Posts Tagged ‘watercolour’

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.

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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 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

 

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Five!

09/11/2018

This pile of old ball caps was our painting subject at the Dundas Valley School of Art last Wednesday evening. We’ve already painted ceramic and metal objects as well as fruit and vegetables. Why not these soft, crumpled forms that take the light so nicely?

Several of the students had upgraded their watercolour paper to something more absorbent and of a better quality and I’m glad they did. I reviewed soft edge techniques again and stressed simplification. It’s not necessary to paint every single wrinkle!

Last week, many of the students struggled. One reason was the usual and quite normal adjustment to new techniques. The other reason was trying to overcome the hurdle of cheap paper. What do I really think about the importance of using an appropriate paper? I promise not to mention it again.

There was a happy atmosphere during our critique at the end of the evening. Gaining competence with these techniques will continue to require lots of practice but the work looked great!

Wednesday Critique

Wednesday Watercolour at DVSA – Week Four!

07/11/2018

It was our fourth evening at the Dundas Valley School of Art and we’re already at the midpoint of the fall term. It was also Halloween although I didn’t choose a thematic still-life. Instead, I went for these colourful metal objects. I wanted to discuss soft edge techniques again and these seemed to be an appropriate subject.

I reviewed and elaborated on a few ways to create the gentle transitions of a soft edge. How wet is the first wash? How dark is the second wash? Timing! There was a lot to talk about. The bottom right study, by the way, was an example of how not to do a wash. You had to be there.

I also stressed the importance of using the right paper for the job. My material list suggested absorbent papers such as Arches, Winsor & Newton and Saunders; all 140lb. and cold pressed. Unfortunately, many of the students disregarded this and purchased cheap, non-absorbent paper. I’ve watched them struggle with it for a few weeks and brought it to their attention again last Wednesday. We’ll see what they turn up with tonight.

Everyone worked hard and gained experience and that’s the important thing. However, we’ll see if better quality paper makes a difference over the next few weeks. It should. That’s why they make the good stuff.

Wednesday Critique

Vermont 2018 – Our Last Day was Friday at Glover!

09/10/2018

One more to day to go and the weather was beautiful! One more demonstration, as well, and I decided to offer two basic approaches to painting clouds.

In my first study, all the shapes were drawn in pencil first. I left a fair bit of paper white on the puffy clouds but used an off-white wash in the ‘background’ clouds. Washes were allowed to dry before new ones were applied. The puffy clouds were painted one at a time. I started them with either clean water or a pale wash and touched in the darker values while wet. Very step by step and it took about fifteen minutes or so (using a hairdryer sped things up).

My second study took about four minutes. Cloud shapes were loosely indicated with light pencil marks. I wet the sheet with water overall but left dry patches for the white of the clouds. The light blue went in next and the darker cloud values followed.

The two different basic approaches were appreciated by the group. Of course, there are probably as many ways to paint clouds as there are actual clouds but one has to start somewhere.

Our painting site was the town of Glover and it was full of Vermont character with a wonderful general store and Red Sky Trading. A short stroll took some of our painters into the rural countryside. The colours were out in their glory and it was another fulfilling and creative day.

A shady spot

A not so shady spot

Feeling the Bern!

All good things come to an end, as they say. This was our last day and we had an evening itinerary. First, however, we returned to the Ski Hut Studio to look at our work from Friday. Remember to click on a critique image to view a larger version.

Friday Critique a

Friday Critique b

Friday Critique c

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a fine Farewell Dinner at the Highland Lodge. Heidi, Chad, Brittany, Arnold and the whole team had looked after us very well all week long and our dinner was a great way to wrap up. There was musical entertainment, as well, and Heidi sang a song to our group of watercolour painters. It was the John Denver classic, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’.

After dinner, it was back to the studio for our Final Critique. Each artist selected three works to show us and it was a nice way to summarize and recall our endeavours together. Several of the group stayed on Saturday and explored even more of the Northeast Kingdom but our workshop was over.

Thanks go to all of our participants, the staff at Highland Lodge and the very friendly Vermonters we encountered every day. Thank you for following! Next stop is from March 21-31, 2019 in beautiful and safe San Miguel de Allende. Care to join me for a painting adventure in Mexico? Click here to view all of the details!

Vermont 2018 – First Two Days!

03/10/2018

I just got back from beautiful Vermont last night. A week ago Sunday, on the 23d of September, our group of Canadian and American watercolour painters converged on the lovely and welcoming Highland Lodge, which overlooks Caspian Lake in the Northeast Kingdom. Our generous host, Heidi Lauren, offered us cocktails in the charming bar before we enjoyed a delicious Welcome Dinner together.

MONDAY
The following morning, Monday the 24th, we met in our Ski Hut Studio. I started the painting week off with a slide presentation with two themes. The first segment was entitled Planning Your Watercolour and focused on a sound process. The second part featured the work of acclaimed Canadian artist, A. J. Casson (1898-1992). Casson was a member of the celebrated Group of Seven; a ground-breaking group of Canadian landscape painters. We took particular interest in how he simplified foliage in his watercolours and oils and how he dealt with fall foliage, in particular.

A. J. Casson

A. J. Casson

After our studio meeting, we headed to the famous Greensboro Barn at Turning Stone Farm and were hosted by local artist, Jennifer Ranz. It was a wonderful painting site with a great variety of subject matter including the barn itself and a classic Vermont maple sugar shack.

We settled in for the day. The painters spread out all over the property. It was overcast and cool but that doesn’t stop a keen bunch of ‘en plein air’ watercolourists!

Eventually, it was time to warm up and have a look at the day’s work. It was a short drive back to the lodge and our Ski Hut Studio. Here’s the work from our first day. Click on any critique image to view a larger version.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
It was a grim day. Cool and wet. Fortunately, we had our spacious and well-furnished studio where we met for a demonstration. Looking again at the work of A. J. Casson, I discussed the simplification of foliage and greens, as well. Do you see the four swatches of green in the lower left corner? They were all darkened with the same wash of Cobalt Blue. Works, doesn’t it?

The resourceful painters found several places to work for the day. The studio, the front porch, the lodge interior and even through the windows of their rooms and cabins. Of course, it helped that the Highland Lodge has a spectacular view.

Ski Hut Studio

Lodge Interior

Front Porch

Undaunted! It was a productive day as you can see from our critique. Stay tuned for the next episode of our creative adventures. There’s lots more to come from Vermont.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

 

Grand Manan Island 2018 – First Three Days!

05/08/2018

Last Sunday, the 2018 workshop participants arrived on this beautiful island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Everyone settled in to their lodgings and, in the early evening, gathered at the Compass Rose Inn for our Welcome Dinner. It was a delicious lobster feast.

MONDAY
On Monday morning, we met at 9am sharp at our studio, the North Head Market Hall. We discussed the week ahead. Some of the more experienced painters headed out to the nearby harbour and got to work. I kept the newer participants behind and taught my ‘drawing checklist’ which hinges on the use of a measuring stick to help with angles (perspective) and proportion. At one point, we stepped outside to analyze the angles of a neighbouring building.

Following our session at the studio, the rest of the group wandered over to the harbour and settled in to sketch and paint for the day.

As we painted, the everyday activities of the island went on around us, such as harvesting rockweed.

It was a great start to our week. At the end of the day, we went back to our studio for our critique. Click on any critique image to see a larger version.

After critique, I presented a slide show (PowerPoint) with the theme of planning a watercolour. It included ideas and artwork of quite a range of artists from the contemporary American Frank Webb to renowned English watercolour painters from as far back as a few hundred years ago. It set the table for the Tuesday morning demonstration.

Monday Critique a

Monday Critique b

TUESDAY
Woodward’s Cove was our sketching and painting venue for Tuesday. I followed up on ideas we’d discussed during the Monday slide presentation and demonstrated on-site at my easel.

I painted a study in four values; paper-white, light middle value, dark middle value and dark. Let me show you the steps.

I started with a pencil drawing. Next, I painted a light middle value everywhere except for the areas I wanted to preserve as my most important lights.

A dark middle value starts to show more structure overall.

The final value is the darkest of all. The darks add definition and detail.

The harbour at Woodward’s Cove drains completely at low tide and fills up again six hours later. It’s a great painting site with a wide range of subject matter.

Another day of sunshine! Eventually, we gathered at our studio for critique.

Tuesday Critique a

Tuesday Critique b

WEDNESDAY
This workshop, as stated on my website, is for participants with some previous experience in the medium. No-one in our group was a complete beginner but several had taken other watercolour courses and not really been taught any fundamentals. Go figure! So, on Wednesday morning, I gave a short refresher of basic techniques and brush-handling in the studio.

Once the demonstration was done, we joined the rest of the gang at historic Seal Cove. A bit of fog rolled in and added some mystery to the old herring smokesheds and docks that make this such a special painting spot.

Lovely, isn’t it? Let’s see what the painters did at Seal Cove.

Wednesday Critique a

Wednesday Critique b

We have two more days to go on spectacular Grand Manan Island! Thanks for following and stay tuned.

 

 

Spring Tuesday and Saturday Watercolour Classes – Week Three!

05/05/2018

The Arts on Adrian studio resembled a thrift store this week. My pile of old shoes was definitely an unorthodox subject but the quasi-organic, soft forms offered a different kind of challenge than our previous still-lifes this term.

Once in a while, I like to demonstrate a ‘shape-reading’ approach to watercolour painting. This means starting with the watercolour brush; no prior pencil drawing! Several of the students have experimented with shape-reading before but some were tackling it for the first time. I started my demonstration with the afternoon class and added to it for the evening class.

Old shoes and boots may lack glamour but they can be a reasonably forgiving subject. Let’s have a look at the work from the Tuesday students.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

The Saturday students have a full day and I urged them to not just paint shoes but tell a story with their paintings. I also strongly suggested that they be bolder and more interpretative with colour. I didn’t have to tell them twice. Here’s my Saturday demonstration followed by the student paintings.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Click on the critique images to view a larger version. That’s it for spring term at Arts on Adrian! It was short but sweet and I thank the great students for their enthusiasm and creativity. I’ll be in touch soon.

Drawing Birds with Pen and Watercolour at DVSA!

04/05/2018

My workshop at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday was an introduction to drawing birds with pen and watercolour. We worked from photo reference, which I provided, and our first project was a ‘portrait’ of a male Pileated Woodpecker.

Proportion is very important when drawing birds. I taught the students how to create and work from a basic grid. Most had never used a grid and found it to be very useful.

I’ll show you my demonstration in three steps, starting with the pencil drawing.

Next came the watercolour. I did two values of most of the colours.

The final step was the penwork.

Even when working from a grid, this woodpecker is a challenging subject. We took our time and the care and patience resulted in some strong drawings.

Pileated Woodpecker Critique

I had prepared photo reference and studies of two other birds; a Canada Warbler and a Killdeer. Here are my studies.

Canada Warbler

Killdeer

The students didn’t get too far along with their second drawings but they enjoyed the process and learned a lot. They now feel better equipped to draw birds from their own photographs. Here’s a peek at the work in progress.

Works in progress

Works in progress