Posts Tagged ‘watercolor demonstration’

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!


I’m back from sunny Mexico to some less than welcoming spring weather. All the more reason to set up a bright and cheerful still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour students. I had the still-lifes of Paul Cézanne in mind.

Cézanne developed his gorgeous, luminous watercolours with brushstrokes of pure colour over a pencil drawing. I didn’t mimic his process exactly with my demonstration but we discussed it as I painted. I never insist that the students emulate my demo but I did ask them to give it a try, even as a study for an hour or so. Saturday is a six hour class so there’s time to experiment and explore.

Most gave it a shot and a few spent the day pursuing the approach. Not everyone liked it but they’re always willing to consider new ideas.

Sustained Saturday Critique

The Tuesday students worked from the same still-life. It’s a three hour class and, at the beginning, I sensed some interest in the fabrics and folds. My demonstration, as a result, was a simplified study of a section of fabric and they found it helpful.

They don’t have a full day but they really work hard and they’re quite good at selecting and composing. Basically, they selected and zoomed in on an area of the still-life that attracted their eye. Not taking on too much gave them a better chance to resolve their work in the time available.

Don’t forget to click on a critique image to view a larger version!

Tuesday Critique


Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!


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

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!


The gloves were off this week at Arts on Adrian in Toronto! These strange, sculptural shapes are hockey gloves and they provided many challenges to the Saturday and Tuesday watercolour painters.

The first challenge was drawing. I approach all subjects the same way, more or less. I start with very basic shapes. Take a look at the study at the bottom of the demonstration sheet. That’s what my drawing looked like before I refined it as in the larger study.

Our next challenge was light and it was a real key to this subject. The gloves are black so we had to keep the lightest areas as luminous as possible. This meant thin washes in those areas; lots of water.

Another challenge was black. I mixed my blacks and greys with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. However, the students were allowed to change the colours, if they so desired.

In my demonstration, I painted the different segments of the glove one at a time. The structure of the glove lent itself to this approach.

Believe it or not, there are Canadians who hate hockey. I found out who they were as we painted the gloves. Everyone dug deep and worked hard to solve this tricky painting problem. There may have been some frustration but, fortunately, no-one dropped the gloves!

By the way, this blog received it’s 245,000th view today. Thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!


I was back at Arts on Adrian this week. These old lanterns were the subject for the Sustained Saturday and Tuesday afternoon classes. I had a plan. The students are often quite literal/optical about the colours they use in their work. Also, they’re often stymied as to what to do with their backgrounds/negative spaces. We discussed this tendency and I laid out some steps of an exercise:
Step 1) Draw one lantern.
Step 2) Adjust the frame of reference/rectangle with masking tape. I didn’t want huge amounts of negative space so the compositions were tightened up in this manner.
Step 3) Wet the sheet and randomly touch in primary colours to create a preliminary wash. This was done only on Saturday as those students had much more time to paint.
Step 3) Break up the negative space with pencil lines into simple, arbitrary shapes; geometric or organic.
Step 4) Select a colour for your lantern. It doesn’t have to be the colour that you’re observing. Mix three or so colours for the negative spaces that enhance the colour of the lantern.
Step 5) Paint the negative spaces. Try to vary the washes.
Step 6) Paint the lantern. The lighting on the actual still-life may be difficult to understand in places so consider the underlying forms as you paint.

That’s more or less the process we followed. I strayed from it a bit as I demonstrated because I wanted to show different ideas without taking the time to complete my painting. Here are a few stages of my demonstration. In the image on the left, you may be able to make out the faint preliminary wash in the ‘white’ areas.













Our exercise had a few goals. We attempted to harmonize our colours and to be more interpretative with colour. We sought to establish an effective figure/ground relationship by painting all negative spaces first and not last as is too often the practice. Varying the washes added visual interest and, combined with trying to understand the basic forms of the lanterns, gave the paintings a more natural quality of light.

I was pleased to hear that the students really enjoyed our project. They certainly worked hard and with enthusiasm. Have a look at their work and remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Seven!


I like these geometric objects as a watercolour subject as they can be broken down into their component shapes. Each shape can be painted with a soft-edge transition; wet touching wet. Soft-edge techniques have become a major theme of this Wednesday evening class at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Why not? These techniques are fundamental to the medium and were, once again, the focus of my demonstration.

The students have been working hard. Some are doing homework and it has paid off. They are becoming increasingly confident (although you wouldn’t know it from listening to them) and I like their progress very much. We have one more class to go this term. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique

Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!


The Arts on Adrian students considered this to be a challenging still-life. Lots of objects. Lots of possible compositions and approaches. I talked about a few things to start the Saturday and Tuesday classes. Many of these students are quite experienced watercolour painters and are interested in adding new elements to their work. Following the same process over and over again allows for improvement but varying the process, even risk-taking, is what gives you new ideas.

I started out with a pencil drawing. Here’s my most basic planning for my drawing.

I refined the drawing and created a small composition. Then, I wet the entire surface with clean water. While wet, I very randomly touched in the primaries; yellow, red and blue. This preliminary wash broke the ice. It crosses the lines and challenged me to work with it.

I let the painting dry completely before continuing. As I painted, I used different brush-handling techniques to vary washes. At times, I started a shape with water and added paint. Or I started with paint and gently feathered the edge of the shape with a damp brush. Other washes started with a light value and I added a darker value while it remained wet. In general, I wanted to add interest to all of the shapes in the painting.

On Tuesday, I did a bit more work on the small composition. Also, I broke down the shapes of the pitcher to show the techniques I’d employed.

I enjoyed looking over shoulders as the students worked on both days. There was a lot of energy in the studio on both days. What do think of their efforts?

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – February 23!



The teddy bears were back on Tuesday and eager to pose for the afternoon and evening classes. My demonstration for the Sustained Saturday class last weekend seemed to hit the mark so I presented the same basic thoughts on Tuesday. I used ‘soft-edge’ techniques within the component shapes of the bears (and monkey). In each shape, I started with a light wash before touching in a darker value while still wet.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The Tuesday students enjoyed painting our furry friends. Many would have liked a bit more time to work on their watercolours. I’m impressed with some of the colourful and effective backgrounds conceived by some of them.

My winter classes are over at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto. I’ll be back in April. Next week, I’m off to San Migeul de Allende, Mexico with a lucky group of watercolour painters. Stay tuned for our creative adventures in the sunshine.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight



Can you draw a hot bubble bath? That would be the perfect spot for these toy critters. The Tuesday students couldn’t just turn on a tap, though. They had to draw and paint these guys. Also, they had to tap into their personal wells of creativity. Everyone had three toys at their own work table so they could arrange them in any way they chose.

Last spring, we had a ‘special project’ without a traditional still life in the middle of the room. Everyone had a seashell. We did it again in the autumn; milkweed pods were our inspiration. As far as I was concerned, any treatment of the subject was allowed. Enjoy the shapes and colours. Tell a story. Create a non-traditional design.

I explored a few ideas on my demonstration sheet. Some are more interpretative and others more conventional. Brush-handling is essential to all. I’ve used the brush in different ways to create soft edges.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Imagination can’t be taught. It can be encouraged, however. Sometimes, it helps to consider your painting as a creative exercise with certain parameters. For example, the small painting on my demonstration sheet was drawn with pencil. The shapes were painted one at a time and a darker colour or value was touched into each shape while it was still wet. No shapes were allowed to run into each other. It was a good way to practice a basic soft edge technique.

FISH By Elizabeth Jay

By Elizabeth Jay

I’m showing you this watercolour by Elizabeth Jay because she had to leave a few minutes early and I wasn’t able to include it in the critique photo. I like it, too. Elizabeth used a bit of wax. She also managed to create layers of depth with her use of cool and warm colours.

I’m not sure if the students were elated or exhausted at the end of each class. Some of the results are more playful than others but it was a positive experience overall.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven!



Black objects! Now, there’s a challenge for you and, if that isn’t enough, look at all of those reflections.

My demonstration dealt with two main things. First of all, how do you make black when there is no black in your palette? I showed two combinations that work very well. The first is a balance of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. Ultramarine Blue can be substituted for Cobalt Blue. The second is a mix of Phthalo Green and Rose Madder Quinacridone (almost any cool red will work). I suggested that the students try both on a study sheet and see which they preferred. I think it’s best and more consistent to stick with one mixture of black in a painting. In addition to that, it’s important to keep the darkest values fluid and transparent. A thick buildup of paint, as in an acrylic or gouache, will be opaque and kill luminosity.

We also touched on sharp or crisp edge reflections. These can be painted as shapes and allowed to dry before adding the colour around them. Note that the lightest area of the reflection is darker than the light on the actual object. Go ahead. Read that again. Now, you’ll see that the light on the actual orange is much lighter, and thinner, than the light in the reflection.

We didn’t discuss soft edge reflections. They’re harder to control as wet must touch wet to achieve a soft edge. Undaunted, many of the students went ahead and created some successful soft edge reflections in their paintings.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

Everyone seemed to be very engaged in the challenge of mixing and applying blacks. Obtaining different values and maintaining a consistent hue was a good learning experience. Also, the presence of so much black in the still life gave the watercolours a very dramatic quality.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Nine


***NOTE You may have noticed that I published an incomplete post earlier. This is an update. Sorry about that! WordPress is a great blogging platform but the Publish button is too close to the Preview button, in my humble opinion. Also, a DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PUBLISH NOW? step in the process would be much appreciated and save the bother of an occasional incomplete post arriving in your mailbox. So, here we go with my updated post.

Still LIfe - SpringTuesWk9/2014

Smiles and frowns! You might think I’m talking about the emotional ups and downs of watercolour painting. I’m not. I’m talking about how ellipses look when we’re looking at them from different points of view.

I set up the Tuesday still life on an elegant round table on top of another small table. Most of the students, not all, sit to paint. The entire still life is usually below their eye level. Raising the still life raised a little blood pressure, initially, until the students adjusted to a still life at their eye level.

Tables - SpringTuesWk9/2014  Smiles and Frowns - SpringTuesWk9/2014

Ellipses are hard enough but what’s a smile and what’s a frown? Take a look at the eye level drawing of the vase in the diagram. All of the ellipses above eye level are highest in the middle and lower on the left and right ends. Frowns. The ellipse at the bottom of the vase, below eye level, is lowest in the middle. A smile. Note that the perplexed student can see the bottom of the vase in the upper drawing and can look into the elliptical mouth of the lower vase. There you go. Rudimentary ellipse theory.

I’ve exaggerated the smiles and frowns a touch in my demos. In addition to our discussion of ellipses, I used some wax as resist in these studies and focused on simplification.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk9/2014

One more week to go and spring term at my studio will come to an end. In the meantime, enjoy the watercolours from the Tuesday classes and keep smiling!

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique