Posts Tagged ‘watercolour classes’

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Seven!


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


Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week One!


Last night, I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach Watercolour: Concept and Technique. This course, based on observation of the still-life, is comprised of eight evenings and we got off to a good start.

I didn’t discuss or demonstrate anything to do with watercolour technique. Rather, I focused on finding a composition with a thumbnail sketch/study. Thumbnail sketches are a very helpful part of the process. They don’t have to be pretty. They’re tools; not masterpieces. I lightly sketched an area of the still-life before deciding where I wanted to focus. I framed that area with pencil lines and shaded the main shadows within it. My next step was to enlarge the thumbnail on my watercolour paper while maintaining the same proportions as the sketch.

This was a new concept to many of the students. They worked hard on their thumbnails and on transferring the compositions to their larger watercolour sheets. The process slowed some of them down a bit and not all finished their watercolours. I didn’t mind that at all. As they incorporate thumbnails into their practice, they’ll become quicker and more assured. At the end of the evening, we looked at the paintings in two batches. See you next Wednesday!

Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b


Fall Studio Calendar 2016


Learn Traditionally; Paint Creatively
Barry Coombs will be offering weekday and weekend classes at Arts on Adrian in the fall of 2016. Classes are limited to twelve students, unless otherwise noted. Material lists are provided upon registration. Demonstrations, individual attention and constructive critiques are employed in all classes. The studio is accessible by transit and free parking is available. The studio is on the second floor and is not wheelchair-accessible.
Please, note that the studio is solvent and scent-free!

#224 – 15 Adrian Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M6N 5G4

Click here to view demonstrations from Barry’s classes and workshops.
Click here for directions.

This is an intermediate level course. It includes instruction in watercolour technique, drawing concepts, colour and composition. Masters of the medium, historic and contemporary, are examined. Personal development is stressed. This course is also suitable for students wishing to work in pencil, pen and ink or pen and wash.
Pre-requisite: a beginner watercolour course or equivalent experience.

Students are not required to enroll for all of the classes in a term. Individual classes may be selected but please read the registration information below. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

September 20, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 12 – 3pm, $45 (includes HST)

September 20, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
October 18, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 8, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)
November 29, 6:30 – 9:30, pm, $45 (includes HST)

Students work from the still-life in watercolour, pencil, pen and ink or any combination of these media. Watercolour painters may use a maximum size of 15 x 22″ (half sheet). This is an opportunity to work at a comfortable pace and develop a sustained image.
Pre-requisite: a beginner course or equivalent experience in watercolour, pen and ink or drawing.

Saturday, September 17, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, October 15, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 5, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)
Saturday, November 26, 11am – 5pm, $95 (includes HST)

To confirm a place in a class, please email Barry at Registrations are first-come, first-serve. Enrolment is guaranteed only when your cheque or etransfer is received.

You will receive a full refund if you notify me of your cancellation more than 36 hours before any class or workshop. If you give me less than 36 hours notice, I will not refund the fee unless I can fill the spot from the waiting list.

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Six



What’s in a background? This is the same photo of the still life that I showed you on Saturday. I selected the green fabric in order to enhance the objects. This, however, isn’t what my students see while they’re painting. They don’t see any sort of backdrop. This is what they see; minus the other students across the room from them.


Now, you know why you see different background colours and treatments in the student watercolours. Have another look at the last Sustained Saturday Critique and you’ll find some very imaginative and vibrant solutions. You might even think that no-one ever asks me for a suggestion about the background in their painting. You’d be wrong. I’m always hearing ‘I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do?’ Well, I don’t tell them what to do. What we do is review our options. Light or dark? Cool or warm? There are so many things to consider. Let’s have a look at some different background colours with the boots.


WHITE – Like the watercolour paper itself. Doesn’t do much for me. I prefer the green shown above.


ORANGE – Hmmm. I like it better than the white but does it complement or otherwise relate to any of the colours in the boots?


PURPLE – This is the darkest and coolest of the choices, so far. It seems to set off the various warm colours to good advantage. I like it. What do you think?

All we’ve discussed is choice of colour. What about grading the wash from light to dark? Or adding a window or some other familiar element? We’re just getting started but that’s enough for now. It’s time to talk about my Tuesday demonstration sheet.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Once again, I referred to the Saturday class. I talked about colour choices, simplification and process. In some cases, it might be a good idea to paint the entire shape of a boot before letting it dry and glazing other colours over it. In the upper left corner, I painted a green shape. Next, I added the pure Cobalt Blue (see the swatch to the left of the boot). I ended up with dark green and not blue.

With the boot on the right, I looked at it’s component shapes and painted them one at a time. This allowed for more control of the washes, particularly when soft edges were desired. It also gave me a blue and green boot.

The Tuesday students have only half the painting time of the Saturday students. Wisely, most of them kept their backgrounds simple but there are still some very effective treatments.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Five!



Soft forms. So far this term we’ve painted pears, cardboard boxes, metal containers and pumpkins. It was time for the challenge of soft forms and these ball caps were ready to go to work.

But, what is the strange, rumpled creature shown below in greys? It’s a partially squished ball cap and I used it to discuss value, soft-edge techniques and brush-handling. In the full demonstration sheet, I’ve added colour and that helps to tie it together. I wouldn’t make this cap the focal point in a painting. For that, I’d choose a cap more in profile and easier to understand at a glance. My crumpled cap would serve better as a ‘best supporting actor’.

Watercolour study by Barry Coombs

We also discussed a few thoughts about creative licence which I printed on the full demonstration sheet.

Watercolour study sheet by Barry Coombs

Almost all of the students chose to develop the values in grey before adding colour with thin washes. The ball caps are an unusual subject but a lot was learned from them and the results are very dramatic.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Fall Tuesday Watercolour – Week One


Still Life - FallTues2013Wk1

We’re back in action! It was great to see all of the regulars and to meet my new students yesterday. I decided to get back to basics and suggested that value and light and shadow be our focus.

My demonstration is on a quarter sheet (11 x 15″) of Curry’s, 200 lb., Cold Press paper. I used a #10 round watercolour brush and two colours, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue (from Da Vinci).

I stressed simplification of form and careful observation of direct light.

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - FallTues2013Wk1

My demonstrations are always suggestions. Yesterday, almost all of the students followed my lead. Many did two works; a value study and a colour study. After a long summer, it wasn’t a bad idea to concentrate on the basics. Have a look at their work. I think we’re going to see some exciting watercolour paintings in the months ahead.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique


Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique



Sustained Saturday – Watercolour Plus!


Still LIfe - SpringSat1/2013

The Saturday regulars were back for a full day of watercolour painting. Watercolour is our primary focus but some very nice drawings were created, as well.

I talked about simplification and discussed a few brush-handling techniques while painting my demonstration sheet. It’s important to understand the forms of the pears when you paint them. How is the light hitting them? Do the core shadows describe the objects?

Watercolour Demonstration by Barry Coombs - SpringSat1/2013

The Saturday students always apply themselves to the task at hand with great enthusiasm. It’s not all hard work, though. We had a lot of fun and it’s very nice to see them leave with smiles on their faces.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Sustained Saturday Critique

I’ve got one more watercolour to show you. I photographed it separately because the artist, Jane Dalton, had to leave a bit early. I’ve know Jane for a long time but life and work commitments took her out of the country for several years. She’s been getting back into watercolour painting recently and doing very well.

Thanks for your comments, likes and for following our efforts.

PEARSby Jane Dalton

by Jane Dalton

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Two – Shoes!


Still Life - WinterTuesWk2

It’s surprising how much fun it can be to paint a pile of old shoes and boots. Fun but not without it’s challenges and drawing is probably Challenge Number One.

Step one of drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

The first sheet shows two shoes drawn with straight strokes only. Lots of light lines are used to find the shape of the shoe. I’ve darkened the lines here for better visibility.

Step two of drawing demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

Curved strokes are next. As I draw, I analyze the shapes and try to think about how I will paint them. My watercolour demonstration is in progress below. A tightly cropped composition can help us focus on shapes rather than trying to be overly literal about depicting the shoes. It’s important to study edges where shapes touch each other. Can a dark value be used to set off a light area?

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk2

Our guest artist was Canadian painter Aba Bayefsky (1923-2001). Aba had a lifelong love for Toronto’s Kensington Market. He was one of my teachers at the Ontario College of Art and I remember him for his sense of humour and insights into my student struggles with drawing and watercolour.

Kensington Shoe Storeby Aba BayefskyPrivate Collection

Many of his charming and spirited drawings and watercolours of the lively ethnic Market have been collected in this book from Mosaic Press. He treats the shoes and boots in a playful manner but his keen observation never wavers.

Aba Bayefsky in Kensington MarketWinterTuesWk2

The careful drawing did slow down many of our artists. I don’t mind looking at unfinished paintings during our end-of-class critiques. The process is more important to me than the product. Still, the two classes  created some very strong watercolours.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week One


Still Life - WinterTuesWk12013

Happy New Year, art lovers! It was time to get back to watercolour painting at my studio yesterday. I like to start each term with some colour and some familiar yet pleasing shapes and the citrus fruit seemed to fit the bill.

I used my demonstrations, almost like diagrams on a blackboard, to illustrate the fundamentals that I discussed at the start of each class. Simplification, value and colour were my main topics. I did these little watercolours with my primaries only; Aureolin (Mixture), Rose Madder Quinacridone and Cobalt Blue, all from the Da Vinci Paint Company.

Watercolour demonstration by Barry Coombs - WinterTuesWk12013

Some of the students are still fairly new to watercolour and I asked them to keep their paintings as simple as my demonstrations. As it happened, a few of the more experienced artists liked the idea and tried it, as well. The rest went ahead and did their thing and we had some very colourful and cheerful results.

It looks like we have a creative winter term ahead of us. Thanks for following.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique


Sustained Saturday – Watercolour Plus


A little colour is always welcome on a grey November day. The peppers may not have been quite as welcome. They’re a tricky subject.

I used my demonstration sheet to discuss various elements of our still-life. Mixing darker values of warm colours such as yellow and red is always a challenge. I usually use some version of the colour’s complement. Basically, the yellow was darkened with violet.

The baskets pose an interesting problem, as well. Consider the big shapes of the orange basket in my demo as the first step. Notice the little rectangular swatches above it? They can be painted over the big shapes, when dry. Then, the dark thin strokes can be used to suggest the shadows where the panels of the basket overlap.

The group responded very well, as you can see from their colourful and interesting compositons. Most of them did thumbnail sketches in their sketchbooks prior to painting. Some also painted individual studies of the objects on a separate study sheet. Good practice leads to strong results.

That’s it for Fall Saturdays. Why don’t you join us in the new year? Have a look at my Winter Studio Calendar.

Sustained Saturday Critique