Posts Tagged ‘works on paper’



I’ve been doing a lot of pen and ink drawing during the pandemic. I use a traditional dipping pen with Speedball nibs, Speedball Super Black India Ink and, for some of the drawings, acrylic ink. Cross-hatching is the technique I employ. Cross-hatching with a pen has been one of my favourite creative activities since childhood. It relaxes me and allows me to gradually develop a range of values.

Lockdown Drawings reference photo

The starting point for these drawings is a rather ordinary photo I took of a back alley in Hamilton, Ontario. The cast/core shadow pattern had attracted me. I refined an overall shape from the pattern in the photo.

Lockdown Drawing #1

Each drawing is a variation of the shape and stays within it’s confines except for the occasional wandering line; a fairly obvious analogy of my behaviour during the lockdown.

Lockdown Drawing #2

My goal was to explore the infinite variety of options within a limited shape. Tonal gradations and the internal geometry of the shape are key concerns. The subtle gold lines in #2 are drawn with FW Artists Ink Gold, an acrylic ink.

Lockdown Drawing #3

Lockdown Drawing #4

Gold ink is used again in #3 and #4. These reproductions do not show the reflective quality of the gold ink. The originals definitely profit from the ‘gilt’ shine.

These are small drawings, approx. 8×8″. To date, there are sixteen drawings in the series.


The Dramatic Pen at DVSA!


I was at the Dundas Valley School of Art yesterday, joined by a full studio of enthusiastic art students. The title of the workshop, the Dramatic Pen, refers to the use of black and white ink on a toned or tinted paper. This practice goes back a long way. We looked at a book of German drawings and I’m showing a few here from the great Albrecht Dürer.

The paper colour in the German drawings varied from grays to blues, greens, deep reds and exciting purples. The tone of the paper, regardless of colour, acts as a middle tone. The colour of the paper often dramatized and enhanced the subject.


The tools of our trade were fairly simple. Pigment ink pens in black and white were used. The white pen is a Uniball Signo broad. I would have preferred a somewhat finer nib but it was unavailable at our local art supply store. The black pen is a #8 Pilot drawing pen. Our paper is Canson pastel paper, purchased in a pad.

We kicked off with a discussion of basic volumes and principles of light and shadow. This gave us a chance to try out the pens and work on our cross-hatching technique. Note that the white is reserved exclusively for areas of direct light.

Our next project was of a garlic and each student was issued one. The creases in the skin of the garlic helped us decide on line direction. Here are two steps of my demonstration:

The students selected the paper colour of their own choice. They did a great job with their garlics. If you click on any of the critique images, you’ll see a larger version.

Garlic critique a

Garlic critique b

Our final drawing was of a beautiful Henry Moore sculpture. Wait a minute! That sure resembles a dog chew. No offence intended to the great Henry Moore. The organic quality of the dog chew made it a good subject. Have a look at two steps of my demonstration. I added a bit of stippling to this study.

Once the comments about dog chews died down, everyone applied themselves to the task at hand.

I’m offering one more workshop this spring; Introduction to Portraiture in Pen and Ink on Thursday, June 14. Stay tuned!

JUST A HOUSE – Final Gouache

JUST A HOUSE by Barry Coombs

by Barry Coombs

As promised, here is the final version of my painting in gouache and watercolour. I call it JUST A HOUSE. It’s approximately 12 x 16″ and was made on Arches, 140 lb., CP watercolour paper. The preliminary washes were done with Da Vinci Watercolours and I used Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache. My sketch is posted below so you can see what changes and adjustments I made.

I photographed the piece with my Canon PowerShot and processed it with iPhoto. It looks fine in iPhoto and in Preview but it looks blurry and not very good on my monitor. It’s disappointing and I have no idea what the problem is but I hope it looks all right to you.

That doesn’t mean you have to like the painting. Let me tell you a bit about my process:

GETTING STARTED: I began with flat, geometric watercolour washes. The whole sheet was painted a pumpkin colour and the house shapes were added in a deep and cool brown.

DRAWING: I pencil in each shape before applying the gouache but I only draw a few shapes at a time, adding more as the image develops. Everything is freehand.

GOUACHE: Gouache is an opaque medium but some colours are more opaque than others. As with acrylic and oil, white can, and often should, be used to increase the opacity of weaker colours and add body to darker colours. Yellow!!! The door of my house was red for quite a while and, after much deliberation, I changed it to yellow. Applying yellow over the darker red proved to be a real technical challenge. Disaster almost struck!

COLOUR: I’m generally an intuitive colourist but I did take the requisite colour classes at art school. I often use complementary colours and I love to incorporate black and white in my work. Take a look at your art history books. Black and white were as important to early Renaissance artists as to the much more recent Modernists.

MOTIVATION: I like to set challenges for myself. Not every painting has to end up in an exhibition or even a frame. My goal was to create a whimsical and colourful image from a rather bleak, geometric beginning. Memory and imagination are important elements in my process.

PATIENCE: Obviously, I allow myself a great deal of artistic licence. More importantly, I have to issue myself an artistic restraining order every time I paint. Get back and get away from it for a while! My students are either smiling or grimacing as they read this reminder.

INSPIRATION: Two great artists come to mind; the American Stuart Davis  and, from France, Raoul Dufy. Both worked in oils. Davis also worked in gouache. Dufy used watercolour and gouache. These artists didn’t simply depict their subjects. Their works are a response to the beauty of the world around them and communicate their passion for the act of painting.

In 1943, Stuart Davis published a beautifully written essay in Art News entitled The Cube Root. Read it! Agree or disagree with it but read it first.

UNRELATED PLEA: I have a Facebook page called Barry Coombs Art Workshops. It needs Likes. There is a widget on this page, low down on the right. If you don’t see it, go back to the Home page. A click on the widget means a Like on my Facebook page. I appreciate it. Do you have an art-related Facebook page? I’d like to Like it.

Pen and ink sketch by Barry Coombs

Duntara, Newfoundland


Mountains near Port-Aux-Basques

This is my first visit to Newfoundland since I was a young man when my friend and I spent three days outport-hopping on the south shore’s coastal boat, ultimately arriving in Argentia on the Avalon Peninsula. We then hitchhiked to St. John’s before thumbing across the island, back to Port-aux-Basques and the ferry.

Rocks at Duntara

I’ve waited way too long to return to the big island that is often referred to as the Rock. Newfoundland is known for many things but primarily for it’s very friendly people and the ruggedly beautiful landscape. We’ve been here for three days, settled into a cozy house in Duntara on the Bonavista Peninsula, and have already encountered several examples of each.

We’d been looking forward to lots of painting and walking and getting off the telephone and computer leash. Then my watch stopped during our first night. I think the Rock is trying to tell me something.

Near Keels, Nfld

We visited the neighbouring village of Keels yesterday where we met Francis P. Young who is a performing musician known as the Trouting Newfoundlander. Francis pointed out a few of the local points of interest such as the Geyser and the cemetery.

Lobster Pots, Keels

I’ve been sketching a bit and also experimenting with gouache over watercolour. Here’s an image of Duntara on Arches rough watercolour paper. I’ll post again soon.

Duntara 1

Drawing Exhibition in South Korea



I’ve had a wonderful connection with the South Korean art community for almost two decades. My drawing, ROCK DOVES, will be exhibited in an International Drawing Exhibition  from March 3 – 11, 2011. The show is taking place at the Hangaram Art Gallery in Seoul. Last year, I sent WINTER LANEWAY to this exhibition.

ROCK DOVES is a small (approx. 7 x 9″) pen and ink drawing. It was inspired by the strong light and shadow pattern I noticed on the birds while I waited for the bus at Dundas West subway station.

Drawing 2011 at John B. Aird Gallery



The John B. Aird Gallery is hosting it’s 12th Annual Juried Drawing Exhibition from February 8 – March 4, 2011.

I’m pleased to announce that my drawing, TEMPLAR, has been accepted for the exhibition.

TEMPLAR is a work in pen and ink over wash and resist. It is 28.7 x 20.6 cm. The drawing is inspired by sketches made on the island of Rhodes during a painting holiday I led there in 2007.

The John B. Aird Gallery is located in the Macdonald Block at 900 Bay Street (at Wellesley) in Toronto and is open from Monday to Friday from 10 am – 6 pm.

The Opening Reception takes place on Thursday, February 10 from 6 – 8 pm. All are welcome.


Review of Salon V at Propeller



Patrick Donohue has reviewed the Salon V exhibition at Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts on his popular website, Dilettante’s Diary.

Patrick made the following comment about my mixed media piece, WALLACE AVENUE:

“In a more urban mode, an exuberant Cubist-influenced painting caught my eye with its vivacious take on a city neighbourhood, even before the name of an artist I know caught my eye: Barry Coombs.

For the full review, click here and scroll down.

Sustained Saturday – Watercolour Plus!


I varied the still-life from Tuesday, adding some new objects and making it less symmetrical. My demonstration/discussion was mostly review with a few thoughts about colour. I used primaries in my demos.

I haven’t featured a pen and ink drawing in a while. One of our participants is very fond of the pen and created the piece seen below.

Pomegranates by T. Leacock

It was a good day. In the morning, many of the participants worked on studies and thumbnail sketches until about noon. Most of us marched off to the local Portugese bakery for fresh sandwiches and got right back to work after lunch. We wrapped up at four and had a thirty minute critique (see below).

That’s it! I’m off to Korea in a few hours. I’ve never been on such a long flight or visited that part of the world. If the gods of electricity approve, I’ll post a few times from there.

Critique - Saturday, November 6

Korea Bound!


I’m very pleased to announce my participation in the G20 Summit
World Art Festival in Seoul, South Korea. The Festival runs from November 8 – 14, 2010. The Opening Reception takes place on November 8 at the Exhibition Hall of the Korea Press Centre.

Even better, I’ve been invited to visit Korea to attend the Opening Reception and to participate, with Korean and international artists, in a field sketching project on Jeju Island. I’ll try to keep you up-to-date with posts from the trip.

I’ll be traveling and exhibiting with my good friend, Kerry Inho Kim. Kerry and I go back to art school days. He’s a talented artist and a very popular instructor as well as the director of the Mississauga Valley School of Art.

I’ll be exhibiting LOW TIDE. This work on paper was created with watercolour, acrylic ink and acrylic paint and is 20 x 28”.

Opening Night at Earls Court Gallery



All artists know how it is. My most recent work, NORTH HEAD HARBOUR, GRAND MANAN, was completed yesterday morning and framed at the gallery a few hours before the opening of Strata Sight.

Wayne Moore, my fellow exhibitor, and I met for the first time last night. It turns out that we have several friends in common. Many of those friends attended our Opening Reception. It was a great crowd. I taught at the Dundas Valley School of Art, which is a big part of the Hamilton arts scene, for twenty years. Last night was a very pleasant reunion as many former students came by to see the show.

The Gallery is attractive and spacious and the show was hung very nicely. Wine flowed and everyone snacked on delicious cheeses. Thanks go out to Bob and Andrea and everyone else who contributed to a lovely evening.

Strata Sight continues until September 25, 2010. Click on Earls Court Gallery in my blogroll for more information.