sun, all right! Our painters dispersed after the demo to look for shade and subject matter.

Alas, all good things come to an end. We went back to our studio to cool off and have a look at the day’s work.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

On Friday evening, we gathered at our cottage for our Farewell Dinner. It was an opportunity to relax, socialize and discuss the week. After dinner, we had one more group event on our itinerary; Final Critique. Each artist showed us a small selection of their week’s creative output and talked about it for a few minutes. It’s a very nice way to summarize our time together. Earlier in the day, our good friend and excellent photographer, David Ogilvie, took a group photo. Here they are; the Grand Manan class of 2018!

Thanks go to all of the participants for their hard work and enthusiasm. Also, special thanks to my partner, Aleda O’Connor, for taking time from her own painting to assist me in every way. In addition to that, I appreciate you for following, liking and commenting.

Grand Manan Island
Class of 2018

 

 

Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink at DVSA!

15/06/2018

Yesterday, I was back in Studio Two at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I taught a one-day workshop entitled Introduction to Portrait in Pen and Ink. At the outset, I explained to the students that our focus would be on proportion, light and shadow and simplification of form. I started out at my easel on an 18 x 24″ pad of Cartridge paper and, using markers, illustrated and discussed the basic proportions of the head. Also, I elaborated on the eye, nose and mouth.

Our first exercise was based on details from two Old Master paintings. I had reproduced the images in black and white to make the light and shadow as clear as possible. You may recognize the enigmatic smile on the left. It’s the Mona LIsa by Leonardo da Vinci. On the right, the detail is taken from the Annunciata di Palermo by Antonello da Messina.

The vast majority of my teaching practice is based on direct observation; still-life and en plein air landscape, for example. I use photographic reference very rarely but most frequently in one-day workshops of this nature. We always discuss the pros and cons of working from photos and the importance of understanding the underlying forms and volumes in our subject matter. In addition to that, I always try to select photographic images that portray light and shadow as well as possible.

   

Something else I rarely employ in my teaching is a straight-edge or ruler. However, I suggested that we all use a grid to transfer the proportions of the photo onto our drawing paper so a ruler was necessary.

Pen and ink technique was our next topic and we used hatching and cross-hatching for the most part. The Mona Lisa smile was the greater challenge of the first two exercises. Everyone strove to understand the structure of the nose and mouth from the shapes and values in the photo they were given. Here are my demonstrations.

These two exercises took up two thirds of our day but there was no rush as a lot of experience was gained. The commitment and enthusiasm of the students is evident in their drawings.

I issued each student two photos for our final exercise. These images were selected from the internet and used for educational purposes only. Each student was given a choice of drawing either the male or female portrait.

  

We followed the same process for the most part but I talked about a few new things with my demonstration. One of those things was the technique of stippling and how it could be mingled with hatching in a pen and ink drawing. Also, I showed them a demonstration of a pure stippling drawing that I’d done several years ago.

This is my demonstration of the male portrait. Do you recognize him?

The students did very well with their portrait drawings but most weren’t finished when we ran out of time. I elected to allow them the remaining time to draw rather than present the work for a critique so, unfortunately, you won’t be able to see their work. Trust me. They were looking good.

That’s it for my spring term workshops at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’ll be back in the fall. In the meantime, stay tuned for posts from my Plein Air Toronto watercolour workshop which starts next Monday!

 

Van Gogh and the Reed Pen at DVSA!

24/11/2017

Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful book of the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a real doorstop and was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was particularly attracted to the reed pen drawings. Reeds, like quills, go back a long way as drawing instruments. Why did Vincent use them? The fluidity and expressive marks can’t be matched by steel nibs. Vincent was also broke most of the time and likely made his own pens.

Yesterday, I presented a one-day workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I had harvested reeds from phragmites at a local wetland. The students just needed to bring their ink and paper.

I had cut enough pens for everyone ahead of time. Naturally, the students wanted the experience of cutting their own so I demonstrated and assisted with the process. Everyone made a successful pen and got through the entire day with very little maintenance.

We all tested our pens on a common sheet. We used variations of a sepia ink. Some were dark brown and some were more reddish. Vincent used different types of ink. Often, he used black ink which has since faded to brown but he also used sepia.

I handed out reproductions of some of Vincent’s drawings and we started out by copying them. I wasn’t concerned with perfect copies, by any means, but the process of trying to re-create Vincent’s lines and marks was very instructive. All of us also gained a real appreciation for his genius.

We turned our newfound skills to our own imagery in the afternoon. Everyone had brought in photographs of rural subjects. I offered a few thoughts about interpretation of photos, ‘a la Vincent’.

Following that, we drew for the rest of the day. The mood in the studio was very positive and the students remarked many times on how much fun it was to draw with a reed pen of their own making. As usual, many were pooped when we gathered for our critique but happy and satisfied.

 

Fall Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Final Week!

22/11/2017

I was back at the Arts on Adrian studio this week. I set up a still-life with analogous colours and these interesting carved wooden objects. Brain cramp! I forgot to photograph my demonstration from Saturday. However, it was very similar to the sheet I did for the Tuesday classes which I did remember to photograph.

I used only primary colours (red, yellow and blue) to mix the ‘browns’ of the wooden objects. I followed a traditional ‘soft to crisp’, ‘big to small’ and ‘light to dark’ process. My first wash in each study covered the entire object. Second washes added structure and pattern. The thin, dark grooves were the last step.

Do you do thumbnail studies before you paint? I encourage my students to make thumbnails in order to find their composition and consider value. I’m showing two thumbnails by two different artists from the Saturday class.

Thumbnail study by George

George likes to do a sketch of the entire still-life. He then picks an area and develops the values. This is a very small study, no more than 4 x 5″.

Thumbnail study by Rosemary

Rosemary has already decided on her area of interest when she starts her study. Note that she uses a grid to help her enlarge the image on to her watercolour sheet. This study is roughly 8 x 6″. I don’t think a thumbnail needs to be any larger.

Can you pick out the watercolours by George and Rosemary in the Sustained Saturday critique?

Sustained Saturday Critique

I’ll jump right to the Tuesday critiques. Same demonstration, same still-life. My fall classes are over at Arts on Adrian. I’ll be back in January and you’ll hear about the winter calendar here. Stay tuned and thanks for following.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

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

Portugal 2017 – Cascais!

02/10/2017

Last Wednesday, we left Tavira and the Algarve and headed for the beautiful seaside town of Cascais. We had two more painting days on our itinerary and a free day at the very end of our stay. Cascais is very close to Lisbon and it’s airport.

I went back to basics on Thursday morning. I’d noticed that some of the students had been a bit tentative regarding their grasp of and commitment to light and shadow. Light and shadow is a fundamental concept of traditional representational art. It’s a very important step in order to simplify a subject. I’d drawn two subjects ahead of time and painted them in front of the group. The lighthouse was painted with a sepia wash and the palace was done with a combination of cool and warm (red and blue) colours.

I gave the students a lot of freedom to find their painting spots in Cascais. Our hotel backed on to a lovely park and the lighthouse and several palaces were very close by.

The famous Boca de Inferno (Mouth of Hell) was a short walk from our hotel.

The park was home to some lovely wild avian creatures as well as a number of chickens and roosters.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

European Robin

Mother hen and her brood

We had one more ‘regular’ end of day critique. If you click on a critique photo, you’ll be able to view a larger version of it.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Friday was a painting day and, once again, I allowed the students to wander and find their own painting spots. Cascais was very popular with the group. The sea, the amazing buildings and even the variety of public art on display throughout the town were all an inspiration.

Friday was our final scheduled painting day. Saturday would be a free day and several of the group took a tour to Sintra, a hilltown of palaces and castles. Still, Friday was a very important day. We met in our studio at 5pm for our Final Critique. This is quite a different experience from our daily critiques and is more like an exhibition. Each student selects three pieces, or sheets, of their work and presents them to the group. They talk about their selections and about their experience over our two weeks together. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to summarize our trip.

Here is the class of Portugal 2017 in alphabetical order.

Aleda

Barb

Barbara

Carolyn

Elizabeth

Evelyn

Frances

Ian

Judy

Leslie

Maria

Marlene

Nila

Renate

Valarie

Final Critique was followed by our Farewell Dinner. We held our Farewell Dinner one night early because of our early flight on Sunday morning. We were picked up at the inhumane hour of 4:30am but got to the airport in plenty of time and made it back to Canada tired but happy.

What a trip! The Portuguese are very friendly, English was widely spoken and we had nothing but sunshine for two weeks. Thanks for following, commenting and liking these posts.

 

Portugal 2017 – Tavira!

29/09/2017

Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside of Tavira in the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The complex is a  restoration of a former tuna fishing camp.

Our first day here was a free day. The students painted on the grounds or took the shuttle into Tavira. We gathered in our studio at the end of the day to plan for the days ahead. Also, I gave a demonstration of pen and ink with watercolour. A few days back, in Redondo, I’d done a small watercolour of some worn walls. At the time, I’d planned to add pen to it and I did so in front of the group, discussing my ideas and decisions as I worked.

Many of the students enjoy combining watercolour with pen. Some use it primarily as a sketchbook approach and others create more sustained works.

On Sunday morning, we boarded our bus and drove to Estoi. We were the hosts of the pousada (hotel) in the stunning old palace of Estoi. We were allowed to paint on the grounds and many of us worked in the adjacent town, as well. Everyone got together at 1pm at the palace for a spectacular lunch.

Later in the day, a tired group boarded our bus for the half hour ride back to Tavira. The day wasn’t over until we’d had our critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

Sunday Critique c

We stayed close to home and painted in Tavira on Monday. It’s a lovely town along a river which is spanned by the ancient Roman bridge.

Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming.

Another critique!

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Our rooms in Tavira were decorated with prints of the watercolours of German artist, August Macke. The watercolours had been painted over one hundred years ago in Tunisia. At the time, Macke had been accompanied by Swiss artist Paul Klee and French artist Louis Moilliet. These Tunisian scenes were full of glowing white buildings and colour! Very similar to our surroundings in southern Portugal. I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time to share with the group. It’s a scene from Tavira and in it I’ve stressed simplification, colour and playfulness. Would it influence the students at all in the days to come?

We had another wonderful day trip destination on Tuesday; the clifftop, typical Algarve fishing village of Cacela Velha. It’s not very big but it’s quite charming and the views of the ocean and coastline are fabulous. Most of our artists settled in to paint in the village but some explored the beach below.

We had another tasty group lunch at the local restaurant and continued to paint until the end of the afternoon. It was a short hop back to our hotel and we held the critique right away. There was a great deal of work to savour.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

Tuesday Critique c

While in Cacela Velha, I’d done a small watercolour using a 1/2″ flat angled brush. I showed it to the group and discussed simplification (again) and a few other ideas.

We had a great time in Tavira. There’s one more stop on our painting tour of Portugal. We moved to Cascais on Wednesday. Stay tuned for our exploits in Cascais and the final days of our trip. Thanks for commenting, liking and following!

Portugal 2017 – Mértola!

29/09/2017

Friday was a travel day. We were headed to Tavira, a town in the Algarve, from Évora. Enroute, we stopped for four hours in the scenic hilltop town of Mértola. There was lots of time to explore, sketch and relax over a nice lunch.

The big tour buses can’t make it very far into town because of the narrow streets. I’d arranged for a shuttle and it took us all the way up to the castle. The views from the walls were splendid.

As usual, shady spots were sought out for sketching.

Cafés were also a priority.

Wandering around turned up all kinds of interesting things.

Back to the bus! We had a little over an hour to go before arriving at our new hotel in Tavira. Stay tuned!