Posts Tagged ‘watercolor lesson’

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Six



The only objects that survived from Saturday’s still-life were the onions. I used the ‘shape-reading’ approach again in my demonstration. I limited myself to yellow, red and blue and mixed all of the various browns without using any earth pigments such as Burnt Sienna. Most of the students pursued  these ideas.

Our subject was trickier than it looked at first glance. The dark middle tones of the bowls and vases can be difficult to achieve in watercolour. The light on the onions required very thin, luminous washes. The texture of the onions is important but we must give them their spherical form for the texture to be convincing.

We had a lot of fun and you can see some strong results below. There are always a few sighs and groans but they’re generally good-natured.  Watercolour is tough enough without excessive self-flagellation and we always have to remember our rallying cry, “It’s only a piece of paper!”

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Four


Your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s a bunch of bowls. After our review of cubic forms last week I thought we’d do one on ellipses. We discussed some basic guidelines for drawing ellipses.

An ellipse is a circle in perspective. If the ends are pointy, like a football (Canadian or American football, not a soccer ball), it’s not a true ellipse. The same goes if it’s ends are too squarish, like a cigar. Many students make their ellipses too deep, as if they are standing over the bowl and looking down into it. Or it looks like it is tilted towards us (I know. It was good enough for Cezanne. Why not me?). To avoid this, care must be taken to study the minor axis of the ellipse. Is it as big as you think it is? The closer it is to your eye level, the smaller the minor axis will be.

Stacked bowls are a good drawing exercise but we wanted to make interesting paintings, as well. I had a few ideas.

Everyone seems to struggle with backgrounds, as I mentioned in my post from Week Two. They are often painted last and may not contribute much to the image overall. So, why not integrate the background with the bowls?


You can’t have everything in painting. Here the yellow of the bowls on the right has been sacrificed as it loses it’s intensity with the warm blue underneath. Have I gained anything? Has the sense of space been enhanced? Either way, it stimulated some very interesting results in today’s watercolour paintings.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two


I made one key change to the Saturday still-life. Trading the pail for the purple jars simplified things for the Tuesday artists, who have three hours to work and not a whole day. That pail, however, proved to be a pretty good challenge. In the morning, I did a pencil and watercolour sketch and used it to discuss various concepts such as editing, artistic licence and relative value.

I badgered everyone all morning long to darken the outside wall of the pail. This would really pop out the various objects in front of it. I decided to start the evening class with a demonstration of the pesky pail.

We’ve been stressing colour lately as well as creating backgrounds that enhance the entire image. Many of the artists roll their eyes when I ask what they’ve planned for their background. Many do it last, after everything else is finished.

I don’t even like using the word ‘background’ as it seems to diminish the importance of this element of the painting. The background takes up as much as one third of the total area of many of the paintings seen below. It should have a dynamic relationship with everything else in the image. Consider this when you look at Tuesday’s work. Which ones have successful backgrounds and why?

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Sustained Saturday Watercolour Class


Yesterday was the first Sustained Saturday of the spring at my studio. These classes give participants the opportunity to develop a watercolour at a fairly relaxed pace (although some may not feel relaxed with an hour to go before critique).

Most start with a compositional thumbnail in their sketchbook. I recommend doing studies of individual objects on a separate sheet of watercolour paper before attempting the sustained piece. My demonstration was a look at some of these objects.

Many of the group are Saturday regulars. For some of them, full-time jobs make Saturdays an attractive alternative to my Tuesday classes. A few come to both Tuesday and Saturday classes; a real commitment. Everyone works hard and we always have a lot of fun. Here’s what they did:

Spring Term Begins!


Spring term at my studio started yesterday with Tuesday morning and evening classes. I tried to offer an attractive but not overly challenging still-life for the first day back from our layoff. I reviewed soft-edge techniques and stressed simplification of form.

Several of the artists felt a bit rusty but persevered, as usual. I don’t think the photos from our critiques turned out as well as they normally do. I take full blame for my minimal photographic skills. Here’s the work from Tuesday:

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten


Winter has term has come to an end at my studio. It’s snowing heavily at the moment in downtown Toronto but at least my Spring Studio Calendar is ready. Hopefully, it will be a lot warmer and greener on April 5, when my spring term begins.

Yesterday, I re-arranged the still-life from the Saturday class. The quarter sections of melon are always a drawing challenge. I compare them to boats. I started with an atmospheric preliminary wash, an approach we’ve been using for several weeks. Note the lightest areas such as the rind of the watermelon and the seeds on the canteloupe. That’s the preliminary wash showing.

Our morning group has been smaller for a few weeks. Some of the group are ‘snowbirding’, taking winter breaks in Florida and Mexico. We thought of them as we celebrated the last class with a delicious lunch at Piri Piri, our local Portugese restaurant. In the evening, I broke out some wine  and a generous student brought a fruit plate with a chocolate dipping sauce. Yum.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Final Sustained Saturday of Winter Term


There was a lot of energy in the studio yesterday for our final Sustained Saturday of the term. It was a rainy, grey day so the colourful still-life was all the more inspiring.

I presented very similar ideas to what we’ve been doing in our Tuesday classes lately. I started with a random preliminary wash of warm colours. This wash was done prior to any pencil drawing.

In the next step, I planned a bit with my 2B pencil. Then I developed this area of the composition, working from light to dark and trying to use a lot of gentle soft-edge transitions.

Later in the day, I called everyone over to discuss simplification of objects such as bowls, vases, jars and bottles, etc.

That was it for my demonstration. The group worked very hard and some even completed two paintings. We had a lot of fun during our critique.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Nine


It’s been a busy week and I’m posting the work from Tuesday a little late. Baked goods are always fun to paint and I proposed that everyone start with an atmospheric preliminary wash.

I wet my sheet thoroughly with clean water and touched in yellows, oranges and reds. The more random the better.

When the sheet was dry, I painted the crust around the raisin bread. The light area of the raisin bread is the preliminary wash, except for the darker raisins, of course.

The cut loaf was painted with an off-white, leaving a few bits of the first wash. I added the crust when it dried.

The top of the muffin was done in two steps. First I painted the lighter brown and left little flecks of the first wash untouched. I darkened the lower part of the muffin, just above the wrapper. The wrapper was painted with an off-white wash. The creases were added later and they are not all the same colour.

That was enough to get the students in the mood. Have a look.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight


I set up some fairly familiar objects for the classes on Tuesday. I wanted to focus on simplification of the shapes and try for a less literal and more interpretative approach. This involved the use of soft-edge techniques. I started with a preliminary wash, touching colour into water. The colour is applied quite randomly.

In the second step, I’ve started to paint a few of the objects and tried to maintain the same spirit.

Step three shows an idea that I wanted the students to consider. I painted the cookie jar in the back and the object to it’s left with a continuous wash. The wash shows a transition from dark to light. In step four, which is as far as I went with it, I’ve done a light to dark wash in the background.

We talked about a lot of things but, overall, the goal was to be more experimental and try for a different look. Everyone responded well and the results were quite exciting.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique



Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven


I like to present all kinds of subject matter and this one might be called the ‘Mud Room’. Gloves and mittens and boots are quasi-organic forms. I did a full demo for each class and tried a different approach with each although both were fast-paced.

The morning demo is similar to last week’s and soft-edge techniques were employed. The evening demo relies on crisp edges and a light-to-dark layering of values. Each has it’s own feel and challenges.

Almost everyone struggled with this subject. The lighting was tricky. Some of the objects were in shadow. The mix of vibrant and earth colours was unusual. Have a look at what was done. Not all are finished.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique