Posts Tagged ‘watercolor painting’

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight- Teddy Bear Picnic!


Still Life - SpringTuesWk8/2013

Spring is here and it felt like time for a picnic! The stuffed animals were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the food and they stayed still long enough for us to paint them.

I suggested that the students look for ways to simplify the toys into their component shapes (legs, paws, faces, ears, etc.). Each shape could then be painted using a soft-edge approach. I also stressed a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ approach. For example, the larger shape of the face is painted first and the darker eyes, nose and mouth are painted last.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk8/2013

Many of the students enjoyed the subject but seemed to find it a bit daunting. Adversity often brings out the best in us, though, and we had some very colourful and playful results.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

London Brush and Palette Club – ‘Cubist Watercolour’


Last week, I visited the London Brush and Palette Club in London, Ontario. I led a three day workshop and our theme was ‘Create a Cubist Watercolour’. This is a workshop that requires imagination, an open mind and a sense of humor. The twenty participating LB&PC members didn’t disappoint. They were very enthusiastic and positive and you’ll see it here in the work they did.

Bob Sivak and Ron Mabee are Co-Workshop Conveners.

Bob Sivak (L), Me and Ron Mabee (R)

Bob Sivak (L), Me and Ron Mabee (R)

Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. We drew a sheet of fruit shapes, from memory, in our sketchbooks. The next step was to make a composition. The goal was to make it non-traditional and the shapes were supposed to be very distinct and strongly delineated, as in a colouring book.

These are the four steps of my demonstration. First, the drawing. Second, a middle tone wash that covers everything but some randomly selected shapes that are left as paper white. Third, a darker middle tone wash. Finally, some darks.

This exercise helped distance us from traditional realism and made us aware of the importance of a strong pattern in our paintings.

Step one of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013   Step two of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013

Step three of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013  Step four of value study by Barry Coombs -LB&PC2013

I divided the participants into four groups named after the four key Cubist artists; the Picassos, the Braques, the Grises and the Legers. Let’s have a look at their value studies.









Interesting, aren’t they? These were done on quarter sheets (11 x 15″) of watercolour paper. I recommended absorbent papers. I used Curry’s 200 lb., CP for all of my demos.

Our next project was in full colour and the theme was ‘wine and cheese’. The new Cubists were allowed to use colours of their own choice. The compositions were simplified to about two dozen shapes. These were also done on quarter sheets. Resist materials were allowed. I used some wax in my demonstration.

Cubist watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs-LB&PC2013

This exercise took us until the middle of Thursday, our second day. The new Cubists did a great job. We don’t always allow ourselves to let loose with colour when we paint. As you can see, the new Cubists didn’t hold back.









Our final project was a ‘Cubist’ watercolour on a half sheet (15 x 22″) of paper. We spent time on thumbnail compositions in our sketchbooks. Colour was discussed. I suggested that the new Cubists use two groups of complimentary colours. One group could be green and red, for example, and would cover the most shapes in the painting. The second group might be blue and orange or purple and yellow. The second group would cover less area.

We also used whites and off-whites, neutral greys and, at the very end, black. Various resist materials such as wax, masking fluid and salt were employed. Collage became a part of these watercolours, as well. Check out the wine labels.

Our workshop concluded at the start of a long holiday weekend. It’s a Canadian tradition to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria on the third weekend of May. Some of the new Cubists had to leave early due to their holiday plans but we still had lots of watercolour paintings to enjoy. I dissolved the Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger groups and we looked at the work four at a time.

Group one-final w/c-LB&PC2013

Group two-final w/c-LB&PC2013

Group three-final w/c-LB&PC2013

I worked on a half sheet, too. We all followed the same basic steps but there was plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation. The new Cubists of London, Ontario outdid themselves. They were willing to take risks and venture into unknown territory. Their cheerful and vibrant watercolours were a treat to look at by the end of the day on Friday. I’d like to thank the London Brush and Palette Club for inviting me to lead their annual three day workshop. It was a lot of fun.

'Cubist' Still Life by Barry Coombs

‘Cubist’ Still Life
by Barry Coombs

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Five – Watermelon!


Still Life - SpringTuesWk5

Spring is definitely here but we’ve had a lot of grey, overcast days. A colourful still life, with a picnic-like feel to it, inspired the Tuesday students yesterday.

Watermelon is fun to paint but the perspective of the slices can be tricky. It’s a bit like drawing boats. As I almost always do, I started my drawing with straight lines and I find that helps a lot with a challenge like foreshortened watermelon slices.

The green skin of the round melon was painted with a graded wash, lighter in the upper area and darker lower down in the shadowy area. When it dried, I added the stripes and I darkened them as well in the lower part of the melon.

I bought seedless melons but how can you paint a watermelon without it’s black seeds? They add a sense of detail and the contrast draws the eye into the red fruit.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk5

The students put a lot of thought into their compositions. We’ve talked quite a bit lately about the importance of thumbnail studies and it’s paying off. Also, I continue to emphasize the importance of the ‘figure/ground’ relationship. In other words, choose a colour for the background that works with all of the other elements in the painting.

The work looks great. Bright and cheerful; just like a spring day

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Four – Pots!


Still Life - SpringTuesWk4/2013

I like to mix up the still lifes from week to week. These terra cotta objects are very classical looking and make a nice contrast to the soft forms of the baseball caps from last Tuesday and Saturday.

The ‘figure-ground’ relationship was the subject of my morning and evening demonstrations. How can we maximize the relationship between the objects and the surrounding areas of the painting? What is the best colour choice for the ‘background’? Can we create a quality of light? So many questions.

I suggested, as I do over and over again, that the students start thinking about these considerations while doing their thumbnail sketches.

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk4/2013

The response was very rewarding. The Tuesday students gave a lot of thought to their compositions and colour choices and some lovely work was the result.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Three – Caps!


Still Life - SpringTuesWk3

It’s baseball season so out came the caps! Last week, I touched on thumbnail studies and reminded the students yesterday of how important they are to an artists’ process.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the cap still life. It’s done in pen and ink in my 5 x 7″ sketchbook.  Three steps are shown here.

1) SKETCH – My preliminary lines, all straight, are done in orange ink. I then refined the drawing, using curved strokes, with black ink.

2) FRAME – I’ve zoomed in and decided on a vertical composition. The proportions are about 3 x 4, the same as most watercolour pads, blocks and sheets.

3) SHADE – I’ve shaded with hatching; parallel strokes. Studying and simplifying the shadows in this thumbnail is a great help when it comes to the watercolour painting.

Thumbnail sketch by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk3

It’s time for the watercolour demonstration. Again, I stressed simplification and soft edge techniques. I also distributed artistic licenses. The students were encouraged to use whichever colours they desired with their caps.

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk3

Sometime, during the night, my blog had it’s 80,000th view. Thanks, as always, for supporting me with your likes and comments and by following our endeavours. Now, here’s what you really want to see….the student watercolours.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique



Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One of Spring Term!


Still Life - SpringTuesWk1

Spring term is underway at my studio even though the spring weather has yet to assert itself. It was cold and windy yesterday but warm and colourful inside.

The gift bags gave me a chance to talk about some important ideas and techniques. Can you see the pencil lines? I started with broad, straight strokes of a soft 2B pencil and that really helped with the perspective of the bags. I used soft-edge techniques to gradate and add interest to the various planes and shapes.

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk1

Next question. Do you see the white ‘lines’ between the shapes? That’s the white of the paper. Separating the shapes with these skinny slivers of white paper allows me to work more quickly as I don’t have to wait for an area to dry before starting to paint an adjacent shape. I use this approach in a lot of my demonstrations and, sometimes, in finished paintings.

Here’s an example: this is a watercolour of the cathedral in Atotonilco, the historic town near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We were just there a few weeks ago!

Atotonilco - Watercolour on paper by Barry Coombs - SpringTuesWk1/2013

by Barry Coombs

It’s always nice to see everyone after a layoff. My Tuesday classes are full this term but not all were able to attend yesterday. Still, the energy level was high and the gift bags in watercolour looked great.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – Wrap Up!


We’re back home from a wonderful ten days of sketching and painting in Mexico. Last Friday was our final day of painting. I started the day in our studio with a demonstration of a figure in watercolour. I talk about value and light and shadow a lot in my workshops. The subject I selected, a hat and basket vendor, was very complicated but I wanted to show how a single light source and a grey wash in a middle value could help solve a complex visual problem.

My first step was the pencil drawing. There are actually two steps shown. Initially, I use only straight lines in order to establish the basic shapes of the subject. Then, I introduce curved lines and strokes where it’s appropriate to do so.

My cool grey wash is mixed from Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I painted it everywhere except where the sun was hitting my subject directly.

Step one of w/c demo by Barry Coombs - SMA2013   Step two of w/c demo by Barry Coombs - SMA2013

Once the grey wash was completely dry, I added local colour. Also, I darkened a few of the shadows. I suggested that the students try it with a simpler, less confusing subject.

Step three of w/c demo by Barry Coombs - SMA2013

It was our last day ‘en plein air’ so I gave the students the freedom to select their own painting locations. SM de Allende has so much to offer and everyone felt very comfortable exploring the town.


SMA6  IMG_8871



Our critique always takes place at our studio. We usually do it in two batches so we can focus on a few works at a time.

Friday Critique; First Batch

Friday Critique;
First Batch

Friday Critique; Second Batch

Friday Critique;
Second Batch

I want to show you a few more pieces. The first is by Randy Adams. I met Randy during my Grand Manan Island workshop last summer. My workshops aren’t designed for total beginners and he was fairly new to watercolour and the ‘plein air’ experience but his positive attitude and undemanding nature allowed him to fit right in. He’s worked hard and improved a great deal. Check out those cobblestones!

SM DE ALLENDE by Randy Adams

by Randy Adams

Our last featured work is a sketch by Phil Masters. She did some very nice watercolours during our stay but I like the way this sums up so much of the SM de Allende experience. Courtyards, arches, fountains and umbrellas. I’d like to see her paint a watercolour from this sketch.

ARCHES by Phil Masters

by Phil Masters

We enjoyed our Farewell Dinner on Friday night at a local restaurant called Hecho In Mexico. Saturday was a free day except for one important event; our Final Critique. We nibbled on guacamole and had a drink or two as each student showed us three works created over the duration of our visit. It’s a great summary of the whole experience. Here’s the class of 2013. Why don’t you join us next year?




Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten – Last Day!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk10/2013

Winter term has come to an end. We’ve had lots of fun and enjoyed experimenting with the flat angled brush for the last several weeks.

Yesterday, I proposed a preliminary wash as the first step of the watercolour painting. I wet my sheet with clean water and, quite randomly, touched in yellow and red. I allowed it to flow. When it was dry, I did a quick, sketchy and deliberately wonky drawing and added a bit of wax.

Working quickly, I tried to use brushwork that could only be done with a flat angled brush. The preliminary wash has been left untouched in a few areas such as the lid of the cookie jar and the background. I suggested that the students put the angular, swatch-like brushstrokes throughout their paintings, including the background.

Step One of Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk10/2013a   Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk10/2013a

Some of the day’s watercolours are more ‘swatch-like’ than others but, as usual, everyone rose to the challenge. The preliminary wash is more evident in some than others but it does add luminosity to the lightest areas.

We’re back in the studio on April 2. Until then, stay tuned for dispatches from sunny San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Our group  leaves tomorrow!

Tuesday AM Critique - WinterTuesWk10/2013

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Eight – Rust and Dust!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk8

I love painting rusty and dusty old objects like the ones that composed our still life yesterday. My demonstrations share four key elements:

1) No prior pencil drawing; straight in with the brush
2) A 3/4″ flat angled brush was used
3) Only three colours were used: Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Rose Madder Quinacridone. Not a pure triad but using Raw Sienna as a yellow produced interesting results
4) Paper white was preserved for the lightest areas

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk8

Not all of the students adhered to all of the four elements. Most did some pencil drawing, for instance. I think everyone used some form of a triad and you can see how it helps to harmonize the colours in a painting.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique - WinterTuesWk8

Tuesday PM Critique



Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven- Coloured Glass!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk7

It was cold, icy and gray yesterday. Our colourful glass objects offered a little visual cheer.

We continued using the flat angled brushes and wax. Even with a flat angled brush in your hand, it’s difficult to commit to making bold, angular shapes when you’re looking at gently curving surfaces. I tried to set the pace with my demonstration. I wanted it to be very clear that these studies were painted with a flat angled brush.

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk7

As always, the students responded courageously and created some very dramatic watercolour paintings. A few are still fairly new to the medium and concentrated on soft-edge techniques. They’re learning fast!

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique