Posts Tagged ‘watercolor courses’

Interpret Your Photos in Watercolour at DVSA – Week Two!


Last March, I offered a one-day workshop at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. The theme was to better understand the process and potential pitfalls of working from photographs. The day went very well and I expanded it to a four-evening course and offered it this winter at Dundas Valley School of Art.

We started a week ago Wednesday. I didn’t post the first class because we spent a lot of time looking at a PowerPoint presentation that I’d prepared. First of all, I showed a selection of watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs and, of course, they were quite impressive. Then, we looked at photos that I’d taken and some that were submitted by students. Our goal was to identify potential problems, elements in the photos that would not necessarily work in a painting. We also analyzed the photos in terms of composition, light and shadow and colour.

Our overall goal is to transform the photo reference into something special and not simply copy it verbatim. We began by creating a four-value study from a photo during the first class. This is one of my photos and it’s unremarkable although the subject has potential.

I started by selecting an area of the photo in a proportion of 3 x 4 units and drawing a grid over the selected area. I chose 3 x 4 because so many of our standard watercolour blocks and pads are 3 x 4 (9 x 12″, 12 x 16″, 18 x 24″).

Using the grid, I transferred the image to a watercolour sheet. The new image is larger than the gridded photo but it’s in the same proportion of 3 x 4. This small watercolour study is 6 x 8″. It was completed with four values. The lightest is the white of the paper. The light and dark middle tones and the dark tones were mixed with a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue.

Detail isn’t important in the study; simplification is the key. Four values create a strong pattern.

The students began their studies on the first evening but didn’t complete them. We continued with them during the second class. Click on the image to view a larger version of their studies.

Wednesday Critique

The students brought in their own photos for the second class and we had a thorough look at them. Each student picked one and started a four-value study. That experience will reward them with the next step which is a small watercolour painting in full colour.

We discussed a few other things on Wednesday such as mixing greens, browns and greys. Next week, I’ll catch you up with their paintings from their own photos. Also, I’ll be offering some more thoughts on how to effectively interpret your photos in watercolour.

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!


We’ve had some weather! Currently, we’re suffering our second day of traffic tangles and school and business closures due to an ice storm. Last week, a blizzard forced me to postpone my Tuesday afternoon class in Toronto until this week, barely ahead of the ice and freezing rain. Last night, my Wednesday class in Dundas was canceled and a makeup will be scheduled. Anyway, this post from Arts on Adrian is overdue.

I found these decorative violins at a thrift shop last December and I couldn’t wait to include them in a still-life. The Sustained Saturday students got first crack at them. This is a capable and experienced group and, rather than discuss techniques, I talked about colour. Often, I find a small colour sketch useful to plan and harmonize the palette for a painting. My demonstration illustrates our discussion.

All of the students considered their colours ahead of time and most completed some sort of small study. I was particulary drawn to the simplicity and effectiveness of this one by George H.

Watercolour study
by George H.

The day went very well. I did notice, however, that drawing the violins was a challenge to all and it took a lot of time to do so. With that in mind, I gave the Tuesday students a quick refresher on a sound approach to drawing using basic shapes as a starting point in addition to a brief chat about colour.

Everyone enjoyed the still-life and I think it shows in the work. Stay safe and warm out there and thanks, as always, for your likes and comments. Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Five!


It was already our fifth evening of Watercolour: Concept and Technique last Wednesday at the Dundas Valley School of Art! We’ve had a cold and fairly white winter so I thought some bright colours were in order. Also, I wanted to talk about colour mixing and applying washes and these gift bags fit the bill.

If you don’t see a multi-coloured bag in the still-life, your vision is fine. I broke this bag down into component shapes so I could discuss colour and washes without taking the time to paint several bags. We’ve only got three hours to paint, after all, and that includes my demonstration and our constructive critique.

The students always apply themselves and most wish there was more painting time by the end of the class. Some of these watercolours are unfinished but why rush? The learning process is more important than the final product.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Three!


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

Fall Studio Calendar 2016


Learn Traditionally; Paint Creatively
Barry Coombs will be offering weekday and weekend classes at Arts on Adrian in the fall of 2016. Classes are limited to twelve students, unless otherwise noted. Material lists are provided upon registration. Demonstrations, individual attention and constructive critiques are employed in all classes. The studio is accessible by transit and free parking is available. The studio is on the second floor and is not wheelchair-accessible.
Please, note that the studio is solvent and scent-free!

#224 – 15 Adrian Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M6N 5G4

Click here to view demonstrations from Barry’s classes and workshops.
Click here for directions.

This is an intermediate level course. It includes instruction in watercolour technique, drawing concepts, colour and composition. Masters of the medium, historic and contemporary, are examined. Personal development is stressed. This course is also suitable for students wishing to work in pencil, pen and ink or pen and wash.
Pre-requisite: a beginner watercolour course or equivalent experience.

Students are not required to enroll for all of the classes in a term. Individual classes may be selected but please read the registration information below. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

September 20, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)

September 20, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)

Students work from the still-life in watercolour, pencil, pen and ink or any combination of these media. Watercolour painters may use a maximum size of 15 x 22″ (half sheet). This is an opportunity to work at a comfortable pace and develop a sustained image.
Pre-requisite: a beginner course or equivalent experience in watercolour, pen and ink or drawing.

Saturday, September 17, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, October 15, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 5, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 26, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)

To confirm a place in a class, please email Barry at Registrations are first-come, first-serve. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

You will receive a full refund if you notify me of your cancellation more than 36 hours before any class or workshop. If you give me less than 36 hours notice, I will not refund the fee unless I can fill the spot from the waiting list.

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten


Still Life - SpringTuesWk10/2014

Our short spring has settled into some lovely summer weather. I’m afraid that the flowers in the still life are ‘faux’ but they’re a cheerful and colourful subject for the last class of spring term.

The watering cans are the ‘stars of the show’ and I suggested that they be the focus of the compositions. My demonstrations evolved into a sort of work sheet. I used it to discuss various elements of our still life.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk10/2014

Most of the students thought the still life was very charming. There were some very positive remarks as they entered the studio, raring to go! Midway through each class the tone of the remarks changed slightly as the subtle challenges became more evident. Not everyone finished their watercolour by critique time. That’s not a drawback, as far as I’m concerned. Why rush? The unfinished paintings show great potential and it’s always interesting to see them at different stages of progress. In many cases, the watercolours are much closer to being completed than the artist realized.

Another term! I’m fortunate to have great students. Talented and enthusiastic. I’d like to thank them and I’m grateful, as well, to those of you who follow the blog and leave your comments. The blog will be active all summer so stay tuned. I’ll be teaching ‘en plein air’ in Toronto and on Grand Manan Island during July and August. Care to join us? Check the sidebar for Painting Holidays and click on a page.

Tuesday AM Critique - SpringTuesWk10/2014

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Spring Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class


Still LIfe - SpringSustSat1/2014

Our still life for yesterday’s class was a variation on the one that I set up last Tuesday. I added some tomatoes and turnips.

My demonstration was also similar to Tuesday’s but I tried something a little bit different. Initially, I painted the shapes with clean water. While wet, I touched some dark colour into the shadow area of each shape. The colours I used were Pthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone. In a few of the shapes, I mixed the two colours together to create a neutral. When the washes were dry, I added the local colour, such as the terracotta to the big cookie jar, to each shape. Can you see the first washes coming through? I think they’re more successful in some of the objects and less so in others. That’s why we do studies. A study sheet like this lets us experiment and hone new ideas.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringSustSat1/2014

The next piece is the preliminary work on a sustained watercolour by Karen Waite. My written explanation of my demonstration sheet may be unclear so I hope that a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Karen’s work in progress illustrates my thoughts very well, showing the cool and warm colours touched in to wet areas of clean water.

K Waite - underpainting

Preliminary step by Karen Waite

Now, take a look at Karen’s finished piece. She’s allowed the preliminary work to show through in a very effective manner.

Final watercolour by Karen Waite

Final watercolour
by Karen Waite

There’s a lot of good, positive energy in the studio on Saturdays. Everyone works hard and enjoys the camaraderie as well as the painting. We all look forward to the critique. Yesterday, Emilia had to leave an hour early to visit a new grandchild. Here’s a look at her watercolour, followed by the rest of the group.

Final watercolour  by Emilia

Final watercolour
by Emilia

Sustained Saturday Critique - SpringSustSat1/2014

Sustained Saturday Critique

Grand Manan Island – Days Three and Four



It rained yesterday. All day long. Fortunately, we have the use of a spacious, well-furnished community hall as a studio. Sometimes, the hall is used for Provincial Court and, on Saturdays, it’s home to a good number of vendors at the Farmer’s Market. We’d rather have been outdoors but we got in a good day of work.

Some of you have become familiar with the simplification exercise that I often present during my workshops. As a matter of fact, some of you have promised to try it on your own. Everyone gave it a shot yesterday and here are the results:

We had the group over to dinner in the evening at beautiful Seawall Cottage.  Aleda prepared Chicken Marengo, a dish that was first prepared for Napoleon after he almost lost a battle. It was delicious and I’m quite sure that Aleda wasn’t commenting on our struggles with watercolour.

It was foggy this morning but dry. Our destination was Dark Harbour but we started with a demonstration at our cottage. This demo dealt with several elements of the Grand Manan visual experience such as the little boats known as dories.

Dark Harbour is on the west side of the island. It was almost high tide and still foggy when we arrived. The fog tends to roll in, lift for a while, and then thicken up again. But, it didn’t rain and it got sunnier as the day went on.

As the tide receded and the sun peeked though the fog, the pickup trucks began to descend upon our peaceful painting spot. The dories here are used for dulsing, gathering the edible seaweed for which Grand Manan is well known. Dulse is collected from rocks that are exposed at low tide and it’s brought back to be dried in the sun.

Critique was back at Seawall Cottage. Dories were definitely the subject of the day.

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven


Never come hungry to watercolour class! Our bakery still-life was not the most colourful subject we’ve had this term but I love the way the light hits the bread, buns and bagels. Keeping the lightest areas as translucent as possible is essential in order to create a luminous quality. My AM and PM demonstrations are shown here on the same sheet. The pale, creamy wash on the raisin bread is only slightly darker than the paper.

Once again, a prosaic subject stimulates some very exciting results as well as a bit of humour. Note the addition to the still-life (it wasn’t me) in the photo below.

By the way, I had my 30,000th view this morning. Thanks for following my blog. Your interest and support makes the whole project enjoyable and worthwhile.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Three


Once again, we concentrated on fundamentals. Colour mixing and soft-edge techniques as well as simplification and good observation. I set up the little piles of oranges deliberately in order to discuss ‘wire-frame’ drawing. This approach helps us understand the relationships between the oranges, the blue objects and the surface they rest upon.


Paul Cezanne was our guest artist today. Cezanne drew in pencil before using watercolour and doesn’t seem to erase any of the pencil prior to painting. I always think of his technique of adding and gradually overlapping swatches of colour as the simplest in the history of watercolour painting. His process, however, was the perfect way to express his unique personal vision. Soft-edge and subtle wet-into-wet blending are virtually non-existent in his watercolours. There are so many ways to skin the cat with this versatile medium.

LE DESSERT by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

Last week, red and green formed a strong complementary relationship in our still-life. This week, the blue and orange were even more dependent on each other. You can see how the students used the blue objects to enhance the oranges.

Below the paintings is a photo of our morning critique in progress.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique