Posts Tagged ‘value study’

Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick 2019 – Our First Three Days!

20/08/2019

Last week, I led an ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop on beautiful Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. This is the twenty-ninth summer that I’ve taught on the island. Our group of workshop participants was a nice blend of repeaters and first-timers. We got to know each other on Sunday evening over a delicious dinner at the lovely Compass Rose Inn.

MONDAY
It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we met in North Head Harbour. I demonstrated in the shade of a large boathouse. My goal was to encourage everyone to spend the day on smaller, quicker watercolour studies rather than settle into a sustained piece right off the bat. With that in mind, I’d prepared a small cardboard frame for each painter. The inside dimension is 4×6″, the size of a postcard.

I worked at my easel. My demonstrations are, in a sense, illustrated discussions. I rarely complete a finished work as a demonstration. My goal is to show a process and discuss it’s benefits. I worked in the 4×6″ format and didn’t do a preliminary pencil drawing. Straight in with the brush! I told the group that I would not criticize them for inaccurate proportion or perspective. I wanted to see what attracted them to the subject; it’s essence. Simplification and editing were stressed. Each painter was asked to do a minimum of two vertical and two horizontal small works over the course of our first day.

Another thing we talk about every morning is the availability of coffee and lunch and, very importantly, the location of the closest washrooms. Eventually, the painters explored the harbour, found their spots and got to work.

Grand Manan is a busy place. Rockweed was being harvested just off the shore as we painted.

I’ll never complain about the sunshine but there is a time for a shady break. Our friend, Kirk, opened up his shed and revealed a whole other range of colourful maritime subject matter.

At the end of the day, we headed to our studio for a critique. This is the first year that we’ve been hosted by the Grand Manan Art Gallery and our liaison, David Ogilvie, made us very welcome.

It was a productive day and I managed to display all of the work together. Click on any critique image in this post in order to view a larger version.

Monday Critique

TUESDAY


The morning was damp and overcast so I gave a demonstration in the studio. I knew the sun would be out soon and it was only day two; a good time to discuss value. Years ago, I painted a watercolour of the now ruined Ross Island lighthouse in my playful quasi-modernist style and donated it to the Permanent Collection of the Grand Manan Art Gallery.

Ross Island Light by Barry Coombs

I drew up the image the night before, simplifying it a great deal. Using a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, I mixed up three values of a ‘sepia’ wash. Paper white was reserved for the lightest areas, followed by the light and dark middle values and, finally, the darks. This process establishes a light direction as well as a pattern in the image. While working ‘en plein air’, a value study can be very useful if not essential. It’s not necessary to spend forever on it or even to paint it. A quick pencil sketch will often suffice.

Demonstration done! Sun shining! We jumped in our vehicles and went to Woodward’s Cove. The harbour there offers all kinds of great painting material. The group spread out a fair bit but I knew where they all were and enjoyed the exercise as I visited and gave feedback throughout the day.

I’ve conducted outdoor critiques many times over the years but the comfort and proximity of the studio prevailed this week. It was back to the gallery in nearby Castalia at the end of the day, where we broke up the critique into two groups.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Seal Cove was the venue for watercolour painting on Wednesday. This popular site still hosts several old sheds that were once used to smoke herring; a key industry in the island’s past. I demonstrated onsite and chose to show an approach I call ‘shape-reading’. As usual, it was an opportunity to look at a subject and discuss a sound process and anticipate potential challenges or problems. The demo was optional as many of the experienced participants had witnessed the approach in other workshops.

Following that, I gathered the participants who were new to my workshops and taught them how to tackle proportion and perspective with a measuring stick. All of those weathered buildings and docks demanded careful consideration of angles. The weather was fine again and another successful day was underway.

Critiques are always constructive and a big part of the learning experience. As you can see, the sheds were by far the most popular subject. The weather forecast looked good (they were givin’ fine, as the locals say) for Thursday. The plan was to paint at Ingall’s Head. Stay tuned!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

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Pen and Ink Basics at DVSA!

21/04/2019

Spring term is underway at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I’m scheduled to teach four one-day workshops and the first took place last Thursday. Pen and Ink Basics is exactly as it sounds. My goal was to introduce the students to the core techniques of pen and ink drawing. We used sketching pens for this workshop as it cut down on overturned bottles of India ink and allowed everyone to focus on the techniques.

It’s not all about technique, however. I simply cannot teach drawing without discussing fundamentals and principles. The most important for us on Thursday was ‘light and shadow’.

Before we started our first pen and ink exercise, I worked at an easel and presented a few ideas about ‘light and shadow’ and it’s effect on basic volumes. Next, we started on our first drawing; a pear. The students worked from my diagrams/models. Remember that our goal was to gain some fluency with the techniques. The day was not about creating original works of art. I demonstrated the steps one at a time.

Where does one begin with a pen and ink drawing? First of all, we decided to use cross-hatching as our technique. That was all very well but what direction should the lines follow? I presented an approach that I call ‘parquet’ and you can probably tell where I got the name. The initial work with the parquet approach looks very mechanical and the emphasis is on overall shape and value rather than stroke direction.

As you can see, the first step was only the beginning. We continued to develop the drawing until it gained a three-dimensional quality. We talked about edge versus outline as well as other considerations.

In total, we did three drawings over the course of the day. Our second exercise was the ball cap and we used stippling as our technique. Our final drawing was the teapot. We combined cross-hatching (although not with parquet) with line variety.

The students were keen and brought a lot of energy to the projects. We wrapped up with a look at the drawings. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Thursday Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!

10/03/2019

Last Wednesday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for our seventh class. We should have wrapped up the term by now but our wild and wintery February has us doing makeup classes. Makeup classes, however necessary, can be attendance killers as the students didn’t schedule for them initially. I was very pleased, therefore, when all but one were able to attend. I appreciated, also, that our missing artist called in to say she wanted to be with us but was unable to do so.

I’d promised to discuss painting even washes, with no (intended) variation. I spent a few minutes on that before making a quick analysis of how the various objects received the light.

I continued to stress a sound process involving a thumbnail sketch as well as lots of colour testing and even a few simple studies of the objects. The students continued to work diligently and thoughtfully and their progress is evident. Don’t forget to click on the critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Painting from Photos in Watercolour at Arts on Adrian!

04/03/2019

I’ve never been an advocate of painting from photographs although I have done it on occasion in the distant past. Let me clarify my thought. I have used photos as reference. My ‘Cubist’ watercolours have always been inspired by memory, imagination, sketches and, at times, some photo reference. My more traditional bird drawings and paintings, however, rely greatly on my own photographic reference. However, I don’t copy photos verbatim and I don’t understand why anyone does so. Technical virtuosity and rendering skills, no matter how sublime, do not necessarily equal art.

North Head, Grand Manan
by Barry Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

White-throated Sparrow
by Barry Coombs

Many artists do work from photographs, though, and many do it well. An artist is capable of transforming the photographic reference into something personal and beautiful.

I prefer the tradition of ‘en plein air’ and direct observation and it’s mostly what I teach. As a longtime instructor, it’s been impossible to avoid the preference many students hold for working from photographs. I decided to deal with the practice by offering a one-day workshop.

The participants sent me three photos each ahead of time. I created a PowerPoint presentation so that we could look at them all together and identify potential problems. We broke it down into three categories: composition, light and shadow and colour.

First of all, we looked at watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs. Then, we looked at the photos sent by the students. Our goal was to find the essence of the subject. In order to do so, all of the images required some serious consideration.

We looked at this lovely snowy scene from Karen W. I made a few suggestions. Eliminate or move the two trees in the lower left corner. Remove the sign or whatever it is in the same area. Lose the wire seen across the roof. Re-design the foliage to show the viewer more of the building. Re-design the trees on the left to deepen the space and suggest a pathway. Karen had a great idea and shortened the roof so it wouldn’t run off the righthand edge of the painting.

Our next step was to decide on a format. Most of our pads and watercolour blocks are of a 3 x 4 proportion (9 x 12, 12 x 16). The format was drawn directly onto the photograph and a grid was created. Then, a smaller image, in exactly the same proportion, was drawn and a four-value study was completed. Have a look at what Karen W did. Later on, you’ll see her sustained watercolour in progress in the critique image.

Gridded Photo and Study
by Karen W

Once a small study was completed, the grid was used to transfer the image to a watercolour sheet, in exactly the same proportion! The rest of the afternoon, for the most part, was spent painting. I interrupted at one point for a brief discussion of copyright and ethical issues that often arise when working from photos. Of course, if you always use your own photo you don’t have to concern yourself with these issues.

The day went very well. Not everyone was able to finish their work but all went away with a better understanding of the potential problems and pitfalls of simply copying a photograph and the many creative benefits of interpreting their photographic image. Here are a few of the photos that were used.

And here are the paintings! Click on the critique image to view a larger version. Karen’s painting is on the upper left.

Painting from Photos Critique

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright and ethics

Winter Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!

20/01/2019

Hats were our subject at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. We’d focused on value for our first class and worked with monochrome washes. This time, we were more than ready for colour but I still discussed value to start off. You can see my pencil study on the upper left of the demonstration sheet.

My little notes on the sheet mean: Light to Dark, Big to Small and Soft to Crisp. These aren’t hard and fast rules but are good watercolour guidelines. I suggested that the students focus on observation of value and shape. They worked wet over dry and didn’t concern themselves with soft edges. We’ll be discussing soft edge in our next class.

I liked the results of our second evening together and look forward to the weeks to come.

Wednesday Critique

 

Winter Watercolour at DVSA – Week One!

11/01/2019

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday night with a new group of eager watercolour painters. Mostly new, anyway. It was an even balance of students who’ve taken the course in the past and those who I was meeting for the first time.

As you may glean from the still-life, I went back to basics and discussed value and simplification of form. This course is based on observation of the still-life so the importance of value cannot be understated.

I was pleased with the work of the students. One of the challenges they deal with is the lighting of the objects. You’ll note that some of the paintings are dominated by light and others by shadow. This reveals where the student sat in relationship to the still-life and lamp. As such, I strongly suggest that the students select a different seat in the studio from week to week. It pays off to vary the visual experience as much as possible!

Click on the critique image to see a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!

20/10/2018

Ceramic objects were our subject at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. I’d given thought to the work from our first class and decided to focus my demonstration/lesson on two things; mixing middle tones and simplification. The prerequisite for this class is ‘some prior watercolour experience’. As such, some of the students have a fair bit more experience than others but I have no problem with reviewing a few basics.

The less-experienced watercolour artist often has trouble with mixing the middle tones and their paintings can look washed out. Starting with primaries, I offered my thoughts. Next we turned our attention to simplification. Simplification of form is not a technique; it’s a concept. It’s very closely allied to chiaroscuro (light and shadow). My little studies are painted with a single value mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I didn’t paint the areas where I observed direct light striking the objects. Can I get any simpler? Can you see and understand the basic objects?

Many of the students spent time on small studies before embarking on a painting. That took time and not many of them were able to finish their work by the end of the evening. It was time well spent, though!

Learning can’t be rushed. We’ll see more resolved images over the weeks to follow. I saw a lot of good things on Wednesday evening.

Wednesday Critique

Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian This Week!

17/10/2018

Fall term began last Saturday at the Arts on Adrian studio in the west end of Toronto. I set up a similar still-life to the one I used recently at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Pumpkins, squashes and gourds; very seasonal and fun to paint.

My demonstration for the classes focused on the relationship between drawing and linear composition. In addition to that, I discussed the pattern that is created by a tonal/value understanding of the subject. I also touched on colour mixing for some of these objects.

There’s always lots of creative energy in these classes and the work was impressive. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back at Arts on Adrian in two weeks!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Vermont 2018 – Wednesday at Bread and Puppets!

06/10/2018

I’m devoting an entire post to Wednesday (September 26). We woke up to more foul weather but I had a plan. I’d already made arrangements to sketch and paint indoors in the fascinating Bread and Puppet Museum. Bread and Puppet Theater is a celebrated organization that strives for social justice through wonderful outdoor performances. Click on one of the links here and read all about their endeavours!

So, working ‘en plein air’ was put on hold for the day but painting in the museum was a terrific consolation and a unique Vermont experience.

I had prepared a morning demonstration with the museum in mind. I used cool greys mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna to develop a value study. I’ve simplified the process to show you three steps.

There are three values in Step One; the white of the paper, a light middle value and a darker middle value. I’ve preserved the paper white in the foreground to enhance a feeling of depth.

I’ve added more values in Step Two. The greatest contrast is in the two foreground characters.

There were some intermediate steps but this is the final version. Once the values were developed, I gently ‘glazed’ colour over the local areas. That was my offering for Wednesday morning. We headed to the museum and this is what we found.

What a great day! Thanks so much to the Bread and Puppet Museum for hosting us. Now, let’s go back to Highland Lodge and the Ski Hut Studio for our critique. Don’t forget to click on a critique image if you’d like to view a larger version.

We weren’t done yet in Vermont. Stay tuned for our exploits on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Critique c

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Manan Island 2018 – First Three Days!

05/08/2018

Last Sunday, the 2018 workshop participants arrived on this beautiful island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Everyone settled in to their lodgings and, in the early evening, gathered at the Compass Rose Inn for our Welcome Dinner. It was a delicious lobster feast.

MONDAY
On Monday morning, we met at 9am sharp at our studio, the North Head Market Hall. We discussed the week ahead. Some of the more experienced painters headed out to the nearby harbour and got to work. I kept the newer participants behind and taught my ‘drawing checklist’ which hinges on the use of a measuring stick to help with angles (perspective) and proportion. At one point, we stepped outside to analyze the angles of a neighbouring building.

Following our session at the studio, the rest of the group wandered over to the harbour and settled in to sketch and paint for the day.

As we painted, the everyday activities of the island went on around us, such as harvesting rockweed.

It was a great start to our week. At the end of the day, we went back to our studio for our critique. Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

After critique, I presented a slide show (PowerPoint) with the theme of planning a watercolour. It included ideas and artwork of quite a range of artists from the contemporary American Frank Webb to renowned English watercolour painters from as far back as a few hundred years ago. It set the table for the Tuesday morning demonstration.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
Woodward’s Cove was our sketching and painting venue for Tuesday. I followed up on ideas we’d discussed during the Monday slide presentation and demonstrated on-site at my easel.

I painted a study in four values; paper-white, light middle value, dark middle value and dark. Let me show you the steps.

I started with a pencil drawing. Next, I painted a light middle value everywhere except for the areas I wanted to preserve as my most important lights.

A dark middle value starts to show more structure overall.

The final value is the darkest of all. The darks add definition and detail.

The harbour at Woodward’s Cove drains completely at low tide and fills up again six hours later. It’s a great painting site with a wide range of subject matter.

Another day of sunshine! Eventually, we gathered at our studio for critique.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
This workshop, as stated on my website, is for participants with some previous experience in the medium. No-one in our group was a complete beginner but several had taken other watercolour courses and not really been taught any fundamentals. Go figure! So, on Wednesday morning, I gave a short refresher of basic techniques and brush-handling in the studio.

Once the demonstration was done, we joined the rest of the gang at historic Seal Cove. A bit of fog rolled in and added some mystery to the old herring smokesheds and docks that make this such a special painting spot.

Lovely, isn’t it? Let’s see what the painters did at Seal Cove.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

We have two more days to go on spectacular Grand Manan Island! Thanks for following and stay tuned.