Posts Tagged ‘watercolor’

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

12/02/2020

I was back at Arts on Adrian in Toronto this week for Sustained Saturday and Tuesday afternoon classes. The organic objects in the still-life are things that I have rarely or never used. Ya Li pears are the pale yellow fruits. The green vegetables are chayotes, a type of squash from Central America. I liked setting them off with the carved wooden objects and thought that the still-life had a bit of a Mexican mural look.

The ornate carving posed the greatest challenge so I addressed it with my demonstration. Do you ever try to read my notes in the top right corner of the demo sheets? This sheet shows four bullet points:
• simplification
• editing
• creative licence
• reverse values

We almost always discuss simplification and editing. Creative licence is closely related. What can we do to make the painting work best? Reversing the value is an idea that I employed with some of the decorative carving. I didn’t write down ‘negative painting’ but I used that, as well.

I reversed the values in the upper part of the vase on the left. That way, I didn’t have to painstakingly paint around all of the light ‘lines’. In the barrel in the middle, I used a negative approach and painted around the lighter areas. I know, I know! Masking fluid is available at art stores. Well, it’s not something I use and I don’t promote it in my classes. We try to solve the problems with the basic tools; brushes, paint. Add a lot of analysis and thought to that short list.

The still-life offered many opportunities. I suggested that the students zoom in and find a composition. Also, as interesting as the wooden objects were, I felt they should be used to bring out the light on the pears and squashes as much as possible.

Our usual Saturday crowd was somewhat diminished in number but we had a very pleasant day. One of our regulars, Karen, had to leave early but I photographed her lovely painting before she packed up.

Watercolour by Karen W

As for the rest on Saturday, here are the results. Click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

I started the Tuesday class with a look at the Saturday demonstration. We discussed it in general and then I offered a closer study of the areas show here.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs

The Tuesday students responded to the still-life with enthusiasm and did very well. Not everyone was able to finish but I was quite pleased with their work.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Cubist Watercolour Weekend at Arts on Adrian!

27/11/2019

SATURDAY
I’ve presented this workshop to many art clubs and classes over the years. For a long time, my own watercolours were based on a playful and colourful response to Cubism, the early Modernist period that I’ve always loved. Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris were the giants of Cubist painting. I kicked things off Saturday morning with a slide talk about their work and it’s context in art history.

Our theme was a ‘Tuscan’ village. Here are a few examples of villages from some of the great Cubists.

Georges Braque

Pablo Picasso

Juan Gris

This entire weekend was a creative exercise with an experimental component. Almost everyone was initially out of their comfort zone but we approached our paintings through a series of well-defined steps. Our first ‘Cubist’ project was a value study in sepia. The participants had brought in photo reference of Tuscan villages. They studied the reference and selected various buildings and shapes that interested them. They drew simplified versions of these shapes onto sheets of cartridge paper. Next, they cut them out with scissors and created collage-like compositions on a new sheet of cartridge paper. The format was the same as a quarter sheet of watercolour paper (11 x 15″ or close to it). Once the compositions were resolved, they were transferred to actual quarter sheets of watercolour paper.

Four steps were taken to develop the value studies. 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. A mix of either Cobalt Blue or Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna was used.

I worked along with the group. Here are the two final steps of my demonstration.

  

This exercise took up most of Saturday. However baffled, the students followed the process and these are the results. Click on this image and you’ll see a larger version.

Cubist Value Studies

SUNDAY
Our next step was to enlarge the composition to a half sheet (15 x 22″). The half sheet is a different proportion than a quarter sheet, roughly 2 x 3 versus 3 x 4, so adjustments had to be made as they were drawn up.

Before we started painting, we talked about two things, colour and texture. We discussed the basic colour systems such as analogous and complimentary. We also considered using neutrals like greys and browns. I asked them to work out a palette and try to stick with it. Texture was intended to be a big part of the experience. Soft-edge, wax, rubber cement, spattering with a toothbrush and drybrush were all considered.

And we painted. I worked on my sustained demonstration while offering feedback to the group. This is my watercolour in progress.

The students plugged away all afternoon and their Cubist villages began to take shape. It was a lot of fun to walk around the studio as the colourful and cheerful images emerged out of the process. Although it was challenging, everyone followed the same basic steps and found plenty of room for personal and individual interpretation.

Only a few managed to finish but we’ll take a look at them anyway. I asked them to email me the paintings once they had a chance to complete them at home. I’ll finish mine as well and will post the results in a few weeks.

Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version. There’s a lot going on in these watercolours and a better look is needed to fully appreciate them.

Cubist Critique a

Cubist Critique b

Cubist Critique c

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Final Week!

22/11/2019

I wanted a cheerful subject for our final class this fall at Dundas Valley School of Art and these colourful peppers fit the bill nicely. Warm colours such as red, yellow and orange can be tricky to work with; particularly when one mixes the darker values. With that in mind, I talked mostly about colour mixing to start things off. Also, I took a shot at a red pepper and discussed the steps including the initial drawing, soft-edge washes and some useful brush-handling techniques.

I’ve enjoyed the group this term and been very pleased with their progress. During our critique on Wednesday evening, I pointed out that a successful painting isn’t judged solely by the ‘realistic’ rendering of the individual objects. A successful work is the sum of it’s parts. The skill to render a pepper realistically can be learned with practice. Creating bright, colourful paintings like the students did is no mean feat and not to be under-rated.

As usual, remember to click on the critique image to view a larger version. Thanks for following along for the past eight weeks! Thanks to you, this blog received it’s 280,000th view the other day.

By the way, the still-life served another important role; delicious stuffed peppers prepared by Aleda O’Connor! Check out her website.

Wednesday Critique

 

 

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!

16/11/2019

We had our first big snowfall earlier this week in southern Ontario. I thought this still-life might suggest warmer climes. Whether or not it did, the watercolour students at Dundas Valley School of Art enjoyed it. I didn’t do a demonstration on Wednesday evening. Instead, I reviewed the demos from the first six classes and discussed the elements of the still-life. This approach gave the students more painting time than usual and they responded very well.

Progress continues to be made. I stress that the whole painting be considered. All of the relationships within the frame of reference will affect the outcome. In particular, that means the backgrounds must be considered. On Wednesday, several different treatments of the background were implemented; warm colours, cool colours, light values, darker values, geometric, and graded washes. Which do you think work best?

As usual, click on the critique to view a larger version. Thanks for following!

Wednesday Critique

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

13/11/2019

The rusty and dusty objects visited Arts on Adrian in Toronto last Saturday and yesterday. It’s a more complex arrangement than I’d used last week at Dundas Valley School of Art as the AonA students are quite experienced so I increased the challenge. Also, the Sustained Saturday group has a whole day to paint.

I suggested that the students zoom in on the still-life for several reasons. When you zoom in, the shapes get bigger within your frame of reference. The shapes can take on a somewhat more abstract quality, as well, especially when you crop them. Here’s an example:

With that in mind, I did a compositional sketch focusing on one area. I made a few alternations and I used a 3×4 format. Many watercolour blocks and sheets are 3×4 (12×16″, 18×24″, etc). Shouldn’t your compositional sketch be in the same format as your paper?

These weathered old things have a lot of texture so I discussed a few ways to create texture with watercolour. Soft-edge techniques can work. So can the use of other materials such as wax. I brought in some very cheap stiff bristle paint brushes and they work very well for creating texture with a drybrush approach.

I was pleased that the students enjoyed the still-life very much. They put that pleasure into their work and it really shows! Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Five!

04/11/2019

Last Wednesday was a grim, dark and damp day. These colourful objects brightened up the studio at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Also, they were the perfect subject for our continuing exploration of soft-edge techniques.

Soft edges create gentle transitions across the planes of an object or surface. Success with these techniques requires thought and perseverance. It’s worth the investment in time and energy as soft edges are a key element of watercolour painting.

In class, the focus tends to be on finishing the painting before the end of the evening. That can backfire sometimes as not enough time is spent on practicing techniques on scrap paper or the backs of old paintings. I suggest that my students fill up sheets with ‘swatches’. For example, paint a 2 x 2″ shape in a light blue wash. While it’s still wet, touch in a darker blue wash in the bottom half of the swatch. A soft edge transition should result where the light and dark washes meet. Sounds simple? Try it. It’s hard to believe how many things can go wrong before you’ve spent hours and hours at it.

I’m going to continue to stress these ideas in the weeks ahead. Now, let’s have a look at the student work from Wednesday evening.

Wednesday Critique

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

30/10/2019

I tried something a little different at Arts on Adrian this week. The still-life is based on the paintings of Luis Egidio Meléndez (Spanish 1716-80). A few weeks ago, I was showing some of his work to the students on my iPad. It was well-received so I formed a plan.

First of all, I didn’t do a demonstration for either the Sustained Saturday or Tuesday afternoon class. Instead, I prepared a short presentation using my projector. We looked at several of Meléndez’ paintings and discussed them.

Luis Egidio Meléndez Spanish (1716-80)

Luis Egidio Meléndez Spanish 1716-80

The students were very inspired by these striking still-life paintings and it shows in their watercolours. Several of them suggested that I do more classes with an art historical emphasis! More work for me, I guess. Fortunately, I’m a lifelong student of art history and enjoy the research.

Make sure you click on a critique image to view a larger version. You’ll definitely want to study these more closely. Also, take a second to think about Luis Egidio Meléndez. He died in poverty.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

28/10/2019

These terracotta objects were our subject last Wednesday evening at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I like the way the students have been coming along with their work over the first three classes. Still, this is watercolour and you can never practice soft-edge techniques enough. With that in mind, I did some review with my demonstration.

The objects themselves are not too complex. It’s critical to get the basic light and shadow relationship, of course. Once that is established, the soft-edge washes can add a lot of visual interest.

We’re halfway through our eight-week fall course! Progress has been made and I look forward to even more in the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to click on the critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Three!

17/10/2019

Wednesday evening is watercolour night at the Dundas Valley School of Art this fall. It was the third class of eight and I’m still sticking to basics. The first evening of this course, I discussed value. Last week, I presented soft-edge techniques. Yesterday, my demonstration focused on creating even washes over larger areas. In this case, that meant not only the two baskets but the spaces between the various objects.

I started the baskets with a yellowish wash that covered both baskets at the same time. I then added darker values which helped to distinguish the baskets from each other. I kept it simple and used only three values.

The tabletop and the background were painted with even, ungraded washes. Graded washes might offer more visual appeal but let’s walk before we run. Creating an even wash without streaks and blossoms/backruns takes thought and practice.

Most of the group are working in fairly small  formats. I don’t mind as it gives them a chance to resolve their work in the alloted time. That way, they can complete all of the shapes in their paintings and get a sense of how all of the value and colour relationships work together. I can see progress over our first three classes and I’m looking forward to next week.

Wednesday Critique

Fall Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Two!

12/10/2019

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday evening for our second class of the fall term. Last week, my demonstration/lesson focused on light and shadow and value. This time, I discussed basic soft-edge techniques and compared the results to a crisp-edge look. Many watercolourists combine soft and crisp edges. It’s the soft edges that require the most practice in order to gain fluency and control.

During the class, I showed the group some work by the great Spanish still-life painter, Luis Egidio Meléndez. Meléndez did many things well but it was his command of light and shadow that I drew to the attention of the students. His wonderful textures and rich colours are held together with a consistent light source, which lends a three-dimensional quality to the objects portrayed and creates a dramatic pattern of light and shadow throughout each image.

Luis Egidio Meléndez Spanish (1716-80)

Luis Egidio Meléndez Spanish (1716-80)

Only one of the students chose to adopt the very dark background favoured by Meléndez. Red was a popular option and why not? It complements green. See you next week!

Wednesday Critique