Posts Tagged ‘watercolour classes’

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Three!

11/03/2020

Cabinet of curios? Treasure Chest? Ye Olde Antique Shoppe? Whatever you want to call it, this still-life offered a variety of opportunities for the watercolour students.

The Sustained Saturday group was first up. I discussed the subtle colours of the still-life; earthy browns and varied greys. Brasses and coppers. I restricted myself to primary colours (yellow, red and blue) and used the three of them to mix all other hues. Why did I do that? Try it sometime. You’ll learn a lot about colour and your palette if you limit yourself to the primaries. Also, your colours will tend to harmonize more successfully when you employ less of them.

As usual, I urged the students to zoom in on an area of interest. I never suggest that they paint the entire still-life. As they work on their thumbnail compositional studies, I walk around the studio and offer my thoughts. The group enjoyed the still-life and their pleasure is evident in the day’s work.

Sustained Saturday Critique

My demonstration for the Tuesday class focused on the same ideas. I showed them the demo sheet from Saturday, as well.

The Tuesday afternoon group also responded enthusiastically to the subject matter. I’m amazed at what they can achieve in three short hours.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Currently, I’m planning spring classes and they’ll be posted on this blog in a few days. I’ll send out my usual email notification, too. Of course, the coronavirus may ultimately affect the spring schedule and I’ll address that when I promote the classes. In the meantime, wash your hands and stay well!

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA!

22/02/2020

I was back at Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday for the first evening class of a series of four. The group was a very balanced mix of ‘regular’ students and new (to me) ones. All have some experience in the watercolour medium but not all had done a lot of, or any, prior observational still-life painting. Everyone was keen, however, and I’m looking forward to the next three classes.

Finding and preserving the key light may be the most critical element of observational and representational work. It’s always challenging in a studio lit with numerous fluorescent tubes. I always place a lamp with a strong bulb over the still-life and that’s the light source we try to heed. The fluorescent lights confuse the issue but, alas, we need them to see what we’re doing. At the start of the class, and once in a while throughout, I’ll turn off the overhead tubes for a few minutes. This helps everyone see the important light much better and always enhances the still-life.

My demonstration focused on finding the light and also on creating interest in the shadowy areas of the objects. I like to emphasize the positive but the right side of the sheet shows a few examples of ‘how not to draw’. I’d already presented my more positive drawing approach briefly in the mortar and pestle study on the left.

There are a lot of objects in my still-lifes but I never recommend that the students paint them all. I suggest that they choose an area of the collection and do a thumbnail compositional study before enlarging it on their watercolour sheet. With several students new to this experience, I also suggested that they forget about composing and painting a group of objects but create a sheet of individual studies. Some chose this route and I think that the focus on practice over product will make the class a more successful learning experience for them.

I enjoyed the evening and the enthusiasm of the group. Stay tuned for their efforts over the next three Wednesday evenings. As one of my DVSA colleagues says, “practice makes progress”!

Wednesday Critique

 

Interpret Your Photos in Watercolour at DVSA – Weeks Three and Four!

30/01/2020

WEEK THREE

Wednesday Critique-Week Three

These are the small watercolours that the students completed during the third evening of our four-week course at Dundas Valley School of Art. Also, you can see their four-value studies. I allowed them a lot of painting time but still introduced a few new ideas.

One of those ideas was the notan. Notan is a Japanese word and it means ‘light dark harmony’. A notan is usually a two-value study of the essence of the subject. White and black. I found some excellent information about notans at two websites: drawpaintacademy.com/notan/ and virtualartacademy.com/notan/

Here is a photo I took in Vermont and a notan I made from it. I used pencil and a black marker. You can see a basic grid and you’ll note quite a few little adjustments to the composition.

In addition to that, I talked about other approaches to four-value studies. We’d done ours in watercolour and used ‘sepia’ washes. They can also be done with pencil or markers or just about any medium that works for you.

I did one from a photo that one of my Toronto students had brought in for the one-day workshop last winter (are you reading this, Emilia?). In this case, I used grey and black markers and here are the steps I took:

Courtesy of Emilia

 

  

As you can see, I made some very strong decisions about this composition. I’ve edited a lot and re-arranged the lamppost to better effect, I think. Remember that I’m interpreting the photo and not simply copying it!

We had another discussion about colour mixing, as well as a few tips for painting foliage. The students completed the work shown above and we looked ahead to week four.

WEEK FOUR
We kicked off the evening with a look at the photos the students proposed to interpret for their final project. Several of the group had done homework and I commend their enthusiasm! This work included notans and even some small colour studies.

My goal for the final class was to give them as much painting time as possible. Still, I had two things I wanted to present. First of all, I took a few minutes and showed the gang a book by eminent Australian watercolourist, Robert Wade. His book is entitled Painting More Than The Eye Can See. It’s full of excellent ideas about watercolour process and creative license. You can see how well-worn my copy is.

As the students worked, I provided them with some information regarding copyright, moral rights, the ethics of painting from photos and other related issues.

We covered a great deal of material in four evenings. One student said that her only complaint was that the course was too short. I think she may be right. The next time I propose the course, I’ll probably ask for six or eight weeks.

It was a very nice group and I’ll conclude with a look at the work they did during our final evening. Not everyone finished as we only had a few hours but they all followed a thoughtful process that, with practice, will really bring their photo reference to life!

Click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Wednesday Critique-
Week Four

 

Winter Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week One!

15/01/2020

This is a very dramatically-lit photo of our still-life for the Saturday and Tuesday classes. Maybe, the unusual lack of snow in these parts made me long for some white in my visual world. Come to think of it, I hadn’t presented white objects for quite a while so it seemed to be a good idea. Also, white objects make us focus on values, of course, and so it was a great way to kick off the winter classes.

First of all, let me show you a few close-up views of the still-life. I always recommend that the students select an area of the still-life as opposed to doing the entire thing. As you can see, there were many potential compositions to choose from.

On Saturday, I discussed colour options for making objects look white. In addition to that, I talked about observation and distinguishing direct light from reflected light. The white of the paper may seem like the best option for the areas of direct light but we considered some others. The three vertical swatches show cool, warm and neutral options for off-whites (as well as darker values of each).

The dark rectangle on the upper left has a whitish area within it. This closer look will show you faint hints of colour that give the white a nice glow. I created it by wetting the area. While wet, I randomly touched in some very diluted yellow, red and blue. Here’s a closer look:

This is the work from the Sustained Saturday class. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

On Tuesday afternoon, we first looked at the demonstration from Saturday. Then, I began a new sheet with a few variations of our theme. In the pitcher on the left, I used a blue/violet combination for the shadows. In the small pitcher on the right, I deliberately exaggerated the dark shadow areas and I varied the wash quite a bit. I wanted the students to feel comfortable, if not courageous, when adding interest to large areas of shadow.

I had a full house on Tuesday afternoon and there was a nice energy in the studio. I think it shows in the work they accomplished! Same suggestion; click on it for a better look.

Tuesday Afternoon 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 Class at DVSA – Week One!

03/10/2019

It’s pumpkin time in southern Ontario and that means that fall term is underway at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I teach a class called Watercolour: Concept and Technique on Wednesday evenings. It’s an intermediate level class but I always like to start with a few fundamentals. Last night, I discussed value and light and shadow. Our class is still-life based and a solid grasp of these concepts is of key importance to observational painting and drawing.

I kicked things off with a demonstration of a value study. I did a pencil drawing and then mixed a brown wash with Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I applied the wash everywhere except where I saw direct light hitting the still-life. This simplifies and unifies the subject and creates a pattern in the painting. We also start to feel an emerging three-dimensional quality.

The students got to work following the demonstration. While they worked, I painted another small demonstration and called them over to see the successive steps. This time, I began with a wash of the same two colours but it includes a lot more  Cobalt Blue and appears as a cool grey. Once again, the areas of direct light were left untouched and remain the white of the paper. The ‘panels’ of the squash were painted one at a time, which allowed me more control as I created soft-edge transitions. When the grey washes were completely dry, I glazed thin washes of local colour over the relevant areas.

 

This is a rather old-fashioned way to paint a watercolour and was employed by many of the early English watercolourists hundreds of years ago. All approaches and processes have their pros and cons. This method is very helpful to the student who strives to understand value.

We got off to a good start and I’m looking forward to our next seven Wednesday evenings at DVSA. Please, click on the critique image to view a larger version.

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 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

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Three!

25/10/2018

I employed the KISS rule yesterday at the Dundas Valley School of Art. Keep it simple, student! Last week, you may recall that very few of the paintings were finished at the end of the night. I don’t really care as to whether or not they’re finished but I do think it’s important to go through the whole process. With that in mind, I suggested a few options; smaller paintings and/or less objects in the painting. In addition to that, I opted to use pears, always a classic subject, with some simple pots to set them off.

My demonstration sheet below is of the ‘you had to be there’ variety. It doesn’t look like much but I used it to discuss basic ‘soft edge’ techniques. The demonstration plus our discussion clicked somehow.

I’d like to take a little bit of credit for the results but I didn’t paint these watercolours, did I? Overall, the students really pushed themselves and were much more satisfied with their work than they had been last week. I’m also pleased that the less-experienced watercolour painters have shown improvement every class. See you at DVSA next week!

Wednesday Critique

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!

01/03/2018

What better way to spend a Wednesday evening than to paint watercolours from the still-life at the Dundas Valley School of Art? I’ve had these geometric ceramic objects for a long time. They’re fun to paint but, even better, they can be broken down into their component shapes much like the teddy bears from last week. This offers an opportunity to practice soft-edge washes with the shapes and that was the focus of my demonstration.

I painted a shape at a time, following a ‘light to dark’ and ‘big to small’ process. The smaller, textural strokes came last.

I’m quite pleased with the student’s work and their progress over our seven evenings together. There’s only one more class to go! I’ve got another interesting still-life planned. See you next week.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b