Posts Tagged ‘watercolour painting’

Winter Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Three!

06/03/2020

Thanks for all of your comments about the value of critiques last week! I think that most of us consider the critique to be an indispensable element of an art class.

I chose these colourful gift bags for our still-life at Dundas Valley School of Art on Wednesday evening. First of all, the colours are cheerful. Secondly, the broad, flat planes allowed me to deal with applying even, ungraded washes for my demonstration. I painted the overall shape of this green bag first and strove to keep the wash consistent and without streaks or blossoms.

Following that, I continued to develop the bag, guided by a light to dark and big to small process. I used soft-edge techniques to show value transitions on the ribbon.

It was only our third class (one more to go) and I’m pleased with the progress already. There’s a lot to deal with in the world of observational painting; drawing, composing, grasping light and shadow, brush-handling and more!

Wednesday Critique

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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

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 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

Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick 2019 – Our First Three Days!

20/08/2019

Last week, I led an ‘en plein air’ watercolour workshop on beautiful Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. This is the twenty-ninth summer that I’ve taught on the island. Our group of workshop participants was a nice blend of repeaters and first-timers. We got to know each other on Sunday evening over a delicious dinner at the lovely Compass Rose Inn.

MONDAY
It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we met in North Head Harbour. I demonstrated in the shade of a large boathouse. My goal was to encourage everyone to spend the day on smaller, quicker watercolour studies rather than settle into a sustained piece right off the bat. With that in mind, I’d prepared a small cardboard frame for each painter. The inside dimension is 4×6″, the size of a postcard.

I worked at my easel. My demonstrations are, in a sense, illustrated discussions. I rarely complete a finished work as a demonstration. My goal is to show a process and discuss it’s benefits. I worked in the 4×6″ format and didn’t do a preliminary pencil drawing. Straight in with the brush! I told the group that I would not criticize them for inaccurate proportion or perspective. I wanted to see what attracted them to the subject; it’s essence. Simplification and editing were stressed. Each painter was asked to do a minimum of two vertical and two horizontal small works over the course of our first day.

Another thing we talk about every morning is the availability of coffee and lunch and, very importantly, the location of the closest washrooms. Eventually, the painters explored the harbour, found their spots and got to work.

Grand Manan is a busy place. Rockweed was being harvested just off the shore as we painted.

I’ll never complain about the sunshine but there is a time for a shady break. Our friend, Kirk, opened up his shed and revealed a whole other range of colourful maritime subject matter.

At the end of the day, we headed to our studio for a critique. This is the first year that we’ve been hosted by the Grand Manan Art Gallery and our liaison, David Ogilvie, made us very welcome.

It was a productive day and I managed to display all of the work together. Click on any critique image in this post in order to view a larger version.

Monday Critique

TUESDAY


The morning was damp and overcast so I gave a demonstration in the studio. I knew the sun would be out soon and it was only day two; a good time to discuss value. Years ago, I painted a watercolour of the now ruined Ross Island lighthouse in my playful quasi-modernist style and donated it to the Permanent Collection of the Grand Manan Art Gallery.

Ross Island Light by Barry Coombs

I drew up the image the night before, simplifying it a great deal. Using a combination of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, I mixed up three values of a ‘sepia’ wash. Paper white was reserved for the lightest areas, followed by the light and dark middle values and, finally, the darks. This process establishes a light direction as well as a pattern in the image. While working ‘en plein air’, a value study can be very useful if not essential. It’s not necessary to spend forever on it or even to paint it. A quick pencil sketch will often suffice.

Demonstration done! Sun shining! We jumped in our vehicles and went to Woodward’s Cove. The harbour there offers all kinds of great painting material. The group spread out a fair bit but I knew where they all were and enjoyed the exercise as I visited and gave feedback throughout the day.

I’ve conducted outdoor critiques many times over the years but the comfort and proximity of the studio prevailed this week. It was back to the gallery in nearby Castalia at the end of the day, where we broke up the critique into two groups.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
Seal Cove was the venue for watercolour painting on Wednesday. This popular site still hosts several old sheds that were once used to smoke herring; a key industry in the island’s past. I demonstrated onsite and chose to show an approach I call ‘shape-reading’. As usual, it was an opportunity to look at a subject and discuss a sound process and anticipate potential challenges or problems. The demo was optional as many of the experienced participants had witnessed the approach in other workshops.

Following that, I gathered the participants who were new to my workshops and taught them how to tackle proportion and perspective with a measuring stick. All of those weathered buildings and docks demanded careful consideration of angles. The weather was fine again and another successful day was underway.

Critiques are always constructive and a big part of the learning experience. As you can see, the sheds were by far the most popular subject. The weather forecast looked good (they were givin’ fine, as the locals say) for Thursday. The plan was to paint at Ingall’s Head. Stay tuned!

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

 

 

Spring Watercolour Classes at Arts on Adrian – Week Two!

01/05/2019

Wait a minute! Where’s the still-life? I was well prepared for the Saturday and Tuesday classes at Arts on Adrian in Toronto. I thought, for a change, I’d show you how the still-life was assembled.

Our theme made the studio interior feel more spring-like than what we could see out the window. It was a cold and wet April in our neck of the woods. Setting this up was a fair bit of work but worth it as the students enjoyed it very much. This is what they see (above) and the next image is what you see.

All set! Bring on the students. I believe that the Arts on Adrian studio matches any other in the region for lighting, facilities and general comfort. Coffee is always on, cookies lead to temptation and there’s an ensuite washroom.

On Saturday, the full day class, I demonstrated with a 3/4″ flat angled brush. I drew a bit in pencil first and worked quickly with the brush. I talked as I painted, discussing various elements of the still-life.

I didn’t insist that everyone else use a flat angled brush. Some did. Others stuck with their rounds. Either way, a lot of solid work was accomplished.

Sustained Saturday Critique

One of our students, Karen W, had to leave early to attend a wedding. Here’s her work in progress.

Work in progress by Karen W

We looked at my Saturday demonstration on Tuesday morning. In addition to that, I zoomed in on a few of the key elements of the still-life.

The Tuesday students made the most of their afternoon of painting. Here’s their work! Don’t forget to click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Tuesday Critique

 

Winter Wednesday Watercolour Class at DVSA – Week Eight!

18/03/2019

Our winter term at the Dundas Valley School of Art has come to an end. Two weeks late, mind you, due to the makeup classes needed after a very snowy and icy February. Anyway, it’s March at last and these kid’s rain boots seemed like an appropriate subject.

Why not review soft-edge techniques one more time? In addition to that, I showed how I approach the drawing of the objects. Getting the angles right is the key to fore-shortening the boots convincingly.

I’ve really enjoyed working with this group of eight watercolour painters. Attendance was excellent throughout and all were present for our last evening together. Gloria had to leave a bit early so here’s a look at her work in progress. Bold colour!

Here’s the rest of the work. Click on the image to view a larger version. There was significant progress over the weeks together. Working from direct observation is a time-honoured, traditional practice and it’s not easy!

I’ll be back at DVSA this spring. Thanks for following. Next stop; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

Wednesday Critique

Spring Tuesday Watercolour Class – April 5

07/04/2016

IMG_1966

Here’s another look at our edible still life from Saturday. The table was set for the Tuesday students and they made a meal of it. My demonstrations for the afternoon and evening classes were virtually identical to that of Saturday. I tried to complete them as quickly as possible because the Tuesday classes are three hours in duration and not six hours as they are on Saturday. The students are always starved for painting time.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

They did very well on Tuesday despite less cooking time. Let them know what you think with a comment.

My next Sustained Saturday class is on April 16 and there are two Tuesday classes on April 19. There’s a spot available for you so contact me if you’d like to join a friendly and creative group in a bright and spacious studio.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

Winter Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten

10/03/2015

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Winter term has come to an end. Hopefully, the winter weather is on the wane, as well. I opted for the classic shapes of the pears and warm colours for our last still life.

My demonstrations are basically watercolour sketches. As I painted, I chatted about many of the things we’ve discussed over the past ten classes. Simplification, soft edge, brush-handling, etc.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

It’s been a great term. Many of the students showed real progress. Most of all, everyone learns something, including me, every class. The students are very supportive of each other and we have fun. And the commitment! Kim made the time to come to class today before flying to Europe for a family March break holiday. Still, she had to leave before our critique so here is her watercolour.

PEARS by Kim Magee

PEARS
by Kim Magee

Thanks for participating, following, commenting and liking. My Spring Studio Calendar will be published on this blog in a few days. Spring Tuesdays start again on April 7.

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

 

 

Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Ten!

02/12/2014

IMG_1507

Fall term at my studio is over. I used the same still life from last Saturday’s class and it kept the Tuesday students busy.

My demonstration was mostly a quick review of soft-edge techniques to use with the apples. The morning demos are on the left and they’re duplicated, for the most part, on the right for evening class.

Have you ever had a problem with your materials that has adversely affected the look of your painting? Take a look at my morning McIntosh apple (upper left) and compare it to the evening version to it’s right. The blue flows into the morning apple much more fluidly than it does in the evening one.

Now, look at the two simplified shapes of Delicious apples on the bottom of the sheet. It’s even more obvious in the evening apple on the right! The blue looks streaky and so does the red around it. What happened?

Basically, watercolour is made with pigment and a binder and a few other elements. The traditional binder for watercolour is gum arabic. Check out this excellent link for very thorough and up to date information about the ingredients of watercolour paint.

So, here’s what I know. After I painted the morning demos, my palette was almost completely out of cool red. My cool red is Rose Madder Quinacridone. I found a tube that had a little bit of paint left in it and reloaded my palette. As I painted the evening McIntosh, I could tell that the red didn’t feel right; too gummy. I touched in the blue while the red was still wet and it didn’t flow nicely. As mentioned, it happened again with the evening Delicious and the difference is very dramatic.

Was it old paint? Even so, should that happen with artist quality paint? I’m curious and I’m still researching the problem on the internet. Guess what, though? I wiped my palette clean of the offending paint. I don’t care how much it cost. It wasn’t any good and an artist needs to be in control of their materials; not the other way around.

Watercolour demonstration sheet by Barry Coombs

Fortunately, the students didn’t have any technical problems. Just all the usual challenges of painting from direct observation. It’s been a great term. We always have fun. My Winter Calendar will be posted in a few days and we’ll be back in action in January. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday AM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique

Tuesday PM Critique