Posts Tagged ‘value study’

Fall Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Final Week!


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



Portugal 2017 – Cascais!


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.
















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.


Plein Air Toronto 2017 – First Three Days!


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



Pen and Ink Studio at DVSA – Week Five!



Last Thursday afternoon was Pen and Ink Studio time at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I brought in my collection of milkweed pods. Natural forms are a very rewarding subject and the students enjoyed drawing them.

I showed a few different approaches to studying the milkweed. This is a demonstration from a past workshop. I started with a pencil drawing before adding a light wash of a sepia-like brown. When it dried, I added a second darker wash of the same colour. Once again, I waited for it to dry. The pen work was my final step.

Pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

The next study is the one I worked on during the Thursday class. It was developed with local colour and then I explored it with the pen using mostly the technique of cross-hatching.

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Some of the students elected to use colour and others stuck with values of sepia. One of our students devoted the afternoon to her personal project and it’s coming along very nicely. I hope to post some of these projects soon!

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Pen and Ink Studio Critique

Winter Saturday and Tuesday Watercolour Classes – Rust and Dust!



These old cans and containers have a lot of character and are always a popular subject with the watercolour students. On Saturday, I focused my demonstration primarily on colour and texture.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

A Sustained Saturday class is six hours long and it allows the students lots of time to complete thumbnail sketches and small studies before starting a more ambitious piece. This extra effort always pays off!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday was quite a challenge and I’m not talking about the watercolour painting! Our region experienced an ice storm. I followed the weather report every half hour and decided to run the classes. Amazingly, eleven determined students showed up for the afternoon class. Unfortunately, conditions worsened but four undaunted (maybe crazy) artists turned up for the evening session.

I concentrated on simplification and colour with my demonstration. The small study on the right was done in the evening. I’ve drawn attention to the foregound object by eliminating all paper white in the background with a cool grey wash. When that wash dried, I added shadow shapes of the other objects in a single value. Suggestion versus depiction.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

A potentially disastrous day turned into a success!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Pen and Watercolour at DVSA – Drawing People!


I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday for a day of pen and ink drawing. We combined the pen with watercolour and our theme was ‘drawing people’. I rarely use photographs when I teach but they’re perfect for this lesson. I brought in the photo reference for the students.

We started the day with a discussion about proportions of the figure and head. That proved to be very helpful with the two exercises that we completed. Our first drawing was of a little boy and I demonstrated in three steps. The first step was the pencil drawing. Following that, we got out the pens. The final step was the watercolour although, once the watercolour was dry it was possible to go back in with the pen, if desired.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step three of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

We varied the process with our second drawing. Pencil first. Watercolour second. Pen third. Be careful with that pen! You can’t erase it. I might have been too enthusiastic and unintentionally gave this poor woman a bit of a moustache. Oh well, it’s Movember, after all.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Step three of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

As always, some of the students were faster workers than others. We didn’t have time for a third drawing but, near the end of the class, I gave one more demonstration. I started with pencil and then applied a ‘sepia’ wash mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I did the pen work once the wash had dried.

Step one of pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

We wrapped up the day with a look at the student work. They did very well and should be equipped with a sound process for their own projects. Have a look at their work and, if you’re in the area, join me this winter at DVSA for eight weeks of Pen and Ink Studio on Thursday afternoons.

Drawing People Critique

Drawing People Critique


Pen, Wash and Watercolour at DVSA – Buildings and Trees!


I had an enthusiastic and hard-working group of students at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday. Our medium was pen and ink with wash and watercolour. Our theme was buildings and trees. In other words, architectural elements and foliage. To start the class off, I presented some basic perspective elements that are very helpful when drawing buildings. I worked on a large pad at an easel and the students made notes in their sketchbooks.

It was time to draw! We did three projects over the course of the day. Each was started from a very simple diagram and then the students followed my steps. Our first drawing was of a tree and was completed in three steps. The first image shows two steps; the pencil drawing and a ‘sepia’ wash (mixed with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna). In the second step, we used the pen. To create a sense of foliage, looping strokes were employed as if we were repeating Ws and Ms. The bark of the tree shows long zigzag strokes.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Our goal was to ‘suggest’ the textures of foliage and bark. Ws and Ms and zigzags may not always work but can be quite effective in many cases. We tried something a bit different with our next drawing. Again, our first step was a light and basic pencil drawing but this time we did the ink before the watercolour. We more or less scribbled with our pens. However, an angular approach was used in the main tree while a looping motion was used in the background bushes. The grass was suggested with a spiky action. The ink step was completed and then watercolour was applied.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Here’s a look at what the students achieved with our first two exercises.


We did one more drawing in four steps: pencil, monochromatic wash, pen and watercolour. The first image shows the pencil and monochromatic wash. The wash establishes the light and shadow. This time, we did the pen next. The pen added definition and detail and it was fun to create new shapes such as the cat in the window. Lastly, we glazed some thin washes of local colour over the relevant areas.

Step one of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs  Step two of pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs


It was a busy and enjoyable day. I’ll be back at DVSA on Thursday, November 24. We’ll be using pen and watercolour to draw people and it’s going to be fun. There are still a few spots left so why don’t you join us?


Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – More Gourds!



***Sometime yesterday, this blog received it’s 175,000th view. Thank you all for following, commenting and liking!

I couldn’t deny the Tuesday watercolour students an opportunity to paint the gourds and the straw bale. The Saturday class had enjoyed it and created some very nice work. On Saturday, I had painted a fairly rapid watercolour sketch as my demonstration and I did the same for the Tuesday afternoon and evening groups. As I paint, I discuss various elements of the still-life and the decisions I’m making. Generally, a quick watercolour sketch is more about suggestion than depiction. Simplification, editing and creative licence are all key factors.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

On Saturday, I’d also devoted some time to a completely different process; starting with values in grey and glazing on local colour once the grey washes are dry. Some of the less-experienced students found this to be a very useful way to develop their understanding of value and light and shadow. Yesterday, I worked with some of them one on one. My demo from Saturday (below) should give you an idea of the approach.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Several of the students embraced the quick sketch idea and some did more than one piece during the class. It was a good challenge. Many of these students have very good skill sets but would like to add more spontaneity to their work overall. Taking a few risks and working fast can be a positive step in that direction!

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! Many long-time followers may remember when it was possible to click on an image here and see a larger version. It was particularly useful with the images of the critiques because we all like to see the works closer up. For some mysterious reason, a while back, this feature ceased to function and I couldn’t figure out how to restore it. Recently, I’ve had some feedback from a WordPress ‘Happiness Engineer’. I think the proposed solution may work. Click on one of the critique images and let me know if you’re able to view the larger version. I hope so!

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Fall Tuesday Watercolour Class – More Apples!



The Tuesday classes were back in action yesterday. They worked from the same still-life that was used for the Sustained Saturday group on the weekend. Here’s a different view of the still-life.

Back to basics was the order of the day again, especially after a long summer layoff from studio classes. In addition to that, I met some new students yesterday. Although all of them had some prior experience with the medium, I wanted to expose them to some of my ideas about drawing, value and simplification. I focused on those elements with my demonstrations.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

This is the preliminary drawing for the study of the pitcher on the lower left of the sheet.

Drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs

As expected, many of the students concentrated on fundamentals and spent their time on studies. It’s valuable experience and should pay off in the months ahead. Most of the more experienced students started off with thumbnail studies, as usual, and then developed a sustained image.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Pen with Wash and Watercolour at DVSA – Drawing People


Last Thursday, I taught the fourth and final workshop in a series at the Dundas Valley School of Art in Dundas, Ontario. Pen and ink and pen combined with monochromatic washes and watercolour were the media explored in these workshops. On Thursday, our goal was to learn a few ideas and approaches to drawing people.

I spent some time discussing the basic proportions of the figure and the head and provided some handouts to the students. Our first drawing was of a standing man and we all worked from a photograph. I reviewed my approach to drawing which includes a lot of light, planning lines. Then, I added a monochromatic wash, a mix of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. The wash was applied to all areas of the figure not receiving light. The light areas were left alone; the untouched white of the paper.

Step one of pen and wash demonstration by Barry Coombs

The pen adds detail and definition. It deepens the darker areas. We took a few steps to introduce the pen work to the image, starting with a quick review of the basic techniques.

Step two of pen and wash demonstraton by Barry Coombs

The students worked on their drawings for quite a while. No need to rush. Proportion, light and shadow, the clothing: there was a lot to consider!

Standing Man Critique

Standing Man Critique

Our next drawing was of a walking woman. We took a different approach. After the pencil drawing, the local colours were applied directly. The watercolour washes were allowed to dry before starting with the pen.

Pen and watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Most of the students would have used another half hour or so to good advantage but time ran out. Finished works of art, however, were not the goal of the workshop. These were learning exercises and intended to introduce each participant to a few sound approaches to drawing people.

Walking Woman Critique

Walking Woman Critique

Thanks for following for the last month. I’ll be back at the DVSA next fall with a new series of workshops dedicated to pen, wash and watercolour. Have a look at their website for details.