Friday, 20 October 2017

Yesterday was my first day back at the Dundas Valley School of Art for the fall term. It was a one-day workshop and our theme was pen and ink drawing with the traditional dipping pen. All of my one-day pen and ink workshops to date have employed disposable sketching pens from Pilot, Micron and Staedtler. They’re easy to use; no muss and no fuss. They’re portable and I use them for sketching all the time. However, for my sustained studio drawings, I always use a good old metal nib and a bottle of India ink.

I’ve been drawing with these tools since I was a teenager. My all-time favourite ink is Speedball Super Black and I’ve always used their nibs and holders, as well. These are what I recommended on my material list for the workshop. I suggested a choice of three different nibs; 22B Extra Fine, 56 School and 99 Drawing. The paper I recommended was Strathmore Bristol. By the way, Speedball Super Black comes in an extremely practical bottle with a wide (easy for dipping) mouth and a wider (hard to knock over) base.

Decades of experience have taught me not just how to draw but how to manage the dipping pen. It’s very easy to make a mess and unfortunate blobs are common for the novice. I started the day with my hard-earned tips regarding the care, transport and use of the metal nib. Everything matters, especially how your work area is organized.

The students were given about a half hour to try out their materials, experimenting with marks and strokes and getting a feel for the nibs. Next, I handed out a template of a basic feather shape. With my demonstration, I discussed mark-making and patterns. It gave the students a chance to unleash their imaginations while practicing with their new tools. They took to it very well. The usual problems were encountered but the only real disaster was a coffee spill! The three recommended nibs were tried by most of the students and the 99 Drawing was considered to be the most difficult to use. It’s very sensitive to pressure and wonderful to work with but may require a little more experience in order to gain confidence with it. Have a look at the feathers. Click on the image for an enlarged version. There’s some lovely detail to enjoy!

Our second drawing was of a leaf. I issued handouts with a black and white photo of the leaf. It wasn’t a very good photo, a bit blurry, so we discussed ways to clarify and simplify the image. My demonstration dealt again with technique but also with the concept of ‘light and shadow’.

We took our time with the leaf drawings and they were very successful. Overall, it was an enjoyable day with an enthusiastic and talented group of art students. My next one-day workshop at DVSA is an Introduction to Drawing Birds with pen and ink and takes place on Thursday, November 2. Care to join us?

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It’s ‘back to school’ at the Arts on Adrian studio in Toronto, Ontario. Fall term started a few weeks later than usual as I was off teaching in Portugal for the second half of September. Last Saturday, it was time for some still-life painting. I kicked the season off with a demonstration that emphasized a few basics.

This is a watercolour sketch. It can serve as a warmup painting before settling into something more sustained. Adding an approach like this to your practice can bring many benefits. Finding the light. I’ve left the direct light unpainted in this study; indicated by the white of the paper. Simplification. I’ve paid no attention to reflected light, for example. I want to capture the essence of the still-life. Brush-handling. I lightly ‘placed’ the objects on my sheet with a very minimal pencil drawing. I wanted the brush to do most of the work. I wasn’t concerned about perfect proportions or symmetry. Freshness. I painted each area once only. Nothing was overpainted.

It was good to see everyone and we had a pleasant and creative day in the studio. Here are the results from our Sustained Saturday.

Sustained Saturday Critique

I varied the still-life slightly for the Tuesday classes and used three different kinds of pears; Bartletts, Boscs and Anjous.

My demonstration addressed the same concepts. The afternoon demo is on the left and the evening on the right of the sheet.

Not everyone was able to simplify to the degree that I had in my demonstration but some very nice work was created. Our first week of fall term went very well and I’ll be back at Arts on Adrian soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

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Last Wednesday, we left Tavira and the Algarve and headed for the beautiful seaside town of Cascais. We had two more painting days on our itinerary and a free day at the very end of our stay. Cascais is very close to Lisbon and it’s airport.

I went back to basics on Thursday morning. I’d noticed that some of the students had been a bit tentative regarding their grasp of and commitment to light and shadow. Light and shadow is a fundamental concept of traditional representational art. It’s a very important step in order to simplify a subject. I’d drawn two subjects ahead of time and painted them in front of the group. The lighthouse was painted with a sepia wash and the palace was done with a combination of cool and warm (red and blue) colours.

I gave the students a lot of freedom to find their painting spots in Cascais. Our hotel backed on to a lovely park and the lighthouse and several palaces were very close by.

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The famous Boca de Inferno (Mouth of Hell) was a short walk from our hotel.

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The park was home to some lovely wild avian creatures as well as a number of chickens and roosters.

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Rose-ringed Parakeet

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European Robin

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Mother hen and her brood

We had one more ‘regular’ end of day critique. If you click on a critique photo, you’ll be able to view a larger version of it.

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Thursday Critique a

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Thursday Critique b

Friday was a painting day and, once again, I allowed the students to wander and find their own painting spots. Cascais was very popular with the group. The sea, the amazing buildings and even the variety of public art on display throughout the town were all an inspiration.

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Friday was our final scheduled painting day. Saturday would be a free day and several of the group took a tour to Sintra, a hilltown of palaces and castles. Still, Friday was a very important day. We met in our studio at 5pm for our Final Critique. This is quite a different experience from our daily critiques and is more like an exhibition. Each student selects three pieces, or sheets, of their work and presents them to the group. They talk about their selections and about their experience over our two weeks together. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to summarize our trip.

Here is the class of Portugal 2017 in alphabetical order.

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Aleda

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Barb

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Barbara

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Carolyn

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Elizabeth

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Evelyn

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Frances

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Ian

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Joyce

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Judy

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Leslie

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Maria

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Marlene

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Nila

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Renate

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Valarie

Final Critique was followed by our Farewell Dinner. We held our Farewell Dinner one night early because of our early flight on Sunday morning. We were picked up at the inhumane hour of 4:30am but got to the airport in plenty of time and made it back to Canada tired but happy.

What a trip! The Portuguese are very friendly, English was widely spoken and we had nothing but sunshine for two weeks. Thanks for following, commenting and liking these posts.

 

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Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside of Tavira in the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The complex is a  restoration of a former tuna fishing camp.

Our first day here was a free day. The students painted on the grounds or took the shuttle into Tavira. We gathered in our studio at the end of the day to plan for the days ahead. Also, I gave a demonstration of pen and ink with watercolour. A few days back, in Redondo, I’d done a small watercolour of some worn walls. At the time, I’d planned to add pen to it and I did so in front of the group, discussing my ideas and decisions as I worked.

Many of the students enjoy combining watercolour with pen. Some use it primarily as a sketchbook approach and others create more sustained works.

On Sunday morning, we boarded our bus and drove to Estoi. We were the hosts of the pousada (hotel) in the stunning old palace of Estoi. We were allowed to paint on the grounds and many of us worked in the adjacent town, as well. Everyone got together at 1pm at the palace for a spectacular lunch.

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Later in the day, a tired group boarded our bus for the half hour ride back to Tavira. The day wasn’t over until we’d had our critique.

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Sunday Critique a

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Sunday Critique b

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Sunday Critique c

We stayed close to home and painted in Tavira on Monday. It’s a lovely town along a river which is spanned by the ancient Roman bridge.

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Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming.

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Another critique!

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Monday Critique a

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Monday Critique b

Our rooms in Tavira were decorated with prints of the watercolours of German artist, August Macke. The watercolours had been painted over one hundred years ago in Tunisia. At the time, Macke had been accompanied by Swiss artist Paul Klee and French artist Louis Moilliet. These Tunisian scenes were full of glowing white buildings and colour! Very similar to our surroundings in southern Portugal. I had prepared a demonstration ahead of time to share with the group. It’s a scene from Tavira and in it I’ve stressed simplification, colour and playfulness. Would it influence the students at all in the days to come?

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We had another wonderful day trip destination on Tuesday; the clifftop, typical Algarve fishing village of Cacela Velha. It’s not very big but it’s quite charming and the views of the ocean and coastline are fabulous. Most of our artists settled in to paint in the village but some explored the beach below.

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We had another tasty group lunch at the local restaurant and continued to paint until the end of the afternoon. It was a short hop back to our hotel and we held the critique right away. There was a great deal of work to savour.

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Tuesday Critique a

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Tuesday Critique b

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Tuesday Critique c

While in Cacela Velha, I’d done a small watercolour using a 1/2″ flat angled brush. I showed it to the group and discussed simplification (again) and a few other ideas.

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We had a great time in Tavira. There’s one more stop on our painting tour of Portugal. We moved to Cascais on Wednesday. Stay tuned for our exploits in Cascais and the final days of our trip. Thanks for commenting, liking and following!

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Friday was a travel day. We were headed to Tavira, a town in the Algarve, from Évora. Enroute, we stopped for four hours in the scenic hilltop town of Mértola. There was lots of time to explore, sketch and relax over a nice lunch.

The big tour buses can’t make it very far into town because of the narrow streets. I’d arranged for a shuttle and it took us all the way up to the castle. The views from the walls were splendid.

As usual, shady spots were sought out for sketching.

Cafés were also a priority.

Wandering around turned up all kinds of interesting things.

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Back to the bus! We had a little over an hour to go before arriving at our new hotel in Tavira. Stay tuned!

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