Posts Tagged ‘Studio Classes’

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

08/02/2018

If you’ve ever spent time around a coastal fishing community, you’ll likely know what these things are. They’re floats that are used on nets and lobster pots. I’ve beachcombed quite a collection over the years and put together this selection for the Wednesday night watercolour students at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

Last week, our subject was hats and I demonstrated an approach to developing values with cool grey washes. Do you remember my demonstration?

The floats in the demonstration from yesterday evening were first painted in the same way as the hats. Once the washes were dry, I took it a step further. Using thin washes of local colour, I gently ‘glazed’ the objects. This is a very traditional approach to watercolour painting. I brought in a book and showed them a Gainsborough landscape that was completed with the same process.

All approaches/processes/styles have their pros and cons. The ‘value plus glazing’ process is great for establishing light and shadow and establishing a strong pattern in the painting. It’s not always the best approach for bright, vivid colour. All of the students felt that they could benefit from the experience and gave it a shot. They did well. As always, clicking on a critique image will bring up a larger version. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

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Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Week Two!

07/02/2018

I had to do the dishes before setting up a still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday classes at Arts on Adrian this week. Wait a minute! Those dishes are the still-life. Do you think this is an unorthodox subject? It may be, but the students really enjoyed it.

My demonstrations were much more about drawing than watercolour painting. That’s because of all of those tricky ellipses. An ellipse is a circle in perspective and there are several good guidelines about drawing them. Ellipse theory! Like other elements of perspective, a little bit of information can go a long way. Conversely, too much theory can lead to confusion and frustration. I tried to strike a balance in order to help the students with the challenge.

I threw a small wrench into the works. As if drawing ellipses isn’t tough enough. I gave everyone a copy of a photo of a typical kitchen sink. My hope was that some of the visual elements would give them ideas for the ‘backgrounds’ of their paintings.

The Saturday students used their full day well and several employed the kitchen sink photo to enhance their paintings overall. Have a look at their work and click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

We don’t have a backdrop behind the still-life in the studio. It’s in the centre of the room and students sit all around it. I photograph the still-life for these posts with a fabric behind it and I enjoy seeing how the different colours work with the objects. The dark blue shown above is effective. What do you think of the green? Both the blue and green are colours that are already present in the still-life objects.

The Tuesday classes got a slightly abbreviated version of the Saturday demonstration. Many of them work a bit smaller and place less objects in their compositions. It’s a practical solution as they have only an afternoon or evening to complete their paintings. Here’s the work from Tuesday. My next round of classes at Arts on Adrian in Toronto are a few weeks away. Check out my Winter Studio Calendar and think about joining us.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

 

 

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Three!

02/02/2018

If it’s a winter Wednesday evening, it’s time for watercolour painting at the Dundas Valley School of Art. As you can see, our still-life was comprised of a pile of hats. The hats aren’t particularly colourful but they were the perfect subject for the lesson I had in mind. I went ‘back to basics’ and talked about two main things during my demonstration; tone/value and brush-handling skills.

I drew my hats in pencil first. My cool grey was a mix of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. As I painted, I was very careful to leave the white of the paper for the lightest areas of the subject. I developed the bigger middle tone shapes next and the smaller dark shapes and marks came last. The brush-handling I mentioned involves the soft edge washes used to create gentle transitions such as on the crowns of the hats.

This study could be continued by ‘glazing’ washes of colour over the values. Believe it or not, this approach was widely used by early watercolourists a few hundred years ago and is still employed by some contemporary painters. I chose this lesson because I thought some of the students could use a refresher in light and shadow.

Next week, I’m going to take it a step further and discuss glazing. But right now, let’s see what the Wednesday class did. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour
Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Two!

27/01/2018

Last Thursday, this blog had it’s 200,000th view! Thank you for following, commenting and liking. Now, what happened at DVSA on Wednesday evening?

I brought in my collection of ‘Mexican’ pots on Wednesday. Lovely, solid forms with lots of texture on their distressed surfaces. My demonstration dealt, first of all, with process. Many watercolour painters follow three basic guidelines; light to dark, big to small and soft to crisp. Add in a dollop of simplification and a sprinkle of editing and you’ve got the essence of my lesson.

It was only our second night together so I think my ‘back to basics’ approach was appreciated. Thinking back to my suggestion of week one, almost everyone did a thumbnail sketch/compositional study first. This helped focus on an area of interest in the still-life. Remember to click on a critique image for a larger version.

Wednesday Watercolour Critique a

Wednesday Watercolour Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week One!

18/01/2018

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

 

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Week One!

17/01/2018

Last Saturday was our first watercolour class of the new year at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. I have quite a collection of bottles and, no, they weren’t all recently emptied at New Year’s Eve parties. I enjoy painting bottles and the students responded to them with real energy and enthusiasm.

As usual, I started off with a demonstration. That yellowish rectangle on the left side of the sheet was a suggestion for a wet-in-wet preliminary wash. I wet the area with water and touched in some yellow and raw sienna quite randomly. A wash like this can add atmosphere to the painting and harmonize the colours. Many of the Saturday students gave it a try.

I discussed a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ approach. In general, the first wash on a bottle covered the entire area except for a few reserved paper-white highlights. It’s like a silhouette. I like to touch other colours and values into this first wash and let them run. Next, I add middle-tone shapes to give the bottle structure and presented some brush-handling techniques to help with this process. Finally, I add the darkest (and smallest) marks to bring the bottle to life.

The students got to work. Most of them do a thumbnail study to better understand the objects and relationshiops and to  sort out their compositions.  As I patrolled the room, I notice George at work.

Hmmmm! Was that part of the still-life displayed on his camera? Let’s take a closer look.

So it was! I investigated. George was not drawing from the camera screen. He was observing the still-life with care. However, following a good look at the still-life, he photographed and enlarged an area that interested him. He then pursued his usual and traditional process and completed his thumbnail sketch from observation. Cameras, phones and iPads have made their way into studio and ‘en plein air’ practice for some time now. I approve of the way George balanced the old and the new.

If you’ve never attended a Sustained Saturday, why don’t you consider joining us soon? It’s a very vibrant day of creativity in excellent and supportive company. Here’s what they did with the bottles. Click on any critique image for a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

This is another view of the bottle still-life with a different backdrop colour.

My demonstrations for the Tuesday classes dealt with the same ideas. I did develop a transparency a bit more and you can see it on the right side of the sheet where I’ve attempted to show the wooden box through the green bottle.

The Tuesday students applied themselves to the task with zeal. Remember that they have much less time to work on their paintings than their Saturday counterparts but come up with some very solid results.

There’s still a spot for you in an upcoming Tuesday or Saturday class. Check out my Winter Studio Calendar!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Winter Studio Watercolour Classes!

01/01/2018

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s time to start thinking about creative pursuits to warm the soul over the cold months ahead. I’ll be teaching studio watercolour classes at two venues.

ARTS ON ADRIAN
My winter calendar for classes at Arts on Adrian, in the west end of Toronto, can be viewed by clicking here. You’ll also see it under the Pages menu in the sidebar. Classes are offered on three Tuesday afternoons, three Tuesday evenings and three Saturdays (all day). Please, use the Contact form below to register.

DUNDAS VALLEY SCHOOL OF ART
I’ll be teaching a watercolour studio class at the Dundas Valley School of Art in Dundas, Ontario. Registration is done through DVSA. The details below are from the school website.

3A32 *NEW* Watercolour: Concept and Technique with Barry Coombs
17 Jan – 7 Mar, 2018 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm

This watercolour course is based on traditional observation of the still-life. A new and attractive still life will be presented every week. You’ll learn to observe and understand value and develop your watercolour skills and ideas. Drawing and composition will also be emphasized. Demonstrations and constructive critiques are a feature of every class. Not suitable for beginners. Wednesdays. Course Fee: $269 Limit: 15 students

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

 

Saturday and Tuesday Fall Watercolour Classes – Week Three!

08/11/2017

I was very excited about this still-life of old teapots and clementines. I knew it would be a challenge for the students but I was confident that they would be up for it. I took a while demonstrating for the Saturday group. Mixing greys was one topic. Reflections were discussed and I also reviewed some brush-handling skills.

The students always work hard in the classes but they enjoy each other’s company, as well. A real community has developed over the years. It’s welcoming to new students and they’re all very supportive of each other. On Saturday afternoon, a small surprise party erupted. Trish had recently been married to her long-time partner, Jacques (they met during one of my Grand Manan Island workshops). She didn’t expect an extra celebration but she got one! She’s wearing a tiara provided by Karen and Stewart is pouring the Prosecco.

Back to work, everybody! It was a great day. I don’t know if the Prosecco stimulated the creative process or not but the work was excellent. Remember to click on the critique image if you want to see a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Here’s a different look at the still-life. Dramatic, isn’t it?

My demonstrations for the Tuesday afternoon and evening classes were very similar to the one on Saturday. I tried to condense it somewhat as they have less time to paint.

I’m really pleased with the response to the still-life. The students really relish new drawing and painting problems and the Tuesday classes were no exception. Here’s what they did.

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