Posts Tagged ‘watercolor’

More from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

01/04/2019

Everyone was refreshed from our day of free time as we met in our studio for my morning demonstration on Wednesday. Our plan was to paint inside the lovely Bellas Artes with it’s cool arcades and tranquil atmosphere. And it’s arches. I used my demonstration to dramatize the feeling of looking into a sunlit space through an arch. I kept my palette simple; cools and warms.

For once, we had no shortage of shade. Most of the students were ready to tackle arches.

Let’s see what happened with those arches! Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

Thursday was our last full day of painting. Our plan was to leave on Friday morning for Mexico City (more about that later). We had a lot on our agenda on Thursday so I decided not to offer a demonstration in order to give the group an extra hour of painting time. We walked up to Parque Guadiana, a quiet and pretty park in a residential neighbourhood.

At the end of the day, we gathered at our studio for our Final Critique. I started out by looking at the Thursday paintings and followed that with a selection of work from earlier in the week. It was a nice way to look back on our painting time together.

Thursday Critique a

Thursday Critique b

Wait a minute! What the heck is that bird doing there? One of our painters took a metalworking class while she was here and this was her chance to show us the result.

Thursday Critique c

That was it for our supervised painting days and for our stay in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. My next post will be from Mexico City where we will visit the famous home of Frida Kahlo; Casa Azul.

 

 

 

 

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Hola from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

26/03/2019

I’m back in beautiful SM de Allende with a great group of watercolour painters. We arrived on Thursday and enjoyed our Welcome Dinner at the hotel. Friday was a relaxing day. I led most of the group on a tour of the town and the afternoon was free time for painting, shopping or just taking it easy.

Things got serious this morning (Saturday). I gave a demonstration at the hotel, reminding everyone of the importance of value and pattern.

Following that, most of the group worked on the hotel grounds for the day. The courtyard is lovely and spacious and our rooms were close at hand. It’s a good way to start as we sort out the practical elements of ‘en plein air’ watercolour painting.

It was a good start to our workshop. We convened at 5pm sharp for our first critique. Click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Saturday Critique a

Saturday Critique b

I gave another studio demonstration on Sunday morning. This street scene was quickly drawn from memory. I discussed a ‘big to small’ process and varying washes to add interest. Also, we discussed what colours work when painted over other colours and what doesn’t work. For example, I can’t paint a green door over a red wall without getting a very dull result.

After the demonstration, we headed to Parque Benito Juarez and it’s a lovely spot for painting. The park is very green and surrounded by attractive residences and hotels. Just up the road from the park is the outdoor public laundry. No-one was washing clothes today.

It’s hot here but lovely in the shade. I discourage the painters from painting in the sun. A pleasant day in the park wound down and we returned to our studio for the critique.

Sunday Critique a

Sunday Critique b

I left the hotel early on Monday and walked up to Plaza San Antonio, a quiet square with a brilliant white church. I set up my easel and prepared for an onsite demonstration and I was ready to go when the students arrived.

The square has a large shade tree with a view of a street dropping down. I pointed out the importance of checking angles carefully in order to make the perspective believable. After we discussed that, I painted the scene with a flat angled brush. It was a very complicated subject so I stressed simplification as I took them through my process.

Everyone sought out shady spots and got to work.

It was nice to cool off in our studio at the hotel at critique time.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

Tuesday is a free day. Shopping, sightseeing and even more painting was on the agenda. We’ll be back at it tomorrow morning in sunny San Miguel de Allende.

Painting from Photos in Watercolour at Arts on Adrian!

04/03/2019

I’ve never been an advocate of painting from photographs although I have done it on occasion in the distant past. Let me clarify my thought. I have used photos as reference. My ‘Cubist’ watercolours have always been inspired by memory, imagination, sketches and, at times, some photo reference. My more traditional bird drawings and paintings, however, rely greatly on my own photographic reference. However, I don’t copy photos verbatim and I don’t understand why anyone does so. Technical virtuosity and rendering skills, no matter how sublime, do not necessarily equal art.

North Head, Grand Manan
by Barry Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

White-throated Sparrow
by Barry Coombs

Many artists do work from photographs, though, and many do it well. An artist is capable of transforming the photographic reference into something personal and beautiful.

I prefer the tradition of ‘en plein air’ and direct observation and it’s mostly what I teach. As a longtime instructor, it’s been impossible to avoid the preference many students hold for working from photographs. I decided to deal with the practice by offering a one-day workshop.

The participants sent me three photos each ahead of time. I created a PowerPoint presentation so that we could look at them all together and identify potential problems. We broke it down into three categories: composition, light and shadow and colour.

First of all, we looked at watercolours from masters of the medium that were all painted without the aid of photographs. Then, we looked at the photos sent by the students. Our goal was to find the essence of the subject. In order to do so, all of the images required some serious consideration.

We looked at this lovely snowy scene from Karen W. I made a few suggestions. Eliminate or move the two trees in the lower left corner. Remove the sign or whatever it is in the same area. Lose the wire seen across the roof. Re-design the foliage to show the viewer more of the building. Re-design the trees on the left to deepen the space and suggest a pathway. Karen had a great idea and shortened the roof so it wouldn’t run off the righthand edge of the painting.

Our next step was to decide on a format. Most of our pads and watercolour blocks are of a 3 x 4 proportion (9 x 12, 12 x 16). The format was drawn directly onto the photograph and a grid was created. Then, a smaller image, in exactly the same proportion, was drawn and a four-value study was completed. Have a look at what Karen W did. Later on, you’ll see her sustained watercolour in progress in the critique image.

Gridded Photo and Study
by Karen W

Once a small study was completed, the grid was used to transfer the image to a watercolour sheet, in exactly the same proportion! The rest of the afternoon, for the most part, was spent painting. I interrupted at one point for a brief discussion of copyright and ethical issues that often arise when working from photos. Of course, if you always use your own photo you don’t have to concern yourself with these issues.

The day went very well. Not everyone was able to finish their work but all went away with a better understanding of the potential problems and pitfalls of simply copying a photograph and the many creative benefits of interpreting their photographic image. Here are a few of the photos that were used.

And here are the paintings! Click on the critique image to view a larger version. Karen’s painting is on the upper left.

Painting from Photos Critique

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright and ethics

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Six!

23/02/2019

Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico. That’s what those yellow things are. A few of the Wednesday evening students were unfamiliar with them so I thought I’d identify them right away. They’re delicious.

It was week six at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. Our Mexican theme was a stark contrast to the freezing rain and icy sidewalks and roads outside. I reviewed, as I often do, some soft-edge and brush-handling techniques. I’m very pleased with the progress of this group of painters. I don’t think they need a lot of new ideas but generally require quick refreshers and time to solve the painting problems posed by the still-life. Teaching art at this level (intermediate) is mostly reactive, not prescriptive. This is not a beginner class with a pre-planned lesson every session. Therefore, on the first evening, I don’t know exactly what I will teach on the sixth evening. I need to get to know the group in order to respond to their needs.

During the three hours of our class, I circulate and keep an eye on things but I don’t constantly hover. They need to think for themselves. Also, I constantly urge the students to pace themselves by stepping back from their work frequently. Painters need to keep their eyes fresh. It’s very helpful to walk around and see what your fellow painters are up to, as well. We learn from each other in these environments. Every class winds down with a constructive critique. The critique is a very important learning tool and critiques have been a key element of my teaching practice since day one, about thirty years ago. Enough about that, here’s the work from Wednesday night.

Wednesday Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Five!

15/02/2019

Two wintery weeks had gone by since our last class at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Class had been cancelled last week due to a snow day and it was a close call again this week. Fortunately, Wednesday evening was a go and everyone was able dig out their vehicles and get to the school.

I kept it simple and fairly brief to start off the evening. I offered a quick review of soft-edge techniques and a few thoughts pertinent to our still-life. Painting time is what this group needed; time to solve the problems and enjoy the process.

The students made excellent use of the extra few minutes. I was very pleased with their progress and told them so. One of the students remarked on the overall improvement since week one. I agree and it’s a result of their attentiveness, thoughtfulness and hard work.

Wednesday Critique

 

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Four!

31/01/2019

The bottles were empty for the Wednesday watercolour students at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Not even half full, unfortunately. Spirits were high, however, and we used our bottles to continue practicing soft-edge techniques. I did a quick review of the basic approach and then applied the techniques with a few studies.

The bottles were first painted by adding dark values to the lighter overall shape while still wet. When the first washes were dry, I added the smaller, darker shapes. These are very clear in the green bottle on the left where the darker shapes all have distinct, crisp edges. In the two brown bottles, I ‘feathered’ some of the edges of the darkest shapes, using a damp brush. This varies the edges of the small, dark shapes and gives the bottle a somewhat more natural appearance. The blue studies, bottom centre, illustrate the feathering technique.

This group of students all work thoughtfully and follow a sound process. Practice swatches, small studies and colour testing all lead to more successful watercolour paintings. Have a look and remember to click on the critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Winter Watercolour at DVSA – Week One!

11/01/2019

I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday night with a new group of eager watercolour painters. Mostly new, anyway. It was an even balance of students who’ve taken the course in the past and those who I was meeting for the first time.

As you may glean from the still-life, I went back to basics and discussed value and simplification of form. This course is based on observation of the still-life so the importance of value cannot be understated.

I was pleased with the work of the students. One of the challenges they deal with is the lighting of the objects. You’ll note that some of the paintings are dominated by light and others by shadow. This reveals where the student sat in relationship to the still-life and lamp. As such, I strongly suggest that the students select a different seat in the studio from week to week. It pays off to vary the visual experience as much as possible!

Click on the critique image to see a larger version.

Wednesday Critique

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Four!

28/11/2018

I wanted to combine some interesting shapes and textures with rich colours for the final still-life of the fall term at Arts on Adrian. Saturday is an all-day class and I always keep that in mind with my demonstration. The still-life featured decorative patterns in the tea tins and the fabric so I discussed colour selection for those elements of the subject. The black box was started with soft-edge washes before the suggestion of texture. Do candle flames have a crisp or soft edge? Both options were considered.

The students did well with the flames although one individual snuffed the candle out. I don’t know if it was a philosophical statement or not. Either way, it was a very creative day.

Sustained Saturday Critique

I started off the Tuesday class with a review of the Saturday demonstration. I suggested that the students simplify the patterns of the tins and fabric as they have only half the painting time of the Saturday class. Also, I took a look at the wicker basket on the wine bottle and pointed out it’s underlying volumes and how they receive light. The texture is more meaningful when the volumes are well-understood.

More time, please! The still-life had it’s challenges and most of the Tuesday students would have appreciated another hour or so of painting time. I like the way these paintings are going, though.

Saturday and Tuesday classes start again in January. I’ll have my Winter Calendar posted on this site soon. Thanks for following and liking our fall classes at Arts on Adrian in the west end of Toronto, Ontario!

Tuesday Critique

 

 

 

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Six!

19/11/2018

The pomegranates made their way from Toronto to the Dundas Valley School of Art just in time for the Wednesday evening class. I’ve been focusing on basics with this group and some of the students requested a demonstration of even, ungraded washes over larger areas. Good idea!

Nothing is intrinsically better or worse in a watercolour painting. There are roles for both crisp and soft edges. Graded washes can be very attractive but a flatter, even wash may be appropriate at times. At the very least, the watercolour painter should know how to do it.

There was a lot to talk about for such a simple looking thing. A wash of a single pigment is easier to apply than a wash comprised of two or more pigments. Lighter washes (more water) are easier to apply than darker washes (more pigment). I discussed how to plan the direction of the wash and follow the bead. Mix enough paint so you don’t run out partway through. Don’t dip your brush in the water as it will dilute the wash and often create blossoms. Float the paint on gently and don’t grind your brush into the paper. It takes practice and thought.

It was a challenge but everyone will improve gradually. Overall, the students had a very strong evening of painting and I was pleased to see the progress. Technique will get better; again with lots of practice. I’m seeing much more confidence in the handling of values and colour than even a few weeks ago. Well done!

Wednesday Critique

Fall Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

15/11/2018

It’s pomegranate season! I’d been keeping an eye on quality and prices for the past week or so and the creativity stars aligned in time for our Saturday and Tuesday classes. Cézanne loved to paint pomegranates and that’s good enough for me.

I talked mostly about colour selection on Saturday. The study on the upper right shows cast shadows on three different surfaces; a green plate, a gold fabric and a white fabric. Notice how the colour of the cast shadow relates to the colour of each surface.

I discussed the lessons from the Saturday demonstration with the Tuesday students, as well. In addition to that, I did a few studies and varied the washes using soft edge techniques.

The students paid attention to my offerings but didn’t need me for inspiration. Maybe, they channeled their inner Cézannes. They certainly made the most of our annual still-life of juicy pomegranates.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Tuesday Critique