Thursday, 23 November 2017

I was back at the Arts on Adrian studio this week. I set up a still-life with analogous colours and these interesting carved wooden objects. Brain cramp! I forgot to photograph my demonstration from Saturday. However, it was very similar to the sheet I did for the Tuesday classes which I did remember to photograph.

I used only primary colours (red, yellow and blue) to mix the ‘browns’ of the wooden objects. I followed a traditional ‘soft to crisp’, ‘big to small’ and ‘light to dark’ process. My first wash in each study covered the entire object. Second washes added structure and pattern. The thin, dark grooves were the last step.

Do you do thumbnail studies before you paint? I encourage my students to make thumbnails in order to find their composition and consider value. I’m showing two thumbnails by two different artists from the Saturday class.

Thumbnail study by George

George likes to do a sketch of the entire still-life. He then picks an area and develops the values. This is a very small study, no more than 4 x 5″.

Thumbnail study by Rosemary

Rosemary has already decided on her area of interest when she starts her study. Note that she uses a grid to help her enlarge the image on to her watercolour sheet. This study is roughly 8 x 6″. I don’t think a thumbnail needs to be any larger.

Can you pick out the watercolours by George and Rosemary in the Sustained Saturday critique?

Sustained Saturday Critique

I’ll jump right to the Tuesday critiques. Same demonstration, same still-life. My fall classes are over at Arts on Adrian. I’ll be back in January and you’ll hear about the winter calendar here. Stay tuned and thanks for following.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

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I was very excited about this still-life of old teapots and clementines. I knew it would be a challenge for the students but I was confident that they would be up for it. I took a while demonstrating for the Saturday group. Mixing greys was one topic. Reflections were discussed and I also reviewed some brush-handling skills.

The students always work hard in the classes but they enjoy each other’s company, as well. A real community has developed over the years. It’s welcoming to new students and they’re all very supportive of each other. On Saturday afternoon, a small surprise party erupted. Trish had recently been married to her long-time partner, Jacques (they met during one of my Grand Manan Island workshops). She didn’t expect an extra celebration but she got one! She’s wearing a tiara provided by Karen and Stewart is pouring the Prosecco.

Back to work, everybody! It was a great day. I don’t know if the Prosecco stimulated the creative process or not but the work was excellent. Remember to click on the critique image if you want to see a larger version.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Here’s a different look at the still-life. Dramatic, isn’t it?

My demonstrations for the Tuesday afternoon and evening classes were very similar to the one on Saturday. I tried to condense it somewhat as they have less time to paint.

I’m really pleased with the response to the still-life. The students really relish new drawing and painting problems and the Tuesday classes were no exception. Here’s what they did.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

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Yesterday, I was back at the Dundas Valley School of Art to teach a one-day workshop. Our medium was pen and ink and our theme was an introduction to drawing birds. I chatted a bit about famous bird artists like John James Audubon, James Fenwick Lansdowne and Robert Bateman and discussed their processes. We also talked about David Sibley and other excellent bird illustrators whose work informs the field guides used to identify birds. Artists past and present have worked from mounted specimens, skins, field sketches and photos. Our only option yesterday was to use photos as our reference. We worked from black and white photos as our drawings were in black and white, as well.

Proportion is important when drawing a bird. I used a simple grid approach and presented this to the students.

This is a Black-capped Chickadee, a common woodland and feeder bird in southern Ontario. I’m going to show you three steps of my demonstration. The first step establishes the main values throughout the drawing with hatching. I do not outline and I develop the darks very patiently. Most of the preliminary pencil drawing has been erased, including the grid, but not all.

I’ve used cross-hatching to emphasize plumage details and to stress ‘light and shadow’ in order to give the bird fullness and form.

I’ve developed the darks and added definition to areas like the undertail and legs. Note the gaps I’ve left around the edge of the bird such as the beak, upper breast, upper back, tail, legs and branch. Did you notice the gaps before I mentioned them? These gaps allow light to flow throughout the drawing and enhance the feeling of vitality. A heavy outline is not only unnecessary; it would flatten out the drawing and detract from the impression of fullness and liveliness.

The students followed my steps in order to understand the process. There were a lot of elements to consider and they did very well with the exercise.

Black-capped Chickadee Critique

Our afternoon drawing was a portrait of a Downy Woodpecker; another local favourite. Here’s my grid analysis and my unfinished demonstration.

I enjoyed the talented and enthusiastic group of students. Several were birders and many were members of the local Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. They worked hard and came away with a sound process for drawing birds at home from their photos. Let’s have a look at their Downy Woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker Critique

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You know it’s October at Arts on Adrian when the still-life is composed of squash and gourds. Last Saturday, our fall motif got the creative juices flowing for an enthusiastic bunch of artists. As usual, I started things off with a demonstration. I discussed a few ideas but mostly I stressed luminous lights with this watercolour sketch.

Process was also emphasized and that includes everything from warmup and thumbnail sketches to colour testing and frequently stepping back from your painting. The Saturday students have a whole day to paint and shouldn’t be taking any shortcuts! They applied themselves and the results were very impressive.

Sustained Saturday Critique

Here’s another point of view of our still-life. It’s interesting to see how a different background colour can influence the image.

I have two classes on Tuesdays; afternoon and evening. I managed the demonstrations as a sort of Q and A session. This work sheet shows my responses to some of the questions.

That might be one of the gnarliest gourds I’ve ever painted (the green and orange one). However, it got the point across and that’s the goal of a demonstration. The Tuesday groups responded very well, as always. I’ll be back at Arts on Adrian in Toronto’s Junction district soon. Care to join us? Click here for my Fall Calendar.

Tuesday Afternoon Critique

Tuesday Evening Critique

 

 

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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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